How to Work From Home Without Going Stir Crazy (Plus 12 Tips)

In the days of coronavirus curve-flattening, many workplaces have switched to full remote work. Which means some of us are working from home full-time for the first time — and could use some remote work tips.

With the world turning upside-down, adapting to a new mode of working is the last thing you should be stressing about! If you’re an employee who is new to remote working, keep calm and read on

Kazoo’s remote work gurus offer this wisdom and these 12 remote work tips (plus bonuses!) to make working at home your new normal.

 

1. Keep your routine, and put on pants

It can be tempting to lounge on the couch in pajama pants while working from home — if you put on pants at all. Resist the urge! 

Following your normal morning routine helps you get into the headspace for a day at work. Plus, in these uncertain times, your brain craves certainty and familiarity. Sticking with your normal routine helps frame your day so you’re starting off on the right foot.

2. Get in the zone

A good pair of pants will only get you so far. Our Kazooligans offer these bonus life hacks for getting in the work mindset:

☕️ “A tiny trick I use is to exclusively drink out of my Kazoo mug during work hours, and never any other time.” — Kazoo Engineer Jimmy Marquardt

🛌 “I make the beds. I never do that! But for me, it felt more like ‘leaving’ if they were straightened up.” — Kazoo Implementation Manager Kat Dougal

🥾 “Getting dressed and putting on shoes means I’m going to work. It’s like my commute. Then, when I take my shoes off at the end of the day is when I’m done. And that’s how to separate it. I actually made it part of my KR’s.” Kazoo Senior Account Executive Lee Millstone

🏡 “Leaving the house, even if you come right back in, is a great trick. I know one person who, when it’s time to start work, gets mentally prepared by walking out the door, leaving their house, walking around the block, then coming back in. Then they’re at work.” —  Kazoo Director of SRE, IT & Security Scott Barber

(Scott offers bonus remote work tips and philosophies for managing remote teams in our article, 8 Tips for Managing Remote Teams Like a Boss.)

3. Establish a separate workspace

This was our remote workers’ most popular remote work tip. Especially since coffee shops and coworking spaces are temporarily out of the question, having a dedicated workspace — not your kitchen table, gaming table, or couch — is important not only for getting in the zone.

It also helps you mentally disconnect from work at the end of the day, and it’s integral for your work-life balance.

Especially now, when many of us are working remotely for an indefinite period, it’s integral to block out homespaces you can just live in and enjoy — and not have to associate with work.

4. Make your workspace not suck

This can be easy to overlook, especially if your work-from-home setup is temporary. But you’re still spending 8 hours a day in your home office. Do yourself a favor and invest the time to:

🧹 Clean up. A messy workspace is distracting and suppresses morale. (On the topic of morale, get a houseplant — seriously.)

🔌 Level up your cable management game. Same sentiment as above; now with reduced tripping hazards!

🖥 Prioritize ergonomics. Take care of your body, you’ll need it in the coming apocalypse. (Just kidding.) But seriously, don’t mess with carpal tunnel.

🎧 Get noise-canceling headphones if you don’t have a door you can close, for concentration and privacy.

💡 Spark joy. Hang photos and posters, populate your desk with minis, and more — just like you’d do at your regular office.

5. Set firm boundaries around work time

This is the mental side of the physical boundary-setting you’ve been doing. It can be easy to just keep working when home and work are the same place. Don’t do it! Set your work schedule and stick to it.

As Kazoo Implementation Manager Kat Dougal says, “Have a firm start time and end time. Do not be tempted to hop online before or after these times. If you do, you will get cranky and stressed out. For real.”

6. Take a real lunch

Stepping away from the computer for lunch while you’re at the office is a proven workplace morale booster. When you’re working remotely, it’s even more important for helping reinforce that work/life boundary. 

Kazoo Site Reliability Engineer Kevin Wynn noted, “It’s easy to form bad habits if you’re eating your lunch at your computer. You’ll inevitably be ‘working’ still, and it won’t feel like the break it should be. I try to leave the house, and not take my phone with me during lunch breaks.”

7. Overcommunicate with your team, and use multiple channels

If you’ve ever squinted at an email, wondering if Kyle in Sales is trying to sound like a jerk, then you know the challenge of text-only communication. Now more than ever, it’s important to work overtime to make sure you and your team members are communicating clearly. Check in frequently! (And also kindly — we’re all stressed out, and putting a little extra thought into your tone can go a long way.)

As a bonus, use multiple channels for communication. Some people absorb information best via structured emails; others prefer standups, Slack, Zoom, or other video calls. Brush up on our tips to bring your best self to 1-on-1s.

8. Be active online

It can be easy to go dark while working from home, especially if your team relies on face-to-face communication in the office. Be diligent about communicating with your coworkers for fun, not just work, even if it feels forced or unnatural at first. Why? 

Your day-to-day office interactions, even the water cooler “hellos,” are a part of your social life. And without them (especially in the era of social distancing), your morale can start to tank — even if you’re an introvert. So lean into the Google Hangouts, video chats, and GIF wars. They’re like vitamins. They’re good for you.

9. Get proficient in your team’s project management software

Been putting off those Trello tutorials? Wringing your hands over Wrike? Now’s the time to buckle down and get fluent in whatever project management software your team uses, so you can keep that teamwork flowing. (Kazoo can keep remote employees aligned on goal-setting and tracking, too!)

 

10. Turn your notifications ON…

for your calendar, email, chat programs, project management tools, and more. Ha! That’s obvious, you say. No one would ever miss a remote meeting because they had their notifications turned off, you say. 

Just… be safe and go check those settings. You’ll thank us later.

11. Create boundaries with housemates

If you, like many of us, are working from home with partners, family members, or other housemates — especially ones who aren’t working — it’s important to set expectations early about sharing space and time. 

Hard-but-important discussion points:

  • What are our working hours? What do we need (quiet, space, etc) in those hours?
  • Where in the home is a social space? Where is a private or work space?
  • What time do we spend together during the workday?
  • Who cares for dependent children/pets, and at which times?
  • How do we communicate boundaries? (i.e., Does a closed door mean “leave me alone” or simply “knock first”?)
  • Do we need time to unwind after work before socializing with each other? If so, how much?

12. Get fresh air and exercise

The last of our remote work tips comes in the immortal words of our Implementation Manager Kat Dougal: “COVID-19 isn’t in the air.” Go outside! Fresh air and exercise offer big physical as well as psychological boosts.

“Plan in breaks,” adds Kazoo CTO Mike Couvillion. “Walk around, take the dog out a few times during the day. It can get easy to just plop and grind. A couple of 20-minute breaks to enjoy being home helps a lot.”


When working from home is working

At Kazoo, we talk a lot about “when work is working” — that joy when the productivity’s flowing, everyone’s working together, you’re crushing your goals, and you’re blissfully thriving. Whatever the state of the world, work can work at home, too. You’ve got this.

Found these remote work tips helpful? Check out the other pieces in our series, 8 Tips for How To Manage Remote Teams Like a Boss, and Your Company’s Gone Full-Remote for Coronavirus: What To Do Next. Or, see what Kazoo can do for you.

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