It’s no secret that COVID-19 has greatly changed the way we navigate our lives. It’s not just the little things either, like not being able to go to the gym, or only going to the grocery store once every couple of weeks—according to CNBC, over 32.1 million unemployment claims have been filed since March 14.
In an effort to flatten the curve and protect employees, large tech giants like Google recently announced that they’ll allow all employees to work from home until July 2021. If you are fortunate enough to be able to perform your job from home, you may have quickly learned that working remotely comes with its own challenges. At the top of the list are staying motivated, avoiding distractions, team communication, and trying not to eat everything in sight.
HiHello—a free networking tool—has been a remote-based company since 2018. We’ve already experienced the work from home challenges that a lot of people are undergoing today, and have learned a lot about how to keep motivated and in sync with your team, even across different time zones.
Here are 19 of our favorite work from home tips:
No, you don’t need to wake up at 5:30AM every morning to be successful. But, having some sort of consistency in your morning routine is key. Waking up at the same time each morning will help your body maintain a circadian rhythm, which in turn will make it easier for you to wake up, it’ll help you feel more sharp and alert, and it can even help improve job performance.
Everyone falls victim to this at least once during their professional careers. Setting your alarm for five minutes before your first meeting isn’t ideal—it’ll leave you feeling groggy, confused, and not on your A-game. Tomorrow, try waking up at least a full hour before you have to be online. Make sure you have plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast, and plan for the day. You’ll feel more refreshed and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo writes “[A] messy room equals a messy mind.”
When your physical space is cluttered, oftentimes it can reflect onto your mental state. Living and working in a messy area can lead to increased stress and decreased productivity. So, try spending 10-15 minutes in the morning tidying up your workspace, office, or apartment—wherever you’re working—before you start your day. It’ll make your space seem bigger and your head clearer, and it’ll help you stay sharp and focused throughout the day.
Long commutes are brutal—they’re time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting. Oftentimes when people first work from home, it seems as though they have all this extra time on their hands. Instead of sleeping in, set aside the time you’d normally spend commuting and do something that benefits your physical, mental, or emotional health. Starting your day off by going on a walk, meditating, or even doing a virtual workout class will help you feel more refreshed and productive.
I’m not talking about that one pair of shoes you wear everywhere—purchase a pair of comfortable and supportive shoes for indoor use only. Wearing shoes will prevent you from laying down in bed during the workday, and will overall help you feel more productive. As an added bonus, if you use a standing desk then wearing shoes will give your feet and back a little more support.
Working from your bed or couch is fine if you work from home intermittently. But, if you’re working remotely full-time, it isn’t ergonomic. Consider investing in an actual work station. Personally, I use a hand-me-down monitor and bought a desk from Target ($94.99), a standing desk extension from Amazon ($179.95), and an actual mouse ($79.00) and keyboard ($99.00) from Apple. While it may set you back a few hundred dollars, having the right setup will help you work comfortably all day long, and trust me—your neck and back will thank you.
Setting core working hours is a must while working remotely, especially if your team is working across multiple time zones. The HiHello team is spread out all across the country—from San Francisco to New York City—so we have core working hours from 9AM - 2PM PST. During this timeframe everyone is expected to be online and available. Setting core hours allows us to know who can be reached and when, and helps maintain a work-life balance.
Ever look at all the documents on your desktop and immediately get stressed out? It may be time to come up with an organizational system for your computer. Having a clean desktop and knowing exactly where your documents will make your computer feel less cluttered. To organize your browser tabs (admit it—you have 20 or more open tabs at any given time) check out Workona. Workona is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to organize your open tabs into different workspaces. If you create multiple workspaces—like one for your work tabs, one for social media, and one for online shopping—navigating different web pages will be a breeze.
Even if it’s only for a few minutes, check in with your team every morning. Our remote team stays connected by doing daily check-ins using a Slackbot. Taking a few minutes to check in with your team every morning—whether it’s about work or otherwise—will help keep camaraderie up, and communication in sync.
Face-to-face time is important, there’s no denying that. But since meeting with someone in-person isn’t an option right now, doing a video call is the next best thing. It’s difficult to convey emotion over Slack, and sometimes hoping on a quick call can be a time-saver. Our team uses both Pragli and Zoom. (We’ve even made custom virtual backgrounds for Zoom—check them out!)
Not only should you be using tools like Zoom while you’re at work, but you should also be using them to help grow your network. This pandemic won’t last forever, so you should continue to form new and maintain business relationships because you never know when you might need them.
While we highly recommend utilizing video calls, they can become draining after a while. There have been reports of Zoom fatigue—people often can feel tired, anxious, or stressed out by too many Zoom calls. (Let’s be honest, the thought of having to be “on” all day long is exhausting!) Use video when you need to, but if it’s not required try suggesting a normal phone call. If you’re able to, take a walk while you’re on your call. You’ll get some fresh air and exercise, which can help with feeling trapped inside all day long.
It’s easy to not worry about calories and nutrients when you’re bored and hungry. It’s fine to have a cheat day every once in a while, but don’t make it a habit. Eating healthily can help boost energy, improves your mood, and can prevent weight gain. Take some time to plan out your meals. Having some healthy lunches ready-to-go will help with the urge to grab something that’s high in sugar and saturdated fat.
Overconsumption is also a problem when you’re stuck at home all day. Try downloading a fitness tracker (we like MyFitnessPal). It’ll help keep you in check with how much you’re actually eating, and can lead to making healthier choices overall. Remember, while tracking your eating habits is important, don’t worry or stress out if you go over your total calorie count for the day. Eat what makes you feel good.
Halfway through your work day (or whenever you’re feeling tired or unproductive), head outside and take a brisk 15-20 minute walk. Taking a midday walk will help you re-energize and refocus, and will set you up for success for the rest of the workday. (Just don’t forget to set your Slack status, and wear any required PPE!)
If your team uses Slack, get in the habit of setting away messages for when you’re not at your computer. It’s a great (and simple!) way to let your team know when you are or aren't available. Set your status when you’re eating lunch or when you’re taking the dog out, so your team knows if you’re not at your computer. (Tip: to quickly set a status, use Command + Shift + Y on Mac and Control + Shift + Y on Windows.)
Getting some fresh air is quite literally, a breath of fresh air. Being cramped in a small apartment all day, every day can be tough. As simple as it sounds, opening a door or window can make all the difference. Getting some fresh air will help circulate the air in your home, and will help your space seem more open and less cramped.
Maintaining consistent exercise is no problem when you’re physically going into an office, because you actually have to plan out where and when you’re going to work out. You’d think it’d be even easier to stick to a routine while working from home, but it’s easy to push a workout off til the next day. (Before you know it, you’ll have gone a full week without any sort of physical activity!)
Try planning out your day the day before, and including a mandatory workout at the same time every day—knowing you have a schedule to follow will help keep you on track. While going to the gym is no longer an option, there are some great workout apps out there that are either free, or include a free trial. Check out the ClassPass and Peloton apps; they’re currently offering free trials to access their library of pre-recorded virtual workouts. (And no, you don’t need to have the bike for Peloton—they have other classes as well!)
If you have the space and the means, right now is a great time to foster or adopt an animal in need. Your companion will help with feelings of loneliness or isolation, and you’ll have plenty of time to bond with your new furry friend. If you adopt a dog, you’ll no longer have an excuse to go days without going outside. A dog will help you get off the couch and get some much needed fresh air—at least a—few times a day for walks and potty breaks.
It’s been about five months since the pandemic broke out in the United States. Between working, exercising, eating, and sometimes sleeping all in the same space (without any real vacations) burnout is bound to happen. It’s important to set boundaries, and remember that even though it may seem like you have all the time in the world to check email and go on Slack, you still need to take some time to yourself. One small way to enforce that balance is to set aside some time to do something fun after work. Have a cocktail, call a friend, watch the latest episode of The Real Housewives—whatever it is that makes you relax, do it!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.