Working from home for extended periods can have unwanted mental and physical effects. It’s also a different work style from what most of us are used to in offices. Here’s some tips I’ve learned over my last 5 years wfh.

First off, the hardest things, imo, are: distractions, loneliness/depression, and unplugging.

But those are manageable with the right framework. The flexibility, convenience, and time savings all make up for that imo with some fairly simple adjustments.

Assumes zoom/slack are the tools of choice, but whatever you use should apply

Communication

Overcommunicate!

  • Check in with your team on Slack in the morning to say hi, talk about personal things, events, etc. to maintain some connection.
  • Let people know if you’re stepping out for a bit (ex. to go for a walk or appointment)
  • Set your Slack status (in a meeting, busy, out of office, etc.) so people know if you are not at your desk or not to bug you.

Share everything in Slack. If it’s not written down, people may not see it. You can’t just turn to your coworker to ask the question, so you ask on slack. As much as possible do so publicly (in public slack channels) so others can see the conversation. This encourages everyone to communicate publicly themselves, but also jump in if they happen to have something to add.

Private channels and private conversations should be limited to sensitive topics. Open and public by default, but of course some things need to be kept private.

Be clear on priorities and what you are working on. Ask your manager for clarification if needed. Managers, be direct and concise. State it all publicly.

Video Calls

Mute when you’re not speaking - this prevents unnecessary noise while others are talking (static/whitenoise, breathing, background noise, etc.) making it easier to understand the speaker

Get a good headset - airpods or similar are the bare minimum for sound quality (microphone quality is particularly important). Ideally you have a dedicated set and avoid using the internal laptop mic (poor quality, picks up typing noises, etc.). Suggestions include: Jabra Evolve 40 or Plantronics Blackwire 5220. If you already have good headphones you can try just getting a mic like a Blue Yeti if you prefer but it’s nicer to have a dedicated headset imo.

Install the zoom extension for your browser/calendar - you’ll see a button on your gcal meetings that can quickly give you a zoom meeting link for your existing or new meetings, making it easier to set up/transition to a call based style.

As much as possible, set yourself up a quiet/distraction free space. Limit background activity behind you that might show up on camera (put your back facing a wall or similar) that could distract others.

Use your webcam! Part of combating the limited social interaction is to use video as much as possible. Most cameras built into laptops are fine, but you may want a dedicated camera if you have a fixed work space.

Schedule

Try to maintain a normal workday. Get up at the same time, each lunch as normal, etc., but importantly set boundaries, and avoid extending your days just because it’s easy to.

Get ready, dressed, etc. as if you are going to work. This helps you with creating a pattern that gets you in the mindset of working, as being at home can be distracting if you don’t prepare yourself. It can be easy to be lazy.

Get out of your house. Work from a coffee shop, library, park, etc. for a few hours if you don’t have any meetings. The change of scenery and fresh air can help with resetting yourself.

Go the gym/stay active. You’ll likely significantly reduce your daily activity/step count, so plan in some time go for a walk or work out.

Schedule coffee calls. You don’t always have to talk about work, meet up on zoom for a virtual coffee and talk about anything but work for 15 minutes.