5 Tips for Working from Home

I've worked from home in various roles for the last 10 years. This was both before and after we had kids, which presents its own challenges.

Overall, I've enjoyed it.  The pros typically outweigh the cons for me.  But that's not to say that working from home is easy. 

So if you've found yourself suddenly working from home, this post will give you a few tips and strategies to think about.  I also share a few tips from our Excel Campus team members, who all work remotely.

If you've been working from home for a while and have additional tips, please leave a comment on the post. It's a great opportunity to learn from each other.

#1 Find a Private Space

Working from home introduces A LOT of distractions that can make you less productive. 

One of the most important things in preserving my productivity is to work in a space that has minimal distractions.  This can be a spare bedroom, basement, garage, or even a large closet.  Yes, a closet.

This can be very challenging if you have a small living space.  Especially if the kids are now home from school. 

If you can't find a private space, a good set of noise-canceling headphones can help.  I use the Bose QuietComfort headphones, which I really like, but there are definitely more affordable options out there.

Here's one additional workspace tip from our team member Brian:

“You might find that a clean and uncluttered environment can make you more efficient–or at least less stressed.”

Ultimately, you want to be in an organized place that doesn't have a lot of foot traffic.

The kitchen table can feel like a good spot with a big “desk”, but it typically comes with a lot of distraction.  Other family members getting food, TVs on in nearby rooms, the urge to clean dishes, etc.

#2 Separate Work and Home Tasks

Speaking of cleaning the dishes.  When working from home, it's really easy for work time and home time to blend together.  Your to-do list for home chores becomes a great way to procrastinate on work tasks

You start to push things back and think, oh I'll just do this work task after the kids go to bed, get up early tomorrow, etc.  This usually doesn't work well for me.

Work from home chores or work laundry vs computer

So, I recommend clearly defining time blocks for BOTH work and home life

Communicate these to your family members so they understand the boundaries as well.  Even a “quick question” from your spouse can completely derail you.  Meaning it will take extra time to get back on track with your work.

Here's another great productivity tip from one of our team members, Clara:

“I find if I get up and get “ready for work” I procrastinate much less than if I throw sweats on and try to work from the couch. Instead, if I get dressed, have breakfast, listen to the news and take a little stroll (my morning commute haha) I'm much more productive.”

I LOVE this idea of getting ready for work with a morning routine!

And here's another productivity tip for your work time-block from our team member, Remarie:

I keep my phone on silent mode to avoid distractions from notifications.”

Our team member Brian adds another helpful motivator:

“Set goals and rewards. If I finish X amount of work today, I can spend the evening doing such-and-such, guilt-free.”

Everyone thrives in different conditions and it helps to try different techniques until you find what works best for you.

#3 Create an Ergonomic Setup

I've found myself hunched over my laptop at the kitchen table more times than I'd like to admit.  Yes, breaking all my rules from above.

Avoid the laptop hunch and bad posture

When I first started working from home full time, my wife and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment.  I didn't have a space for a dedicated office with a proper ergonomic setup.  So I built a stand-up desk that rolled into our closet.  I brought it out during the day and rolled it away when my wife got home from work.

Standing desk that fits in a closet and rolls
One of my first stand up desks, circa 2012

And yes, I'm one of those weirdos that uses a stand-up desk. Initially, it was due to lower back pain from an injury, but now I love it.

I've used many different types of sit-stand solutions and currently use an Uplift Desk. Leave a comment below if you have any questions. I'm happy to share more on my journey with standing desks.

Better Posture = Better Productivity

I am much more productive when I'm working at a computer monitor with a full-size keyboard and mouse.  Especially with Excel!

When I can't be in a place with a monitor, I put my laptop on a stand or some books. This raises the screen up to eye level to improve your posture. It also allows you to use a separate full-size keyboard and mouse.

Laptop on a Griffin tablet stand to for better ergonomics and posture
Elevate your laptop screen to avoid hunching over it

In the image above I'm using a tablet stand that is made by Griffin. If your laptop doesn't fold flat like my Lenovo, then there are a TON of laptop stand options on Amazon.

If you are buying new hardware for your home office, here are articles on the best keyboard and the best mouse for Excel.

#4 Take Breaks

This sounds obvious, but working from home can mean you are managing two (or more) jobs.  Work-life, home life, kids, pets, etc. are all jobs that demand your attention.

This can make life stressful!  Our mental health should be our #1 priority, especially right now. So it's important to schedule breaks, get outside, stretch, eat well, and stay hydrated.

Here's another good tip from Clara, “it's easy to work too much when you're working from home because it's comfortable and the time gets away from you, so it's important to take breaks and stretch and eat.”

Remarie has a great tip about regular exercise, “I normally go to the gym 2-3x a week, but for now, I do simple home yoga.”

I'm honestly not great at taking breaks.  One tip is to set an alarm on your phone every 60 to 90 minutes to remind you to get up and move.

Pro tip: Set the alarm on another device (tablet, watch, clock) and put it on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn it off.

Sometimes it even takes a reminder from a loved one. Here is a text my Mom sent me today as I was writing this article.

Text from mom on taking a break from work working from home
Mom's know best! ❤

#5 Connect with Others Virtually

It's easy to feel isolated when working from home.  Us introverts tend to enjoy this more than others, but I think we all crave human connection at some level.

Virtual meetings and video calls are so easy these days and there are a TON of platforms to choose from.

Virtual meeting with Zoom Meetings Service

Try to schedule some time at least a few days a week to chat with co-workers, friends, and family.  You can even set up recurring calls/meetings so you have something to look forward to.

And try to talk about other topics besides the latest news.  I know it's tough, but a little fun and laughter can provide some great stress relief.

If you're not sure what to talk about, Excel is always a good topic. 😁  Do a roundtable where everyone shares an Excel tip or technique that they learned recently.  Here are 17 Excel tips, 18 VBA tips, and 19 Excel keyboard shortcuts, if you need a starting point.

Conclusion

For me, the transition to working from home takes time.  So don't worry if it doesn’t feel as “cool” and “free” as you thought it would be. 

Also, don't feel like you have to implement all of these tips to be successful at it.  Everyone thrives under different working conditions, which is also good to remember if you are managing team members that are now working from home. Feel free to share this article with them.

I hope these tips help you. What other tips do you have?  Please leave a comment below with any suggestions.  Don't worry about it being right, as I'm sure it will help others.

24 comments

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  • I work from home for a long time now. I try to set timeblocks for workingtime, but as a caregiver for a familymember it is not always possible to stick to that. Most times they are not aware of the plans or goals you set for that day, even if you have shared those with them. Most times a quick reminder can shorten the “break” in your worktimeblock. You also can be flexible and take a break after taking care of your loved one.

  • Right post at right time! Thank you for this post for those of use having to work from home for the first time.
    Thanks again,
    Venkat K

  • I find that getting dressed for the office (rather than staying in my PJ’s or track pants and tees) changes my mindset and makes me more productive in working from home.

  • Hi Jon,
    I agree with all your tips, but as someone that has been working from home for 10 years, I find that separating work from home is a good advice, but sometimes you can mix both in cases you have a number of long calls to attend to throughout the day. I can do my laundry or put the dishwasher while attending those calls, or prepare lunch, do some crochet, even work out. That prevents being sitting for long periods while being productive in both fronts. Maybe this doesn´t necessarily works for everyone, but it has helped me to keep balance .

  • Having worked from home for years, I agree with your ideas. I have an office set up with a closed door so that house activities don’t intrude. Everyone should be taking breaks even at work. After 90 minutes to two hours you lose your edge. Don’t know about standing; just use good ergonomics. I use a corner desk with shelves that I keep my most used items on. That way most things are in arms reach (although my desk in not in a corner).

  • Hello Jon,
    Yes, I’m interested in knowing more about stand-up desk configurations. Sharing what you’ve learned will be beneficial to me prior to investing in something that may not work. What do you know. Please share.
    Kim

    • Hi Kim,
      I’m happy to hear you are interested in standing desks. We have had others show interest in this topic, and I will add this to my list of posts for the near future.

      In the meantime, here are some tips.

      I’ve probably tried every type of standing desk solution out there. Well, not all because there are now so many to choose from!

      Ultimately, you want the option to sit or stand. Especially as you are transitioning into standing. I worked up to a point where I stood all day, but don’t think that’s any healthier. Your legs need rest.

      If you have an existing desk, there are a lot of solutions for adding a raiser to the top of your desk. You can search “standing desk raiser” on Amazon to see what I’m referring to. I’ve used the FlexiSpot Standing Desk in the past and it worked well. There are a ton of similar options.

      I like the style of something similar to the Flexispot because it is more sturdy when typing. A sturdy solution is key!

      There are monitor arms that can be used as a stand-up desk on a tabletop, but things tend to shake a lot when you type. This drives me nuts. So a sturdy solution is important. I’m just over 6 feet tall, so things tend to shake more as they get farther off the ground…

      If you don’t have a desk yet, I like the standing desks by Uplift Desk. This is an all-in-one solution as the desk raises and lowers with hydraulics built into the legs. You can program your heights for sitting and standing. The Uplift Desks are not cheap, but they are sturdy and good quality. I have the curved bamboo top and love it. There are also a TON of other companies that make these types of desks. And a lot of articles online that compare the most popular solutions. You can spend days doing research, and I have. 🙂 Ikea also makes less expensive standing desks. I have not tried one, but they seem to get decent reviews.

      I have also hacked a lot of solutions together as I showed in the image above with my closet desk. Here is a pic of another one of my creations that uses a bookcase that was in my office.

      Standing Desk Book Case

      I basically bolted a keyboard tray under the top shelf and it became a standing desk. 🙂 It just worked out that the bookcase was the perfect height for me. You do want to make sure your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle when typing, and that’s why I recommend a proper sit-stand solution like the Uplift desk. You can make micro-adjustments to the height to get it just right.

      It’s also good to get a decent floor mat to stand on. I use the CUBEFIT Terramat. It has some features that allow you to stretch your legs and move around on it.

      I hope that gives you a start. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks! 🙂

  • I am good at keeping the rooms picked up. I have been applying for virtual job, and once the coronavirus lifts, she’s is back to daycare and half day school. Yeah. At age four there needs to be three hours of pre-kindergarten lessons. The numbers, colors, behaviors, abs’s, phonetics, directions and physical co-ordination. The little ones like yours in the picture are more work. Thank God I am out of that stage.

    • Yes, kids are a full-time job. Our oldest is three, and not far behind. We are missing his three hours of preschool a few days a week.

      I wish you all the best with the job search. Thanks again and have a nice day! 🙂

  • Hi Jon,
    These comments are very helpful especially now that we have to work from home. In the rural parts of my country Kenya. We have to deal with neighbors who make it a habit to come around for stories thinking that you are on holiday

  • I think the separation of work and home life is really important and so is having a morning routine. However, there are some home activities that can be happening while you are working. For example, if you put in a load of laundry or dishes before work, they can be running while you are in work time.

    If you set your morning routine to get things like this running, your overall productivity can go up. However, if you do this you must set a fixed time to start work so you don’t get sucked into the “one more thing” hole.

  • Thank you for this post for those of use having to work from home for the first time for an extended period.

    Warm regards.

  • I’ve set my Google mini to go off every 90 minutes, and now with gyms offering free online exercise videos, I’ll do a Planet Fitness’ 6 – 10 minute workout and then back to work I go.

  • I have set up my home “office” with the same items I have at work in the same place as much as possible. (stapler, lamp, sticky notes, printer, etc.) The familiarity saves time searching for oft-used items.

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Hello and welcome! My name is Jon Acampora and I'm here to help you learn Excel.

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