Advice for Working From Home

After working from home for more than seven years I found the following points to be useful. They are taken from my personal experience to help me stay healthy and productive and are based on my own needs. This also means that they only apply to office jobs with a lot of desk and computer time. This document does not define how to organize your work but can rather be combined with any task organization method of your choice.

Any advice given here cannot necessarily be adopted by you or might only apply partially to your lifestyle.

Concepts

The advice below is based on the following ideas:

Health First

It is most important to put both the physical and the mental health first, no matter what the financial or juridical consequences are. All following advice is based on this principle.

Human First

It is also important to remember that devices and any kind of machine are tools for humans and should be treated as such. Any tool should be used to solve a problem without introducing new ones.

Body and Mind

When working digitally or in virtual environments it is easy to forget about the physical world. So it is important to be conscious of the body and frequently remember its needs. Body and mind cannot work without one another.

Advice

My personal advice for anyone who works from home is:

Body

Honor your body by:

Routines

Establish a routine for each main event of the day:

  1. Always get up at the same time in the morning and have breakfast. For me it works best to get up early but try to find a time that works for your biorhythm. Do not force yourself to wake up in the middle of the night. But also do not sleep until the sun shines brightly into your room.
  2. Always eat breakfast before starting any work to give your body the energy it needs.
  3. Take a walk (or any other activity) to get fresh air and sunlight. It tells both your body and your mind to wake up and get started.
  4. Always have lunch at about the same time every day. Try to find a time that you usually feel hungry at. For lunchtime I find it reasonable to allow for variations of up to an hour.
  5. Finish work at a pre-defined time every day. This protects you from becoming a workaholic and helps your colleagues to know when you are available—and when you are not. It does not always need to be the exact same minute, i. e. leave some room to finish the current task, but try to keep it in a range of 15 minutes.

Meals

Next to including breakfast and lunch into your daily routine always keep them off of work. Do not eat in front of the computer, do not use your phone, do not even think about work. Focus on eating and nothing else.

Breaks

Take short breaks regularely (e. g. five minutes every hour). Do not rush any break—including lunch—but use this time to regenerate your body and to calm your mind.

Physically Separate

Do not only mentally distinguish between working and non-working time but also separate working and living physically. If possible, use a room as your office that is dedicated to your work only. Do not use the same devices (computer or phone) for work and for private tasks. I even recommend to use different applications on your computer (e. g. different webbrowser or email client).

Focus

Always focus on one task only. If one task requires you to wait for anything, you can switch to a different task. But never do two things at the same time.

Avoid distraction of any kind. Physically: Close the door of your room to show other people that you do not wish to be distracted, switch off any phone and remove any other source of distraction that you can control. Digitally: Disable all notifications including email and instant messaging alerts. Check messages at a time you decide, which ideally is between two tasks and not in the middle of one.

Clean

Keep your workspace, office room and devices clean. If you find it hard to do this task regularely, establish a routine for it.

Power Off

Completely switch off your computer and any other device that is associated with your work after finishing your work day. Do not use any standby modes. This is important in order to disconnect your mind from your work duties.

Get Bored

If I am busy and don’t find even a minute to relax, I am neither productive nor creative. Only when I am bored can I catch the good ideas. Preserve some time to do nothing regularely and allow yourself to get bored.