Tips for Working from Home

computer, cup of coffee, glasses, on a desk

I have to caveat this by saying I can’t help you with what do to with your kids (I don’t have any myself) or with your team telework tech (it’s just me here at Spark).


I have been working for myself from my home office for nearly eight years. Here are some things that work for me, to keep me productive without letting work consume my entire life (well, at least until the times that things get REALLY busy with client work).

  • No working in your PJs. Put on pants, even if they’re yoga pants or basketball shorts. Take a shower, comb your hair, brush your teeth, make your bed. Don’t go feral 🙂
  • Dedicate a space to work. I have an actual office, as in a separate room with a door where I can close out my spouse (who also works at home full time) that’s set up with a desk and chair, my computer and printer, my file cabinets, etc. You may not be able to do that in your temporary situation, but pick a spot where you do work, which means that everywhere else in your house, you DON’T do work.
  • No snacking. You don’t have to confine yourself to “three squares,” but when you’re going to eat, close your computer, go to the kitchen, put the food on a plate, sit down and eat it, clean up, and then go back to work.
  • Leave your house once a day. I know we’re social distancing, but you can still go out in your yard for a few minutes or take a walk around the block without interacting with other people. You need sunshine to make vitamin D, so go get some.
  • Beware social media. It can be a real time suck. Do you actually need to have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. open on your computer? No? Close it down. Same thing for email. Turn off auto-notifications, set a few times throughout the day to check all that stuff, check it, then shut it down.
  • Get some exercise. That walk counts, but make sure you’re getting up and moving around periodically throughout the day, too. We tend to feel guilt or like we have to prove ourselves when working from home. “I can’t leave my computer for 10 seconds, because the way I’ll prove my dedication and that I’m not slacking off is to respond to every type of message that comes in the second it arrives.” Do you do that when you’re in the office? No, you do not. And your colleagues understand that you might be getting a cup of coffee or running a quick errand or chatting with a colleague, and it’s fine. It’s fine when you’re working from home, too. Take a 10 minute yoga (or dance, or jump rope, or squats) break.
  • Stick to your work hours, whatever they are. And with your kids at home, they might need to be something other than 9 am to 5 pm. When quittin’ time hits, QUIT. Close up/turn off your computer, put away your documents, stop checking email and Slack, leave your workspace. Maybe do something as a ritual to end your day. I often make myself a cup of tea, look at what’s coming up tomorrow, and then write in my journal.
  • DO NOT check in before bed. Also, DO NOT read the news or social media right before bed (that’s generally good advice but particularly so right now). Relatedly, take at least one day each week completely off work.
  • This one is for bosses: your staff is dealing with a lot right now. Everything is not going to be exactly like it always is (other than the fact that people aren’t in the office). Yes, productivity is likely to suffer. People are having to take care of their kids. We’re all under a lot of stress. Focus on what REALLY NEEDS to get done, and maybe let what doesn’t slide for the moment.

Regular teleworkers: What other tips do you have for people?

New teleworkers: What questions do you have for those of us with more experience? 

Leave your advice and queries in the comments! 

Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “Tips for Working from Home”

  • From the fab Joe Vallina, CAE (via Twitter – @JoeVallina): “Great tips, Elizabeth. My addition would be to take advantage of a window if you can. Sunlight can make all the difference in mood and productivity. #assnchat #workingfromhome”

  • Another Twitter tip from the equally fab Rene Shonerd, CAE (@rshonerd): “If your team members have toddlers/small children at home, schedule your calls with them at naptime, shift when needed, and be even more flexible with their “online” hours and response times. #ItTakesAVillage #remotework” Rene went on to add: “Remember that video of the guy on BBC with his toddler scooting into the background in the walker? That is our new remote work reality. We need to be okay with it.”

  • I have one more tip! Good music in the background. I prefer WWOZ (New Orleans’ fantastic roots music station, and yes, I am a Guardian of the Groove), but you do you – classical, country, pop, soca, cambia, whatever. Do NOT do news all day. One, people talking is too distracting, and two, it’s only going to increase your anxiety right now.

    • Totally agree. I’m a fan of instrumental music while working at home. Music with voices distracts me while writing. I also find it’s better to listen to music that won’t excite you too much, i.e, skip the bands you love or bands that tempt you to explore the rest of their work. I tend to listen to jazz instrumental, chill, house, etc. playlists or the playlists under the Focus genre on Spotify — paying $10/month for Spotify (no ads) is definitely worth it.

      Also, if you don’t have kids at home, you will probably see your productivity increase once you get used to working at home. Hmm, which makes me wonder… what happens when lots of people love working from home and don’t want to go back to the office. I’m sure many will be dying to get back around other people, but some won’t.

  • My spouse reminded me of another important tip: if there’s more than one of you working at home, you need a Do Not Disturb/Yes It’s OK To Disturb protocol. If you each have a separate office, it’s pretty easy – just close the door for DND. If not, you’ll need to work something else out. Then you also need a signal for This Is Urgent in case you REALLY need to break in. And you need an agreement not to get mad at each other about using DND or TIU.

  • I find it best if i can stay organized and have what i really need right near me. I’ve been working from home now for 25 years! i have my steno pad to the right of my laptop, a nice desk with a hutch for documents i don’t need all the time, and a nice place to separate out things that i may need to get to more handily. My phone is easily reachable. There is good natural light as well as extra light for those rainy/cloudy days.

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