In preparation for the start of next week’s Flex Course on Hacks for Hybrid Working, I thought I would build on a few previous blog posts by compiling my favorite tips and tricks for working from home. I have worked remotely or in a hybrid environment for many years now, and in that time, have developed a set of strategies that help me delineate between my work and home life, stay organized, prevent burnout, and encourage connection.
I’m certainly not perfect, but I find that if I aim to hit at least a few of these things each day, I’m usually in pretty good shape. The list below is longish, so I’ve broken it down into a few categories: non-negotiables, on my desk, virtual environment, team connection, & tech.
- Make your bed and get dressed for the day.
- Have a clean, dedicated workspace in a room where you don’t sleep.
- Open the windows and let in natural light.
- Set up a #SecondMonitor.
- Stand up and stretch at least once an hour.
- When you’re locked into work, name your distractions and limit them (i.e. social media, household chores, etc.)
- Take at least one walk a day – I do this at lunch time & the fresh air always helps me reset for the afternoon.
- Call someone you love – I do this on my walk & it helps me momentarily stop thinking about work and gain a fresh perspective
- Before signing off at the end of the day, make a list of what you want to accomplish the following day. Get it on paper and out of your mind.
- Respect your “off” switch. When you physically check out of work, mentally check out, too.
On my desk:
- Blue-light filtering glasses – I have these from Pixel Eyewear
- A water bottle with a straw – I have a 30oz Yeti Rambler with the straw lid & try to drink at least two a day
- A coffee mug warmer – this is so extra but I love it. I have this one from Amazon
- My favorite pens & a good notebook – I love Moleskine
- A photo that makes me happy
- A La Croix or hot tea- I look forward to it every afternoon, haha!
- I like using a Desktop Organizer for my wallpaper background. Canva has a ton of templates, and usually Pinterest does too. If you go digging, you can usually find creators like this one that put out regular freebie wallpapers as well. I like to create a new one each month for new inspiration!
- Music with words can sometimes be distracting for me, but just recently in Discord, Maren, Tom, and Taylor shared the following sites for background noises: Window Swap, Coffitivity, and Drive & Listen. Other ones to try might be mynoise.net, defonic.com, and I am always listening to Spotify’s Background Beats playlist.
- I just recently organized my browser bookmarks and login links in 1Pass for sites that I visit often. A subtle change, but I feel like it makes a huge difference. Taylor took it one step further by setting up bookmark keywords.
- Uninstall/delete apps or other tools you’re not using on your devices. #declutter! Also, take 5 minutes each morning to click “unsubscribe” on those pesky emails.
- For Apple users, set up your Focus Preferences. I turn on the “Work” focus when I’m in meetings or need to really lock in without distractions.
- I use Spark for email & calendar management, and then I use Asana for to-do lists, project management, and note-taking during meetings. (More on Asana here.) I bring Zendesk Support & Sell notifications into email, and I bring Calendar notifications in Slack to remind me of upcoming meetings. I’ve written more on Time Management here, given that’s a whole other conversation. :)
The ever-growing list, in no particular order, of things that help encourage connection in spaces that can otherwise feel isolating:
- virtual working hours or lunchtime hangouts with no agenda
- a Slack #watercooler channel, huddles, and all the GIFs
- #MusicMondays – where everyone tunes in on a group playlist or radio station; we use listen.reclaimrad.io!
- regular team meetings & intentional one-on-ones to check in
- SnackMagic snack boxes
- built-in pathways for virtual communication, particularly when asking for help or sharing concerns
- GroupGreeting virtual cards for birthdays and other celebrations
- regular group professional development, and encouraging folks to narrate their learning through notes, blog posts, streams, etc. – no one is perfect or all-knowing, so capturing where we are now, even if we don’t have all the answers, is important.
- virtual Escape Rooms or other virtual team games & icebreakers (here’s a list of online games)
- movie time – we’ll stream a movie for the everyone to watch, usually around the holidays
- monthly Community Chats
- aim to get the team together in person at least one time a year for something fun. That time is hard to replicate, and the trips are fun to look forward to!
- Finding Connection Blog post | OER22 Presentation: Building Connection with Virtual Teams
Here’s a list of my very rudimentary tech setup. (Well, at least compared to my colleagues… you know who you are.)
- Wireless keyboard & mouse
- Rode NT-USB Mic
- Logitech webcam
- 2 Elgato Key Light Air
- Laptop stand/riser
- Elgato green screen
- Multi-port adapter
While inspired by this course, I’d love to get a better handle on cord management and a good desk chair. I also think a good pair of noise cancelling headphones may be worth it when I’m traveling or working in spaces that are distracting. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
As I’m sure most can relate, this list can change quite a bit and I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my desk space and working environment more comfortable. I also love Maren’s post on How to make working from home 1% more comfortable. I’d be curious to hear what helps you in the comments!