10 tips for working from home successfully

It’s a better time than ever to share my tips for working from home, because so many of you have found yourself in the work-from-home situation unexpectedly.

If you’re like most people out there, you’ve been glamorizing the idea of working from home every single day as you sit in your cubicle dressed in work clothes. But I’ve got to be honest, while there are some pros to working from the place that you live, it’s not as easy or as perfect as it may seem.

I’ve been working from home exclusively for three full years, and I did it on and off for a long time before that. Based on what I’ve learned, I’m going to share with you some best practices …

10 tips for working from home successfully

10 tips for working from home successfully by A Lady Goes West

#1 Set a daily working schedule or “office hours,” communicate that information with others and stick to it.

Even before having Brady, I learned early on in my working-from-home life that having a “start time” and “end time” for your workday is very important, so you can have balance. It’s also important to have set hours so you don’t feel like you should always be checking your email, responding to requests and teetering between work mode or home mode — there’s a difference between the two.

Having a set schedule also helps you to keep some boundaries and create expectations from your coworkers. The beauty is, if you have some flexibility in your industry, role and responsibilities, you don’t have to do 9-to-5 like everyone else. But you should have an approximate start and stop time to your office hours, every single weekday. Choose them, let other people know, and stick to them.

It’s also helpful if you establish a morning routine before work and an evening routine after work, so you can launch right into those to help transition. (For a morning routine, try meditating, journaling, exercising or having your breakfast in silence outside in the sun. For an evening routine, try cooking, exercising, going for a walk or having a cup of tea in silence outside in the fresh air.)

#2 Sit or stand at a real desk, creating an official workstation in your home.

I am sitting on the couch while I’m writing this tip — a big no-no. That is not lost on me. But that’s only because Dave is using my office and my desk and my chair right now while he is working from home during the quarantine, which is not our normal situation. But usually, I try to make myself sit at my desk, in my office — my “workspace.”

Why not sit on the couch where you are comfy? Many reasons: Your posture, your presence, your body, your alignment, your computer in your lap and all of that — none of it is ideally positioned in a reclined way on the couch. And not to mention, the couch is for “home mode” not for work mode, and we want to keep a line in the sand there.

If you’d rather try a standing desk set-up, you can put your computer on top of a stable box on your desk, or even set up your workstation somewhere near the kitchen. But, once again, I highly recommend creating an “office” environment and staying in it while you work, so you can be in work mode.

A few beneficial things to have in your workstation? A water bottle, a phone charger, a notebook and pen and some noise-canceling headphones, here are the ones I swear by and use for my morning meditations. 

Tips for working from home - by A Lady Goes West - March 2020

#3 Take a real lunch break away from your computer, every single day.

It’s never a good idea to eat your lunch in front of the computer. Especially if you work from home and don’t have much separation in your day — lunchtime should be a sacred time. You’ve heard me say this before, and I mean it.

Head to the kitchen, make your lunch, sit at the dining room table or on your patio, eat without technology and think about things other than work. You’ll come back stronger after having this time away.

#4 Make a daily priority list, with the most important thing first, then do one singular task at a time, and try not to multitask.

You cannot simultaneously watch TV, listen to music, have a conversation with a family member and be fully present in your work-from-home capacity all at the same time. You cannot. The brain does better when you are not changing gears every few minutes and recalibrating — even if you don’t notice the transition — your brain does.

And one of the best things about working from home is that you don’t have coworkers stopping by your desk to talk. So you can actually close out your email, put your phone on silent and tackle one project at a time. (No, you should not be watching TV in the background, if you really want to be effective.)

I highly recommend a daily to-do list, which you write before you end your workday the previous day. This list should be written with the most important item first. You work down the list the next day, always starting with the most time-sensitive and important item in the beginning of the your workday.

Here’s how I do it: I always have one big thing I want to accomplish during Brady’s nap each day. And to do that, I close out of all my browsers, put my phone on the charger in the kitchen, and I sit down and focus on one thing only.

I’ve learned that multitasking means you’re just doing a lot of things with only partial attention, and that’s not how you want to approach your work or your life. With the limited time I have available to work now, I have to be laser focused, and that means no multitasking. 

One thing at a time. When you can, close your browsers, close your email, mute your phone and get to work on the most important thing on your list.

Work from home tips - by A Lady Goes West - March 2020

#5 Get dressed and freshen up (at least a little), every single day, before you start your workday.

If you think that the best part of working from home is staying in your pajamas all day, you are going to start to feel uninspired and lethargic shortly into your work-from-home adventure (and be in a real mess if one of your coworkers asks to do a last-minute pop-up video meeting).

It’s very important to transition from morning/wake-up mode into work mode. And part of that is getting ready. Your getting ready process can be as minimal as washing your face, pulling your hair back and putting on workout clothes. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be something to show you’ve decided to start your work mode. 

Remember, this is all about mentally getting into the work mode and showing delineation. I recommend getting dressed in workout clothes most days, so you’re ready for exercise and activity during breaks and after work.

#6 Put your daily workouts and movement into your calendar and don’t miss them — aiming to add more organic movement throughout the day.

That’s a perfect transition into the movement tip — you knew that was coming, right?

Here’s the deal: The nature of working from home is incredibly sedentary. Because you may be sleeping a few feet from where you are working, if you don’t schedule, force and be intentional about movement, you could go through the whole day without getting much of it — and that’s not good for your physical, emotional or mental states. 

Truth be told, there’s a lot of research that says it’s best to work out in the morning and have a surge of physical activity shortly after waking up. You can read all about what you should know about working out in the morning here.

However, if you’re not able to work out in the morning, then schedule your workout for lunch-time or after work — (or somewhere within your workday that you have time for it, can block off your calendar and stick to). 

My top choice for working out at home is following along with a workout from Les Mills On Demand. And you can try a free 30-day trial of that streaming service using my special link here.

However, walking, running, dancing and yoga are other great forms of movement, so it doesn’t matter what you do — as long as you do it.

But in addition to your workout, you should try to get other additional moments of organic movement throughout the day. I’d suggest setting an alarm to get up every 60 to 90 minutes to stretch, fill your water, do a few loops around the house, or stick your head outside for some fresh air. These little bursts of activity are great for resetting and energizing you.

#7 If you have family members or roommates at home with you, set boundaries and discuss best practices and limits for interruption during your set office hours.

Boy this one is easier said than done, right? But if you are in a situation where more than one of you is working from home, or where you have kiddos running around — you have to talk about it. Clearly, someone has to be watching the kids, so hopefully you can figure that out with your partner. 

But, the big one here is to discuss with each other how to minimize interruptions. You need to set a clear boundary with your roommates/partners/family that says when they are allowed to come into your workspace and when they are not. 

Maybe you say that as long as your door is open they can come say hello. Or maybe you say that they can only bother you in an emergency, or wait for your stretching or lunch breaks. It’s up to you, but it is a conversation that should be had. It could even be worth putting those rules down on paper and displaying them.

Working from home - by A Lady Goes West - March 2020

#8 Schedule, organize and be consistent with social engagements outside of work, so you don’t feel isolated.

Obviously, right now, we’re in a time of quarantine for this terrible COVID-19 epidemic, so this is an exception and unprecedented time. But normally, it’s a best practice for work-from-homers to be intentional about creating social time with other people out of the house.

It can be isolating and lonely to be by yourself with your computer all day long. You don’t want to start to feeling like it’s you against the world, so you have to make plans with friends to connect. Right now, maybe that looks like a Facetime date once a week with a friend or a Zoom workout or hangout with siblings who live in another town.

Whatever it is, have at least one thing on the calendar each week, so you can have a connection to the real world outside of work.

#9 If at all possible, avoid social media during your workday. Turn off your social media notifications, and do not mindlessly scroll.

If you stop what you’re doing every 10 minutes to open Instagram just because, you need to check yourself. For reals.

Unless you are a social media marketer using Instagram and Facebook for your job, there’s no reason for you to be opening these apps throughout the day. I would highly recommend turning off all notifications and setting clear boundaries with yourself about social media use.

I had to learn early on that I needed to turn off my notifications and set times for truly engaging and interacting on social media, rather than checking it all day. Right now, I actually do most of my social media during the last few minutes of Brady’s nap after I’ve finished whatever thing I needed to do that day, or while Dave is giving Brady dinner, and I’ve got a little freedom.

Basically, it can be tempting to search for something cool to distract you, but seeing what other people are posting while you should be working is not beneficial for your mind. Not at all. Give it a little break.

#10 Flex your freedom muscle smartly and give yourself a little grace when you need it.

Even though the rest of this post is full of tips for working from home successfully, this one is all about taking advantage of working from home.

The truth is: If you have a light day of work, then perhaps you are allowing yourself a mid-morning workout, a mid-afternoon Facetime date with a friend and even closing up shop super early. 

This is up to you. And if you work for yourself, you can make this decision any time you want. If you work for someone else, you have to be careful to balance out being honest, a good employee and taking space for a little fun and freedom. I won’t tell you how or what — but geez, give yourself a little grace if you need — especially during this stressful time.

10 working from home tips - by A Lady Goes West - March 2020

Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it in this post, stay hydrated too! 

Thank you so much for coming by the blog today to read my tips for working from home! I’ll be sharing some behind-the-scenes from my working-from-home life on Instagram this week until we meet back here again. Stay well, friends!

Some other posts you may like …

Questions of the day

How was your weekend?

How is working from home going for you?

What’s your biggest challenge with working from home?

What’s your favorite mid-day work snack?

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  1. Hey Ashley!

    I’m in this exact situation – have been a 9-5 office worker most of my working life, and now I am working from home. The novelty may wear off but truth be told, so far I am quite liking it! No annoying coworkers, no heating/air con wars, picking whatever radio station I want. Also enjoying being home with my dog all day!
    My fiancé is home too so we’re having the odd niggle about loud phone calls etc but mostly ok and it also means I’m not lonely.

    If only it wasn’t these extreme circumstances leading to this set up!

    However, my snacking is out of control!

    Hope you guys are good over there!

    1. Hi Iona! I love to hear that you are enjoying it — it’s a shame it had to be forced on you, but good you are making the best of it. And how great is it to have you dog around? Rudy is literally ALWAYs with you when I’m working hahah. As far as snacking, if you’re not used to be home near all the food, that can be hard. Here is my advice: Make sure you are drinking TONS of water and don’t eat out of boredom — stretch or walk instead. Also, eat regular meals, so you aren’t overly hungry, as in, no skipping meals and snacking to make up for it hahaha. Good luck, and thank you for staying connected and reading, my friend! 🙂

  2. Hi Ashley,

    So many of us need this advice right now, thank you!
    Working from home is going pretty well so far, I miss the people, the interaction, miss the 20 min walk from the tram station 🙂

    I have been doing 30-40 minutes of exercise every day with Les Mills OnDemand, that is the highlight of my day really. The best bit is I started to do short BodyBalance workouts and I’m loving it. Need to try Barre next, things I never found the time for in the gym.

    Hope you are doing well
    Take care

    1. Hi Andrea! I am in the same boat — having more time to do the workouts that I can’t do at my gym normally. I also did BODYFLOW/BODYBALANCE this weekend. That’s amazing you are staying active with workouts. Know that this time is temporary and you are doing the best you can with the work from home thing. I truly appreciate you saying hi! 🙂 xoxo

  3. Fantastic post! My husband and I are both working at home. Thankfully we have each claimed a different floor of the house so there isn’t much overlap of sound when we do conference calls. He is on the phone ALL the time lol. I’ve found a nice stnading area in our family room and have been standing about 7 hours a day. It seems so much easier than standing at work because I take little dance breaks (thank you to the Fitness Marshall!) and can call into meetings while standing (instead of going to the meeting and just sitting there).

    I’ve managed to keep snacking under control and have had several virutal, video coffee breaks with teammates, it’s so nice to catch up :). My husband and I have been going for a walk together with the pup at lunch time, it is lovely.

    1. Dang, Jessie! Sounds like you are rocking this work-from-home life and have everything under control. Props to you for the dance breaks, walks and standing desk! I’m impressed. 🙂

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