30 Work From Home Tips to Maximize Productivity and Help You Stay Connected - header image

30 Work From Home Tips to Maximize Productivity and Help You Stay Connected

Hey team 👋 Cindy here, Head of Community and Social at Magisto. I’ve been working remotely for over 10+ years (shockingly my entire career) I’ve dredged through the trenches to learn the hard lessons so you don’t have to.

Never worked from home? Great – this post is for you! My best advice? Try not to get overwhelmed and take things one day at a time. Remember that you are not alone.

Worked from home before? Great – this will be a nice refresher with some additional tips you may not have encountered. Read on to see how you can stay productive and connected with colleagues during this difficult time.

1. Always Meet Over Video

This is one of those things that doesn’t seem obvious at first, and in fact it might even seem like a pain – ugh I have to put on makeup, or I have to look presentable (we’ve all been there). But there is a reason why meeting over video is important. Meeting over the phone leaves people out, and feeling disconnected. During those calls, and a black screen, your mind wanders. You are more likely to pick up your phone and hear crickets when your leader or manager is asking for feedback, tips or brainstorming suggestions.

With video it eliminates all of that. Video encourages people to be present and participate just like being in the room right there at the office.

2. Find Ways to Stay Connected

Staying connected is crucial especially with the amount of uncertainty that the corona virus brings. But what does connection really mean when you work from home? It means – speeding up communication to be as up to date as possible. When I first started we used chat services, but the problem at that time was if you were out, or not right there in front of your computer you would miss these pings. Now with tools like Slack, Zoom, and Vimeo you can communicate in real time as needed and never miss a beat.

3. Be Aware of Time Zones

This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. Working with clients who are on the east coast? They’re probably not going to accept that 9am, or in their case 6am wake up call time. It may seem silly to ask – but one of the first things you need to know to accommodate is asking what part of the country (or world) they are working from.

Pro-tip: log those locations into your World Clock on your phone so you won’t have to think about it again.

 

4. Be Respectful of People’s Time

In addition to knowing the correct time zones, and meeting over video – it is even more important that you show up on time. If you are going to be late – use a messenger app to let them know you’re going to be a few, and you’ll ping them when you are ready.

5. Practice Compassion and Empathy

Working from home no doubt has its challenges. For example, managing little people and pets. Take a quick second (if you haven’t already) to watch the interview heard around the world. The little girl unknowingly and unapologetically busts into her Dad’s BBC news interview and the rest is history. 

The family won praise for their messages afterward basically noting “we’re human, and these things happen.” Please be aware that other people have families, children, pets and other interruptions that are sometimes unavoidable. Try to show some empathy during the corona virus outbreak and remember – no one is perfect.

6. Set Clear Expectations With Your Manager

No. This isn’t so they can keep “tabs on you.” Being transparent about what you’re working on is extremely important because your manager is responsible for getting you the resources you need in order to be successful. If you are not completing tasks or do not have the tools that you need, setting clear expectations, and documenting your work will help you get what you need.

7. Set Up a Dedicated Space

You do not need to have a fancy office with a corner window. You DO need to have a workspace that makes you feel comfortable so that you can be productive. Make sure you clear a space, or set something up that is reliable that you can count on.

8. Use a Project Management System

Whether it’s google docs, your notes app, evernote or Monday – it doesn’t really matter as long as you have an idea of what your tasks are, how long they are taking you and a place to list deadlines, priorities and goals. This will help you stay organized and efficient. Filling them out consistently will help you achieve your long term year over year goals. 

9. Use the Pomodoro Method

One of my favorite tips I learned early on in my career (and probably my favorite tip to this day) is implementing the Promodoro method. The pomodoro technique is a time management technique that breaks down work large tasks into 25 minute intervals. Francesco Cirillo, named the method after the tomato timer he used in college. 

The idea behind the method is while performing the task, during that 25 minute span, you eliminate ALL distractions and focus on the task at hand. After the 25 minutes is up you take a short 3-5 minute break. After that resume the task. No task should take you more than 4 “pomadoros” if it does, it means you need to set time aside to focus on that bigger task later in the week, and resume busting out your other tasks for the day.

10. Avoid Multitasking

Following the pomodoro method and the idea behind it – it’s a reminder that your brain is not built for multitasking. When you are working from home distractions are everywhere! Your TV, your phone, neighbors, deliveries etc. In order to be successful you need to be disciplined. Prioritize what you need to do for the day, and eliminate the feeling or need to want to do everything at once. Think of your brain as having multiple tabs – the less tabs you have open, the more things you will be able accomplish.

11. Capitalize on Time Periods When You’re Most Productive

Let’s face it, not all of us are morning people, and not all of us are night owls. Everyone is different. The important thing to figure out is when you are at your most creative, and when you are for the lack of a better word – about to burn out for the day.

For me, I like to get up, have some quiet time and then get to work right away. I like to bust out as many tasks as I can before noon and at the beginning of the week. I save my creative tasks for later in the week where I have a clearer mind and less one off tasks to worry about. I also try to save any calls for later in the afternoon because I do not want to waste my most alert, most productive energy tuning into conference calls (if I can help it).

If you are creative later at night, maybe try shifting your schedule around to do those tasks when you are feeling up for it – rather than fighting through them.

12. Match Music to Your Mood

Music is a big one that a lot of people rely on for inspiration throughout the day. I personally cannot handle writing tasks with any distractions on. My husband however can listen to a podcast or music to spark inspiration during writing sessions. Again, everyone is different. When you are able to use music as inspo – I’ve found it useful to match it to your mood. 

Working on a high end rapid fire brainstorming sesh? Put on those workout jams and get MOVING. Working on staying calm and tackling your inbox? Try some smooth jazz to keep your mind at ease. 

13. Put Your Phone Down

You cannot be productive while your phone is in your hand. I repeat you cannot be productive while your screen timing is going up and to the right. Trust me – I’ve been there. It takes some major discipline with how connected we are these days. Turn your phone on silent, turn off notifications, or if you can, put it in the other room set to receive calls only so that you can truly focus. Find out what works for you – and never let it go.

14. Communicate Expectations

If you have two or more people working remotely in your household trust that is is not the “dream” you have heard of. Even though you are sitting right next to each other it requires even clearer communication about what your needs are. If you are an extrovert you might be tempted into distractions and chatting while the other person might be alone time. Be clear about what you need throughout the day in order to be successful. You may not know at first, but be upfront and honest about what you need so that you can both do your best work. 

15. Stick to Your Normal Sleep Schedule

It may be tempting to sleep in, or stay up late because you don’t have to go into the office the next day but this is a slippery slope. Your circadian rhythm plays a huge role in how you sleep and therefore operate for the day. I highly recommended staying on schedule to not disrupt this. In the end you will end up even more sleepy if you do.

16. Don’t Forget to Eat

This may sound silly but again, it’s another one that people don’t really think about. But wait, if you work from home you have MORE access to food? Yes this may be true – but your ability to shut down, and take breaks is harder than you think. Make sure that when you are taking breaks you remember to eat so that your brain gets what it needs throughout the day.

17. Meal Prep

Along the same lines, forgetting to eat is a huge problem! You get sucked into calls, you are trying to make deadlines, and coworkers aren’t grabbing you to go out. Meal prepping is a great way to ensure you don’t get sucked into cooking for an hour during your lunch break. Having meals and snacks ready to go will allow you to take the time you need to eat without feeling guilty. 

Photo via: Skinnytaste

18. Drink Plenty of Water

Your body NEEDS water and not nearly enough of us are doing what we need in this arena. Make sure that you keep a water bottle with you at all times. And if you’re like me and are not so fond of the taste of water – try infusing it with lemon, fruit, or herbs to increase your intake. 

19. Get Ready for the Day

When you feel your best, you give your best. It’s as simple as that. Getting ready for the day is crucial and it doesn’t have to take hours. Get up, brush your hair, your teeth, put on your makeup – just like you would if you were going into the office. 

20. Put on REAL Clothes

You can FINALLY work from home! All of those rumors of piles of sweatpants are ready for you! Or are they? This is another slippery slope. If you’re not feeling well – sure. It’s a perk. But repeatedly looking, and feeling like this can take a toll on your mental health. Wake up. Get dressed. Do what you need to do to feel your best. 

21. Schedule Exercise

Another thing you need to keep yourself healthy that can be the first thing to go when you work from home. Exercise is important and can even increase your productivity. If you are having a hard time getting to it schedule it into your calendar to keep yourself accountable. 

22. Take Breaks

This goes without saying. The day turns into night, and the tasks can go on and on without anyone to pull you away. Make sure you are taking the breaks that you need to stay healthy. If you can’t do it – follow the same rule as exercise and schedule them into your calendar.

23. Create a Routine

It has been proven that remote workers actually end up working more hours than office employees due to the fact that they can’t leave / shut off for the day. Be sure that you are creating a routine for yourself that makes you feel good. Pro tip – jumping into your inbox as soon as you roll over is not a great way to start the day. 

24. Set Intentional Times to Socialize

Without sitting next to your teammates working remotely can get lonely sometimes. Don’t forget to schedule initial time to catch up with colleagues, or participate in team activities even if it is virtual – those shared memories are important.

25. Set Boundaries

This is something I had to learn over time. Referring back to everyone being productive at different times – working remotely across teams can get pretty insane. It is important that you are flexible, but that you also set boundaries to protect your mental health. In order to make the most out of the time with my family I make sure that I do not take calls past 4pm each day. 

I am happy to jump on slack or email and respond, but I try to shut off completely so that I can be present with them. Do what works for you – but also make sure your team and manager are aware and on board so that the communication is clear. 

26. Schedule Meditation

This is one that I recently started and have become obsessed with after noticing the benefits. To be honest, I didn’t really believe the hype. However after trying the apps Headspace + Calm I immediately noticed a difference, and got better at using the skills I learned over time to clear my head in stressful situations. 

This is something I do each day and you can set the time to as little at 5 minutes or up to an hour or more. If you don’t have 5 minutes to give yourself each day – we have a bigger problem!

27. Journal

Journaling is something I also took up in the past year and it has really helped me with work / life balance. Journaling helps me notice patterns and when I am not taking care of myself it is very obvious to me, rather than keeping those thoughts in my head and not knowing where the problem is. Bullet journaling is a great way to set yourself up for success for the next day as well. 

28. Over Communicate

Over communicate to anyone and everyone you come into contact with. This is something that feels odd at first and sometimes laughable, but it is 100% one of the fastest ways to fail, pit people against each other, and to lose track of where you’re at. After meetings be sure to send a recap so that everyone knows what they are responsible for. In emails, be sure to communicate exactly what you need, deadlines, and if there are potential roadblocks. This will help everyone stay on the same page and moving forward together.

29. Be Positive

Being positive to me is a choice. Some people are better at it than others. Some people have anxiety, depression, or their personality may not be the most inviting, but when you are working remotely those things are exposed tenfold.

In addition to self care, it is important that you communicate what you need and over text or email that can sometimes come off in the wrong way. Use emoji’s to display tone and you can even straight up say hey – can you jump on a quick video call? I have some feedback and I don’t want this to come off the wrong way.

Another pro-tip? People will decide how quickly they want to respond to your and in what order you rank as a priority. If you are a jerk – how quickly do you think they are going to respond and / or be willing to help? Remaining positive, being a team player, and nurturing relationships is key.

30. Be Kind to Yourself

Lastly, and most importantly – be kind to yourself!

You are not going to get everything right every day. Working remotely is HARD. You feel isolated, disconnected, and sometimes burnt out from not knowing when to shut down. It’s natural and you are not alone. Do what you need to prioritize both your mental and physical health. Both are equally important.

Be open and honest with your managers about what you need (from my experience vulnerability goes a LONG way!) and you will be on your way.