How to get the most out of your home office

For most of us office dwellers, “working from home” might mean increased productivity, nonexistent commutes, and that ever elusive work-life balance. And while all of this can be true, what we often hear about the home office is how challenging it can be to stay focused and be productive. We understand the challenges telecommuting can present so we’ve compiled 10 tips and tricks to help your get the most out of your home office.

Home office cartoon
Understand expectations 
We often hear that when employees work from home, they feel pressure to answer emails and phone calls promptly at all hours of the day. It’s common to feel like you have to produce more content and be constantly available in order to prove your efficacy at home. But that probably isn’t what your employer is expecting. Having clear conversations about goals and expectations can save you from answering emails at 9pm and wishing you had just gone into the office in the first place.

Get dressed
One of the appealing factors about working from home might be getting to wear whatever you want. But it’s important to differentiate your work day from your downtime even if they occur in the same space. One of the easiest ways to transition into the workday is by getting dressed as if you were going into work. It doesn’t have to be business casual, but there’s definitely some middle ground between a suit and a sweatsuit. Do yourself a favor and wear something you would feel comfortable skyping the team in.

Create a buffer zone
Another way to cue the start of the workday is to create a space separate from the rest of your home. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated room, but define a distinct space and do what you can to cut down on distractions. You could use a filing cabinet, rolling white board or curtain to divide the space and reduce interruptions.

Take breaks
Once you’ve defined expectations with your employer, you can begin to schedule your workday accordingly- and that includes scheduling breaks. Studies have shown that workers who take regular breaks are more productive than workers who push through without stopping. Take a walk, change the laundry, go to the gym- but set a return time and stick to it. You’ll feel more productive and energized returning to work after a break

Declutter
This one seems obvious but clutter has a way of sneaking up on you. Keep the important things visible and do your best to organize the clutter somewhere out of sight. Whether you like to store things virtually with Google Drive or Dropbox or in an actual filing cabinet- create a system that works for you. Generally, the simpler it is, the easier it is to stick with it.

Prepare meals in advance
It can be dangerous working 15 feet away from a pantry full of snack food. You might find yourself frequenting the cookie shelf more often over time- and this kind of mindless snacking really adds up. One way to subvert the temptation is to prepare your food the night before, just like you would if you were going into the office. Plan your meals (and your snacks!) ahead of time and keep them separate if possible. You’ll be more aware when you stray from the plan which might help cut down on unplanned grazing. And if you need help finding healthy snack options, check out Nature Box for inspiration.

Stay connected
Working from home can sometimes feel isolating, especially if the majority of your team works from a shared office. Luckily, there are several tools out there that can help you stay connected from the home office. Slack, Skype, GoToMeeting, join.me, Daily Update, Kato, Dropbox- all designed for you to connect with your team from anywhere. Make sure to check in with your team often to maintain connections- you’ll be grateful on the days you have to go into the office.

Assess your progress
Much like you would in the office, set tasks and deadlines for yourself at home. Make sure you're staying on top of milestones even though you might be working on a different schedule. It might help to see it visually on a calendar or in one of the many task apps out there. Trello is a great example of an organizational app that also helps you stay in touch with your team. But it doesn't matter what tools you use to track your progress as long as it's helping you hit your goals and deadlines.

Noise cancelling headphones
Maybe it’s your kids playing in the other room or your dog barking at the mailman- background noise can be distracting. Investing in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones can help cut down on distractions when you’re working from  your home office, the airport, Starbucks… We recommend
Bose Quiet Comfort, but there are plenty of good options out there at a reasonable price

Take a break from your house and use a drop in office with us
Working from home can be a great way to save time and money but sometimes you need a break from yourself. A virtual office might be the perfect solution if you want to work from an office one day a week or if you need a convenient place to meet up with other remote workers on your team. Click here to find out how a virtual office can help you supplement your home office.