How to Work From Home

Woman working from home on laptop computer. Home office from a warm couch. Looking at screen, typing on notebook keyboard.

If you work in an industry that allows it, chances are, you’re currently working from home or will be soon due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many are already working remotely occasionally or even all the time as remote work becomes more and more prevalent, many will be working away from the office for the first time over the coming weeks. Keeping this in mind, we’ve put together a list of best practices that will keep you as comfortable and productive as possible during this transition.

Set Boundaries

Setting yourself up for success while working out of the office is fundamental to maintain productivity, and the easiest way to accomplish this is to set boundaries.

First, we highly recommend that you set aside a specific area for you to do your work. Getting into the work mindset is easy once in an office as that area is meant for that purpose, but traditionally, your home is not the same type of environment. If you have the space, create a small home office that is free from as many distractions as possible. Also, consider what is behind you where you work. More and more workers will be meeting and collaborating with programs that require the use of webcams.

Second, make sure you set boundaries with your time. When working from home, it is easy to lose track of time and work more hours than you are used to as you aren’t in a rush to get home, etc. While this can be great for productivity, it can also lead to burnout and exhaustion. Make sure you set up a schedule for yourself so that you can shut down and walk away at a certain hour, just like you usually would to keep your energy levels high.

Communicate More

If you’re not currently a remote worker, you probably have the luxury of being in close proximity to your boss as well as those you need to work with on a daily or even hourly basis. At home, this will change, and communication breakdown can happen very quickly if not addressed in advance.

A great way to start is to set up a dedicated time to speak to your boss or your direct reports once a week. This time is reserved for you and those individuals to get important things done so that work does not stop.

Also, ensuring that you and your teams are set up for success once going remote with the right tools to work and get things done is crucial. As previously mentioned, tools like Cisco Webex can help you and your coworkers stay connected regardless of distance via meetings as well as instant messaging features. If your organization does not have these in place now, Cisco Webex is free right now for customers in select countries that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can learn more about the program and download it here.

Communication isn’t just crucial for work and productivity. In a recent survey, 19% of remote workers report that loneliness is the biggest challenge they face. This feeling can make people feel detached and lead to a decline in motivation. So in these communications with your boss or your teams, try your best to ensure that they are “richer” in nature, meaning over video or voice call as much as possible. And keep in mind that you don’t have to be in a meeting to reach out and say hello.

Remove Distractions

Distractions in the workplace are almost inevitable, but working from home, they are impossible. Flipping on the television or taking a short break to take care of something around the house is hard to resist when things are right in front of you. As previously discussed, having your workspace separated from areas where you might do more “fun” activities is a great place to start — but there are other distractions to keep in mind.

One way to keep yourself as focused as possible is to dress as if you planned to go into an office anyway. Working from home often is praised because you get to stay in your PJs or wear your favorite flip flops, but this can hinder your productivity. Because this attire is often associated with leisure activities or even sleep, you are more likely to fall into bad habits at home as you go through your day. We’re not saying you need to put on a full suit to walk a few feet to start your day, but finding a happy medium will help keep you at your best.

During crisis times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find yourself working remotely with more distractions than usual. Your spouse or housemates might be working alongside you. If you have kids, they are likely out of school and struggling with social distancing. And of course, pets will be around too. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, this is the new normal, but having chaos around you doesn’t have to dictate how you work. When dealing with significant others or roommates, try to separate your workspaces if you can. If that’s not an option, make sure you have a plan for calls you may need to take and vice versa. Work together, together. For kids, this can be a little bit harder. Make sure you set them up with activities during the day so that they are occupied and out of the way. If that’s not possible, communicate with your manager or HR department about potential time accommodations that you might need. Keeping unruly pets in another room during important calls or when you are trying to focus also may help ease distractions.

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The shift from working in an office setting to working from home regardless of the timeframe can be daunting. We hope that these tips can help you set yourself up for success as you find yourself in new, unfamiliar territory. Stay safe and stay healthy.