The surveys are in, and it looks like, for most, remote work is here to stay.

The global pandemic pushed many businesses into remote work, but recent data shows that the idea of remaining remote or hybrid is growing on them. Plans to return to the office have been shelved in favor of keeping remote work, and now, the percentage of remote positions advertised has more than tripled compared to pre-Covid.

For anyone who is now freshly scrutinizing long-term working from home, you’ll find several benefits but also multiple challenges associated with it. You might be like the large number who report being more productive and find that you enjoy more balance in your life. You might also find that you struggle with distractions or setting boundaries with the people around you.

With that said, these are our pro tips for making working from home work for you:

#1. Set Expectations with Those Around You

Is your mom prone to dropping by for coffee, knowing that you’re home? Do your roommates or family members tend to interrupt at any time? These are common challenges with working from home, and other freelancers who have done it for years are an excellent resource because they’ve had to come up with solutions for their time-burglars.

One of the number one solutions is to set expectations with those around you. People often think that being “at home” automatically means “available,” and that’s where you need to draw a line. Find a signal that works for you to communicate that you’re working and unavailable. It might be by letting them know specific days and hours when you’re “at work,” or it could be a physical signal, such as closing an office door, putting headphones on, or a sign next to you at the table. Tell mom that you can catch up during your lunch break!

If more than one of you in the same household is working from home, cooperate to ensure that everyone has a fair and conducive environment to getting work done. For example, what happens if you have meetings at the same time? What if you share a small space and one person needs to talk on the phone while the other needs quiet work time? You may want to coordinate for set quiet times so that no one books a meeting in that space.

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#2. Have a Schedule

You might have to work a typical office schedule anyway, but set yourself a schedule to work with if you have flexibility. Your schedule should include breaks throughout the day so that you stay refreshed and productive.

In fact, one of the beauties of working from home is that you can often plan a schedule based on your own best times for different types of work. Everyone tends to have different peaks and valleys in their energy and effectiveness throughout the day, so you can plan to work on tricky tasks when your energy is highest.

Breaks are essential, so be in the habit of taking them rather than skipping! Breaks will help you rest, relieve stress, and refocus. With job burnout at an all-time high, develop habits that support your mental health. Your break could include some exercise, or maybe you need to switch off entirely and take a power nap. Find a schedule that works to keep you feeling your best.

#3. Talk to Other Humans

Sometimes, remote work can see you with your head down all day, with only an occasional passing comment to the dog. For some people, this is the epitome of the ideal work environment, while for others, the lack of social interaction leaves them feeling flat.

Reach out to other humans and keep those connections going. If your workplace uses a chat program, like Slack, to communicate, you might chat with colleagues or interact on the watercooler channel.

Look outside your house, as well. Maybe you have other remote-working friends who’d love to head out for a lunchtime walk. Again, this might be essential for maintaining good mental health when working from home.

#4. Set Up Your Space for Your Needs

One of the major challenges of working from home is that it can be very distracting. You might have a view of the messy kitchen from where you’re working and want to drop work to clean. Maybe your roommate is home watching daytime soaps and the TV is just too diverting.

Set up your space to be as distraction-free as possible, and include all you need to get your work done. Try to clean up any clutter (and enlist others to help with this!) after work hours.

Make your workspace as comfortable as possible, too. It’s worth considering ergonomics and how long you might spend sitting or standing in front of a computer screen. If possible, have a setup that helps you keep a good posture.

#5. Ensure You Have Clear Expectations with Work

The most successful remote workplaces tend to have clear expectations in place, with both employee and business needs in mind. However, this is still new to many companies, so expectations may still need clarification.

Some key expectations to define include:

  • Hours of work
  • When or if you are expected to be available for communications or meetings
  • Company processes for things like handing out work or escalating any issues - You should know who to go to for escalation and whether anyone should be escalating issues to you.
  • Standards for when to respond to communications - Responses are commonly expected by the end of the following business day, or perhaps within two hours for anything marked urgent.
  • Standards for customer service (if you deal with clients directly) - For example, do you use video chat? If so, is there a dress code and standards for background appearance? How quickly should you respond to clients? Is that timeframe different than the standards for coworkers?
  • When you are not expected to be responsive to communications - “Clocking out” may not be as easily determined with remote work, but you’ll still have “quitting time.” This might be after 5 pm on weekdays, and never on weekends. Your business hours and availability should always be explicit. With technology, it’s easy for people to fling out emails from their phones after hours. In some countries, it’s even illegal to communicate with workers outside of their work hours. While that isn’t the case here in the US, your work should still respect personal time.
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#6. Be Communicative

Communication is always a challenge for remote teams. It’s easy to slip into your little bubble and forget that others need to have at least an idea of your workload, any challenges, and your availability.

It generally pays to lean on the side of overcommunication, which means you’ll often tell anyone who needs to know about your schedule. Let people know when you’ve finished critical tasks or when something is ready for them. They’re probably operating in their own bubble, too, and can use the reminder!

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be a game-changer for your productivity. Over the last couple of years, we’ve hired new APs who have come from corporate offices, and the benefits they describe are immense. From cutting out long commutes to having more control over their schedule and time with family, remote work can pay off for both the employee and employer.

These six tips should help you to find success in your work-from-home role. Communicate early and often, and ensure your home environment is set up to support your work needs.