Working from home is a major lifestyle shift. Read our tips on how to work remotely without losing your mind. Plus, get short-term and long-term solutions to help you succeed.
Our work-from-home street cred
Between the two of us, Josh and I have survived every type of remote working. We’ve run our own business out of our house since 2014. We spent a year as digital nomads, working full-time while traveling the U.S. in a camper…with a kid and a dog. As a freelance designer, Josh worked from home on nights and weekends. He even had an unplanned stint at home due to a shortage of office space at corporate. We’re super familiar with working from atypical places as employees, contractors, and business owners.
All that to say, we understand that working remotely feels very different, and we’re happy to share our wisdom on how to make this experience as positive as possible.
The coolest people work from home. via GIPHY
1. Create a space to work
Even if your situation is temporary, it’s crucial to find the right work space. That can be a home office, a dining table, a camper parked in the driveway, a folding table in the basement, or a comfy chair in the living room.
Your investment in this space should be proportional to the amount of time you’ll be spending here. We now have a dedicated home office because we work from home full time, but I’ve used the dining table too. The key is gathering everything you’ll need, at least for the next few hours, and creating an environment that helps you open that “going to work” space in your brain.
- Create space with music. Put on headphones or grab a bluetooth speaker.
- Put a rug under your work area. Tell your family that this rug defines your “office,” and when you’re in your “office,” you aren’t available for [fill in the blank].
- Choose a permanent spot for your desk. Make sure you have good light, natural or otherwise.
- Measure the square footage of your dedicated space to use when claiming it on your taxes.
My dedicated home office. via GIPHY
2. Think ergonomically
Your body was not built to sit all day, especially not in a wood dining chair. Find a seat or buy a chair that fits your back and leg length. Get your screen at eye level to keep from straining your neck. Enable the night-time mode on your laptop or screen to keep from straining your eyes. If you’re going to spend more than an hour in this space, take the few minutes needed to make working better for your body. Your work will be more productive if your body isn’t distracting you.
- Put a pillow on a dining chair to make it more comfy.
- Prop your laptop up on some books to get your screen at eye level. You might need to buy a cheap keyboard so your reach isn’t awkward.
- Invest in a good chair—you probably spend more time sitting here than on your couch!
- Buy a screen/monitor, keyboard, and mouse so you can work without neck or eye strain.
Rocking that wireless keyboard. via GIPHY
3. Plan for breaks and interruptions
Working remotely (or anywhere) rarely comes with 6-hour blocks of uninterrupted work time, so plan for breaks and interruptions. You will get hungry. There’s something about working from home that makes Josh and I want to snack, so we’ll plan a time to take five minutes and grab some trail mix. On the flip side, plan a time for meals. When I’m in the zone, getting things done, I’ll completely forget to stop for lunch. Get outside. Eat lunch on the porch, take a walk, or just open a window to catch the breeze.
Josh and I will plan our day and week around the natural interruptions in our life. We schedule client meetings for days our daughter is at the nanny, important discussions for nap time, and let independent work fill in the rest of the time.
- If you have kids at home, set a timer until your next break so they know when they can bug you/hug you/play with you next.
- Make a to-do list so it’s easier to get back into the zone after breaks/interruptions.
- Communicate with your family about when you need total focus time.
- Keep water and snacks in your office space so you don’t have to completely turn off your work brain to grab them.
- Eat lunch at the same time each day to help your brain and body create a rhythm.
Gettin’ my snack on. via GIPHY
4. Gather your supplies and services
Every job requires some kind of supplies. Even when we were working from the camper, we had a little basket of basics: a legal pad, some pens, Josh’s sketch book, and a small whiteboard. Whatever basic supplies you need to work from home, gather them together so you don’t have to stop working and hunt them down in the moment. And remember to charge your laptop!
Same goes for services. Make sure your software subscriptions are up to date and take advantage of free apps and small business tools.
- Sign up for a free trial of an unlimited music subscription.
- Fill a basket or backpack with all your supplies and take it to wherever you’re working that day…living room, dining room, coffee shop, etc.
- Invest in the best internet you can get.
- Double up on common items so you have a home version and an office version: phone charger, coffee pot, pens, etc.
This seems like a good number of pencils. via GIPHY
5. Put it all away
One of the hardest things about working from home is putting it all away, physically and mentally, at the end of the day. This is so much harder when you can see the place where you work. Your brain drifts back to things left unfinished or work stresses. So you have to make clearer boundaries in your space and mind.
Pack up your laptop every night, even though it’s coming right back out tomorrow. Put all your supplies in your basket or backpack and shove them in a closet. Close the door to your home office and leave it shut. Roll up your “office” rug. Then go have a typical how-was-your-day conversation with your family.
- “Come home” from work and pretend you haven’t seen your family all day.
- Put on typical work clothes during your business hours and change into house clothes when you’re done.
- Jot down after-hours work thoughts in a note on your phone, then forget about it until tomorrow.
- If you work with your spouse, agree not to talk about work after dinner.
Honey, I’m home! via GIPHY
Working from home can be a big change, especially when it happens unexpectedly. Remember that you are great at your job and great at your home life. They might bleed into each other a bit while you work remotely, but give yourself a ton of grace and patience as you navigate the transition.
We’d love to answer your questions and trouble shoot your struggles with working from home. Share with us in the comments!