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21 work from home tips

Hybrid work has become the standard for millions of people. Many have embraced one or more work-from-home days a week, giving them more time for hobbies, catching up on sleep, or socializing with family and friends—instead of sitting in traffic. The good news is that this greater flexibility hasn’t affected productivity. According to the Microsoft Work Trend Index, 87 percent of hybrid employees say they are productive at work and productivity signals in Microsoft 365 continue to rise1.

How to work from home

But this doesn’t mean working from home is easy. For many, it can be a struggle to stay connected to the company culture. And without clear boundaries, work can start to infringe on workers’ personal life.

Take care of yourself and stay focused with the following tips to work from home. Here’s your ultimate guide to 20 remote work best practices that will help you do your best work, even if it’s from your kitchen table.

 

1. Choose a work area

If you work everywhere, you can’t relax anywhere. Choose an office space in your home, even if it’s a corner of your kitchen. The physical distinction between where you work and relax will help you shift into professional mode during business hours and focus on personal relationships, housework, and other activities later.

 

2. Stick to a schedule 

Decide on your home “office hours” so you don’t end up working all night. Your schedule doesn’t have to be 9 AM to 5 PM—just pick regular hours and stick to them. Creating this routine, much like creating a home office area, will cue your brain that it’s time to work or relax. It also helps family know when they can expect you to be available.

 

3. Get the tools you need 

If you’re wondering how to work from home effectively and efficiently, the right supplies make all the difference. Here’s what you need:

  • A computer, keyboard, mouse, and extra monitor (optional, but helpful).
  • Video conferencing and group chat software.
  • Online cloud storage to access files remotely.
  • Earbuds, noise-cancelling headphones, or a headset with a microphone.
  • A comfortable, supportive desk chair.
  • Good lighting, both for your sake and for anyone on a video call with you.
  • Other office supplies like a water bottle, coffee mug, tissues, scissors, packing tape, pen and paper, and personal mementoes.

 

4. Shower and get dressed

 “Why get dressed if I never see anyone?” It’s tempting to let hygiene and grooming slip while working remotely, but it affects how you feel, not just how you look. A morning shower can help you feel more refreshed than just waking up and opening your laptop. Taking care of your appearance sends the message that you value yourself and deserve care. Even if no one sees you, you’ll feel confident—and be ready for any surprise video calls.

 

5. Stock your kitchen

Remember the office kitchen, with free snacks and a fancy espresso maker? Time to invest in your own. Get a good electric kettle or coffeemaker, and stock up on your favorite beverages. Learn to make your perfect drink and fill your pantry with snacks and treats. That way, you’ll have everything you need to start your day off right.

 

6. Set the right noise level

One benefit of working from home is that there are no chatty coworkers or other office distractions. Decide whether you enjoy the silence or need some white noise or background music to help you focus. If noisy kids and pets are at home, get a white noise machine or consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones.

 

7. Set guidelines for family 

For kids, seeing you work from home means you can play with them anytime…right? Set expectations by telling family your work hours and break times. Decide on a system for ensuring they’re quiet during important meetings, whether it’s reminding them a few minutes before or putting a sign on your office door. If you have young kids at home and a partner, try not to schedule meetings for the same time, so one person can keep an eye on them.

 

8. Manage your day

Some people are up with the sun and ready to start getting things done, while others hit snooze three times and aren’t at their most creative until sometime after lunch. Think about when you’re most productive and plan your workday to accommodate your energy level. Block off your calendar for heads-down space and use status messages to communicate when you’re busy.

 

9. Limit distractions

It’s easy to start browsing the internet during work and lose track of time. Help yourself stay focused by setting a timer—for example, 15 minutes to read the news. Use software or browser extensions that block social media sites during work hours. Plan errands for lunchtime or after work to limit interruptions.

 

10. Plan breaks

No one can focus all day, every day. One of many work from home best practices is planning time to disconnect occasionally. Put breaks on your calendar so you can clear your head and have something to look forward to, like:

  • A walk around the block.
  • Lunch with your family.
  • A trip to your favorite coffee shop.
  • Ten minutes watching cute animal videos.
  • An afternoon snack.

 

11. Stretch and move around

Working from home means that you don’t have to walk to a meeting room, printer, or coworker’s office, so there are fewer reasons to get up and stretch. Prevent sore muscles and fatigue by walking around at home, going outside to check the mail, and stretching throughout the day. Your body will thank you.

 

12. Pay attention to your posture

“Tech neck” is the slumped posture and strain you can get from hunching in front of a screen all day. If you’ve noticed your posture slipping while working from home, here are a few ideas:

  • Avoid working in bed or on the couch.
  • Adjust your seat and monitors so your arms and legs are at 90-degree angles, monitors are at eye level, your back is straight, and your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Do some simple exercises like tilting your head from side to side, rolling your shoulders back and forth, and stretching.
  • Visit a chiropractor or massage therapist if you can.
  • Get an ergonomic keyboard or padded wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse.

 

13. Be intentional about communication

There are no impromptu hallway conversations when you’re working from home, and it’s hard to pick up on nonverbal communication cues via chat. This makes it especially important that you over communicate and choose the appropriate channel for your conversations. Here are some tips to help you figure out when to use which communication channel:

  • Chat messages: Chats provide an instant and informal method for conversing with one or more people. It’s a good place to follow up on an ongoing project, get quick input from someone, or just connect with a coworker. When using chat, be mindful of people’s status messages. If someone’s doing focus work, wait until later to ping them.
  • Email: Email is a great channel for formal, written communication. If you want to document the outcome of a meeting or provide a point of view on a complex topic, email may be the right tool. However, email can get cumbersome when multiple people are trying to make a decision or resolve a disagreement. If after several emails, people are still not aligned, consider switching to a phone call or meeting.
  • Phone: A call can be conducted between two or more people and is a good medium for building consensus or addressing an urgent issue. Because you can hear tone of voice, calls help minimize miscommunication.
  • Video conference: Video conferences allow two or more people from various locations to connect and collaborate. And because you can see people, it’s easier to read nonverbal communication. Most video conference software allow screen sharing and whiteboarding capabilities to more closely replicate an in-person meeting. If you do schedule a video meeting, be careful to make them productive for everyone. If there are multiple participants, create an agenda and ensure everyone understands their role.

 

14. Check your video

Look your best for video calls and make sure there’s nothing distracting in your background. You don’t have to have a perfectly curated bookshelf, though—some video conferencing apps blur your background. Turn on your camera before meetings to make sure you’re well-lit and adjust as necessary. If you do end up working in loungewear, keep a spare shirt nearby for last-minute video meetings.

 

15. Get cleaning supplies

One thing nobody tells you about how to work from home effectively and efficiently is that your desk will get dusty. Keep a microfiber cloth or rag on hand to clean monitors. Set a reminder at least monthly to move everything off of your desk, dust or wipe it down, and put things back. Compressed air dusters are also helpful for getting crumbs and dust out of your keyboard.

 

16. Be proactive about connecting

It’s normal to get lonely and feel disconnected while working from home. Don’t wait for others to reach out—schedule regular check-ins with your manager and team. Ask for what you need and let people know if you’re struggling so they can help. If you miss someone, put 15 minutes on their calendar to catch up. If you’re tired of video meetings, call someone on the phone while you go for a walk.

 

17. Help protect sensitive information

Working from home can feel casual, since you don’t need a company badge to get in, but confidential work info still needs to stay that way. Don’t let family members use your work computer and follow best practices like changing passwords regularly. When taking sensitive calls, be sure you’re out of earshot of other people and unplug smart Bluetooth devices. Don’t leave your work devices unattended, whether they’re at home or in public. Install software updates as soon as they’re available so your devices aren’t vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and avoid wireless connections that aren’t secured.

 

18. Use away messages

With email, chat, and video, it’s easy to expect instant replies from coworkers, but sometimes you have to step away for an appointment. Update your status on your group chat app before you leave your desk for more than a few minutes, ideally with the time you’ll get back and your time zone (“back by 2:30 PM Pacific” is better than “back in an hour”). If necessary, include your phone number in your away message so coworkers can reach you if it’s urgent.

 

19. Check in with yourself

After a month or two, ask yourself, “Is this working?” What do you love and hate about your work-from-home setup? Try moving your office to a different room, moving closer to a window, adding a cushion to your chair, or rearranging your desk. If you’ve been working remotely full time and miss the office, consider going in one or two days a week, if possible.

 

20. Be kind to yourself

Give yourself some grace—we’re humans, not robots. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re struggling to focus or function at your full productivity. Even with these best practices for working from home, everyone has off days. Just do your best, with compassion for yourself and your team.

 

Next steps

Working from home, whether you do it once a week or every day, can enrich your life, reducing the amount of time you spend commuting and providing more opportunities for hobbies and to connect with your family and friends. Although it may initially be challenging to learn how to focus on work from your home, with the proper set up and best practices, hybrid or remote work can give you greater control over your time and lead to better job satisfaction.

 

Collaborate and connect while working remotely with a free group chat app, or get started right away with a comprehensive suite of business apps to help you stay productive.

 

1 “Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?” Work Trend Index, Microsoft,

September 22, 2022, p. 5, 2022_Work_Trend_Index_Pulse_Report_Sep-3697v2.pdf (ctfassets.net)

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