COVID-19 has changed the world of business for good, and for most of us that means remote work.
Businesses across the globe have been forced to rethink their work from home strategies and what was once a luxury has become a necessity.
But the results are in and as much as 60% of workers surveyed actually prefer working from home when compared to a traditional office.
So, to get the most out of your new remote working routine, we have created a seriously comprehensive work from home checklist.
1. Create a work schedule and stick to it
When you don’t actually have to get up and go it can be tough to find your rhythm.
On the one hand it’s much easier to slip into a long day of Netflix marathons and endless procrastination.
On the other, you start your day by reading emails your in bed and the next thing you notice, you’ve been in office-mode for a solid 10 hours.
Take it from us – nobody appreciates an urgent work email at 9 pm on a Saturday night.
For most of us, it’s easier to stick to the same working hours as you had when you were commuting to work.
At first, this could mean blocking your calendar from 9 am until 5 pm for work, and planning any other home activities for the evenings and weekends.
After all, you want to be working around the same times as your team members.
Pro tip: if you’re dealing with children or pets, you might want to add extra breaks to your schedule.
2. Dress for comfort (but within reason)
Now, look – when you work from home, you don’t need to suit up every day.
And there’s no need to put on those heels that have your feet aching by lunchtime.
But please don’t be that guy who joins a Zoom call in a dressing gown.
The key is to strike a balance between dressing comfortably and appropriately.
Yes, it might seem like the best thing ever for a little while, but working in your pajamas blurs the line between home time and work time and tends to make people less happy and productive.
For some people, wearing jeans and a blouse might as comfortable as it gets, while others swear by honest sweatpants.
Experiment with business casual, and pay attention to what your colleagues are wearing if you have any doubts.
A good rule of thumb is to dress up for any external meetings with clients, shareholders, and the likes, and keep your wardrobe more casual when you’re in a weekly team meeting.
3. Make your work environment pleasant
As well as getting dressed every day, you’ll want to create a specific workspace in your home.
While there’s no shame in taking your laptop to the sofa every now and then, having a dedicated workspace will help you to feel like you’re in an office environment.
Knowing that when you sit down at your workspace you’re at work help you avoid distractions (your laundry can wait, we promise) and unnecessary procrastination.
Working from home doesn’t mean that you should be uncomfortably hunched over your kitchen table, so pay attention to:
- Lighting. Natural and soft lighting can help you avoid headaches and strain in your eyes. Think about creating your workspace next to a window, for instance.
- Your desk. Your desk should have enough space for the tools you need to get your work done. If you’re not able to invest in a separate desk, think about multi-purposing furniture you already own.
- Your chair. A good office chair supports your back and helps to keep back pain at bay.
Done right, your new home office can be an oasis of focus, where you never have to put up with the poor biscuit choices of the office management.
4. Set boundaries with both colleagues and family
Working from home has many upsides to it, but sometimes our family members or others sharing our space aren’t on the same page.
Sure, it’s not easy to explain to a 3-year old why mommy or daddy can’t play right now, but setting boundaries with your cohabitants will save your sanity in the long run.
You also want to make sure that your team members know what times they should expect you to be available.
This way, you’ll avoid potential miscommunication and aren’t the reason why your colleague missed an important deadline.
Make sure that:
- You’re clear about the times that you’re not reachable.
- Your team know when you’re in work mode, and your family know when you’re out of office.
5. Have a solid internet connection
Here’s the deal: if you want to work from home, you have to have a good internet connection.
Depending on where you live, the internet speed in your area might be a problem.
Since most remote workers rely on video calls, file sharing, and instant messaging, a slow internet connection could create a lot of unnecessary issues and frustrations.
Check if your organization is able to help you with any additional upgrading costs if you’re dealing with a slow connection.
If, after potential upgrades, your broadband still reminds you of the dial-up internet of the 90s, consider setting up a remote meeting with someone from the IT department.
They can remotely check that your computer’s settings are optimal.
When it comes to internet access, try these things to boost your connection, so you can handle a Zoom call or two:
- Speed test. A simple speed test can reveal if you’re getting what you’re paying for.
- Ethernet cables. A direct connection is always going to be more stable than relying on wifi.
- Wifi repeater. Sometimes the layout of a room can disrupt your wifi signal, and that’s when wifi repeaters come in handy.
6. Make sure you have all the tools and equipment you need
Next on our work from home checklist are tools and equipment.
It’s time to make sure that you have the tools that you may need in your new home office.
While it’s true that certain jobs just can’t be done from a home office setting, most office-based work isn’t tied to a location.
After all, a doctor or a construction worker can’t exactly save lives or build a skyscraper from the comfort of their couch.
So, you’ll definitely need a laptop or a computer and a pair of headphones with a microphone.
Without a headset and a microphone, you’ll create a lot of unnecessary echo in your virtual meeting rooms.
If you’re not a freelancer but an employee instead, check your company policies on what tools you’re allowed to take home from the office.
Depending on your work, you might also need tools like:
- A separate monitor
- External keyboard and mouse
- A laptop stand
- A company mobile phone or access to an online calling system
- A printer-scanner or access to document signing software
7. Stay in touch with your team (they miss you, too)
When you work from home, it’s easy to start feeling cut off from the rest of your team members.
While it might feel a little forced or unnatural at first, it’s important to schedule in time to catch up with your team – preferably over video chats.
Chances are that your company will have an internal messaging system or a set of collaboration tools available.
Applications like Microsoft Teams and Slack can help you to feel more connected to the people you work with.
You can follow what everyone else is doing and quickly get a hold of a colleague, rather than waiting for them to reply to your email.
With your team, consider setting up weekly meetings to align on the week’s tasks and reflect on the previous week.
Finding time for remote team building and coffee breaks also help you feel connected with your colleagues, even if you’re not in the same physical space.
8. Keep hydrated and graze on snacks that are good for you
Companies are spending more and more on employee wellbeing.
And while we all love an office gym and fresh fruit in the kitchen, when you start working from home, the responsibility for eating healthy and drinking enough water is truly up to you.
It might seem that things like hydration and a bag of nuts can’t possibly influence your productivity that much.
But your body is like a cucumber – it’s made out of a lot of water.
And science has proven that keeping hydrated can boost your productivity by 14%.
Similarly, studies have shown that grazing on healthy snacks (think fruit, nuts, things sold at WholeFoods) helps you stay focused for longer.
So, how can you make sure you’re boosting your work performance while working remotely?
Create habits like:
- Keeping a water bottle within an arm’s reach
- Buying dried fruit and nut in bulk
- Investing in a Soda Stream
And before you know it, you’ll feel better, have more energy, and stay focused for longer.
9. Don’t 👏 forget 👏 to 👏 take 👏 breaks
When you work from home, you soon notice that you’re sitting down for longer periods of time than you would in the office.
Without having to hike across the office floor to grab another coffee, or walk to your colleague’s desk to ask them to do you a favor, your life starts to revolve around your desk.
And that’s bad for you – research has shown time and time again that sedentary lifestyles can lead to a bunch of health conditions and even premature death.
Stay healthy and take breaks by:
- Standing up every hour or so
- Stretching multiple times a day
- Going for a walk
10. Prioritize your tasks like a pro
Working remotely can mean that all of a sudden, your inbox is overflowing with requests to complete so many urgent tasks that were all due yesterday.
Since your colleagues can’t just walk up to your desk to ask for your opinion or help, it can feel like your inbox is suddenly your nemesis.
Along with creating a work routine and setting boundaries, prioritizing tasks is a skill every remote worker has to learn.
Use a prioritization matrix to get a better idea of which tasks are actually urgent and which can be done during a quiet afternoon.
With every task, ask yourself:
- How much effort does this task require?
- How much value does this task bring to me/my team/my company?
- How urgent is this task?
- Can this task be done later without any negative consequences?
Your manager or team leader can help you understand which tasks are a priority, and which can only feel like priorities.
11. Keep everything (yes, everything) secure
Many employees might not even think twice about it, but you should have security measures in place when it comes to company data.
While most employers will have had to come with some form of process for keeping business secrets safe, you have to do your part.
That means using a password manager to keep your logins secure, a VPN to keep your internet connection safe, and locking your laptop or screen every time you move away from your workspace.
If you’re discussing highly sensitive information over the phone or in a conference call, make sure that you have enough privacy.
12. Be a realist
As with any workspace, don’t expect that you’ll suddenly increase your productivity and focus by 200% just because you’re now working remotely.
Depending on the resources you have at your disposal, it could be that some aspects of your work now take longer to complete than before.
Some work tasks might require you to get another team’s approval – or you might realize you need access to software you need clearance for first.
Be sure to also regularly check in with your manager: you want to be sure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to realistic expectations.
Setting a weekly focus and dividing priorities to particular days can help you stay focused while also getting quality work done.
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you suddenly need to work around the clock, after all.
13. Let’s get physical (go for a walk)
We all know that we should exercise more.
But when you work from home, chances are that you’re getting less exercise than you used to, when you had to walk to the train station every morning.
You could turn to Instagram for inspiration, but more often we struggle with keeping up a fitness routine, not starting one.
Check if your company is doing remote fitness sessions via Zoom: rather than spending your lunch break on YouTube, you could join in on a home workout class.
Chances are that if you’re part of a bigger organization, someone is a group fitness instructor or a yoga teacher.
More often than not they will be happy to rise to the occasion and plan a short and sweet fitness class suitable for all.
Not only will you get to spend some quality time with your coworkers, but you’ll also break a sweat in the process.
If you’re not one for group fitness, try something else, like:
- Take your meetings outside (the so-called walking meeting)
- Doing micro-workouts that only last 5-10 minutes (here are some handy YouTube videos to get you started)
- Starting a family-friendly hobby, like hiking
14. Have a post-work wind-down routine
It can be hard for remote workers to switch off – after all, your work happens in your home.
That’s why it’s important to create a post-work routine that helps you mentally separate work and home from each other.
It doesn’t have to be anything drastic: some people go for a walk once they finish their day, but for others, just closing the laptop and moving to another part of the house can help.
Psychologically, having a ritual that helps you transition from work to home helps you relax and get ready for the next day.
These are some of the post-work routines we especially love:
- Doing some household chores. Folding laundry and doing the dishes are quick ways to stop thinking about next quarter’s sales targets.
- Reading a book. And it doesn’t have to be a professional development book – sometimes a good story is all you need to switch off.
- Calling a friend or a family member. Recounting your day to a loved one and catching up is a great way to keep in touch, and to keep work at bay.
15. Seek out support when you feel like it’s too much
Even before COVID-19, over 60% of US employees said that stress from their work caused them to regularly engage in unhealthy behaviors.
And the truth is that working from home isn’t always fun and games, either.
Sometimes, remote work means that you can’t vent to a colleague at the water cooler about a last-minute deadline or task.
Entrepreneurs have long described remote work as a great, but lonely undertaking.
If you start feeling stressed and start looking more like your passport photo than your Facebook photo, make sure that you seek out support from your manager or HR department.
It’s important to address the reasons why you start feeling burned or stressed out – to most Americans, their workload is their biggest cause of grey hairs.
The earlier you voice your concerns (be it your workload, or your work responsibilities overall), the easier it will be for your manager to come up with solutions.