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WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

9 Tips for Effectively Working from Home

Thursday | April 16, 2020 | by WES Advisor

working from home tips

Working in a new environment, outside of the structure and familiarity of the office, can be a challenge. You may need to adopt new routines or come up with different ways of achieving work-life balance when working remotely. We asked our team at WES to share some of their advice on how to stay productive and maintain focus while working from home.

Below is a compilation of their top working from home tips:

Adapt Your Office Routine to Your Home

This may mean adapting some of the strategies that kept you productive in the office to your home routine, such as:

  • Asking for help on projects if you are overwhelmed with the tasks assigned to you
  • Talking openly and honestly to your manager or mentor if you’re struggling
  • Collaborating with your manager to set reasonable expectations for yourself and others
  • Ensuring any goals you set for yourself or others have flexibility built into them
  • Taking snack or water breaks at the same time as you normally would in the office

Explore the Pomodoro Technique

A time management method, this technique requires the use of a timer to break down work into intervals that are punctuated by short breaks. Work segments are typically 25 minutes long. Once you’ve completed four 25-minute work intervals, you can take a longer break. 

To get started, you can use a regular timer or try an app, like the Be Focused app. This free app lets you set custom intervals of focused work and breaks. Working in short bursts helps improve concentration and cut down on procrastination. You can download the app for Mac here. (Windows has a similar version you can download here.)

Download a Productivity App

If your phone is your biggest daily distraction, you may want to relegate it to a different room during work hours, so you aren’t tempted to reach for it each time you receive a message or notification.

However, you’ll likely need it during the day. Consider downloading the Forest app, which helps you develop work patterns by creating a “phone-free zone.” This app makes avoiding phone distractions a fun game. Similar to the Pomodoro Technique, Forest lets you set a timer to work at specific intervals and then rewards you for completing uninterrupted work periods.

Each time you complete an uninterrupted work period, you grow a virtual tree; however, if you reach for your phone during a 25-minute work interval, your virtual tree dies. The point of the app is to increase your productivity levels by creating a forest of virtual trees.

Create a To-Do List at the Beginning of the Day

Make a checklist with all the tasks and projects you need to accomplish during the day. A to-do list helps you stay organized and focused on the tasks at hand. This is especially useful when your normal work processes are disrupted, so you don’t forget anything important.

As you complete items on your list, physically checking them off the list provides a real sense of accomplishment. Go back to your list at the end of the day to assess your progress, reshuffle priorities, and determine which tasks need to be moved to the next day’s list.

Listen to Ambient Music

If your home workspace is noisy and you want to block out background sound, try listening to ambient music. Ambient music is a form of instrumental music that promotes relaxation, calm, and focus. Because the music doesn’t have lyrics, it’s not distracting; and listening can help you achieve a sense of flow while you work. To get started, you can create a “Focus Music” or “Ambient Music” playlist on Pandora or Spotify.

Maintain Open Lines of Communication

Staying in regular communication with your manager and teammates is essential when working from home. Check in to let your colleagues know about your workflow, needs, disruptions, or any constraints that may be limiting your progress on an assignment.

It may feel like you’re over-communicating at first; however, your manager will appreciate your being proactive and providing updates.

Ensure You Have the Right Tools and Technology

At WES, we use digital tools like Microsoft Teams and Webex to stay connected to colleagues and communicate. This technology lets us message each other, hold video and conference calls, coordinate projects, and even organize virtual coffee breaks and social check-ins.

There are a wide variety of online group messaging tools, including Slack and Google Hangouts. These communication platforms are a great way to keep teams connected and collaborating, no matter their locations. An added plus: Many of these tools are either free or have free versions. 

In addition to the right communication channels, working from home requires having the right technology. This often includes:

  • A functioning camera: Although most laptops have cameras built-in, most desktop computers do not. If your built-in camera is low quality, try an external webcam.
  • A headset with a clear microphone: If you prefer a headset-free way to communicate, try a USB or Bluetooth speakerphone. (Jabra offers a wide variety of portable speakerphones at different prices.)
  • Strong Wi-Fi: If you have spotty or slow Wi-Fi, try using a cable to connect your computer to your router. A wired connection is generally more reliable than wireless.

Move Around During the Day

It can be easy to stay glued to your chair all day long. However, it’s crucial to get up and move around periodically. According to sports scientist Jack Groppel, “Interspersing short movements and exercises throughout the workday can boost employee energy, engagement, and efficiency.”

Moving around can give your brain a quick pick-me-up similar to that burst of energy you might experience from a cup of coffee.

If you’re in a long meeting and can’t get up to walk around, you can try chair yoga or other seated stretches.

Establish and Maintain Work Boundaries

If you normally work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, follow this same routine at home. Be firm about your boundaries. Also, be careful about letting work hours blend into your home and family life. For example, take your lunch break away from your desk so you can stretch your legs, give your eyes a break, and clear your mind. At the end of the day, turn your computer off so you aren’t tempted to continue working past your normal work hours.

We hope these tips help you stay productive and motivated while working from home!

Related Reading

Helpful Tips for Increasing Your Productivity

Stress Management 101

WES Advisor is an initiative of World Education Services, a non-profit organization with over 45 years of experience in international education. We provide advice and resources for international students and skilled immigrants to help them make informed decisions about education, employment, immigration, and integration opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.