The coronavirus pandemic had a massive societal impact. From running to the grocery store to planning international travel, everything changed. One of the most significant cultural shifts witnessed was the work from home movement. In May 2020—two months after the lockdowns began—a whopping 48.7 million people reported working from home.
Remote work was a newer concept in 2020. Instead of spending hours commuting to an office every day, planning chores for before or after work hours, and arranging alternative care for children and pets, people gained more flexibility and freedom in their daily lives.
However, working from home isn’t without its consequences. From spending eight hours a day in a bustling office to at home, solo, loneliness was inevitable. A work-life balance became indistinguishable to many because of the inability to separate home from the office.
While working from home is ideal for some people, it’s not the best arrangement for everyone. If there’s no clear boundary separating work life from home life, burnout can occur. However, individuals can take several simple steps to help with the sense of stir-craziness, including engaging in regular exercise, setting core working hours, and taking time for face-to-face interactions.
HiHello—a free digital business card app—has been remote-based since 2018. Because the team was remote before the pandemic began, they were in a unique position where business continued as expected; there wasn’t any confusion, hesitation, or frustration about switching to a remote-only culture because that culture had already been well-established.
We asked the HiHello team how they kept motivated and in sync with their teammates (even across different timezones). Here are 27 of their favorite work from home tips.
Having a consistent morning routine is critical. Waking up at the same time every day will help your body maintain a circadian rhythm, which will make it easier for you to wake up, help you feel more sharp and alert, and even help improve your 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. Wake 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.
Marie Kondo writes, in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “[A] messy room equals a messy mind.” When your physical space is cluttered, it can often reflect your mental state. Living and working in a messy area can increase stress and decrease productivity. Spend 10-15 minutes in the morning tidying up your workspace, office, or apartment—wherever you’re working—before starting your day.
Long commutes are time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting. Often 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 typically spend commuting and do something that benefits your physical, mental, or emotional health. Starting your day off by walking, meditating, or even doing a virtual workout class will help you feel more refreshed and productive.
Working from home allows more flexibility in your schedule. Some people are early risers, and others are night owls. Talk to your boss about your productivity, and find a time that best works for you.
Our bodies need routines. While having the Gmail and Slack apps on your phone can be helpful, it’s not healthy to be constantly glued to your work. Talk to your manager about working hours, and unless necessary, don’t work outside that designated timeframe.
Purchase a pair of comfortable and supportive shoes for indoor use only and wear them while working. Wearing shoes will prevent you from lying down in bed during the workday, which will help you feel more productive. As a bonus, wearing shoes will give your feet and back a little more support if you use a standing desk.
Setting boundaries can be complex while working from home. If you work from your bed or couch, the lines can blur between work and leisure. Choose a dedicated workspace that you only use while working and train your brain to be done working for the remainder of the day when you leave that area.
Invest in an ergonomic work setup, and your neck and back will thank you. A monitor, a desk, a standing desk extension (like this one from Amazon for $189.99), a mouse, and a keyboard are all you need.
Setting core hours is essential if your team works across multiple time zones. During these hours, everyone should be online and available. Selecting core hours will let your team know who can be reached and when.
Come up with an organizational system for your computer; a clean desktop and knowing exactly where your documents are will make your computer feel less cluttered. To organize your browser tabs, check out Workona. Workona is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to organize your open tabs into different workspaces. Create multiple workspaces—like one for your work tabs, one for social media, and one for online shopping.
Even if it’s only for a few minutes, check in with your team every morning. Whether it’s over Slack, Zoom, or another tool, taking a few minutes to check in with your team every morning will help keep camaraderie up and communication in sync.
It’s difficult to convey emotion over Slack, so sometimes hopping on a quick call can be a game-changer. Pesto and Zoom are great video tools that can save the headache of typing out a long email or Slack message. With HiHello, you can even create a virtual background for Zoom that shows your name, pronouns, title, company, and QR code.
While video calls are great, 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. Use video when you need to, but try suggesting a regular phone call if it's not required. Take a walk while you’re on your call if you're able to. You’ll get some fresh air and exercise, which can help with the feeling of being trapped inside all day long.
It’s easy not to worry about calories and nutrients when bored. It’s OK to have a cheat day, but don’t make it a habit. Healthy eating can help boost energy, improve mood, and prevent weight gain. Have some healthy lunches ready to go.
Overconsumption is also a problem when you’re stuck at home all day. Try downloading a fitness tracker like MyFitnessPal. It’ll help keep you in check with how much you’re eating and can lead to making healthier choices overall. Remember, while tracking your eating habits is essential, don’t worry or stress out if you go over your total calorie count for the day. Eat what makes you feel good.
If you can’t concentrate, don’t force yourself to re-focus. Staring at your screen won’t get you anywhere, so consciously take a break, clear your head, and return refreshed. Taking several ten or 15-minute breaks throughout the workday can help concentration, focus, and motivation.
Halfway through your workday (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 set you up for success for the rest of the workday. (Remember to set your Slack status!)
It’s easy to stay active when you’re in an office. However, working from home tends to decrease overall activity. Engaging in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (like walking) is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so set a step goal and stick to it.
If your team uses Slack, get in the habit of setting away messages for when you’re not at your computer. Slack statuses are a great way to let your team know when you are or aren't available. Set your status when you’re eating lunch or 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 fresh air is a breath of fresh air. Being cramped in the same space every day can be challenging. Opening a door or window can make your area more open and less cramped.
While working from home may be an introvert's dream, it’s still important to engage with others. Whether at the dog park, at your kids’ school, or even at the gym, it’s vital for mental health to engage in face-to-face social interactions.
Thanks to high vaccination rates, gyms can reopen. Joining a gym and working out will help your physical and mental health. Group fitness classes like F45 are a great way to get in a good sweat while being part of a community.
Before Monday rolls around, plan out your entire week and include time for physical exercise. Knowing you have a schedule to follow will help keep you on track and take the hassle of planning your next trip to the gym. If the thought of going to an in-person gym is intimidating, 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 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!)
If you have the space and the means, consider fostering or adopting 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.
Remember, adopting a pet comes with a lot of responsibility. Make sure to research pet adoption to learn the ins and outs of bringing home a new pet.
Burnout happens. It’s important to set boundaries, and remember that even though it may seem like you have all the time 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 makes you relax, do it!
Vacations are essential for mental health. Holidays don’t need to be expensive or elaborate—even taking a weekend camping trip can help clear your mind.
Consider a "workcation" if you need a more extended getaway but don’t want to use up all your PTO. Book a long-term Airbnb, work remotely during the day, and explore the destination in the morning and evening.
Remote work benefits both employers and employees. Allowing a remote culture helps employers maintain a competitive edge in a hot job market and lower overhead costs. A survey conducted by Owl Labs found that people who were allowed to work from home were 22% happier than those who had to be onsite.
If a job involves a computer, you can do it while working from home. Most fields in the tech industry, like engineering, marketing, product, customer support, and sales, can all be accomplished remotely. Essential jobs, like grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, and factory workers, typically require an in-person presence.
To work from home, you’ll first need a job that will allow you to work remotely—several hiring platforms highlight remote-based work, like Remote.co and FlexJobs. LinkedIn now even has an option to filter by location, remote or otherwise. Once you have a job that allows you to work from home, you’ll need an in-home office with any required technology. You’ll also need to learn how to structure your day to prevent distractions and keep you sane.
Did you find this article helpful, or do you have any work from home tips that you’d like to share? Let us know!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.