With the worldwide spread of COVID-19, people everywhere are starting to work from home for the first time. While this is new for many, there has been an entire work from home community that has been doing this for years. And if you are in a the situation of working from home for the first time, I have a prediction for you: Get Used to It! The novel Corona Virus has forced so many people into working from home, but at some point we will return to a normal life. But one thing that will likely change forever, is the way companies and individuals view working from home. This is a trend that is here to stay – certainly not at this level – but make no mistake, more and more people will choose to work from home instead of going into an office on a regular basis. 

Through various conversations I’ve had with work colleagues and friends, as well as scouring other tips and tricks, I have put together my guide for the best practices on working from home. 

Get Into A Routine

A productive day from home starts with getting into a routine. We are creatures of habit, and for good reason – it calms the mind and lets it (you) focus on more important work at hand. So instead of contemplating small things like when to shower and get ready, treat your work from home day just like you would if you were going into an office. That means setting an alarm, taking a shower, grabbing a bite to eat, and/or anything else you do to get ready for a day of work. This will allow you to be completely ready to go when you get to your workstation and you’ll be 100% ready to crush your day.

Set Built In Breaks, And Take Them In Full

No one is a robot that can just work all day, start to finish, without a break. While most people are generally pretty good about getting up, stretching their legs, and taking a break, they often don’t decompress as much as they could. So here is my advice to you: take a break, and take it in full. That means not checking your phone or computer. And if you get an email or instant message that is not very time sensitive, it means letting it wait until you get back from your break. The bottom line is that breaks can be cut short or forgotten about for a variety of reasons. Maximize your breaks and I promise you it will pay dividends in your productivity and mindset!

Invest In A Proper Workstation

Having a proper environment and office setup will do wonders for your psyche. If you are used to working from an office environment, you should strive to replicate that productive setup in your personal home. This is especially true for people who normally use multiple monitors to do their work. Or have you ever noticed the difference between a sturdy and ergonomic chair versus a flimsy one? These things make huge differences! It’s going to be the workstation you work out of for many years to come, so invest in your future! 

Many companies will reimburse or partially subsidize a workstation setup for you. And if they don’t explicitly say they will, it would absolutely behoove you to negotiate terms for this. There are practical solutions for any amount of space, so get creative and use what you got! If space is really tight, check out these desks that work great in small spaces.

Mix It Up

If you get antsy from your home workstation like I do, mix up your environment from time to time. If you need to take a meeting, take it from the kitchen table. Or better yet, if you have an outdoor area on a nice day, take the call from there. If you can take a call from your cell phone and are confident you won’t need quick access to a computer for it, why not even take a walk! I personally have a one on one meeting with my manager every week. I make it a point to plug in my headphones and go for a walk for those 30 minutes. It does wonders for my psyche, and a little Vitamin D feels nice as well. My point here is that you don’t need to act like you are in the office anymore. You can act like you are at home and enjoy it. So take advantage of this opportunity and make the most of it. 

Over Communicate Over Communicate Over Communicate

Good communication is vital to any business and it can be put to the test when employees are all working remotely. Thus, you should make it a point to over communicate. You also need to factor in that everyone else working at your company has their own set of priorities, projects, and distractions that aren’t identical to yours. Meaning, the thing that you are always thinking about and trying to communicate to others might not be the number one thing that your colleague is thinking about. So if you want to get a point across, I recommend using multiple means of communication (phone, email, instant message, etc) as well doing so repeatedly, to the point of exhaustion. Only when you feel you feel you have completely annoyed everyone around you with your point, have you likely communicated enough. 

Take Sick Days

Too many people feel a sense of guilt if they take a sick day even when they could just work from home. The fact is, if you are working remotely from the comfort of your own home while sick, you are still working. And as a result, you are not investing in your health and likely prolonging whatever illness you may have. I personally will even take a few mental health days. And when I take them, I completely turn off notifications and make it a point not to check email. Your work isn’t everything, but your health is

Be Heard During Meetings, And Turn Your Camera On

It’s all too easy to call into a meeting when working from home and stay silent in the background. This is particularly true when you are on a video conference call and have your webcam turned off. Don’t be afraid to speak up during meetings and make your presence known. I highly recommend turning on your camera as well, since so much of communication is non-verbal. As someone who facilitates a lot of video conference meetings myself, I really appreciate seeing people’s faces – I feel that myself and my team pick up on a lot more non-verbal cues that way. It’s also just a nice thing to see everyone and makes for a more positive work environment!

Reach Out To Individual Colleagues Early and Often

When you aren’t in an office setting, you miss out on a bunch of lunchtime, coffee, or water cooler chats. Solve that by reaching out to a couple of colleagues each week and setting quick 15-30 minute check-ins. They will feel great that you reached out, and it will help strengthen those lines of communication that were maybe lost when you went to a work from home setup. I know plenty of companies that implement different systems that pair two random people together for these types of check-ins and they all seem to really do wonders for overall office culture and communication. You’ll be glad you tried this!