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Tips and Best Practices for Working From Home in 2021

February 20, 2021
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After the coronavirus pandemic broke out, working from home became the new normal. Some were already accustomed, others quickly adjusted, but many people are still struggling with this new modus operandi. It would be naive to presume that you can simply switch from your regular office routine to your own kitchen table without experiencing any sort of difficulty. Creating a home office from scratch can be a challenge - financial, logistical, mental, and organizational. Although we are all hoping that the Covid-19 will soon be just a bad memory, remote work is most definitely here to stay.

The good thing about having a home as your workspace is that it isn't a new trend. Many people have been working from home for decades, and they can teach you a thing or two. Instead of going through the same issues, and struggling to overcome them, we are offering an alternative. In this article, you will read about enjoying working from home, regardless if you are just starting or not. We are sharing with you the very best practices from other remote workers. Use them wisely!

What are the biggest challenges of remote workers?

If you want to thrive from your home office as much as you did from your regular one, you need to understand what could be your downfall. Although every person has a different experience, some issues seem to be more common than others. Now that more people are working remotely than ever, it has become very important to be aware of these potential challenges, so we can be more equipped to deal with them.

1. Loneliness and isolation

Almost every person that switched from a regular office to working remotely has mentioned feeling lonely, left out, and isolated. Before 2020, many remote workers spent their workdays in coffee shops, cafes, and coworking spaces, so this wasn't such an issue, but since last year that stopped being an option for most. Spending the entirety of your workday without any physical contact with your coworkers became too much for some - many are looking forward to going back to the office, regardless of the long commute. However, you don't need to feel this way, no matter how long do you have to stay in this new method of working. Read below our advice and make the most out of your newly found situation.

2. Burnout

If your home is your office, are you ever not working? Many people report precisely feeling like this, like there is no space to be away from the laptop, constantly feeling the pressure to check e-mails, jump on Zoom calls or finish that tiresome report. The end of the day became the end of the workday, and the cycle repeated itself. This issue also increased since last year, when taking a break became a challenge - instead of taking a stroll through the park, going to get the groceries during full lockdown mode became the only relief. The well-being of remote workers is no joke, and we will be tackling this topic down below as well.

3. Communication challenges

Can you really say that you got your message across if you are only speaking with someone on video meetings and in Slack group chats? According to most remote workers - not really. The struggle of not being able to see nonverbal cues, or casually stroll to your colleague's table for a quick check in means that a lot gets lost in translation. Although this has been an issue even before the 2020 pandemic, and it affects all remote workers equally, it is also an issue that is easier to resolve than others.

Knowing what issues might decrease your productivity and affect your mental health when telecommuting also means that you can be ready for them and resolve them even better than you expected. Remote working is here to stay and learning from others how to be a top performer can help you both personally and professionally.

Your office is in your home, but your home is not your office

Working at your kitchen table, only to feel uncomfortable so you grab a quick phone call on the terrace, followed by a video conference on your couch after hours in order to meet the deadline... Are you ever not working? Probably not. Your brain is always thinking about work because you never allow it to stop. Let's see how can you trick yourself into actually separating work and home, no matter how long do you have to do it for.

Have strict office hours and office space

This is the bread and butter of every remote worker - setting clear boundaries. Start by respecting your regular office hours - there is absolutely no need to work for more than 8 hours a day, or how long your workday would last in an office. Working full-time didn't suddenly become working all-the-time. Just because the laptop is there staring at you, doesn't mean that you have to give it all the attention. The opposite is true.

If you limit yourself to working - with a clear goal and a task list in mind - only during certain hours, you will be able to get more work done. If you tell yourself that you have the entire day to finish the task at hand, you will probably end up procrastinating during the day and getting stuck behind the laptop at night.

The same goes for space - the entire house is not your office, otherwise, you will never be out of it. Set a dedicated workspace, make it as 'officy' as you can, nurture a work environment that fosters productivity, and stick to a strict routine of only working there. Your living room is for Netflix binge-worthy TV shows, not for the longest conference call in history (that could've been an e-mail).

Act as if you are still in the office

In addition to dedicating work hours and office space, you could implement a couple of other office-like behaviors. Dressing up for the part, getting a (virtual) coffee break with your favorite colleague, not checking social media while working, having your lunch break at the same time... Human beings, in general, respond well to routine, repeated behaviors, and structure. You will know consciously that you are not in the office, but you can trick your brain by behaving as if you still are.

Respect other's methods of working and demand the same

One of the reasons why the advice we mentioned isn't helping is because people you work with need to behave the same. What do we mean by it? Let's say you decide to work no later than 5 PM. And then your coworker asks you to have a Skype call at 7, just to ask you something, it won't be longer than a couple of minutes. Before you know it you two have been on the same video chat for two hours, discussing every minuscule project detail, eating dinner in front of the laptop, and gossiping about the rest of your remote team. It might sound like fun, but that just means your workday isn't finished and it's already past 9.

When you sign off, turn off the notifications on all of your messaging platforms, let your colleagues know that you won't be available, and write down any idea that might pop up in a notebook, without turning your laptop. If you stick to this kind of behavior for a while, it will become your preferred way of working and you won't even consider going back to your old ways. Communication is key to remote work, and clear boundaries are the most solid foundation.

There is more to life than work - even when you love your job

Focusing on your mental health has never been as important as right now. With the world events getting gloomier every day, checking in on how you feel is not just reserved for yoga lovers and meditation addicts. What was once rarely mentioned is now a buzzword. It matters that you take care of yourself as much as you are taking care of your work.

Schedule dates with yourself

If you never leave the house it might feel you aren't really doing much. Getting take out, watching TV, sending endless e-mails... That kind of slump can make you feel like you are stuck repeating the same day over and over, and groundhog day is only fun when it's in a movie.

In order to avoid that, create a schedule for yourself as you would typically do if there were no limitations. Mondays can be for movie nights, Tuesdays for video calls with family, Wednesdays for home spa or game night, and Thursdays for educational webinars...

You can pick and choose how you want to spend your time, but even if it's something as simple as a virtual birthday celebration with your team members, you will perceive it as an event that breaks the mould of your repetitive "working from home days".

Use the extra time the best you can

How many times have you read about the incredible productive things everyone seems to be doing since the lockdown started? Learning new languages, updating their LinkedIn profiles, getting Microsoft certifications, starting new hobbies, redecorating... Well, if you feel the pressure to do just that, but you don't really feel the urge, we are here to tell you - you don't have to do it. However, when working from home you certainly have more time for yourself. And what should you do with it? Whatever makes you feel the happiest.

For some people that means being insanely productive. However, there is more to life than getting things done. When you are not working, you can play video games or rewatch Star Wars, something you never thought you would have time to do. Or, you can start actually sleeping 8 hours per night, which most adults never get to experience. If you really want to implement the very best practices for working from home - think about what makes you the happiest and do just that!

Knowledge is power - know better to do better

Making the most out of any situation should be your go-to option in life and remote work shouldn't be any different. Regardless if WFH is your choice or it was pushed on you because of the current events, you can use it to your advantage. Knowing more about this way of working and using that knowledge to further your interest will make it seem like remote work is the absolute best thing that has ever happened to you.

Good organization is crucial when you are working from home

Look at your home office as if you are running a small business. You are your own boss and you set the rules. Start by setting up your ideal workstation and check everything - Wi-fi connection, laptop, cell phone, agenda, and your favorite coffee mug. Create a routine and stick to your schedule. Avoid wasting time video conferencing as much as you can, try to be precise and straight to the point, and use the time you saved up wisely. Spend some time every day by sharpening up your communication skills, because they will be invaluable in the future as they are right now.

Communication is the foundation of all relationships

We have already mentioned once or twice how important it is to master this skill. If you are working remotely you can only use certain methods of communication, which is why it matters that much more that you use them wisely. When you are interacting with your coworkers, don't leave anything to be presumed. Be precise, concise, and clear. Set up deadlines, give instructions that are easy to follow, and follow up every video call with written meeting minutes.

When you experience a misunderstanding, as you surely will, try to refrain from letting your emotions get the best of you. You now have the advantage of being able to distance yourself from your workstation, relax a bit, cool off, and collect your thoughts. Only then you should convey your perspective, without needing to get too emotional and digress from the issue at hand.

Remote work comes with so many perks - enjoy them to the fullest

Best practices for working from home aren't only about how to deal with the difficulties - it is also how to use the situation in order to benefit yourself. Your personal life, your career, and your bank account can all improve simply because you've chosen to work remotely.

You can use the extra time and money to plan the next five years of your career and to start working on your goals and dreams. Instead of complaining about the lack of social contact, team buildings in crowded bars, and ping pong tables at the office, think about how the situation you are in is beneficial to your overall life and career ambitions.

If you considered all of the perks having a remote office offers, you will see that they significantly outweigh the cons. Now that you are aware of all of this, there is no excuse for you to enjoy working from home to the fullest and fulfill all of your goals as a remote worker.