Even for those seasoned in the workforce, working from home can be a tricky beast to tame. From dishes in the watering hole calling your name to kids roaring from the other room, it can be difficult to stay on-task.
Up to 43% of Americans tend to work from home, and this number is only expected to rise as technology improves and employers become more flexible.
Whether you work from home for your primary job or just want to add some structure while working on your side-hustle, we want to make this experience as productive and positive as possible for you.
So here are some tips the Pcrocreative team uses when working from home. Incorporate our working from home advice into your workflow and watch your stress levels fall and your productivity rise!
Benefits and challenges of working from home
"Working remotely has its perks, most of which relate to saving time and alleviating stress."
There’s no commute. Not only is commuting stressful, but it also takes a large chunk out of your day. The average American spends 225 hours each year commuting. That’s 9 full calendar days each year!
That’s precious time you could be using for working on your side hustle or taking up a new hobby. While working at home, you also save money on gas or money that you would be spending on public transportation.
More flexibility. Chances are, when you work in an office, you have a set time for when you need to come in and for when you need to leave. Depending on your company, position, and your agreement, you might have more flexibility with your daily schedule.
Fewer office-related interruptions. The office is ripe for distractions—from chatty coworkers to meetings that could’ve been emails. Working from home can make it easier to focus, as long as you keep your motivation and morale high.
Reduced stress. There’s nothing like working in your own space while saving money and time. Employees who work from home report being 24% more happy and productive at work than those who work in a traditional office setting.
Challenges of working from home
Your home bills increase. While working from home allows you to save money on your commute, being at home all day also means that your electricity, water, gas, and food bills will rise.
There are domestic distractions. When working remotely, household duties like laundry and errands can be distracting. If you’re a parent working at home with a baby, you may also have to worry about childcare during the day, which can take you out of your element.
Little distinction from work-life and home-life. One perk of being in an office is the distinct line between work life and home life. Working remotely can make that line much murkier. It can be easier to be distracted by that yoga class during the workday and easier to get sucked into your inbox after hours.
The risk of decreased productivity. When working around a team, there’s more possibility to interact and motivate each other. When you’re on your own, your work day can feel more sluggish.
Lack of community. Without people to interact with face-to-face during the day, working from home can feel lonely at times. Humans are social creatures and we need human interaction to stay sane and healthy.
To manage these challenges, it’s important to create healthy at-home work habits. Here are some of the tips our team uses when working from home.
To-do before starting your workday at home
While there’s no single way to hack working from home, there are several tips you can follow to work from home successfully. Most of them involve creating healthy work-from-home habits based on organization, structure, and routine.
A successful workday starts with organization that takes place before your workday even begins.
Choose your workspace. If you don’t have an extra room for a home office, create a designated workspace. Choose a space that is quiet and ergonomically friendly. Invest in workspace furniture like a comfortable chair and desk, a good lamp, and an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and laptop stand.
Be sure your internet is high-speed. A good connection means you’ll work without technical issues and your calls will go as planned.
Set up a Virtual Private Network. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to create a connection to a public or shared network over the Internet. It allows you to securely share work with your coworkers, guarantees your online anonymity, and protects your work from hackers. Start by taking a look at ExpressVPN or NordVPN for inexpensive, user-friendly VPNs.
Clean your workspace. Whether you need to sweep, clear, or wipe down anything within the vicinity of where you need to work, take care of it beforehand. Any clutter in your workspace has the potential to become a distraction.
Decide when you clock in and clock out. While one of the benefits of working from home is the flexibility, it’s also important to set boundaries. When you clock out for the day, set yourself to “away” on your work messaging system, snooze your notifications, and close your work devices. Choose your hours and stick to them. Be sure to tell your coworkers, family, and/or roommates so they can hold you accountable to those hours. This leads us to…
Communicate with the people you live with. The people who live with you should be aware of your work situation. Let them know whether you need quiet for making a call or a few hours of uninterrupted focus time.
Do also let them know when you have a free moment to be able to grab lunch or take a break together!
Habits and tools to increase your productivity
Set yourself up for continual success by setting a morning routine, structuring your day, and using the right organizational tools.
Set a morning routine
Give yourself enough time to wake up. Although it’s tempting to roll out of bed and over to your desk, your brain and body might not be ready for that! So wake up at least an hour before you clock in and get your body moving so you can get into work mode.
Complete your usual morning routine. Whether this means hopping in the shower, getting dressed, or doing your hair and makeup, completing your morning routine can be key to getting yourself focused and ready for the day. Be sure to grab breakfast before you get started!
Turn off all distractions. A simple text or social media post can get you sidetracked during the day. Start your day off distraction-free by switching your personal phone to “do not disturb,” logging out of your social media accounts, and using an app like Space that blocks you from accessing social media during set hours.
Define your schedule
Now that you’ve set yourself up for success for the day, structure your day so you can set a workflow that works for you.
Before starting our tasks for the week, we at Printful set our priorities and estimate how long it’ll take us to complete those tasks.
We then block off certain hours in our day to get them done. Exercise discipline to complete those certain tasks.
And keep in mind what times of the day you best accomplish certain to-do list items. If you’re more bubbly in the morning, try to schedule all your emails and calls for when you first clock in. If you feel more social later in the day, use the early afternoon to focus on your people-centric tasks.
From there, write down your schedule in a notebook or planner or use an app to plan out your day.
Use planning tools
Need any productivity app suggestions? We have a whole video of Printful team favorites! First up on the list is ToDoist, which helps you prioritize your tasks and jot down your daily or weekly goals.
Stay in touch with your team using messaging and calling apps
Working from home, you can’t stop by your co-worker’s desk for a quick Q&A about a project, but you can shoot them a message on Slack, a messaging platform used for work.
If your conversation seems like it’s going to take longer than a couple minutes, feel free to use the platform’s audio and video calling features. Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype are other calling options to consider, especially for larger or external meetings.
Use your breaks effectively
As ideal as it sounds, it’s impossible to be productive 100% of the day. Plan breaks to keep your mind running smoothly.
Breaks will increase your energy and focus up during the day so use them to stay socially, physically, creatively, and intellectually stimulated!
Take structured breaks
Explore different break-taking methods to see which one works best for you. The Pomodoro method suggests taking 5-minute breaks for every 25-minute working period, while the Rule of 52 & 17 suggests taking 17-minute breaks for every 52-minute working period.
Communicate with your team
If you miss coffee breaks with your team, use group chats to stay social. Ask them how their weekend was, send them a funny gif you saw on social media, set up a video call over lunch, or send pictures of your pets (even better, refer to your pet as your co-worker and update the team on how your “co-worker” is doing).
I’ve gotten into the habit of taking my breaks with my coworkers, just like we do when we’re in the office. We’ll mutually decide on a time and then call each other up and chat for 10-15 minutes.
Exercise or meditate
There are plenty of online opportunities to get your body moving at home.
Just one of the many condensed workout apps available, the highly-rated Johnson & Johnson 7-Minute Workout app allows you to fit in workouts that range from 7 to 32 minutes. It offers dozens of exercises you can customize to create a workout that fits your fitness needs
If you’re looking for a low-pressure and low-intensity method of getting active, try yoga! Yoga increases your concentration and allows you to improve your balance, stability, and posture. YouTube has a wide selection of yoga videos that you can fit in on your breaks.
Check out this lunch break yoga sequence from a popular YouTube instructor Yoga with Adriene.
I’ve noticed that when I take a break to do yoga or meditate, I come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever tasks are on my schedule.
Consume the content you love
While the morning commute is a great time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, audiophiles can adapt their work-at-home schedule to listen to their favorite audio content from home. Tune in while in the shower or while preparing your meals so you don’t feel like you’re missing out!
And the videophiles can get their content while getting ready in the morning, sneaking in a quick midday stretch, or munching on their lunch.
Work on a passion project
For those interested in learning a skill, consider checking out any of the massive open online courses that you’re drawn to. Whether your passion is animation or entrepreneurship, there’s something out there for everyone. Take a look at UDemy or Skillshare to browse your options.
If you don’t have time for a multi-hour course, you can subscribe to some newsletters of interest or peruse educational blogs.
To get the news delivered straight to your inbox, check out the New York Times Daily Briefing. For the pop-culture savvy, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hournewsletter is a personal favorite of mine. It’s perfect if you’re a TV/movie buff like I am.