Working from home or remote work presents challenges and opportunities. Here are six proven tips to help you successfully work from home. These tips are useful whether your remote work is because of challenging times or because you’re a home-based worker.
Working from home tip 1: Have the right tools
You cannot do your job effectively without the right tools. This applies if you go into an office or if you work from your house. Make sure that you have all the tools you need to do your job, including everything needed for your home office set-up and all the technology required to do your work.
Invest in a proper home office set-up if you can. The right work environment should include a suitable desk, chair, monitors, Wi-Fi and any other hardware you need to get your job done. The perfect home office isn’t always achievable. But, investing in a few small items can make a big difference.
For example, consider purchasing some lighting, microphones and headphones if you’re routinely on video conference calls. You should also consider purchasing ergonomic accessories, such as wrist protectors, that make the physical act of working at home more comfortable.
Additionally, make sure you have the right software tools you need for your job if you can. Tools like Microsoft Teams were built with remote working in mind by combining chat, meeting, calls and collaboration all in one place.
Working from home tip 2: Be secure
Remote workers should take particular care that they’re remaining secure, both physically and digitally.
From a physical perspective, be aware of your surroundings when you’re dealing with sensitive company information. This precaution is especially important if you prefer working in coffee shops or co-working offices. Some best practices include locking your computer when it’s not in use and not discussing sensitive company details on calls in public.
Additionally, you must make sure that the tools you use have security in mind. These safeguards should apply to your secure email, a VPN, productivity tools, cloud storage and any digital tool you use for work. Remember, the average cost for a cybersecurity attack for a small business is US$188,000. It pays to factor in security when you’re choosing your tools.
Working from home tip 3: Communicate effectively
It sounds simple, but one of the biggest challenges of working from home is that you’re not in the office. That means you may not hear the hallway conversations, the chatter before and after meetings, and you can’t just stop at Jane’s desk to ask her a question. Your business communication skills are always essential, but especially so when you work remotely.
It’s vital to communicate with your colleagues or employees in a clear manner. Try not to leave any room for ambiguity with your requests, and don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. You can do this via email, chat or on the phone.
You may have to “over-communicate,” and that can feel awkward for some. But, it’s better to over-communicate at the front-end to ensure there’s alignment.
Working remotely typically means you have the flexibility to handle personal tasks, such as childcare or going to a doctor’s appointment, during the day. Just make sure that you’re communicating that to colleagues and employees who rely on you.
You don’t have to divulge every personal detail. Just remember to update your Out of Office messages, as well as your status on chat systems. Your availability and status are especially helpful if others rely on your decisions or approvals to move forward with projects and tasks.
Working from home tip 4: Connect with colleagues
Your company culture is a decisive factor in attracting and retaining employees. This involves a lot of things, including compensation, working conditions, industry and the day-to-day interactions with employees. That last part can be different for a remote worker.
If you’re working from home, you’ll probably have to make more effort to connect with colleagues and employees. Simple things, such as asking how things are going before a meeting starts and being genuinely interested, goes a long way. These “small talk” moments can create deeper connections between workers.
Find other opportunities to engage in “water cooler talk” or to “have some appropriate office banter.” Stay within proper boundaries, of course. But, nobody minds when you talk about the latest hockey match in the office for a few minutes. Likewise, you can sometimes engage with employees or colleagues through chat rooms about things that aren’t strictly related to work.
Working from home tip 5: Find a proper work-life balance
There are many great things about working from home: flexibility, no commuting and, in some cases, increased productivity. But, one of the downsides is that some find it hard to disconnect from work.
Remember to set boundaries
It’s tempting to work around the clock when your home is your office. But, this can be counterproductive. Studies suggest overwork can lead to less productivity, worse project outcomes and even adverse health outcomes.
Finding a proper work-life balance is crucial when you’re working from home. Here are some tips for maintaining this balance:
- Make time for exercise or physical movement, if you’re able to
- Schedule breaks on your calendar and take them
- Indicate your offline hours in your calendar and chat tools
- Take time to unwind outside work: pursue your hobbies, spend time with family, make plans with friends and occupy yourself with things not work-related