Working from home used to be considered a luxury, reserved largely for lucky workers in select positions or freelancers.
After COVID-19, however, that’s no longer the case. 76% of workers say they now have a preference for working from home, and two years into the pandemic, 59% of workers who say they can work from home are doing so.
Whether you’re a freelancer, business owner, or a conventional employee, working from home in many positions is becoming the standard instead of the exception.
Speaking from experience, working from home is an exceptional perk. I’ve been doing it since I started freelancing in 2014, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I have flexibility in my day for doctor’s appointments, lunch with my husband, or going to the gym.
There’s no commute time, and I can spend the day working in loungewear with my dogs around me. And as someone with a chronic illness, I’m typically able to keep working even when I don’t feel well; that wouldn’t be the case with an in-office job.
There are, however, hardships to working from home. For many, it’s been a sometimes bumpy transition, with challenges like poor internet access or home equipment, difficulty collaborating with a team, and even kids barging in on important Zoom calls.
So how can remote work be effective, productive, and enjoyable? In this post, we’re going to look at nine work-from-home tips that we all need in 2023, backed by science and tested by your friendly neighborhood freelancer!
1. Create a Quiet, Distraction-Free Space
This is the most important thing that you can do when you want to work remotely.
Set up a quiet workspace that you use pretty exclusively for work. It should be a distraction-free, comfortable space somewhere in your home where you can work relatively undisturbed.
For some, that may be a clean, clutter-free desk in a corner of your house. For others, you might need to be behind a closed door, even if it’s in an unused guest room, where family members can’t barge in on a meeting to ask for snacks.
Here are a few quick tips that can help:
- Start with an organized, clean desk. Rifling through drawers to find a pen and post it is no good. And for people like me, disorganization and clutter is immediately distracting.
- Make it a happy space. A few house plants in my office and a picture of my family next to my computer make me relaxed and happy. You’ll be spending a lot of time here, so it shouldn’t feel miserable.
- Choose ergonomic furniture. A good office chair and a desk that meets your needs are essential. Learn more about ergonomic desk chairs here.
2. Have a Morning Routine
I can’t stress this enough— have a basic routine to get your day started.
This will look different for each person.
Maybe you get ready, make a nice breakfast, get the kids ready for school, and then head to work.
For others it may mean a morning walk, have a coffee and catch up on social media for twenty minutes, and then dive in.
I typically wake up, get dressed, have a light breakfast on the porch while I throw a ball for one of our dogs, and then come inside.
You want to feel ready to work, and you want to be relaxed to start your day. Starting your day consistently can help you feel more ready to clock in, and it becomes part of a routine. An established routine can give you a feeling of consistency that can start your day right.
3. Get the Tools & Tech You Need
One of the downsides to working from home is that you may not automatically have the tools or technology that might otherwise come standard with an office.
My husband, for example, was used to two computer screens at work, so he needed to buy a second when he switched to work from home.
If you’re using a personal laptop instead of a company device, you might also need to figure out how to gain access to the software needed to do your job well.
This may also mean upgrading the internet, getting a new mobile phone, or buying any other tech you need.
If you’re self-employed, you can write these off as business expenses to reduce taxes.
If you’re an employee, ask if a stipend is available for setting up your home office. And if not, work in order of priority— what do you need to get the job done well?
4. Stick to Consistent Work Hours (& Don’t Go Over!)
This is a particularly important tip for traditional employees, but it can apply to freelancers and business owners, too.
Having established, consistent work hours is important. And if that’s not possible, at least have designated clock-out times that are truly your end of workday.
Once you work from home, the work/life balance can be great… but it can also be skewed because the line between work and home becomes blurred.
There’s no walking out the door at the end of the day to signal work’s end, and you can easily find yourself working on your laptop through the movie your spouse was excited to watch with you.
A more consistent schedule (at least most of the time) is a good start. It can help you know that it’s time to clock out for the day so you don’t end up consumed by work. A rare outside occasion isn’t a big deal, but if you’re working round-the-clock on a long-term basis, it’s time to find another job.
5. Take Breaks
This may seem counterintuitive, but if you want to be more productive, take breaks.
This is scientifically proven. We’re not meant to sit in front of a desk for eight hours a day with no mental breaks and just focus— it’s not possible.
When we work with no breaks, we end up mentally fatigued. This means our productivity decreases, we get more frustrated, we start making simple mistakes, and we even end up with decision fatigue (which can mean we’re more likely to make poor decisions).
Taking a fifteen-minute break every two hours can be life-changing. And checking work emails does not count as a break.
I always physically get up from my work area, whether it’s to get a snack, take the dogs out, go for a short walk, or do a load of laundry while I listen to a podcast.
Don’t eat lunch at your desk while working, and try to incorporate physical activity (even if it’s just walking to another room!) to keep the blood flowing.
6. Have a To-Do List Every Day
Working from home can feel a little bit disorganized from a task perspective, especially if you’re used to having someone delegate tasks out or supervise progress in-office.
In order to make sure that you’re staying focused, having a to-do list that details each task you need to complete is a good place to start.
This can keep you on track. You know you don’t have an hour to empty out your inbox if you can see that you’ve got two deadlines you need to get done. These tasks will feel more urgent, and it ensures that nothing gets missed, and that you’re staying productive.
You can use software like Asana or Trello for this, even if your company doesn’t use it across the board. I typically just use my Apple Calendar for deadlines and break down individual tasks on a checklist in a Notes app.
Find what works for you, and stick to that.
7. Find Social Outlets
This is an underrated tip that I’ve never seen anyone else mention in work-from-home resources but that I’ve learned is crucial.
Working from home can be deeply isolating if you’re not careful.
You’re home alone (or just with family/roommates) most of the day, and by the time the day is over, you may be too tired to go out and do much. If you’re not careful, you can go an entire week without leaving the house for meaningful socialization.
Make plans with friends, join a fitness studio, or find a club that you want to join with weekly meetings. Even if people are still coming to your home for dinner in, and even if you’re an extrovert, you need intentional social time with people who you don’t already live with.
8. Have Boundaries with Family & Housemates
When my husband first started working from home, he’d come wandering into my office a few times a day just to see what was up and how I was. It was sweet… but it was also a bit disruptive to both of our schedules.
Having clear boundaries with anyone living in your home is important. I know that when his office door is closed, it means he’s in a meeting and to make sure the dogs (and I) stay out.
He knows that if I’m actively typing to steer clear, because it means that I’m focused and don’t want my concentration broken.
I have friends who use an open-door policy, and some who will take breaks in a “neutral” part of the house where it’s safe to chat about non-urgent matters.
Make sure that kids understand this, too. Explain what constitutes as an emergency, and which parent to talk to if they need something.
9. When In Doubt, Find a Coworking Space
Sometimes you may love remote work, but working from home just is not a fit.
This may be the case when your office chooses to have exclusively remote work, or your office is far enough away that it’s hard to go in, but working from home is distracting or unpleasant.
If this is the case, it is okay to throw in the towel and look into a coworking space. You can find some with established private offices, and some that just allow you to show up, find an empty cubicle or desk and get to work. They range in price, but they’re available all over the world. A new environment might even inspire you with new ideas, whether it’s from an ad you see, a poster on the wall, or cool color combos from the interiors of the coworking space.
Working from home can be wonderful. It can also be immensely difficult without the right tools, strategies, and boundaries in place.
The work from home tips listed above will make remote work more enjoyable and productive, allowing you to truly get the most out of this exceptional perk.
What do you think? How do you feel about working from home? How do you keep remote work productive and enjoyable? Let us know in the comments below!