Work from Home Basics: A Guide to Planning for Remote Work

A woman writes in a notebook at her desk.

Remote work is becoming an increasingly popular option for modern American workers. It is not only a convenient option for employees but also may save on business operations costs, such as upkeep on a physical location. Telecommuting, as it is also called, can even provide an alternative measure for business continuity in the case of emergencies, such as in the notable case of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. In this way, the argument could also be made that remote work can be helpful for the United States economy as a whole since it provides a means of support during a large-scale crisis.

Some surveys estimate that, globally, up to 70% of workers telecommute at least once per week. The increase in remote work is largely facilitated by developing computer technology and digital transformation in the workplace. Factors such as the move to digital storage options and the growth of communication software play a significant role in these changes.

Considering this evolution in the workforce, work culture must adjust accordingly. Much of this necessary adjustment involves the challenges of creating a home workspace and routine.

Tips for Setting Up a Home Office

The first step for beginning remote work will be to set up your workspace. While for many people this will be a home office, it is still valuable to set up a work area even if you do not have a spare room.

Finding a Designated Workspace

A good place to start when preparing your work area at home is to make sure that you have a designated workspace. In fact, it is often a good idea to go so far as to set up your workspace in an area that is separate from the rest of your home, such as a specific room if possible. This way, you can reduce outside distractions, and prevent damage to work materials from children and pets. Furthermore, having a physical separation between your workspace and the rest of your home can help you transition into a work mindset.

Securing Home Office Essentials

It is important to make sure that your home office is stocked with items essential to your work well in advance; it is very frustrating to begin a project only to find that you don’t have all the tools you need. These essentials will vary based on your job but can include anything from pens to documents to software. While finding the right laptop computer for your home office is a given, there are a few additional items that are highly useful in most home office environments, such as:

Tips for Adjusting to Remote Work

The adjustment to remote work can be difficult for a variety of reasons. In addition to setting up a comfortable, designated workspace, it will also be useful to develop good home work habits.

Establishing a Routine

Like having a designated workspace, the use of a consistent routine for your workday can help put you in a work mindset. Consistent habits and distinct routines for your workday can actually be beneficial to you off the clock as well. Taking these steps can prevent your workday from invading your home life, allowing you to properly wind down during personal time. It will be important to establish good work habits early because it will be difficult to break bad habits if they become ingrained. There are a few good rules of thumb for developing an at-home work routine, such as

Prioritizing Work/Life Balance

As stated, it’s important to keep a healthy separation between work and your personal life. Maintaining a good work/life balance is not only good for your personal wellbeing, but also for your work performance. Not giving yourself time to recharge can exhaust you and consequently reduce your performance.

Remote work can help give you greater work/life balance due to greater flexibility, and the option to work from a comfortable place. However, if handled incorrectly, it is also possible for remote work to negatively impact your work/life balance due to the literal closer proximity of the two.

To a degree, the task of maintaining a good work/life balance depends on the individual person and their unique circumstances. However, there are some measures almost anyone can take to improve their work/life balance, including:

Avoiding Loneliness & Isolation

Many remote workers grapple with feelings of loneliness and isolation. An obvious reason for this is that remote workers feel distant from their coworkers. However, remote work can surprisingly cause people to feel distant from people in their personal lives as well if they do not achieve good work/life balance.

For this reason, it is important for telecommuters to put effort into being socially involved, both at work and at home. Luckily, there are a lot of social tools available to remote workers that can help them keep in touch, such as messaging tools and video call software. These tools are especially useful for staying socially engaged at work. Take some simple steps to reach out, such as:

Setting Boundaries with Family

As mentioned, it is important to separate work matters from personal matters while you are at work. In order to do this effectively, it will be important to communicate openly about your need for space and quiet while you are on the clock. Additionally, it will be helpful to work consistent hours and provide visual cues that you are at work, such as a closed office door. This will assist others in your home in knowing when you are at work so that they can behave accordingly.

In the case of children or pets, it may also be beneficial to make sure that both they and an alternate caretaker know that you should not be bothered unless it is an emergency. If you have flexible work hours, it may benefit you to adjust your hours so that you are working at times when you are least likely to be bothered.

Tips for Maintaining & Securing Remote Work Technology

Maintaining security and protecting sensitive organizational information is crucial for any business, but potentially even more so for companies with remote employees. Therefore, to account for this development in the workforce, companies must adjust their cybersecurity policies accordingly. Some common security risks for remote workers and their employers include:

According to CNBC, cyberattacks cost businesses an average of $200,000, and 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses. However, there is no need to succumb to computer anxiety; cyberattacks are absolutely preventable, as long as cybersecurity is a priority early on.

Focusing on Cybersecurity at Home

Cybersecurity best practices are often the same whether you are dealing with a work device or a home device. The following steps should always be taken when using an electronic device:

Troubleshooting Tech Problems

In addition to direct company support, remote workers should also be given the tools needed to attempt to address technical issues on their own within reason. This preparation will ensure the continued good performance of equipment and help the company respond to unexpected problems like a computer crash. However, company tech support is vital, and in the event that a problem is not a simple fix, remote workers should reach out to the appropriate contact at their company. Some basic maintenance fixes a remote worker may have to deal with include:

Tips for Selecting Remote Work Tools & Apps

Because remote work has become so popular, there are many different tools available to make the process easier. However, there are actually so many options that it can be difficult to decide which remote work tools will be the best to invest in. Taking the following things into consideration can simply the decision:

Collaboration & Connection Tools

Popular collaboration tools for remote workers include the following:

Communication Tools

Popular communication tools for remote workers include the following:

Project & Task Management Tools

Popular project and task management tools for remote workers include the following:

Time Management Tools

Popular time management tools for remote workers include the following:

Video Chat & Conference Tools

Popular conferencing tools for remote workers include the following: