Working From Home: Tips and Best Practices

Andrew DePascale

Working from home will likely continue to be the new standard for many industries post COVID-19.  Many companies were already heading in this direction, with distributed teams and employees working remotely. Here are some best practices to maximize daily productivity and adjust to this new normal.

Workstation Upgrade

It’s well known that human beings spend approximately one third of their life sleeping. You frequently hear of the importance of having a quality mattress, a soft pillow, and a relaxing night time environment.

Your daily work station is also a place you’ll likely spend a significant portion of your working life. The same principles of creating a quality sleep environment apply. Ergonomic studies have shown that simply investing in items such as a quality chair, a large external monitor, and even having some plants in sight can aid in getting through a workday. Going “all in” on your remote workstation will pay dividends for your overall health and productivity.

Managing Distraction

Once you’ve successfully created your home office oasis, another challenge is managing the frequent distractions. It’s likely you receive a new notification every few minutes. Whether via a text message, email, phone call, Slack alert, Linkedin message, the list goes on. Some notifications are necessary and part of daily work communication, but how many others can be turned off when needing to focus?

A productivity tool that has worked well in our office is the purchase of these small kitchen timers off Amazon. Having a timer in sight and committing to working in distraction free sprints, is a simple and effective productivity hack.

Breaks & Movement

In this recent article from The Washington Post, WFH has also extended the average workday by 48.5 minutes. Human beings are not mentally or physically built to sit looking into a screen for long periods of time without breaks. It’s not hard to envision what this can do day after day to your posture & mental energy.  We need breaks and movement scheduled throughout the workday.  

A good practice after a 60 minute focused sprint, is to take a 15 minute walk to recharge. Walking and sunlight can do a lot to boost energy and reset your ability to focus. Consolidating phone calls into blocks of time when you’re walking outdoors can also make long phone calls seem less burdensome. Taking a phone call while in motion is also great exercise even helps you listen better.

Apple has a successful culture of having “meetings in motion,” taking candidates for walks around the campus during job interviews. This unique approach lightens the mood, and allows everyone to feel much more relaxed.

Setting boundaries

Of course organizations have to keep employees engaged and productive, but it needs to be balanced so meaningful work can still get done.  The workforce is rapidly adjusting to a WFH environment, but remote meeting etiquette is still catching up. Politely setting some boundaries for yourself and colleagues can do wonders for productivity. This means being mindful of your own calendar as well as others’ when it comes to meetings.

If you are asking for someone’s time during the day, the purpose of the meeting should have clear intent. Solving an organizational problem, mapping out a new product strategy, or bringing people together to boost morale are examples of clear intent.

Hybrid Days

Face to face interactions will never be completely gone. Some of the best ideas and collaboration happen by serendipity in an office or co-working environment. There is a real energy and creative spark when people are together. This is a downside to the current remote environment because “brainstorming” over video conferencing just isn’t quite the same.

When appropriate, spending 1-2 days safely at the office or a co-working space can really break up the WFH monotony. Wednesdays seem to be a very popular day to changes things up, cutting the workweek right in half.