There’s more to working from home than meets the eye. While any of us can do it, you’ll find that there’s plenty of useful advice you can pick up from professionals who’ve already experienced working in a home office-based environment.

Enter then three fine examples to tell us how it’s done:

Dave Walters, Chief Technology Officer at Vettery, a data-driven, AI-powered hiring marketplace; 

Peter Coppinger, co-founder and CEO of Teamwork, a work management platform used by companies like Disney, Spotify and Netflix;

Jean Hamon, CEO of community network Hivebrite. 

Each gave TechRadar their own take on 5 things to consider when working from home:

Set and keep a routine

“It’s important to treat a workday at home very similar to a workday in the office,” says Walters. “Have a schedule. Get up and get ready for work as you would if you were going into the office (although you don’t need to dress up quite the same). Keep to standard ‘office’ hours. Minimize home chores to lunch breaks so as to not get distracted. And make sure you log off at a reasonable time. You may be able to squeeze in a bit more work without that commute, but keep it in check.”

Dedicated workspace 

“If you have a spare room you can use as your home office, that is great,” adds the CTO. “But it doesn’t need to be that elaborate. Set up an area of your home/apartment/room as your designated work space. Start each workday there. If you like to move around, you can do so as the day progresses and you get into the work flow, but oftentimes it’s easier to get your day started when you are in a designated work area.”

Clear boundaries

“Being home during your workday means it’s easy for the lines between your work life and personal life to blur,” furthers Walters. “Set specific guidelines and expectations for yourself and those around you. Discuss with your spouse, roommates, children exactly when you’re available and when you’re not and make sure that’s clearly communicated at all times. On the flip side, be sure to know when to sign off and put your work away.”

Personal needs

“Do you get stir crazy? Does ‘watercooler’ chat get you through the day? If you’re craving that extra bit of stimulation, listen to yourself instead of pushing through it,” he adds. “Build yourself a ‘work’ playlist, schedule team check-ins and 1v1s, and let yourself step away during the day when you feel burnt out. Consider virtual team/co-worker lunches, with Zoom/Slack/Google Hangouts video conferencing on, to get some lighter social time in. The key here is listening to your own needs to make sure you don’t burn out and can handle this system of working long term.”

Always communicate

“Particularly for those of us used to working in office environments, the adjustment to working from home can be significant,” reckons Walters. “If you work on a team or your work requires a great deal of collaboration, remember that (over) communication is key. This will save time and energy for all parties and make your entire team more efficient. If your team follows Agile practices, stick with your daily Standups and routines. Meet in the morning to go over what you did yesterday, what you are planning to do today, and any blockers you are facing. If you don’t follow Agile, now is a good time to incorporate some elements into your routine to help improve your remote communication.”

Peter Coppinger shares a similar outlook about setting up a start time and end time. “When you’re working remotely, it’s easy for time to become a sort of amorphous blob,” he notes. “But to actually be productive, it’s essential to keep to a routine as much as possible. Setting a start time and an end time for your working day helps you to focus, adds structure, and ensures you don’t get so lost in a task that you end up overworking and burning out.”

Get ready

“Even though you might not be leaving the house, continue your morning routine as if you are,” adds Coppinger. “Get out of bed at the same time, shower, get dressed, have breakfast. While you might be out of your usual routine, this still allows you to control the things you can control and it sets you up for the working day (and any surprise video calls with coworkers or clients).”

Stay focused

“Step away from the laundry (or, ahem, Netflix),” says Coppinger with a chuckle. “Working outside of the office and away from your team can be a great opportunity to get through your workload, but it requires discipline. Making a task list of everything you need to achieve that day can help you to stay focused on your high-priority tasks and upcoming deadlines – and having a full record of what you’ve achieved that day will help you to stay accountable and motivated.”

Take breaks

“Without set lunch times or coworkers to get a coffee with, it can be easy to look up and find that you’ve spent hours lost in a task,” notes the CEO. “And while that kind of deep focus and productivity is great, taking breaks is just as essential when you’re working remotely as it is when you’re in the office. If you can, take a moment to walk around the block for some fresh air – and don’t forget to eat!”

Stay connected

“If you’re used to seeing people on a daily basis, remote work can make you feel isolated,” warns Coppinger. “Stay in contact with colleagues throughout the working day by using video chat, calls, or an instant messaging platform. Not only will it help you to ensure you’re still working together as a team and not becoming siloed, but it also helps to avoid the cabin fever that can settle in when you’re not used to working alone. Start scheduling what I call virtual coffee syncs. These are 30-minute agenda-less meetings that make up for the time you miss seeing and chatting to people at lunch or at the watercooler.”

Bright ideas

Hivebrite CEO Jean Hamon’s thoughts follow similar lines too: “Working from home, especially for a long period of time, can be a lonely experience,” she says. “It is important to stay connected to others and maintain a sense of community while you are remote. Encourage your organization to implement a community network, which can allow your organization to stay in touch, collaborate on ideas, share best practices and more for project management. Staying connected is crucial to maintaining a sense of teamwork at any organization.”

Keeping routine

“When working remotely, it can be tempting to simply roll out of bed, begin your work from bed and stay there all day,” adds Jean. “However, when you are going to be working remotely for an extended period of time, it is important to implement routine. This allows you to both stay productive and maintain a work life balance. Use task management software that tells you when you’re spending too much time on one task, and set alarms to remind you to take breaks as well as when to log off for the day.”

Communicate

“Remote working can sometimes cause confusion among teams,” advises Hamon. “Use a tool like video conferencing, instant messaging, or a community network to stay in touch with your teams. This is also a time for over communication – don’t be afraid to send updates more regularly or ask questions to ensure you are on the same page as your colleagues.”

Digital skills

“Working from home often requires more tech than most people would use on a regular basis,” adds the CEO. “Make sure that you and members of your organization are familiar with all the tools you will need to use while working remotely. Organizations should also take note to increase their digital offerings as needed – times like this should remind companies that going digital is no longer an option, is it now required to maintain normal operations.”

Networking skills

“Working remotely generally means more time spent online,” adds Jean in conclusion. “Use this time for networking to identify leaders in your industry and reach out to them for various opportunities, whether it be partnerships, industry advice, career growth questions and more. With more people working remotely, you may have a better shot at getting a reply!”

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