While working from home gives you flexibility (goodbye, commute), it often means less structure and more distractions from your housemates. As such, you may have to switch up your schedule and learn new ways to succeed in a remote work setting. Get 24 tips to help you find balance—including ways to set boundaries, create productive routines, and virtually connect with your coworkers.
With the rise in both part-time and full-time remote work opportunities, you can say farewell to long commutes and office cubicles.
While the prospect of working in pajamas can be appealing (and more comfortable!), remote jobs also bring a new set of challenges when it comes to time management, workplace communication, and teamwork. Those who work from home have to readjust their schedules and learn new ways to succeed. Meanwhile, managers are faced with the challenge of leading and motivating teams remotely while maintaining the same level of collaboration and quality of work as before.
Thriving in these new circumstances can be challenging, so we’re covering 30 work from home tips for boosting productivity.
Remote collaboration can take some getting used to, but you can overcome this hurdle by setting clear communication norms. Here’s how:
To ensure everyone on your team is on the same page, establish guidelines for the frequency, timing, and means of communication. Additionally, determine how cross-departmental communication will work.
Decide which communication medium would be best in a given situation. For example, if questions or issues can be addressed in an email or chat message, there’s no need to set up a meeting.
Conversely, if the situation calls for frequent back-and-forths in real time, a quick call would be more ideal.Read: Why a clear communication plan is more important than you think
To account for the delays in communication, it’s best to set expectations early, especially when you’re working on highly cross-functional projects. Be clear in setting individual and team priorities. Provide detailed guidelines, goals, and dates for projects.
After setting initial expectations and goals, be prepared to address questions or clarify things as they come up. Once projects are underway, provide regular feedback to ensure expectations are being met.
It’s also important to be flexible and prepare to shift dates around if needed.
Work-from-home jobs may provide remote employees the flexibility to work from anywhere. However, when people work from different time zones, response times are prolonged. To avoid losing time between exchanges, be as detailed as possible in your messages or emails.
Here are some ways to do this:
Provide as much information upfront as possible
Specify project deadlines or when you need to hear back by
Link to resources or related discussion threads
Supplement your message with images or screenshots
Let team members know when you’ll be away ahead of time
Getting the hang of asynchronous communication will help you avoid losing time on projects and ensure your team has everything they need to move forward on their work.Read: Managing distributed teams: 3 ways to build a tight-knit team across time zones
Larger team meetings or all-hands meetings are good opportunities to connect with other team members and get company updates. However, not everyone may be able to attend these meetings due to time zone differences or if they’re out sick or on vacation.
To ensure that all team members feel included and have access to the same information, record and share these virtual meetings with everyone.
This also goes for training sessions or other important presentations. Make the recordings and slide decks accessible so team members can review and get up to speed at their own pace.
Just because you're not in the office doesn't mean you can't be productive. Try these strategies to boost your focus while working remotely:
It’s helpful to knock out high-priority tasks in the morning, but working from home gives you the freedom to do your most important work when you’re at your most productive.
Are you a morning person who loves to knock out tasks before lunch? Do you get your energy late in the day and even into the night? As long as you’re getting enough sleep and making time for yourself, schedule your high-priority work during your best windows of productivity. Then, you can do lower-priority work whenever you want.
Recognize when your peak production hours are and schedule that time to do uninterrupted work. If it’s outside regular working hours, talk to your manager about creating a schedule that works for you.
It’s easy to get off track or procrastinate when you’re working from the comfort of home, so it can be helpful to use time management or task management strategies. For instance, you can use to-do list software and time blocking to schedule tasks in order of importance.
Visualizing your tasks can help you stay on track and get things done on time. If you start the day with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, it’ll help you focus on finishing one task at a time and prevent multitasking.Build to-do lists with Asana
When your personal and professional lives intertwine at home, external interruptions during work hours are inevitable—understandably so. That said, you can also take steps to limit distractions as much as possible.
Here are some things you can do to reduce distractions when working:
If you don’t need your phone, set it to silent or airplane mode
Disable app notifications during designated focus time
Wear noise-canceling headphones to block out distracting sounds
Even when working from home, it’s necessary to tune out coworkers sometimes. If you need to commit to a project for a little while, turn off chat and email notifications so you don’t find yourself scatterbrained.
Take advantage of status updates in chat to let your team know when you’re in focus mode. Make sure you’re scheduling head-down time the same way you would a meeting.Read: 6 tips to harness the power of flow state at work
As Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”
When this quote is applied to task prioritization, it’s a sound piece of advice. By eating your “frog”—or tackling the biggest or most important task—in the morning, you’ll feel more accomplished and less stressed throughout the day as you move onto less demanding or time-sensitive tasks.
You’ll likely be able to direct more of your undivided attention to a task first thing in the morning, since there will be more distractions later on as other tasks and notifications start to come in.
When transitioning to work from home, it’s important to create a space and routine that will support your productivity. Try these techniques to optimize your work environment and schedule:
Transitioning to remote work might have thrown off your schedule, so getting back into a daily morning routine can help you feel ready to start your workday.
Set up your own “commute” to ease into your workday. For example, get dressed like you’re going to work, take a shower, and make a cup of coffee. If you’re intentional about “going to work,” you’re also more likely to be productive.
Similarly, you can also create a routine to wrap up your workday and decompress. For example, you could review what you finished for the day, change your clothes, and take some time to meditate or clear your mind.
Telecommuting, hybrid jobs, and other home opportunities can come with the perks of flexible hours and convenience, but keep in mind that it may take longer to get things done if there are constant disruptions to your workflow.
You don’t have to work a strict 9–5 day, but you should designate work hours and stick to them when possible to keep up a continuous workflow.
Don’t forget to schedule breaks so you have time to recharge. Taking regular breaks lets your brain relax and refocus, helping you remain productive throughout the day.
It can also be easy to lose track of time when you’re working online, so using time-tracking software can help you follow your schedule.
It may be tempting to work from your bed or the kitchen, but your productivity might take a hit since there are distractions all around you. It’s better to separate your home life and work environment so there are clear boundaries.
If you don’t have a separate room to use as an office, carve out a section of any room as your workspace. Invest in a good desk and chair so that you can work comfortably and focus.
Having a designated workspace can get you in the right mindset for work and signal to other members of your household that you’re at work.
Working from home gives you the power to create the office of your dreams. You can get the standing desk you’ve always wanted or finally play your working music out loud without distracting anyone.
Being the architect of your own office allows you to craft a space where you’ll be happy, and therefore more productive. The most important thing is to create an office where you’ll be comfortable and focused. Limit the distractions around you but also design a space you won’t dread going to every day.
It can be hard to focus on work when your desk is messy. Research has shown that clutter can make us feel more stressed and anxious.
To avoid this, take the time to come up with a system to organize your workspace at home. A tidy workspace will save you time in cleaning and finding things you need.
Here are some ways to stay organized:
Develop a digital or physical filing system for organization
Organize your browser’s toolbar with bookmarks and frequently used features
Declutter your desk during breaks
At the end of the day, leave your desk the way you’d like to see it the next day.
To keep everything running smoothly both at work and at home, it’s crucial to set expectations for your housemates.
Let them know your work schedule as well as how to reach you while you’re working.
If you’re a parent and you’re sharing caregiving responsibilities, coordinate your schedules accordingly. For example, you can divide the day into shifts, alternating working and focusing on child care.
It’s a good idea to set expectations for your housemates on how to get your attention during work hours. For example, when your door is closed, it means they should slide a note under the door instead of knocking.
Communicating this will help prevent conflicts at home and hopefully set clear work expectations.
If your current job doesn’t let you work from home, consider exploring some roles that let you stay in your pajamas. There are a number of ways to work from home, so look for a position that matches up with your skill set. Some popular work from home jobs include:
Blogger: One of the most popular and inexpensive work-from-home jobs, blogging truly offers the freedom to work whenever and wherever you want. However, you have to be patient, as it can take some time to build an audience and bring in revenue.
Online educator: Online education provides an alternative for teachers who prefer to work in a virtual classroom. This profession ranges from tutors to K–12 and adult learning teachers.
Virtual assistant: Virtual assistants handle administrative tasks like scheduling appointments and booking flights. Working largely behind the scenes, virtual assistants can perform their duties from the comfort of their homes.
Transcriptionist: Transcriptionists transcribevoice recordings into writing. This job requires training and certification, as it demands precision and patience.
Editor: Being an editor requires focus and precision. Editors are experts in refining written work so it reads well, speaks to the correct audience, and is free of grammatical errors.
Website tester: Web testers gauge the performance and user experience of a website. If you have an eye for good web design and a background in computer science, you’ll likely be a good web tester.
Bookkeeper: Bookkeepers manage financial documents and offer recommendations on spending trends. You don’t need a degree or certification to become a bookkeeper, as most gain experience and training on the job.
Even if you can't see your teammates in person, you can still connect with them virtually. Here are some ways to stay in touch with your team and make sure they feel supported:
It’s important to recognize and celebrate team members’ contributions so they feel valued and motivated. Whether it’s through an email or a public shout-out on chat or during a meeting, find ways to show your appreciation and support.
This type of recognition is also a way to model positive behavior and performance for other team members to follow.
Working remotely can get lonely since it can be harder to connect with other team members. But it doesn’t have to be that way. To keep your team engaged, create opportunities for social interaction.
Here are some ways to engage your team:
Do virtual team-building activities
Schedule social hours
Share some team motivational quotes
Connect through virtual lunches or coffee breaks
These activities not only help team members feel connected but are also good ways to strengthen team bonds, which improves cohesiveness and collaboration.Read: 5 ways to keep your team motivated when you can’t see them in person
When working remotely, the number of emails you send and receive will likely go up, so you need to make sure you can access your work email from home.
In addition to emails, every team uses different tools to collaborate. Your team should decide on what tools to use for messaging and video conferencing, as well as keeping track of projects.
Agree on the remote collaboration tools your team needs and check that all your login credentials work ahead of time. Make sure you have solid Wi-Fi so you don’t risk losing your work or cutting out of meetings.Learn more: Your guide to working remotely
Managing remote teams requires a lot of flexibility when it comes to scheduling. You might have to learn how to use a new set of tools, embrace asynchronous communication, and get creative with problem-solving.
It’s also beneficial to set up a centralized project management platform where you can plan and track your team’s projects and tasks. You can do this by building spreadsheets, creating shared folders for each project, or using project management software to automate processes.
With a robust project management system setup, team members will be able to find the information they need and submit deliverables in one place, reducing the number of extra emails and meetings.
Communication is key when it comes to collaboration, and even more so when working in remote teams.
To maintain communication, schedule regular meetings with your direct reports, whether it’s daily, weekly, or every other day. By holding these check-ins, team members will be able to address things that are hard to convey over email or chat. You’ll also be able to get more detailed updates on how your teammates are doing.
Here are some talking points you might want to include in the meeting agenda:
Get updates on current projects
Give feedback on past or current projects
Check on teammate’s overall well-being
Discuss upcoming projects
Provide additional resources or training
These can help create a more productive and engaging meeting.
Remote work can pose challenges to our mental health—like unclear boundaries and a feeling of isolation. Here are some strategies to nurture your mental and physical well-being while working from home:
The isolation of remote work can take a toll on our mental health. Having a network of people that you can reach out to can be immensely beneficial.
Find a work buddy that you can connect with and reach out to share challenges and successes, work- or non-work-related. That way, you can also continue to build work relationships even when you can’t meet each other in person.
Additionally, bring up any concerns with your manager. They’ll be able to readjust your workload or provide mental health care resources as needed.
If you need to rearrange your work hours or have questions about taking mental health days, reach out to your human resources team for support.
Setting up a structured routine is important when balancing work and hobbies. How detailed you get with your plan is up to you, but in general, creating a rough schedule of daily tasks can be helpful to keep yourself accountable.
It is especially important to make time for the things you love. It can be easy to make work your first priority, but penciling in time for yourself can decrease the likelihood of burnout in the long run.
Your personal schedule could include tasks such as:
Take a 15-minute walk
Read a chapter of a book
Call a friend or family member
It’s a good feeling when you get to cross those activities off your list at the end of the day, and it can help fuel your passion for work the next day.
Without face-to-face collaboration, it’s easy to feel like the work you’re doing is less personal, and therefore less important.
When reviewing work or collaborating on a project, let your coworkers know that they’re doing a great job. A simple kudos or short message celebrating someone’s progress can go a long way.
This tip applies to both working parents and those without kids. Whether you have distractions around you or are merely distracting yourself, patience is key.
You can only direct your attention to so many things at once, so at times you may need to ease up on rules. For instance, it’s OK to allow yourself to take incremental breaks. Just don’t drop the ball on work deliverables.
Balancing work, self-care, and relationships with those around you can be tough. Planning in advance is immensely helpful, but even so, unexpected things can always come up. Let your team know when that happens and figure out a backup plan.
Above all, be patient with yourself. Accept the fact that some days will be better than others, since everyone needs time to adjust.
As work hours become more flexible, it can be tempting to stay up later to watch Netflix or sleep in until noon. However, disrupting your circadian rhythm might leave you with varying energy levels or fatigue throughout the day.
It’s recommended that adults get seven or more hours of sleep each night. Stick to that rule of thumb so you’ll be able to feel your best at work and maximize your concentration.
When the boundaries are blurred between home and work life, it can feel more difficult to separate the two. In fact, 71% of workers experienced burnout in 2020. Plus, 87% of employees report working nearly two hours later every day.
To prevent burnout and achieve proper work-life balance, it’s crucial to set clear boundaries, which is where creating a schedule comes in handy. Define your work hours and when people can contact you.
Once you’re done with your workday, leave everything work-related until the next day—even those emails that come in after work. Take time to focus on yourself, your hobbies, and your relationships.
Staring at a screen for hours on end and processing large amounts of information can be physically and mentally exhausting.
Whenever you have a longer break, step away from the screen to give your eyes and your brain a rest.
Here are some ways to do this:
Cut back on social media
Go on walks during breaks
Turn off work notifications until the next workday
Put away your work equipment after work
A change in scenery can also help you get your creative juices flowing.
While working from home allows you to spend more time on the couch, it’s important to implement regular exercise into your schedule.
Whether it’s a run before work or a walk during your lunch break, exercise gets your endorphins flowing and keeps your brain sharp throughout the day. Try starting your day with a workout or doing some midday yoga. See if these changes affect your productivity.
Just because you’re not going into an office every day doesn’t mean you don’t deserve time off.
Time off is more important now than ever. With looser hours and fewer boundaries, it’s pivotal that you schedule time off and take mental health days. If you take a mental health day, try to stay active. You can do activities like:
Reading and writing
Catching up on tasks around the house
Calling a family member or friend
Doing one of your favorite hobbies
Make sure your team is prioritizing time off and mental health days, even in the era of remote work.Read: Sabbatical leave: How it works, key benefits, and FAQs
It takes some time to get the hang of balancing home and work life, whether you work at a startup or enterprise business. Stay flexible and communicate your needs with your team as you go.