Best tips for remote work and working from home

Luke's Desk 2017
Luke's Desk 2017 (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Working from home can be one of the best experiences you may ever have, but it doesn't come without its challenges. Whether you live alone, with family, or with roommates, it can be hard to keep your work and personal lives separate. Don't worry though, there are lots of tips that can help you out, and plenty of tricks you can try to make sure your time working from home is as productive and rewarding as possible.

Take care of your mental health

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Lorys' desk (Image credit: iMore)

If you're used to working in an office or having a very particular routine, working from home (especially if you're new to the concept) can be taxing on your mind. You may find that it's getting harder to focus throughout the day, or that you feel anxious or restless from being tied to your desk all day with no one around. There are several things you can try to ensure that your mind is at ease and that you don't have issues focusing when you need to.

How to maintain your mental welfare while working from home

Don't forget to still interact with people

It can be really easy to isolate yourself too much when working from home, but just because you don't see your coworker face-to-face every day, doesn't mean you can't be social. Whether it's talking to your coworkers every now and then through messaging apps or virtual office software, or just carving out some well-needed social time outside of work hours, don't forget to interact with fellow humans when you're feeling lonely.

How to be social when working from home

Keep your work stuff safe from other people

Use Touch ID to unlock 1Password on MacBook Pro Touch Bar

Use Touch ID to unlock 1Password on MacBook Pro Touch Bar (Image credit: iMore)

At an office, your workspace is typically pretty untouchable by other people, but at home, you may have kids, family members, or other people sharing your office space often. The last thing you need is other people accidentally deleting files or downloading programs you don't need on your work devices.

How to protect your work devices from your kids (or roommates) when working from home

Stretch; it's good for you

Anytime your job requires you to sit at a desk for long periods of time, it's a good idea to make sure you get up and move a little throughout your day. Stretching your muscles can help loosen you up and ensure you don't cramp up from staying in a sitting position. You don't have to stretch for that long, and there are a ton of great stretches you can do to keep your self limber.

Daily stretches you should practice when working from home

Get what you need to exercise at home

FluidStance Balance Board

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and that includes working from home. If you don't find your self as able to get to the gym when you're in your house all day, you can always workout at home. You don't need a lot either, a yoga mat, some resistance bands, maybe a few weights, regardless of how you enjoy to work out, there is some equipment out there for you to ensure you stay active and healthy while you work from home.

8 at-home exercise equipment must-haves for remote working

Set up your workspace with everything you need

LG 27UK850

LG 27uk850 (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz/iMore)

If working from home is a new experience for you, you may realize that being away from the office can cause you to realize you need a few more items to really be as productive as possible. You may have a computer, a desk, a good chair, and a monitor, but there may be some items you're used to having at your office that won't have at home. Make sure you don't hesitate to set up your workspace with everything you need to get your work done.

9 must-have accessories when working from home in 2020

Have good Wi-Fi

Speaking from experience, having a lousy Wi-Fi connection in your home office sucks. Not only does it make it hard to work as productively as possible, but it will also frustrate you a lot. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have good-Wi-Fi in your house everywhere you need it.

How the iMore team works from home

Everyone on the iMore team works remotely from their homes (sometimes Disneyland), and we've all developed different methods of dealing with the challenges that working from home can present. We're not saying all these tips are going to be for you, but we hope by sharing our individual experiences that you may find a tip or two that you can implement into your workflow.

Luke Filipowicz

Luke Filipowicz (Image credit: iMore)

When I was first hired at iMore back in 2016, the Canadian employees in my province did have an office, but eventually, I moved to work remotely from my home. I didn't have a smooth transition and struggled a lot with maintaining my focus.

The good news is after a few months, it got a lot easier. Here are a couple of things I do to ensure that I remain productive and don't go crazy while I'm working from home.

Do something in the morning before you work

I'm a night owl, and I'm always awake at times I shouldn't be, which means I like to stretch every bit of sleep I possibly can. When I first started working from home, I used to wake up at 8:59 AM so that I could begin work at 9 AM. This killed my productivity because I was still waking up from my sleep and not giving my body a chance to adjust. Not to mention, it made it feel like I was always at work. The solution was simple once I figured it out — wake up a bit earlier and do something before work.

Shower, cook breakfast, read a good book, take the dog for a walk — literally anything you want to do that isn't work. This will not only allow your body the proper opportunity to wake up but also give your mind a break from feeling like you're working all the time.

Go to therapy if you feel you need it

This is just good life advice, and of course, it's much easier said than done, but working from home can take a toll on your mental health.

Even if you're doing everything you can to feel good — eating well, taking breaks, getting exercise, etc. — sometimes, you may still feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, and those feelings are valid. If you feel like you need help, don't be afraid to reach out.

Joe Keller

Joe Keller (Image credit: iMore)

I've been working remotely since I was first hired by iMore in 2012. Along the way, I've tried different ways to make working from home an increasingly enjoyable experience. While I don't have a lot of hard and fast rules, there are a couple that I stick to that make a difference in my morale and productivity.

Set definite work hours

I work from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET Monday through Friday. There are certain points throughout the year where that schedule has to be a little more flexible, but for the most part, I keep to it. At a certain point in the day (and make sure it's generally the same time every day, for consistency), stop working, shut down your computer, and just be done for the day.

Setting specific hours prevents you from thinking about your whole home as a workplace, and keeps you from always remaining in 'work mode,' which isn't healthy. Separating your professional and personal time is crucial for work/life balance, and a step every remote worker should take.

Don't eat at your desk

This goes hand-in-hand with setting specific hours. You don't want to be at your desk all day, and lunch (or another meal) is a perfect excuse to get up and leave your desk. Breaks are essential, and whether you make your lunch in your kitchen or pick something up from a favorite takeout spot, this is a great way to impose a break on yourself.

Plus, eating away from your desk will keep your workspace tidier and keep crumbs out of your keyboard.

Christine Romero-Chan

Christine Romero-Chan (Image credit: iMore)

I've been working remotely from home for the better part of a decade, so I'm well adjusted to this life by now. I originally started working from a small and cramped desk in my old bedroom, but I've now since expanded to a larger home with a separate office space. This has helped a lot with my productivity and gives me a bit more freedom when it comes to separating my work and personal life. These are some tips that I've found work great for me, so hopefully, they can help you as well.

Don't wear your PJs

Even though working from home means you can wear whatever you want, or even go no-pants, I find that I work best when I get dressed as if I am going out in public. Wearing even casual clothes and putting some light makeup on for me makes me feel productive, and separates me from just being a lazy slob at home while working. Plus, if I just stay in my pajamas, I would just want to crawl right back into bed and sleep. So wearing proper clothes, even if it's just a t-shirt and jeans, makes me feel ready to sit down and get down to business.

Get creative in finding ways to be active

I'm diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, so I need to get out and get moving for at least 30 minutes a day, every day. But remote working makes this problematic. And even though I could just go and walk around the neighborhood, sometimes it's not enough. That's when you should look into alternatives for getting a little active, even within your own house. You can do simple 7-minute workout regimes or stretch often, and you can also turn to video games. That's right! I have Beat Saber for PSVR and Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo Switch. Both of these activities are fun to play, and you get some cardio or endurance exercises at the same time. The Ring-Con for Ring Fit Adventure is basically just a pilates resistance ring, and even if you're not playing, you can put a Joy-Con in and use it in Multitask Mode. This means that it records your reps when the game isn't running, but it will record them the next time you get in the game. You don't need a gym membership to find creative ways to stay active at home.

Karen S. Freeman

Karen S. Freeman (Image credit: iMore)

I've been working remotely for the better part of a decade, and it certainly has its pros and cons. I love the flexibility and being able to set my hours. I enjoy travel, and being able to take my laptop and work from anywhere in the world allows me to take longer trips. Though I'm an extrovert and miss working with actual people, I do enjoy working in the complete silence of my own home. I've come up with some tips for balancing the work/home life over the years.

Create a comfortable and inviting workspace

Invest in a comfortable office chair and an attractive but functional desk, if that's your thing. Place the items you need for work within arm's reach. Make the space visually appealing. Perhaps you prefer a more casual workspace, but do what gets you in work mode. I have several different areas I use, depending on my mood: a desk and chair, my couch, a kneeling desk, and my treadmill desk.

Self-care: Eat, sleep, and exercise regularly

I hate to sound like a mom here, but I am indeed a mom: Eat your veggies! Seriously, healthy, nourishing meals fuel you and the work you do. I never skip a meal, and I always make sure my meals include plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, and protein. I work hard to keep a regular sleep schedule, too, striving to get enough. Exercise does wonders for your body as well as your mind. I usually start each day with a session on my home elliptical machine or a power walk with a friend. It's so important to take care of yourself if you want to do good work.

Build in time to socialize with co-workers and non-work friends

If you were in an office setting, you'd be taking occasional breaks to shoot the breeze and bond with co-workers. Obviously, you don't want to overdo it, but do take time to talk to your coworkers via email, Slack, or however you communicate with them during the workday. Our work chat here contains several channels unrelated to work, where people share funny observations, pet photos, and more. And don't forget about your non-work friends after hours. Without your office buddies to pal around with, your other friends will become even more important to you. I try to plan outings with non-work friends several times a week.

Bryan Wolfe

Bryan (Image credit: iMore)

I've been working in a home office environment for over 10 years for various websites. I've called iMore home since late 2018. It's a challenging thing to do and certainly not for everyone; however, I find it has lots of advantages over my traditional office environment.

Get out for a walk

As someone with Type 2-diabetes, it's important that I exercise each day, which is hard as a remote worker. Therefore, I make sure I go for a walk at least four times a week. Some days are better than others, depending on the weather.

Get to know your coworkers

We, as members of the iMore team, spend a lot of virtual time with each other each week. Therefore, I try to use the opportunity to get to know my coworkers more. This means learning more about non-iMore related stuff. Human connection is essential — sharing is caring!

Don't forget to eat

Being a remote worker means skipping (or forgetting) meals, which isn't good. I am doing a better job at this than when I started working here; however, I'm still not perfect at sticking to a schedule. Thankfully, there are Door Dash and other meal delivery services when I don't have the time to cook.

Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick (Image credit: Stephen Warwick/iMore )

I started working from home when I joined iMore about six months ago. I've always preferred the quiet and flexibility of being in my own home to work, and the lack of colleagues and distractions welcome. However, it's still important to put measures in place to make sure you focus and stay active.

Keep your desk and workspace tidy.

Ever heard the phrase "untidy house, untidy mind?" Me neither, but having a well organized and clean workspace will help you to focus on your work. Dirt and mess aren't just gross; it's also distracting and can hamper productivity.

Move around

I always split my day with a 30-minute walk, and take regular breaks to stretch, move around the house and stay active. Apple Watch is great for this, but setting any kind of alarm or timer will do. Taking regular breaks will do your body a world of good, sitting down at a desk for 8 hours or more is not good for your joints, muscles, and your cardiovascular system.

Rebecca Spear

Rebecca Spear (Image credit: Rebecca Spear/iMore)

Up until working remotely for iMore, I had always worked in an office. The change was especially straining at first, but I've gotten really comfortable working from home now that I've been doing it for over a year. Here are some things I learned that helped me transition to remote work life.

Set daily work goals

I care a lot about being efficient and hardworking. As such, I have a routine and specific things I do to ensure I have a productive day. Every morning, I begin work by checking and responding to my emails. Then I look over my work schedule and determine what I'm going to complete for the day. Next, I write an email as though I'm going to send it to my manager detailing what I've accomplished by the end of the workday. In actuality, I address it to myself and then title the email "EOD {current date}" but I don't send it yet.

As I complete my goals, I check back on this list to determine what I need to do next or to evaluate if I need to add or subtract something from the list. This helps me keep track of my projects and allows me to accomplish more in a day. Once the workday is over, I send the email to myself and evaluate whether or not I think my manager would be happy with the day's performance.

Don't be afraid to ask questions

It can be difficult to complete certain projects when you aren't able to actually walk up to someone in the office and ask clarifying questions. This is when instant messaging services can really come in handy. If your company doesn't already have a service in place, you can always use Google Chat as long as you have a Google email. Don't be afraid to ask questions to your bosses or your co-workers. They'll likely be happier that you clarified what you're supposed to be doing rather than potentially putting hours into doing something wrong. Just, try to ask your questions succinctly and clearly from the start. Additionally, you should always be mindful of your co-workers' own workloads and their busy schedules.

Clean and disinfect your desk if you get sick

I got really frustrated last year when I got sick six times within three months. I couldn't understand it, because I wasn't really coming into contact with anyone other than my husband. I finally realized that the germs from my initial sickness were swimming around my desk, keyboard, and mouse, which meant that I was getting myself sick over and over. If you're using any devices, whether that be your phone or tablet, laptop, or headphones while you're sick, chances are you've spread germs on them.

Make sure to Clorox your desk, chair, and disinfect your various work devices if you get sick. Of course, you'll want to make sure you follow the proper cleaning precautions so as not to ruin these devices.

Call a family meeting

Full disclosure, my husband and I don't have any kids. However, when I first started working from home, the workday felt so casual that my husband would come into my office regularly during work hours and distract me. I finally had to set him down and tell me that when I was in that office, I needed him to treat it as though I wasn't home (except for in emergencies). I was able to be much more productive after that.

Of course, you can't explain this to your toddlers or younger children. Still, if you discuss your work-from-home situation with your older family members, they will be better informed and might not barge into your office unnecessarily.

Lory Gil

Lory Gil (Image credit: iMore)

I've been working from home for 10 years (has it really been that long?), and I've learned a few things over the years that have helped me stay focused and on task without feeling overworked. When you spend your workday and your home life in the same location, there are some tips you may appreciate for how to handle this new experience.

Set a dedicated physical workspace

It may seem like a nice idea to plop down on the couch for 8 hours while you work remotely, but it's not actually that nice. For one thing, it's distracting and can leave you unfocused. But more importantly, it blurs the line between your personal and work life. If you've been sitting on the couch all day, the thought of plopping down with your family at the end of the night doesn't seem as relaxing. If your home space starts to feel like work, you're going to lose your sense of self. Set up in a dedicated space, whether it's the dining room or even a corner in your kid's room while they're at school, that you call your "office." In this space, you work and stay focused. When you leave the space, you are home. Keep them separated in your mind, and tell your family what your "office" is, too, so they know not to disturb you while you're working.

Take a shower before you start working

This advice was given to me when I first started working remotely, and I've adhered to it for the past 10 years. When you take a shower before starting work, you are saying to yourself, "OK, I'm going to go to work now," even if you don't leave your house. It's a signifier to your brain that home time is over, and work time is about to start. Trust me. It makes a world of difference to sit down at your computer after showering, shaving, brushing your teeth, and doing all of the things you'd typically do before heading out to an office. Plus, your family will appreciate you keeping up your hygiene.

Have good lighting in your work area

If you've recently been transitioned to working from home, or your remote status is temporary, it's likely that you don't have a good office set up. This includes a proper office chair, a desk that is ergonomically designed, or a fancy 4K monitor to plug your tiny laptop into. While some companies can help outfit your home with posture-saving office equipment (good for you if your company has done that), not everyone will be able to completely redesign their studio apartment with no room for additional furniture. One thing you can do for your remote office is to make sure you're surrounded by good lighting.

Eye strain can cause serious fatigue, and that can happen during one workday. If you have any spare lamps around the house that you can plug in within about three feet of your work area, you will notice an improvement in how hard your eyes work. Don't be fooled by the bright light of the computer screen, either. Build a bright area around where you work, and you'll feel like the sun is guiding your way.

Rene Ritchie

Apple Watch Series 5 (Image credit: iMore)

I worked in an office for a decade. Now I've worked at home for a decade. They're very different modalities, and different people just naturally feel better in one or the other. But you can make both work if you put in the effort.

Home vs. Work

Work isn't just a place. It's a state of mind. Working from home is likewise a state of mind. So, if you have any routines in the office, do your best to transfer those to home. If you hit the gym before work, workout before you work from home. If you pick up coffee on your way in, make coffee before you start at home. If you listen to music on headphones at work, do the same at home. Habits are powerful, and the more you can replicate what you do when you go to work, the more you'll feel like you're at work, even if you're working from home.

Good fences make good families

When you're away at the office, both you and your family, friends, roommates — everyone — knows you're away at the office. When you're home, both you and everyone else will have a tendency to think and act like you're at home. Don't let that happen. Set up a location, whether it's a room or just a table, that's your work location. When you're there, treat yourself and make sure everyone else treats you like you're away at work. Go on Do Not Disturb, put on noise-canceling headphones, whatever it takes. Mentally, everyone has to know that you're at work, even if physically, you're at home.

Home can't become work

Working from home can blur boundaries. Just like your family might think you're not at work, your colleagues might think you're always at work, especially if you have colleagues in multiple time zones. So, set your hours and stick to them. When you leave that room or get up from that table, you're no longer at work. When you're having breakfast, lunch, supper, getting coffee, whatever, you're no longer at work. Just like your family and friends have to respect your home office, you and your colleagues have to respect your office hours.

Do you have any tips?

Do you have any tips to help people transition into working from home? Share them with the community by leaving a comment down below!

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.