Work from Home Tips – Cornerstone’s Top 10

Due to the Coronavirus COVID-19, more and more people are being asked or required by their companies to work from home.  For many people in every industry, this will be a new experience. It may even be their first time connecting remotely to their office for a full 8 hours of productivity.

Cornerstone’s employee population is actually very closely split between in-office and remote employees. About 50% of our employees work from home across the US. So we asked many of them the question: what tips and tricks would you give for people who are just embarking on their own “work from home” journeys?

This is what they said:

1. Get dressed for work

In fact, go through your entire morning routine. Get dressed, shower, eat breakfast, make coffee … whatever your usual work morning entails, do it at home too. This is absolutely the first step to get into that “workday” mentality. If your body doesn’t think you are going to work, chances are that your brain will not think so either.

2. Set up a place in your house that is free from distractions.

A home office is ideal, but realistically you just need somewhere where you can close a door.

And remember too – If you are home from work for viral concerns, chances are others in your house will be as well.  Try to establish your work area away from the others in your house. If you and a family member are both working from home, choose separate rooms. You don’t want to make each other listen in on your conference calls!

In fact, Cornerstone remoter Michael has advice on where and how to set your workstation up:

“Light is important for me. My desk looks out a window which keeps me connected to the world. I also have a bright floor lamp over my desk for when it’s dark out. Fresh air is also great (crack a window nearby if you can).”

3. Talk about the ground rules with your family. 

For example, if you have scheduled calls or meetings, let everyone in your house know those are the times you will not be available.

Veteran remoter Bobbi gives the following advice:

“Sometimes it is easy for people to forget that people who work remotely are professionals just working in a different way. Remind friends and family that you are working and ask that they be respectful of that. If they wouldn’t barge into a meeting unannounced while you are working on-site, the same rules should apply when working from home. Outline for those in your household what you expect and need. When small children are involved it becomes much harder as they do not understand the work versus home dynamic.  This is uncharted territory for many but with some patience and planning we’ll get through it.”

4. Block your calendar for lunch.

This was a very common tip given by almost all of the remote workers surveyed.  Everyone said that it was easy to forget how much time had passed.  You need to eat now and again!

“Once you start working from home, it is easy to get drawn into work and realize you’ve worked straight through lunch.” – Laurie

5. Maintain Regular Hours

This goes along with #3, but try to stay as much in your office’s usual working hours as possible. Not only does this mean that your body will keep it’s productivity schedule, but you won’t miss out on collaboration time with your coworkers.

Our remoter Mike puts this quite succinctly:

“Get up at your regular time, shower at your regular time, and wear regular work clothing to stay in the right mindset … It is also harder to disconnect when working from home. Try to keep a regular schedule and log off at your normal time.”

6. Check in periodically with your manager

This advice comes directly from our EVP – so make sure you take it to heart! She says:

“It doesn’t have to be every day, but work it out with your manager so that they can help with any concerns you have about working from home. Especially if it’s for an extended period of time.”

Make sure you’re in touch with your team and your manager so that you can keep being as productive and on track as possible even though you’re out of the office.

7. Begin and end your day with a routine, so that you can get in and out of “work mode”.

In the morning it might be a quiet cup of tea or coffee in your work area to gear up for the day. In the afternoon, go for a walk (take your dog if you have one!) and focus on getting back out of the “working” mind set. You are at home after all!

Our marketer Lierin says that she:

“worked from home for about half a year at one point, and it was so hard walking by my computer or sitting down to read after dinner without thinking ‘I could probably be working on x project right now…’. Don’t let yourself fall into that – it’s the quickest road to a burn out!”

8. Stay Focused – you’re at work after all!

While some say that it is hard to keep from getting “sucked in” and remembering to take breaks … others say that it can be difficult to keep focused. Try to resist the urge to do household chores. You would not be doing laundry or dishes while at work, don’t let yourself do those things while you are “on the clock” working from home either.

Some advice to deal with getting in to a groove definitely involves many of these other tips and tricks, the most commonly recommended is to keep your normal routines and working hours.

9. Stay in close contact with your co-workers

This is essential to a productive workday. Frank told us:

“For me, staying in contact with your co-workers is essential. In our group, we use slack and are talking to each other throughout the day. Not just ‘texting’ messages, but real audio calls and screen sharing.”

You might even want to schedule meetings to humanize communications, especially considering everyone will be disconnected compared to being in the same physical space. If it’s a video call, this also helps motivate employees to get dressed and ready for their day instead of spending it in their PJs … which can lead to a less productive mindset.

10. Take your breaks

Here’s another good tip mentioned by a few remoters, but put best by Laurie:

“If you are used to breaks to walk with your teammates or just to get a breather, do those same things at home.  Again, it’s easy to be so focused when you’re at home, that you might forget about just getting up and moving about.  Take your dog for a walk, or go for a walk with your family members.”

11. Bonus: Enjoy the Commute

Multiple remoters commented on how much of a joy it was to be able to go through their entire morning routine, minus the commute! Except one …. Who joked that the morning and afternoon commute down an entire flight of stairs could be “brutal”. 😀

Cornerstone’s Conclusion?

Wendy  summarized all of this quite simply:

“I would recommend work in a home office if you have one.  Working on the couch or at the dining table can be distracting.  Keep your normal work schedule if possible – if you work 8am – 5pm, work the same at home.  Get up and get dressed and ready for the day as if you were going to an office.”

Thank you to all of the “Work From Home” Veterans in the Cornerstone family who contributed your advice! 

– This post was made while working from home