10 Tips for Working From Home

This article also exists in: French

Because of the Coronavirus, a lot of people are going to experiment with the “home office”. Working From Home can be great but it can also be terrible if you don’t follow the right habits from the start.

I’m working 100% remotely since October 2018. Here are my tips to avoid the most common pitfalls and make it a success :)

Workspace

1. 🛌 NEVER work from your bed

I know how comfy and warm a bed can be. This is not a reason to work from it. If you start to establish a mental association between your sleep and your work, the quality of your sleep will decrease. Also, you’ll start to think more and more about work when you are in your bed.

For the reasons mentioned above, also avoid working from your bedroom. Instead, you can use a spare room. If you don’t have one, you can create an “office corner” in the kitchen.

2. 🪑 Find the best workspace

Working from the couch or a long/armchair can be ok for a meeting or a 1,5h working session. It’s not viable for more. Otherwise, you will end up with RSI/back pain/etc. The strict minimum to have a decent working session is a table, a chair and some natural light. I also found myself better with a laptop stand + external keyboard&trackpad. Also, don’t neglect the decoration. Add plants!

If you want, here’s my setup.

Note: if the virus spread were not a thing, I’d recommend you to find some cafe to work from. Having a group of people to work with once a week is also super cool.

3. 📲 Reduce distractions

When no one is watching you, it might be tempting to waste your time on your phone, social media…

Here are some counterspells:

  • put your phone in silent mode (or Do Not Disturb mode);
  • install a blocker and disallow social media from 9 am to 5 pm;
  • schedule deep work sessions and turn off Slack. When I was in Asia (7-8H ahead of my coworkers), I used to do ~85% of my day job in the morning. If you wonder how, the answer is simple: nobody was connected. This tool can be good for communication but it’s a productivity annihilator.

Note: your boss might expect you to keep the same level of productivity while working remotely. To be brief: it’s impossible. You’re going to introduce a wholesale change in the way you and your team work, your productivity will be impacted. Plus some people also have to manage kids, anxiety…

Work

4. ✋ Know when to stop

Sometimes we have close to zero output of our workday. As a software engineer, I often work all day on a bug and the solution results in a one-line fix. You feel a bit guilty but it’s ok to do so. Because in an office, people see you working.

It does not have to be different when you’re working remotely. You don’t have to work more just because you think you should have done more. Have some rest, you will do better tomorrow! 💪

When you work in an office, you see people leaving the office in the evening and you don’t really see them when you’re remote. If you can unplug, you can set an alarm.

5. 🗣 Overcommunicate and be transparent on your activities

Between what I think, what I want to say, what I believe I say, what I say, what you want to hear, what you believe to hear, what you hear, what you want to understand, what you think you understand, what you understand…They are ten possibilities that we might have some problem communicating. But let’s try anyway…
— Bernard Werber

If you work remotely, the chances of having a tunnel effect are increased. When I’m working on big features, I always share screenshot/video capture (super easy with Giphy Capture).

People can blame you if you don’t communicate. But if you overcommunicate, no one will.

6. 📽 Turn on your webcam during meetings

Enabling the camera removes a lot of stupid problems like: “is he serious or is he joking?“. Also, it makes the conversation more human. What I mean is it can also reduce the feeling of isolation that is present in many remote workers. You may have people by your side, but not everyone have. Maybe your face is the only face your colleague will see today. Think about it.

Just make sure you don’t have a bottle of beer next to you. If you’re live on the TV, put the kid away ;)

7. ☑️ Have a checklist of things to do

Balancing time is hard. You can write down your MITs (Most Important Things). It’s a mix between a daily log and a todo list.

MIT helped me a lot to organise my workday and also tell my manager what I’ve done over the last week. Also, it feels good to check boxes. At the end of the day, you know what you achieved.

If you find it hard to manage priorities, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s my go-to tool when it comes to priorities.

Life

8. 🍛 Get a proper lunch break

What I mean here is: don’t eat in front of your work.

Even if you’re home, don’t hesitate to physically move during your break. Like changing rooms, going on the sofa… the idea is to create distance between you and your work. So you know you’re on a break. Not 50% working / 50% resting.

Also, don’t hesitate to take a five-minute break to step away from your laptop. You will come back happier and more productive.

9. 🍃 Take care of yourself

This one might sound stupid but some people slowly forget some basics things in life like having a shower, eating healthy, doing exercise… Doing a meeting without a pant is fun once or twice. But it shouldn’t be a habit.

We’re not (yet) in a post-apocalyptic world. Life can’t be resumed to sleep-work-eat-work-netflix-sleep. Repeat.

10. ⏰ Establish a routine

Home office removes time to commute. You don’t owe this time to your boss. No, it’s yours! Take leverage of this gain for yourself. Establishing a routine is a good way to slowly start and end your day. There are thousands of things to do! Cooking, reading, walking the dog, yoga, meditation…

Here’s mine:

  • 07:15am wake up (after 8h sleep)
  • 07:35am catch-up on Twitter + Mail/Telegram/WhatsApp groups
  • 07:45am do some push-up + get ready
  • 08:00am prepare breakfast (avo toast/fruit salads 👨‍🍳) + drink my coffee + watch video/read a blog post
  • 08:30am start working

When I need more sleep, I start later. I never start working without having some time for me first.

Create your routing with your needs. It doesn’t have to be outstanding. Make it simple and be consistent.

About the author

For the last decade, Maxence Poutord has worked with a variety of web technologies. He is currently focused on front-end development. On his day to day job, he is working as a senior front-end engineer at VSware. He is also an occasional tech speaker and a mentor. As a digital nomad, he is living where the WiFi and sun are 😎
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