These tips don’t only apply to individual workers, but also managers and team leaders.
Working from home office may currently be a necessity but it can afford many benefits to increase performance, business continuity, and achieve greater work-life balance.
However, it can be problematic if it’s not well managed.
I have worked from home for over twelve years: Here are my top tips and best practices for working from home. I hope you find some or all of them useful.
- Create a Permanent Workspace
- Invest in Quality Technology
- Get Comfortable Office Furniture
- Set Real Work Hours
- Avoid Work Creep
- Discover Your High Productivity Periods
- Make To-Do Lists
- Use a Planner
- Don’t Start Your Work Day in Your PJs
- Don’t work in the Living Room
- Set a Morning Routine and Stick to It
- Set Multiple Alarms
- Exercise & Stretch Regularly
- Eat Healthy Lunch & Snacks
- Take Short Breaks
- Create a Reward System
- Stay Off Social Media and manage email
- Listen to Music
- Step Outside
- Use Video Chat and Conferencing
- Use Your “Lunch Break” for Errands
- Avoid Family, Friends, and Pets
- Create a Vision Board
- Check-In with Co-Workers Frequently
- Agree your Working From Home Availability
- Assume Positive Intent
- Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones
- Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks
- The 4 D’s of Time Management
- Learning and Self Development
1) Create a Permanent Workspace
A key first step in successfully “working from home” is to designate an area of your home, specifically for getting work done.
This could be an empty or spare bedroom that you convert to a home office. If you are pressed for space, try and set up a desk or table for your computer and office supplies.
Regardless of space or location, establish an area of your home where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day. Be sure your workspace is quiet so you can focus on the task at hand.
2) Invest in Quality Technology
Setting up a home office or workspace may require a small investment. Much like starting a new business, you may have to purchase technology, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet, or remote phone system to do your job every day.
A high-performance router will save you from many technology hassles. Since working from home often requires more than chat messages, you need a router that will keep up. A router from several years ago might be prone to common network issues.
Depending on the nature of your work, you may also need to purchase hardware or software.
Ensure that your phone systems whether mobile or landlines have either a messaging service, voicemail or divert so that they are answered if you are not available. There is nothing worse than phoning a business and having the phone ring off the hook!
Invest in whatever you need to comfortably and efficiently do your job.
3) Get Comfortable Office Furniture
You may also need to invest in office furniture if you haven’t already. Depending on the amount of space available, consider purchasing a desk, bookshelves, and a comfortable office chair.
Remember, the point is that you will be working in this space every day.
Purchase comfortable and functional furniture, including ergonomic furniture or equipment.
4) Set Real Work Hours
Now that you have your office or work area set up, it’s time to get down to business — literally. If working from home is an everyday commitment, then set specific business or work hours.
Enforce a hard limit at the end of the day. Distance yourself from work, so you don’t work nonstop.
Regardless of your schedule, be sure to establish set work hours to follow each day. Communicate and agree your work schedule with co-workers, teams, and your boss.
5) Avoid Work Creep
Working from home can be invasive in your personal life. This is because if you are always home and near your work, then work can creep into your home life. This risk is real and not always avoidable, but only if you let it.
This goes back to setting work hours. By setting specific work hours and sticking to them, you will increase performance and develop a healthy work schedule.
At the end of the working day, shut down your device and shut your “office” door.
6) Discover Your High Productivity Periods
Every individual is most productive at different times of the day. For example, some individuals are morning people, and they are most productive and focused during the morning hours. For others, their most productive time in the workday is the evenings.
Discover when you are most productive and build your work schedule around your peak productivity periods.
Of course, this will need to fit in with the needs of the business but, for example, I am much more productive early in the day than later on.
7) Update Your To-Do List Regularly
When working from home you probably don’t have the boss breathing down your neck so it can be challenging to keep track of what you have to do throughout your workday. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities, tasks, and deadlines.
Start your day by reviewing priorities for the day. When you make your task list, stick to it. It’s tempting to just leap into your emails for example, but it may be better to work down some or all of your priorities first.
Set goals and time limits for each task. After you complete each task, cross it off the list. This simple technique is both effective and fulfilling.
Stay on task by quickly writing down all the things that need to get done at the start of each day. I produce my task list the night before (my last task of the day) in order that I can “hit the ground running in the morning and I also don’t lose sleep thinking about things I have to do as I have already scheduled them.
8) Use a Planner
In addition to making to-do lists, get into the habit of using a calendar or planner. Use a planner to write down and keep track of deadlines, appointments, and meetings.
I use a planner to log all tasks and activities, whether I am working remotely or, under normal circumstances, out and about. Plan the work and work the plan.
9) Don’t Work in Your PJs
It may be tempting but, believe me, if you enjoy working in your PJs, then you are killing your productivity. “Dress for success” isn’t just a corporate catchphrase; it really matters when you work from home.
Beyond psychologically getting you in the right mindset for work, you’ll be ready to handle any kind of video chat or check-in with a teammate. You’ll be prepared to get work done, and you will be mentally and physically prepared for the day.
You may not fully dress for work as if you were in the office, but “smart casual” is probably still the best order of the day.
10) Don’t Work in the Living Room
This is another productivity killer. Some folks might think “working from home” is a day to binge Netflix. Wrong. It might be fine to indulge in this vice once, but it will catch up to you if you’re not careful.
It is important to understand why working at home can be very successful. It’s not about avoiding meetings and conference calls. In fact, quite the opposite. Experienced remote workers know the responsibility that comes with working in this way.
Avoid the TV and other digital distractions so you can focus on your work and getting things done. However, if used just for background noise, it’s probably okay.
Avoid watching TV while working; it sucks up your focus from the purpose of working at home. Instead, play music that complements your work style.
11) Develop a Morning Routine
An enjoyable perk of working from home is not having to get up, rush out of the house, and commute to an office.
However, working from home doesn’t mean you should skip your morning routine altogether. Since you’ll likely be cooped up indoors, take a brief walk to take in the fresh air.
Get up early, take a shower, make your coffee and breakfast, and prepare your lunch, just like you would have to if leaving your home to work.
12) Set Multiple Alarms
Even if you don’t have to be up as early to leave for the office, you should still set an alarm to commit to wake up at the same time. This will prevent you from sleeping in too late and will keep you on a healthy sleep schedule.
Human beings are creatures of habit. We are incredibly dependent on routines, schedules, and structure. Alarms aren’t just for waking up. Consider adding an alarm for lunch and for the end of your working day since working from home tends to blur these lines.
Follow a strict routine and set specific work hours to be more focused, more alert, and more productive.
13) Exercise & Stretch Regularly
Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increases happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for productivity.
Regularly stretching helps you maintain great posture. At a minimum, stretch throughout the day so you don’t get sore or hinder your quality of life.
You can also leave yourself motivational notes by your bed, so they are the first thing you see and read in the morning. I keep a notepad by the bed for those “wake up in the middle of the night” moments when something is going round in my head. By writing it down, I have “diarised” it and can get back to sleep and wake refreshed. In today’s world, this is of enormous benefit.
I recommend exercising in the morning as there is a longer payoff throughout the day.
If your day allows, take a lunch break and go for a walk or stretch.
14) Eat Healthy Meals & Snacks
Another working from home reality is that we have full access to the kitchen.
Research shows that eating fruits and vegetables has a direct link on overall productivity levels. Ideally, you should avoid buying unhealthy snacks altogether.
You can always reward yourself with a sweet snack on Friday after a successful and productive week.
If you are an avid snack eater, then try to make it a point to make yourself a healthy lunch.
15) Take Short Breaks
It is easy to think that by working from home, we will be able to get more done because there will be fewer distractions. However, sometimes we end up over-committing and working too much, which also kills productivity.
Although taking breaks might seem counterproductive, research has shown that taking short breaks can actually increase productivity and creativity levels. If you don’t have a work-life balance, then you won’t succeed working at home.
You can easily avoid this by working short, five-minute breaks into your daily schedule, or even make them a part of your rewards system.
16) Create a Rewards System
This is an easy way to help you get things done — even the things you have been procrastinating or putting off.
For example, take a five-minute break to go for a stroll, grab a healthy snack, take your dog for a walk.
Although it seems simple, using a basic rewards system will help you get things done and also feel fulfilled.
17) Stay Off Social Media and Manage Email
We are all guilty of this one from time to time. Social media can be a giant time-suck if you aren’t careful.
If you were at the office you would follow your company’s social media guidelines. Apply sensible restraint when working from home.
Minimising mindless use of social media helps avoid distractions, so you can focus on getting more done.
If your email and social media "pops up" on your monitor, it is a distraction. I suggest turning these notifications off so that your "train of thought" and workflows are not interrupted.
I use "natural" downtimes to check social media and email. When I take a break from my desk to make a cup of tea or visit the "little boys" room, I use those few minutes to handle my social media activity and check my emails, applying the 4D approach (see 29 below)
Consider muting all notifications on your mobile phone - but do ensure you check regularly (as indicated above) to ensure nothing is missed.
18) Listen to Music
Depending on the nature of your work, it helps to turn on some background music. Since you’re working at home, you don’t want it too loud or distracting — ensure you can quickly mute it to take a business call.
Listen to music throughout the day at a modest volume to give you the focus you need.
19) Step Outside
Since you’ll be cooped up indoors to work, many of us often forget that there’s an outside world out there. Open some windows to let sunlight in and take some time throughout your day to go outside.
Boost creativity and productivity by stepping outside a few times throughout the day. Even just for a few minutes, it’s better than being stuck indoors.
20) Use Video Chat and Conferencing
Video conferencing is the hallmark of remote working. Working from home can get pretty lonely, especially if you are single or live alone. Make it a point to chat with colleagues, team members, or clients each day.
Video calls and conferencing is a great way of teams helping set priorities for the day and reviewing them together.
No-one is just a cog in a machine. You don’t always have to talk about work, but just connect as co-workers and people. Humanity must not be lost in working remotely. Many organisations have set up regular video calls as alternatives to going down the pub on a Friday for example.
Depending on the nature of your work, you could end up spending large parts of your day on video conferences chatting with your team, customers and clients. I recommend working in a well-lit and tidy room!
Video chat is a great way to stay connected with your team. Meet regularly, and don’t forget to relax and have a little fun.
21) Use Your Lunch Break for Personal Errands
If you’re working from home, you’ll often find that you have some additional flexibility in your time. Even then, you might feel tethered to your home.
Structuring your day is important. To run an errand, try to schedule them for your lunch break just as you would if you worked in an office.
Leverage your lunchtime to take care of personal tasks.
22) Avoid Family, Friends & Pets
This can be difficult, especially if you have young children at home, or have multiple pets, all of whom want your attention. If you are home all day, every day, then your family might interrupt you without knowing better.
It’s best to set some clear boundaries with your family while you work. It’s not being mean if it results in better performance at work.
The counterpoint to this work from home tip is that you must be present when away from work. Show up 100% and put your business phone away outside of work hours.
Set and stick to specific work hours and communicate those hours clearly with your family and friends.
23) Create a Vision Board
A vision board is just that: a board that you can use to write notes and post pictures of your dreams and aspirations. The visualization aspect of a vision board is a great and powerful mind exercise. It can help you feel the way you want to feel. Such inspiration can help you get out of a slump while working from home, paving a clear path to productivity and success.
Create a vision board with goals and aspirations personally and professionally and look at it every day.
24) Check in With Your Team Frequently
Take the time to meet with your team regularly. The meetings should have an agenda actively involving all members, so they contribute. Dedicate time to meet privately with each member so they can share status updates, receive coaching, and discuss developments from their personal life.
Working remotely means employees might miss some aspects of the office. Beyond handling phone calls, be sure to discuss the bigger projects the organisation is working on.
Make sure that employees now working remotely feel valued and included through live video meetings and conference calls regularly.
25) Agree Your Working from Home Availability
For the employee who works from home, they will be aware of their availability, but colleagues might not be. Given the sea of tools to work remotely and collaborate, it can be challenging for your team to stay in touch.
Communicate dates and hours for yours, and others, work times and how others can get in touch. This effort avoids assumptions that anyone is skipping working or refusing contact.
Keep your team, clients and customers informed about work-at-home schedules, key projects, and methods to get in contact.
26) Assume Positive Intent
One limitation of working from home is that team chat messaging sometimes falls short of expressing ideas clearly. It’s easy to think a quick remark was made to be rude or even flippant.
Remind yourself not to take seemingly short or snide responses offensively. Some people, working remotely, are just efficient in their replies. Consider using emoji to support your intent in your declarations with your team.
Focus on the facts and assume positive intent where it might not otherwise be seen. Use emoji and emoticons to convey emotions with your team.
27) Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones
Even if you have a brand-new laptop or a new smartphone, you should invest in a quality pair of headphones with a mic. Noise-cancelling features can really help improve the clarity of your phone calls. With modern business VoIP service, you will appreciate the higher fidelity of your calls.
Look for headset features such as long battery life, Bluetooth compatibility, microphone, and noise cancelling. These all work together to make remote working a little easier.
28) Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks
Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you’re not a target for hackers. Your work machine is incredibly valuable for thieves and criminals, so take care to work securely.
Be aware of how your company’s network policies such as the use of Wi-Fi, personal devices, and more.
Employ a “trust but verify” mentality for documents sent to your inbox.
Know how to get IT assistance and report security threats.
Close your room’s door to avoid disclosing sensitive information to family members.
Don’t slack off on your duty to keep your home office equipment secure. Understand how to protect yourself from common security threats.
29) The 4 D’s of Time Management
Working remotely can be daunting when your email inbox and other software overflows with messages, often because, in an effort to improve communication, everyone copies everyone else in on everything!
Think before copying everyone in on every message but apply the 4 D’s of time management.
All tasks, messages etc fall into one of four categories.
Urgent and non-urgent
Important (means you have to deal with) or Not Important
If you create a matrix with the vertical axis being Urgent and Not Urgent and the horizontal axis being Important and Not Important you end up with the following four boxes
Urgent and Important
Urgent and Not Important
Not Urgent and Important and
Not Urgent and Not Important
You can then apply one of the four Ds to every message/task etc
Urgent and Important – DO IT!
Urgent and Not Important – DELEGATE IT (if you can, if not then DO IT)
Not Urgent and Important – DIARISE IT
Not Urgent and Not Important – DELETE/DUMP/DITCH!
There was an “old rule” that you should never pick up the same piece of paper on your desk twice but people ended up with piles of paper because they didn’t take a decision as to what to do with it – don’t procrastinate or put off – take one of the 4D decisions – you’ll be glad you did.
30) Learning and Self Development
The enforced home working we currently see due to Coronavirus is a great opportunity for people to improve their knowledge and skills. Whether staff are still employed or on "furlough" they are able to be trained or spend time on self-development.
There is a myriad of great online programmes and material and organisations like Rightmove run regular webinars (I have appeared on a few) which can help with improvement and development.
I am running a number of programmes and mentoring sessions for individuals and companies on a variety of subjects. People management, sales skills, compliance, business planning and, in many cases, completely bespoke programmes to suit specific needs.
These sessions can be run via Zoom and so are interactive and, are motivational and demonstrate commitment to a workforce that has now been dispersed and, naturally, has concerns about the future.
It will be important to "hit the ground running" when we return to a more "normal" environment. Use this time wisely!
Costs are a fraction of the equivalent of sending people to attend courses and a "bite size" pieces approach can be applied.
Example of programmes (but custom programmes can be created) can be found here: