10 Tips for working from home that actually work
Working from home, or working "remotely" has been a trend that's been becoming more popular on for a while. For employees its an opportunity to avoid a stressful commute and get some valuable heads down time. For employers it's a chance to define some culture by showing trust, it can save money on office space and can help you create processes that let you open up your recruiting pool to more than just your immediate area. But with the current climate we find ourselves in, working from home has suddenly gone from a benefit to a necessity.
For those that haven't done this before it's going to be bittersweet. The comfort and flexibility is unmatched, but at the cost of bringing work stresses home. It can also wear on productivity because there's nobody around to tap on the shoulder and ask a question to or collaborate with.
Below i've listed 10 tips that have helped me work successfully remotely (with a bit of occassional travel) over the last 6 years. My journey in remote software development and ultimately management has had me work at different companies with different remote cultures, and be promoted from an individual contributor to being accountable for almost 25 people distributed accross the world (remote management is a whole different topic!)
Keep your commute. If you’re used to walking to the office, walk around the block. It's all about getting yourself in the right mental state to start the day with. If you're a maker it can take some time to get yourself set up for deep focus and if you're a manager it can be daunting going into that first meeting while your brains still waking up so give yourself a chance to get into the mood.
Once you get used to working from home getting into your work won’t be the problem, its finding balance and knowing when to stop. “I have nothing better to do so I might as well work” very quickly leads to “ughhhh work I just can't”. I used to have a lamp on my desk that I turned on when I sat down at my desk and turned off at a set time (5/6pm each evening). When the lamp is off, I'm at home not at work. the downside is I used to feel stress whenever a lamp turned on because I confused my brain.
Physically separate your work area from your home area. Your mental health is 100% going to be tested and you need places to escape.
Lots of expectation setting. Every conversation is formal now because you can't just have a quick chat. This means everything now has an additional overhead of context switching and preparing because you cant just brain dump to someone when a thought comes into your head. A 10 minute conversation suddenly takes 30 minutes of your day. The sooner you accept that your velocity is going to decrease atleast temporarily the sooner you can start planning around it.
Plan your day obsessively. Lots of time gets wasted otherwise. I love planning the night before because as soon as I sit down I know what I have to do.
Ideally remove email from your phone. Your computers right there!
Maintain hygeine and dress for work. When you dress smart you act smart.
If you're using Slack or an other kind of real time messaging platform, the #random channel is so important - it's culture building without an office. Keep chatting to keep that positive mindset.
Value your time. Pomodoro is a pretty good technique to try https://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730
Set up your technology. Some of the tools I use are:
- Zoom - For video conferencing
- Slack - For real time chat
- Notion - For documentation and collaboration
- GSuite or Sharepoint - For spreadsheets, simple docs etc
- A comfortable pair of headphones - If you're in meetings all day you'll appreciate a good pair of headphones
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