For some people, working from home is a dream come true.
Working in your pajamas?
Not having to see people all day?
A commute of the 30 seconds it takes you to walk to your laptop?
However, these working from home tips are both for people who know they’re not great at working from home, as well as those who found out it wasn’t as good as it sounded.
There are different ways of working from home, with varying degrees of connectivity needed.
Some people have specific home offices that they can retreat to with big open spaces, full office appliances like a phone and printer, and more.
Others are stuck on their bed in their small apartment, alternating between Netflix and checking their e-mail.
Others are working from home with kids, which can be a whole different challenge.
Whatever your situation, these 17 tips on working from home will go a long way to helping you feel productive, sane, and happy with both your work and your home life.
Best Tools for Working from Home
1. Set Up a Dedicated Workspace
First things first, when it comes to working from home, is you need to set up your office or dedicated workspace within your house.
As mentioned, this can be an actual office or separate room, which is much preferable, but not everyone has the luxury of having a spare room.
If you have no rooms spare that you can do your work from, you need to then think about where else you can work.
Is it the dining room table, a table in the kitchen, a table in your bedroom?
Even if you are so cramped that it literally has to be your bed, you need to decide how to set it up during the day so it transforms from your bed for sleeping into your bed for working and you need to stay motivated to clean even when overwhelmed by clutter.
Make sure the bed is made and you’re not still in it, but rather sitting on top of it as a last resort.
This is going to help you, mentally, separate your work and home life.
2. Schedule Your Working Hours as if You Were In an Office
When you work in the office, you probably come in at certain hours, like between 9 and 5.
When you start working from home, you should also set these hours for yourself to keep you sane.
Often, there is a bit of flexibility when it comes to working from home, so you may be able to adjust your schedule to start or end later or earlier than you would in the office, but you should still set them for yourself.
At first, this working from home tip seems pointless to some people, as they think the point of working from home to have that freedom and the flexibility.
However, work from home long enough and you’ll soon see that for many people, the blurring of home and work life can become entangled in a negative way very quickly if you don’t set boundaries with yourself about when you work and when you enjoy or relax.
You can easily use one of these productivity tools to get the whole remote office on one page and set your “office hours” so they know when you’re on Slack or not.
3. Take Your Weekends
Going along with setting times during the day to work, you need to make sure that you still take your weekends or days off.
Just because you’re used to checking your e-mail in the morning on a Monday to Friday doesn’t mean you need to do it on Saturday or Sunday in most jobs, and if you don’t keep this tight boundary and forget all about work things on your days off, you’ll end up working all of the time.
On the weekends or days off, don’t follow any of the other rules – no alarms, no setting up your workspace, no regular “work from home day” routine.
It’s your weekend or day off, and you should live your life in a different way than you do during the work days.
4. Find the Natural Light
Some of our homes can be dingier than our offices or vice versa.
I’ve found that it helps to find the natural light in the house and try to spend a lot of time in it to avoid going crazy when working from home.
It helps you feel like you’re part of the world outside, still, and not just locked away in the house.
This could involve working under a skylight, working next to a window, or, if your office in your home really has no natural light (like mine, which is under the stairs), then use the next tip to get as much natural light as possible.
Daylight bulbs like these are a total game changer if you live somewhere without much light.
Oh, and in the good weather, keep those windows open and the sounds of the outside world streaming in!
5. Take Frequent Breaks
In a regular workspace, you may be taking a lot more breaks than you realize.
Whether it’s to talk to coworkers, get a drink, or just generally taking a break from the screen for a minute as you’re listening to the boss’s story of their trip to Bali, you’re usually not sat at your computer all day without moving.
At home, you don’t have these social distractions and especially if you live alone, it would be much easier to just sit at your computer indefinitely getting work done.
Make sure to take frequent breaks, though!
Get yourself a cup of coffee from the kitchen, take a minute to go in the backyard and get some sunshine after an hour at the screen, etc.
Despite the stereotype that people get less done from home, many people actually can be more productive at home because they get to work on their own terms and just get on with it rather than being distracted, but don’t take this too far.
Breaks are healthy, both for your own mental health but for your physical health as staring at a screen for too long can be bad for your eyes.
6. Make Sure Your Family is On Board
If you live with other people, working from home can be an exercise in trying to get everyone on board with your plans and your schedule.
Whether it’s your significant other, kids, or parents, you should set boundaries and work out with them when you are and aren’t available and where is best in the house for you to go to do your work.
This is particularly hard if you have kids, as they may not be old enough to understand yet that you are working and not home ready to play like on the weekends, but keep explaining and setting those boundaries and it will get easier.
Of course, you need to make sure that your partner is also on board with your schedule and it works for both of you if you do have other responsibilities like kids or pets.
If your office doesn’t dictate your working hours from home (as some do), then you should work together to manage your schedules in a way that lets everyone get their tasks done while still keeping the household running.
7. Stay Connected Virtually Through Skype or Zoom
Not having the human connection throughout the day that you would in an office can actually be more detrimental than people think, no matter how much you think you don’t like your coworkers.
There is a real benefit to having frequent virtual calls over Skype, Zoom, or Whatsapp to keep in touch and see what everyone is up to.
Some offices go as far as to hold “virtual happy hours” and in some fully remote companies, this is the only way you get to know your coworkers.
It’s a lot nicer to put a face to a name than just random e-mail addresses, and it will give you more pride and connection to your work, so get involved over video chat or offer to set up some work or social meetings over Zoom.
8. Get Dressed and Showered
This is perhaps the most important tip on working from home that I could ever give you, and that is that you need to get dressed and keep on your usual shower schedule.
Working from your pajamas is fun and can be done occasionally, but if you do it for too long, your productivity levels will drop and you’ll probably feel worse about yourself because there’s something about putting on “real” clothes that just makes you feel better and more like a part of society.
You don’t have to get dressed up like you would if you work in a really fancy office, but you should put on real clothes and make sure to leave your pajamas for sleeping.
Even if it’s jeans and a sweatshirt, put them on!
If you normally shower in the morning, you should also do that like you would normally do.
Sometimes, when we work from home, it’s easy to get in a habit of waiting until lunchtime or later to shower because you have nowhere to be, but keeping that routine of showering and getting dressed in clothes you didn’t sleep in is essential to working from home long term.
9. Set an Alarm
This kills me because I hate alarms and hate waking up to them, but I’ve found that setting an alarm is another way to help get me in the “work mode” when I’m working from home.
You don’t have to set it for as early as you would if you needed to commute into your office, but just have one set so that it gives more structure to the start of your day and doesn’t see you waking up at 10:30am if you usually wake up at 8:00am.
I love ambient alarms like these that are based on light and not on noise.
Again, I’m not trying to steal all of the joy out of working from home, but I’m just warning you that if you don’t put these structures and routines into place, working from home can turn sour really fast when you feel listless and bored and cooped up.
10. Get Outside as Much as Possible
When you don’t need to leave the house to get to work, it can be easy to go a bit stir crazy.
Fresh air is still important, and you should aim to get outside as much as possible throughout the week.
This could look like taking a walk during your lunch break or going to play tennis in the evenings or starting your morning with a coffee in the backyard.
Just make sure to get out of the house if at all possible as part of a regular routine and to keep your mental health stable.
11. Work from “Home” from a Cafe
You don’t always have to work from your actual home.
Many times, it’s possible to “work from home” by taking your laptop to a cafe or another coworking space where you’re actually working outside the home, but just not in a shared office with your coworkers.
This was a hard one for workers during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 because people couldn’t go to cafes anymore, and quickly realized how important it had been for them to feel like they had a destination to go to.
When you can work in a cafe, make sure to be polite and not hold loud calls without putting headphones in.
You should also be a patron of the cafe and purchase food or drinks rather than just taking the table all day without buying anything, as that cafe is for selling food and drinks at the end of the day, not for being your free office.
12. Ask Your Work for Materials
Many times, if working from home is agreed with your office and part of their structure, you are entitled to ask them to provide you with the materials to work from home.
This means that you shouldn’t have to buy your own laptop, and if you need materials like a printer to do your work at home, they should cover it.
This varies office to office and the reasons why you’re working from home and whether it’s a long term plan or just the occasional day here and there, but make sure to reach out to them to see what they can help with and what you are expected to have when you work from home.
There are a lot of platforms now that help you connect to your computer at work remotely if you also have an office computer.
I like Teamviewer and use it frequently to display my work computer onto my home laptop.
13. Use it As an Excuse to Cook
One of the best things about working from home is that you can save money and eat better, just by having access to your kitchen rather than the office microwave.
Not only do you not need to spend $10+ on lunch (and you can put that towards other fun things), but you have so much freedom in what you make to eat.
Take a break at lunch to go into the kitchen and make yourself a hearty sandwich or a hot meal.
You should also be mindful of whether you’re a snacker or not, as I find it actually easier to control what I eat when I’m at home, whereas some people will eat all of the snacks in the house if they keep them around.
Working from home should provide you flexibility, freedom, and make you feel more in control, not make you gain 60 pounds.
14. Avoid Checking Work E-mail or Phone All the Time
When you work from home, you start to associate being home with working and checking your work e-mail.
Avoid doing these things after working hours or on days off, as otherwise it will just become one constant stream of working 24/7 with no time off.
It’s so important for your mental health, so don’t even check your e-mail “just to see if there’s anything” if it’s your day off.
Stick to a plan of when you check your e-mail and don’t deviate.
15. Get Some Exercise
You can feel like a real sloth sitting around all day, working from home, and while I love sloths and definitely like to laze around, you need to get some exercise.
You don’t realize how even walking to and from the office or walking around an office can make you feel like you’ve actually done something with your body that day.
When you don’t have that and you’re just going from your bed to the table to the kitchen, you don’t burn as many calories and you can actually feel even more tired because you haven’t done anything to get those endorphins up or stay active.
You can do an at-home workout video if the weather is bad or you don’t have anywhere to go and exercise, but it would be even better to join a local gym where you can escape to or at least go outside for a run to break up your day staying at home.
16. Make a List of What to Do Each Day
In a regular office setting, you’re compelled to get things done based on external factors.
The boss asks you to do XYZ, you know a project needs to be completed by Friday for a project, the printer has run out of ink and it needs to be reordered.
Sometimes, when working from home, you lose this sense of urgency because you’re not there face to face with your office or boss or coworkers.
To keep yourself accountable and getting things done, make your own list each day of what you need to get done and then hold yourself responsible for checking at the end of the day that you completed those tasks.
This can be a tough one for people who aren’t self-starters and really like the structure of having an office environment to get things done in, but you don’t want to put yourselef in a position where you give in to the “working from home” stereotype and become less productive and are no longer useful to your company.
17. Stay in Touch with Coworkers and Boss about What You’re Doing
In addition to making your own lists of what you’re doing, it can be really helpful to keep your bosses and coworkers informed on what you’re working on.
You can even slip it in as extra conversation, so if you’re sending an e-mail to your boss about a project you completed, just mention that you’re moving on to another project today and hope to have it to them by 4:00pm.
Let them know what you’re up to, and everyone will feel confident in the team as a whole and you’ll be more compelled to actually get things done.