17 work from home best practices

More employees than ever are working from home. Check out these productivity tools, mental health tips, and more advice for anyone who could use help getting into the telecommuter mindset.

How to work from home the right way
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Most of us have never seen anything like this coronavirus pandemic situation before with the sheer number of businesses changing the business models they've traditionally enjoyed, preventing closures, and continuing business operations. Meanwhile, countless others have unfortunately shuttered their doors for undetermined periods of time. It is not smooth sailing, as we are most certainly on stranger tides.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

For some workers--those who have enjoyed the benefits of working from home for years--it has impacted their personal lives while leaving their professional lives largely unaltered. For the rest of the global workforce who have held more traditional roles of reporting to a brick-and-mortar office, working from home is a bit of a culture shock once the initial splendor of working on a mobile device from your bed or lounging about in your pajamas wears off.

While this article is for everyone working from home in any capacity, the people who may gain the most from this are those whose productivity may be anchored by corporate standards and policies for conducting yourselves while in an office environment, and those who might be finding it difficult to bridge home and work.

Gather your tools

Secure your communications with VPN

VPN access is a necessity when working from anywhere outside of the office if you want to protect your company's data. With so many more users than ever before working from home, you should ask your IT department which type of VPN tunneling the company uses: split or full tunneling. The former will help to reduce bandwidth for both the company and workers at home because only company-based data is routed over VPN; the latter requires all data be sent over VPN.

SEE: Working from home: Lessons learned over 20+ years (TechRepublic)

Collaboration and conferencing tools

These tools are similar to those used in office locations globally. Email, chat, cloud storage, and video conferencing applications aplenty exist to bridge communication gaps across great distances, languages, and platforms. Some tools, such as Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Telegram, Zoom, and Google Hangouts allow for linking telephone numbers to the accounts so that phone calls may be made to and from any internet-enabled devices via VoIP.

Productivity tools

Productivity suites represent an amalgam of applications that help us to create, edit, and manipulate data sets in the course of getting the job done. Regardless of the platform being used, OS-agnostic software such as Microsoft Office, Google's G-Suite, and Libre Office to not only work on documents but to do so in shared environments that require multiple users to effectively check-in and out document changes in real-time.

Mind your business

Maintain work schedule(s)

While you can sometimes make your own schedule at home, the reason to keep your office hours intact has more to do with keeping some separation between personal and professional life. The schedule will help to keep you grounded in both lives.

Take breaks

While working from home is not one big break pockmarked by short bursts of work, it also shouldn't be a sprint of work from start to stop. Make time for breaks. Schedule them if you must, and they don't have to be long. Sometimes multiple short ones will suffice, but do take them and do something different during this time to clear your mind. In the long run, it'll help you to return to work more focus and relaxed.

Have a dedicated workspace

The couch or your comfy bed is attractive at first, but in the long run your body will associate these relaxing spaces with work, and you will cease to get quality rest from those spaces. I wholeheartedly recommend carving out a small space dedicated to all work-related matters to maximize performance and comfort in the long term. Depending on your living situation this may be difficult, but there are modifications that can be made to closely achieve this setup. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Keep your routines

The prospect of staying up late and waking up later is something you might be looking forward to when working from home. But make no mistake, the work still needs to be performed, and if you're too tired or not awake when clients or co-workers ring you to help with something, it'll quickly catch up to you. This is why it's imperative that you continue to function as if you had to go to an office. Also get dressed in something other than pajamas and fuzzy slippers--believe me, it helps immensely to keep a sense of normalcy.

Take care of your body

Exercise regularly

This should be something you do regardless, but it is especially true when working from home and doubly while on self-quarantine. Being at home can lead some people to stress eat or simply snack frequently. With more input, the best way to balance that output is with exercise. It can also minimize stress and anxiety--an added bonus when your home now doubles as your workspace.

Don't forget to eat

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have those who will work, work, work the day away and forget to eat. No one is immune to that level of focus, but just like we need to take breaks throughout the day, our bodies need to be fed in order to function properly. We thrive when fed well, and foods rich in nutrients will serve us better than those loaded with grease, preservatives, and fillers. 

Monitor your health

In case the message isn't clear enough, being at home is no time to slouch on our health. Those of us with special health concerns and those who require medication: Please do not let this lapse. Keep tabs on your health, and stay on top of medications and refills. Being proactive is now more important than ever. 

Feed your soul

Set out to achieve goals

In an office setting we may hear about new promotions or possibilities for professional development to keep our skills sharp. Working from home sort of takes the wind out of that bag somewhat, but it won't if you continue to set goals for yourself to work toward and achieve. Telecommuting is merely a change in location where work is accomplished. We still need to put in the hard work.

Practice your faith

If there is something you believe in, whatever it may be, don't stop your practice because you're working from home or in the midst of the pandemic. While it may be challenging to physically visit a house of worship, if practicing your beliefs helps you be a happier and healthier person, that will wash over into other parts of your life and may help you be a better employee, spouse, parent, or friend.

Don't be a hermit

In light of COVID-19, this particular point is a challenge, however with the advancements in technology we are never truly alone, are we? We shouldn't be isolated all the time. We're wired to be social, so please reach out to family, friends, co-workers, and people who share hobbies with you or similar likes and dislikes. Don't be a stranger.

Meditate

I personally find solace in meditating daily. It helps me corral my thoughts and center myself in a peaceful, calming way. But it wasn't always like this, and for many, it is difficult to tune life out or quiet the mind for more than a few minutes at a time. If this is you, there are many tools available to help. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditation for all experience levels. There are also a number of YouTube channels that offer meditation instruction. 

Maintain your home

Do minor home improvement projects

You might be surprised how a minor project like transforming a small backyard into a comfortable, outdoor oasis by simply cutting the grass and adding a wooden table, a few soft chairs, and some string lights will do for your morale. It also converts a somewhat boring space into a place you look forward to working from (or distracting you from work), while sipping some coffee or tea.

Get back into hobbies

Working from home will leave you with some additional time on your hands. Depending on how far your commute was, you may have gained back a few hours a day. Something that has helped me tremendously (and now more so with quarantine restrictions) is delving back into old hobbies I had no time for because of work but can now fully appreciate again. You can also use work breaks to practice your hobbies as a nice disconnect from work.

Don't stop living

Access to the outside world is restricted in some parts of the world, so we must do what we can to keep ourselves as mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy as possible while continuing to live our lives. Take care of yourself and be safe!

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Image: Christian Horz, Getty Images/iStockphoto