15 Ways To Work Better From Home

Gabrielle Olya
·9 min read
imaginima / Getty Images
imaginima / Getty Images

As of an October 2020 Gallup poll, 33% of U.S. workers were working remotely all the time and an additional 25% were working remotely sometimes. If you’re one of the 58% of workers that are working from home at least part of the time, you’ve now had nearly a year to adjust to this new normal — but you might still be struggling with it. And with many now working from home permanently — or at least for the foreseeable future — it’s not too late to take steps to optimize that experience.

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From setting up an ideal home office to making the most of available technology and learning to balance parental and office duties — all while staying sane — here are 15 ways to work better from home.

Last updated: Feb. 18, 2021

A mature aged woman working with a laptop computer in the bedroom of her suburban home in Los Angeles California USA.
A mature aged woman working with a laptop computer in the bedroom of her suburban home in Los Angeles California USA.

How To Set Up a Home Office

If you’re still taking your meetings and sending off emails from your bed every day, you probably don’t have the most efficient setup. Now is the time to create a home office that will enable you to function as well as — or almost as well as — you would in your usual office. Here’s how to do it.

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Rear view of artist working at desk.
Rear view of artist working at desk.

1. Have a Separate Workspace

Your home may now be your everything space — where you work, where you relax, where you eat and where you exercise. Having a designated space to work will help you separate your work time from your leisure time.

It’s important to set up your home office in a space that has good lighting — because spending eight hours of your day in a dimly lit space is just depressing. Working near a window where you can get natural light is ideal, especially since many of us are spending more time indoors than usual, but if that’s not possible, set up a lamp or other light source.

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Wooden home or office room in closeup of black chair and bokeh background of computer electronics and empty space in workplace or house.
Wooden home or office room in closeup of black chair and bokeh background of computer electronics and empty space in workplace or house.

2. Invest In a Comfortable Desk Chair

The more ergonomic your work setup is, the better. A comfortable and supportive desk chair can make all the difference. If you’ve been working on a kitchen or dining room chair this whole time, now may be the time to upgrade.

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Close up of a young family in their living room using a laptop.
Close up of a young family in their living room using a laptop.

3. Let Other Members of Your Household Know That That’s Your Workspace

Once you’ve established where you’re going to set up your home office, make it clear to whomever you live with — whether it’s a partner, roommate or family member — that that area is now your workspace and they should respect it as such.

Ideally, you can set up an office in a room with a door that you can close when you need to take meetings or concentrate on the task at hand. If not, find other ways to create a boundary, such as putting a sign on your desk chair that you are not to be disturbed.

A beautiful young woman working from home.
A beautiful young woman working from home.

How To Make the Most of Technology

In addition to having basic office equipment, there are other pieces of tech you should invest in to complete your home office setup. There are also a number of programs and apps that can help you connect with others, stay on track with tasks and allow you to work as efficiently as possible. While you’re probably already a pro at using Zoom by this point, here are a few of the ways you might not be aware of to use technology to your advantage in this new work environment.

close up on graphic designer student hand drawing on digital tablet screen for create and learning artwork form webinar of education online concept.
close up on graphic designer student hand drawing on digital tablet screen for create and learning artwork form webinar of education online concept.

4. Use a Digital Whiteboard for Collaboration

Digital whiteboards are the next level of screen-sharing. They enable you and your team to draw, annotate and interact with the screen in real-time, adding a visual element to your remote collaboration. There are a number of online whiteboards you can use, including Miro and Stormboard.

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5. Use StayFocusd To Control Your Social Media Use

If you know you’ll be tempted to spend your workday scrolling through social media feeds, get the StayFocusd Google Chrome extension. Lori Cheek, CEO of Cheekd, said that the extension is one of her “favorite productivity hacks.”

“When working from home, Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction,” she said. “StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites, with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.”

6. Use Apps for Your To-Do Lists

The Trello app allows you to make boards and to-do lists that help you to organize and prioritize your daily tasks.

“I use Trello to keep myself organized, taking inventory of all my tasks the night before and getting my board ready for the morning,” said Dan Bailey, president at Bailey’s Lawn and Landscape. “It helps immensely to tick those boxes, and it keeps me focused on what needs to be done.”

Asana, Basecamp and Freedcamp are other options for project management. They are particularly useful for prioritizing tasks as a team.

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Father trying to work from home.
Father trying to work from home.

How To Work With Kids at Home

Getting into a work-from-home groove can be challenging for anyone, but adding kids to the mix can make it seem impossible. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make this juggling act a little bit more manageable.

Shot of a young businessman using a smartphone during a late night at work.
Shot of a young businessman using a smartphone during a late night at work.

7. Ask Your Boss for a Modified Schedule

If you know there are times during your usual workday that you will need to dedicate yourself to child care, let your boss know. Working 9-to-5 might not be the most efficient work hours for you in the current circumstances, so find out if there is flexibility available.

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Young father working at home with his baby  girl.
Young father working at home with his baby girl.

8. Put Care Time Into Your Daily Schedule

You can’t predict how every day will flow, but scheduling time dedicated to child care can help you feel like you’re staying on track.

Sisters using a digital tablet.
Sisters using a digital tablet.

9. Incorporate Quality Time Into Your Breaks

You won’t be able to give your kids all your attention when you’re in the weeds of your workday, so make sure you dedicate at least some of your break time to spending quality time with them. Eat lunch as a family or take an afternoon walk around the block together.

Woman practicing yoga with trainer via video conference.
Woman practicing yoga with trainer via video conference.

How To Stay Sane

Working from home can be mentally and emotionally draining — you’re isolated from others, and one day can easily bleed into the next with no clear differentiation between your workspace and your home space. Try these tips to stay sane while working from home.

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Full length of black sportswoman jogging in nature.
Full length of black sportswoman jogging in nature.

10. Have a Morning and End-of-Day Routine

Don’t just roll out of bed and start your workday. Create a morning routine that energizes you and puts you in a good headspace for the day. This might include a workout, reading the morning paper, meditating or drinking a cup of coffee on your porch. Whatever it is, come up with a routine and stick to it.

The same goes for the end of the day. In addition to shutting your laptop or turning off Slack alerts, have a routine that separates your workday from the rest of your evening. This can be anything from lighting a candle to taking your dog for a walk.

Young woman looking deep in thought and smiling while lying back in a deck chair on her patio on a sunny afternoon.
Young woman looking deep in thought and smiling while lying back in a deck chair on her patio on a sunny afternoon.

11. Get Outside at Least Once a Day

Fresh air and sunshine are good for the soul. Even if you just spend a few minutes in your own backyard, try to get outside at least once a day.

A women is feeling sick and sleeping on a sofa at home.
A women is feeling sick and sleeping on a sofa at home.

12. Take Sick Days and Vacation Days

When you’re sick, you should take a sick day. Working from home doesn’t mean you should force yourself to work if you’re not feeling up to it.

You should also use your vacation days — even if you’re just using them for a staycation at home.

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Man working from home with laptop wearing shirt, tie and pajama pants.
Man working from home with laptop wearing shirt, tie and pajama pants.

Tips From the Pros

You might be relatively new to working from home, but some people have been doing it for years. We’ve gathered some tips from work-from-home veterans that you can implement to work more efficiently and positively.

Photo of a man having a video conference call with his colleagues.
Photo of a man having a video conference call with his colleagues.

13. Over-Communicate

“Out of sight, out of mind can be a real problem for remote workers,” Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a remote job listing site, told BBC. “The very best remote workers will reach out to co-workers and managers regularly.”

It’s always better to over-communicate than to not communicate enough.

Black Staffordshire bull terrier dog running chasing after a tennis ball thrown by a man, on grass in a garden or back yard with tulips and a brick wall.
Black Staffordshire bull terrier dog running chasing after a tennis ball thrown by a man, on grass in a garden or back yard with tulips and a brick wall.

14. Step Away From Your Computer During Your Breaks

Monica Eaton-Cardone, COO of Chargebacks911, recommends getting away from your computer and phone during your break times.

“Rather than checking social media or browsing the internet, it’s important that you give yourself a rest from being in ‘work’ mode,” she said. “I enjoy going for a short walk, but for you it might be doing yoga for 10 minutes or throwing a ball for your dog in the backyard. I’ve found that a change of scenery clears my head and enables me to return to work refreshed.”

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Female project manager using Gantt chart schedule to organize tasks and update planning on computer screen with software.
Female project manager using Gantt chart schedule to organize tasks and update planning on computer screen with software.

15. Try Time-Blocking or the Pomodoro Technique

Time blocking is the idea of dedicating a specific block of time to a specific task. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk reportedly use this method to work efficiently. Another option is the Pomodoro technique.

“What helps me the most to stay efficient and get work done is the Pomodoro technique,” said David De Haan, owner of Stand Up Paddle Boards Review.

This technique involves working on just one task for 25 or 30 minutes followed by a three-minute break. After the break, you work for another 30 minutes — either on the same task or on another one — and so on.

“I used to struggle with distractions all the time,” De Haan said. “The Pomodoro technique helps me work focused for short blocks of time while permitting myself to be ‘unproductive’ in the break time.”

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 15 Ways To Work Better From Home