Some tips from me, having more than 10 years of experience working from home and remotely, both while working for huge organization like Lloyds bank, and with my own business.
Tips are based on my own experience and a bit of literature studied during this time on this topic (I recommend “Remote: Office Not Required” by founders of Basecamp).
Thought of this being just a short list with basic bulletpoints… ended up a bit more…. Hopefully useful for you. I know many already have experience and may be struggling, but for many more this will be their first time, full time… better be prepared!
Organisation of the work space
- Isolate yourself in a separate room when possible and make a corner for work
- Avoid working in the living room or bedroom. Best if it is special room for that. If not – create a thematic corner or self made ‘cubicle”. See part on Distractions below.
- Try work outside of home when possible – in co-working places, in quiet café, hotel lobbies – especially when you need inspiration, but still follow guidelines below.
Discipline and Distractions management
- Planning – Time management tips remain the same – check related materials
- Organizer – Google Calendar, Trello for tasks – set those daily and follow up with yourself and with your boss/partner.
- Time – set alarm for waking up, schedule working time during the day. Best to stick to same routine as at work – 9 to 5 for example. If prefer other time, ensure no distractions (for example spouse or kids coming back home and needing attention, so your evening working plans are screwed)
- Important to leave the house before starting work and during lunches – to establish pattern of coming to your “office” for work. For example do morning workouts or coffee outside or meal in different room.
- Divide the day for “meetings and calls” part and “work with docs or email or else office work” part.
- Don’t start the day with reading news, catching up on social media, etc – as you have no one around you will have a temptation to keep browsing. Do it only in breaks – start working straight away when you sit at your desk
- start with task review and with most important task (try A B C D task ranking method – A urgent important, B – important not urgent, C – urgent, not important, D – not important, not urgent)
- Ensure family knows you cannot be distracted while working. If enter room, only with knocking and only after allowed to enter. With no knock – only in emergency. Ongoing matters can be solved by sending whatsapp message – will respond which finish task.
- Schedule the calls and avoid them if possible by using messengers/email.
- Warn family before having conference call or client call – they need to know when you start and finish, so they keep quiet and switch off tv or music and don’t disturb you or enter the room.
- Avoid incoming phone calls from family and friends, as well as from unknown. Respond by message or only call back when it is convenient for you.
- Agree with family that calls during your working hours only made to you when it is emergency, in other cases calls shall be accompanied with a message or voice message to explain why need to talk.
- No social media, no browsing, no chatting on whatsapp – schedule specific times in the day for it (I do when I have breakfast/lunch as hands busy anyway so I can catch up on reading news of chats and during hourly or bihourly breaks). Limit them to 5-10mins max 2-5 times a day max. Non work related – only in your scheduled after hours.
- Switch off sound notifications on your phone or mute chat groups and app notifications.
- Get outside for lunch when possible and move out of the room to switch off, meet clients/colleagues from the industry/friends. Spend fixed time -1hr max, same as when you work in the office.
- Preferably to work in separate room or in co-working area. If have only one room available, create self made cubicle or similar.
Make it look, feel and function as a business workplace
- Comfy business chair
- Proper light, however reduce sunlight (producing glare, brightness and distracting from work). Best if the room is not sun facing, if it is, make it as dark as possible with shades, etc and then use artificial light.
- Shelves and cupboards for docs and stuff
- Full stock of stationary you usually use
- Have water, tea or coffee and supplementals supply. You will need a lot. Buy professional machine if needed, as you will use a lot.
- No personal stuff around workplace, only your work and business related. Don’t put any personal stuff around like you do at work, as you are missing home. You are at home – if you need to look at the picture or hold a bear – stand up and go to another room where you have plenty.
- Preferably you shall face a wall, not the window (otherwise cant help but focus on outside than the work). If window – put the shades so you can see though while working.
- Ensure delivery of fresh air
- Regulate the temperature and humidity to ensure most comfortable conditions for you. For me 18-22C is fine, with less I have fingers freezing, with more I am melting and loosing focus. Humidity 40-60% to avoid dry skin and eyes.
- Use coworking spaces and business labs if allowed or “missing office vibes”
IT (If you are employed, company shall provide most of the below, if not, acquire yourself):
- Powerful enough (apps launching quickly and no freezing of apps) laptop or desktop
- Two screens if possible (I connect laptop to additional monitor and work on laptop with big monitor on the side for spreadsheets, etc)
- Additional charger for laptop to keep in another room or to take with you when working outside
- External HDD for backups and big files
- Stable and fast internet connection (I use Fiber or 5G)
- Software to make VoIP calls instead of land line or mobile calls (or better use Skype/Zoom/Whatsapp). I use Skype credit if i need to call landline (once in a lifetime)
- Software for Electronic documents – get your country e-signature if available, get Adobe Acrobat DC (free version) which allows Fill and Sign the documents. For documents signing can also use very convenient online services Hellosign and Docusign.
- Cloud storage (Microsoft office Home version affordable annual subscription includes 1TB of space in OneDrive) – keep files there or external HDD as laptop is subject to higher risk now due to increased usage – break down, fall, coffee spill, lost, etc. I lost two (found one) and broke three … was happy to have files safe in the cloud.
- Convenient mouse (best to have expensive optical but with wire for more precision and to avoid changing batteries often or have connection issues)
- Additional keyboard if laptop keyboard is not good enough for you (smaller laptops have small keyboard which is not comfy)
- Convenient headphones with microphone, specifically for work purposes to be connected to your computer (you can use your airpod or others for music etc on your phone)
- Have conference call software like ZOOM (much better than Skype for me) for quality online calls and meetings (separate article needed for that… how to do video conference, find online. But avoid to be seen picking your nose or standing up on video with no trousers on, or forgetting to mute when speaking your mind or to someone else 😊 )
- Use Desktop versions of Whatsapp (web.whatsapp.com) and other messengers for ease of use and no physical distractions (like picking up your phone for a message)
- Printer / Scanner / Paper – I use affordable and quick HP OfficeJet 3830 + stock of ink (I use black only and buy cheaper non HP ink which works fine and saves money). Better not to print at all 😊
- IT Security
- Drive encryption, complex passwords, back ups and cloud as per above, some basic precautionary measures
- never leave laptop alone anywhere for a second
- lock the screen if you are leaving your workspace (kids can accidentally do some damage as well)
- Use VPN in public places
Comfort and other
- I like quiet music in the background… no radio with repeating songs or news – so I use soundcloud (shazam or similar) and find playlists with music for the mood – workout music when I need to hustle, jazz or relaxing music when need to focus, and so on. Best if it is not your favorite songs collection, as it is distraction as well. But I use it as well time after time. If you have someone around – use headphones.
- Have favorite snacks, type of tea or coffee ready and stocked. So that you don’t need to suddenly go to the shop when you have a rush for a choc or else.
- Workout in the morning, or after, or during the breaks. If stuck home, use Fitness apps, like Freeletics, which I use. You can use it for free or Get a Coach with 20% discount!
- Don’t get me wrong re self-isolating and no chatting, etc. Keep communicating, communicate even more than usual with colleagues and friends over breaks… lacking social interaction is the first thing you will start to feel after some time working at home. Do daily calls with boss or partner, go to business lunch or arrange video conference business lunch and so on.
- Dress to impress – yourself. Working in pajamas may feel very comfy, but if you want really to work – try to wear different clothes. Not specifically dress suit, but casual will do, as long as it is different to what you wear in your off time – so that you can dress to work and change after work – it is a good feeling 🙂
I know I have not covered all, each situation is different, I only shared what is good for me, so I will appreciate any other useful tips from experienced remote workers in comments or private messages 😊
As to management of employees remotely, there are many sources for more professional tips and tricks and software to use, etc. Different topic. Not an easy task though…
And in the end, some fun
This is the funny video where i took main picture from:
And some more funny pics: