Working From Home Tips For Success
As much of the world starts working from home during coronavirus, there’s a new normal to get used to.
While it is not rocket science to work from home (you + your computer + phone = work from home), our working from home tips for success will transform your work time into a distraction-free, thriving success.
After living and working remotely in thirteen different home offices in the last two years, the following work from home tips and tools will help you quickly and confidently navigate the process of adjusting to working from home.
Lastly, there’s one key variable we’ll discuss. That’s working at home as a couple!
working from home: tips for success
I started working from home in March 2018. Not just that, I left a strict 8 to 5 office job and went full-time into my own business. I no longer had the structure of any sort and had to figure out how to adjust to working from home.
Ryan, on the other hand, has worked remotely in a home office since 2015, when he was still at his corporate job. Like many, he still had a structured day with colleagues to call and customers to visit during business hours until he started full-time in our business in March 2018.
Since then, we’ve lived and worked remotely in eight countries in thirteen different apartments, and we’ve learned these working from home tips for success along the way.
Every time we move we go through the same routine of setting up our home offices and getting back into our groove. So, in this article we’ll share with you our go-to tips and tools for adjusting to remote work in a new home office quickly and easily.
Before we begin, here’s our biggest work from home disclaimer:
No matter what your situation is, give yourself some time and leniency to adjusting to working at home. Trying to do a complete overhaul to your schedule, as you also juggle your family and personal health, can add unnecessary stress to your day.
Next, let’s dive into our eleven tips to successfully work from home during coronavirus.
Optimize Your Work From Home Environment
1. The Wifi Speed You Need
When Ryan and I left our corporate jobs in Texas, our home had high-speed internet at 1000 Mbps. When we moved to Bariloche, Argentina, our wifi speed slowed down to… 2 Mbps. Yes, you read that right. One thousand to two.
We soon realized that every apartment rental we looked at, the first thing we needed to do was test the internet speed. Ryan and I have always used this test and made sure to use the same one each time for a consistent comparison: Xfinity Speed Test.
Finding consistent and stable wifi may not be a problem for you, but we recommend a connection of at least 20 Mbps for download speed. We have currently been using a 20 Mbps wifi speed for the past nine months in Mexico, and it’s been sufficient for all our needs.
In essence, we are streaming movies, uploading YouTube videos, managing our website, several FaceTime calls at once, and more. We’re medium-to-heavy internet users, and this speed suits us just fine.
Note that even if you buy 100 Mbps speed from your internet provider, the actual signal reaching your computer is usually 25-50% of that. It also helps to situate yourself near your router for the best signal.
2. Create An Organized and Comfortable Space
When establishing where to work at home, consider comfort, lighting, temperature, wifi speed, and privacy. While adjusting to working from home, you might need to schedule in some time to declutter your home. The will prevent unnecessary stress during your workday.
As full-time digital nomads who move every few months, we’ve worked in a variety of places at home — the kitchen table, the couch, the bedroom desk — you name it. Wherever it gets nice sunlight and allows you to focus is good enough for us.
In Ecuador, that was a little table on the deck, in Argentina, we rigged up a standing desk in front of the fireplace, and in Peru, it was in our bedroom because it was the coolest room in the house.
Of course, if your partner is working from home as well, or you have children running around, your preferred place might need a door!
Many experts suggest finding a spot and ‘designating’ it as your work area, and while it’s ideal, we don’t all have two spare offices in our homes. The fear is that you won’t be able to leave thoughts of work behind if it is staring at you from your bedroom desk.
While we have not found this, luckily, there are other ways to combat this, which we’ll go into detail below. The best way we have found to ‘leave thoughts of work behind’ is to disconnect from our devices after the workday is over.
For further ideas on the best work-from-home equipment, we’ve recommend this comprehensive article by @halfhalftravel, ‘The Best Ways to Work From Home With Your Partner,’ to cover them all.
From lighting configurations to utilizing noise-canceling headphones or the spare iPad as a second screen, they’re masters at working from home.
3. Build a DIY Standing Desk to Promote Movement
One important consideration these days while in self-quarantine and one of our biggest work from home success tips is to make sure you’re getting enough exercise and activity in. Despite if you exercise daily, sitting for long periods of time can shorten your life!
It’s clear that moving around throughout the day is beneficial to your health, but with many stuck at home and not in a large office, that’s no longer an option.
One way to mitigate “Risk for Sitting Disease” is to build a standing desk. This working from home tip for success will make a huge difference in your energy levels, focus, and productivity.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to work! We’ve piled tables on tables or just used an ironing board. Here have been some of our favorites:
A cozy DIY standing desk setup in Argentina, with Alex’s desk in front of the heater.
Our current situation in Mexico: a DIY standing desk with a table atop a fireplace with a yoga mat.
Whatever you do, make sure to build up to long hours of standing, and adjust your keyboard to elbow-height for ergonomics. For desk recommendations and more ideas to perfect your DIY standing desk, refer to our article, ‘Should I Get A Standing Desk.’
4. Boost Your Cell Signal With a Network Extender
When I worked as an engineer in Texas, I lived on the first floor of a concrete apartment building. I couldn’t get a cell signal to save my life, and it ruined multiple conference calls. In addition to being just plain exasperating, I had to dangle out my window every time I took a call. It was ridiculous.
Fortunately, there are solutions for this.
Ask your company or invest in a network extender. They come with a nifty little antenna that can be placed in a window sill where the service is excellent. It plugs into your wifi router to amplifier your cell signal as your own mini cell tower.
Mine had a 50-foot radius, and I could register a dozen preferred cell phone numbers. That way, other Verizon users in my building couldn’t jump onto my extender and boot me off.
They’re not particularly cheap, at around $250, but can work wonders for weak cell signal spots. If conference calls or calling clients is critical, don’t discount this working from home success tip.
Optimizing Your Work From Home Productivity
5. Rethink Your Original Routine
If your work hours are flexible, this working from home tip provides an excellent opportunity to optimize your day.
When we first left our corporate jobs and started our business, Ryan was massively sleep-deprived. For the first few months, he could easily sleep 11-13 hours a night, every single night. So, we shifted our working hours to the afternoon two years ago… and have kept it to this day.
Now, even though we wake up between 7 and 8 AM, we take our mornings to ourselves. We have a ritual of brewing our French Press coffee, reading books on the roof terrace, working out, showering, and cooking a huge breakfast.
It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s our favorite part of the day. This ritual gives us space and time to relax, chat about our goals for the day, and bounce new, creative ideas off of each other.
Building your day around one or two favorite rituals is our working from home tip for success to boost your productivity!
Our schedule of working from 11 AM to 7 PM works for us, so rethink your day if your work calendar allows. Perhaps you can schedule in your workout when you reach that mid-afternoon lull, or you can start earlier and thus end earlier in the day to relax. You never know what will jive best without experimenting!
6. Manage One Mobile To-Do List To Become More Effective
With more distractions at home than at work, it’s critical to maintain a thorough to-do list. We’re firm believers that your to-do list belongs on your mobile device in a note you can access anywhere. We recommend Evernote.
We shared our full process in this article, “How To Create And Manage A Winning To-Do List.‘ Additionally, make sure that your to-do list covers both short-term, long-term, and even personal goals.
The truth is, things will be a bit more mixed (your personal and career goals) when working from home. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s something that you can embrace and tie together.
Once you have adjusted to working from home, we recommend you migrate all your daily tasks onto one list. Don’t worry, it’s okay to keep your work tasks and personal tasks on the same list. Actually, it’s better, and it helps you focus only on the most productive things to do.
Every night, we write up a to-do list for the next day. When we’re ready to work the next day, we already have a plan. Of course, even the best plans can go sideways as the day progresses, so tackle your most important to-do list items firstly.
That way, you can still feel like you had a productive day. This will also help when you’re ready to relax and unplug at night.
Remember, effectiveness doesn’t mean efficiency. Strive to be more productive with precise, manageable tasks. Our next tip to successfully work from home might be the most critical.
7. Designate Strict Work Hours
In an unofficial Instagram poll we took last week, over 70% of people working from home thought that they worked more hours, not less than before!
Designating a work cut-off time to unplug is even more critical when you have flexible hours (like us). It’s too easy to become engrossed in what you’re doing until midnight, which will only lead to a miserable night’s sleep and affect the next workday.
Surprisingly, this is easier said than done and something that we still struggle with. At the minimum, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to shut down and download free software like f.lux to redden the color of your screen display after dark.
This minimizes the blue light your eyes see and promotes a more restful night’s sleep.
8. Don’t Mix Work With Pleasure
Another big no-no for us is multitasking with work and pleasure. While it may seem like a luxury to watch Netflix while working mindlessly on your expense report, don’t do it.
Not only will it inevitably prolong your task, but you also won’t feel as productive at the end of the day. So, when your cut-off time rolls around, you might feel too guilty about your day to shut down.
I know, it’s tempting to catch up on Tiger King (we had to stop after episode 1), but don’t. Trust us on this working from home tip for success.
9. Prioritize Your Health Above All
There’s nothing normal about this “new normal.”
Your mental and physical health is most important during this time of self-isolation and quarantine. Truthfully, Ryan and I have felt more stressed this past month than in the past two years of working from home. So give yourself time to adjust and time for self-care.
Continue to exercise and transition to working out from home. Plus, schedule in walks or jogs outside to get some fresh air and Vitamin D. Protect your body by boosting your immunity with fresh food and vegetables. Maximize your no commute with high-quality sleep. It’s more important than ever.
Don’t know where to start? Take it day-by-day for a week, and we’ll hold your hand through it all in Couple’s Clean Week. During the coronavirus pandemic, we’re offering this program for free to set a strong foundation for a healthier lifestyle.
Working At Home With Others
10. If Your Partner Is Also At Home, Make Chore Time Equal
If your partner or a roommate is also working at home, the chores around the house are often glaring. The dirty dishes stare at you while you work at the kitchen table, or you’ve never seen the floor look so dusty than in the afternoon light. The problem is, when, and whom should clean?
It’s widely known that women take on more of the domestic housework than men. The Atlantic, in their 2019 article ‘Even Breadwinning Wives Don’t Get Equality At Home,’ married American mothers spend twice as much time as their husbands on household tasks and childrearing (over 20 hours a week for the average women!)
I put the theory to the test and secretly recorded how many hours of household work I did versus Ryan for a few days. As you guessed it, I was, on average, performing over 8-hours more work than Ryan a week.
As you also guessed it, Ryan became infuriated at me for secretly timing our chores and immediately denied it, saying that my data points were collected on ‘off days.’
Still, it’s not hard to imagine an 8-hour difference. That’s one person taking on a quick extra hour or so of work a day (dishes, cooking, family accounting, gardening, tidying, laundry, etc.)
Whatever the difference is, it becomes blatant when you both are working from home. It can affect your focus and your mood, so discuss with your partner or roommate about how you want the house or children to be managed.
This will make sure you’re both comfortable at home while staying productive and focused at work.
11. Stay Connected To Your Coworkers
For people unaccustomed to working from home, it can be jarring to be alone. Now more than ever, you need to feel connected with your team. And, if your manager isn’t checking in enough, request that they do.
I was recently listening to a Freakonomics podcast, ‘The Side Effects of Social Distancing,’ where Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor from Stanford University and a work-from-home expert, was interviewed.
He shared, “It may mean that managers are going to lose, frankly, three, four hours a day on these one-on-one meetings. But I feel without that, they could A, lose contact, and B, employees could become quite seriously depressed and lonely.”
If you’re struggling with adjusting to working from home, your colleagues may be as well. Don’t feel shy about requesting more conference calls or even video calls, to make your new work environment feel more familiar.
Remember, we’re all feeling stressed, and we’re all feeling scared. Working from home is meant to keep you safe, but you also need to focus on staying healthy and SANE (strong, active, neighborly, energetic).
Below are a few more resources and tools to utilize while working from home, a few by us and a few by other remote work experts.
Remember, while it’s a new experience for many, there are small things you can do to improve your productivity and work situation by following these working from home success tips.
Resources For Working From Home During Coronavirus
Easy Healthy Recipes for Meal Prep – These are simple, healthy recipes that you can make in bulk.
Healthy Foods To Eat [Ultimate Guide and Shopping List] – This guide will help you stock up on foods with the highest nutritional quality.
28 Ways To Eat Healthy While Working From Home – Creative ideas to maintain a healthy diet, and nudge yourself into healthier food habits while working from home.
Resistance Bands Workout Routine (At-Home) – An 8-week, total body, resistance bands strength training program including a downloadable calendar and tracker sheet.
Couple’s At-Home Yoga Challenge – A 14-Day couple’s at-home yoga retreat.
Maintaining Your Health When Drinking Alcohol – Our take on how to drink in moderation during these stressful times.
Learn How to Work Remotely – The most expansive database we’ve found on how to work from home.
I Have Questions. What Do I Do?
Ask away in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible and add your recommendations to this article accordingly.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your comment!
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Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world, originally as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.