Before the pandemic struck, remote work was common but not universally accepted. Now, more and more employers and employees alike are considering home offices a viable if not a better option. Regardless of whether the trend is here to stay, for many, learning how to survive working remotely has not been easy. Hence, here we are! Us—Landbotters—coming together, ready to share the home office tips that kept and keep keeping us afloat!
Why Bother with Home Office Tips?
You might be wondering why bother writing yet another remote work tips article?
After all, there are more than enough of them out there.
When first the idea of this article popped up in my mind, it was all about pestering my coworkers into sharing their home office experiences and their collective know-how. Connecting with coworkers during the quarantine in their different settings and circumstances, I found the whole thing quite fascinating!
All in all, the pandemic-inspired home office was a revelation, at least to me.
You see, even before the world turned upside down, I was not unfamiliar with the concept. Trying to pave my way into the world of content writing, I spent almost three years working remotely as a freelancer. At the end of that experience, I was exhausted and couldn't possibly wait to have the dreaded “normal office job.” So, when COVID struck, I wasn’t immediately comfortable with the idea. Yet, this time around, things were different. Despite not ideal home office conditions, I found myself quite happy.
The more I thought about it, the more probing my thoughts became, and so the simple idea of writing down tips for working remotely grew into something bigger. Before I knew it, I was scouring the web for data, curious to learn what are the attitudes and probable developments of this “old-new” phenomenon according to stats?
The State of Remote Work (and Attitudes Toward It)
Remote work is perhaps the most apparent impact COVID-19 had on the labor market. The massive closure of offices gave way to significant operational changes across a variety of industries.
Just looking at the US market, the shift before and after the pandemic is staggering. According to Statista, remote work trends saw a huge transformation, with the number of employees now working remotely growing from 17% to 44%.
The Impact of Remote Work on Social & Operational Structures
To determine the continuation of the remote work trend after the pandemic, McKinsey analyzed over 2000 tasks across 800 occupations and eight countries. They found that around 20 to 25% of workforces in advanced economies could absolutely continue working from home three to five days a week without affecting productivity. That’s four to five times more than before COVID. However, they also found that some types of work which can, theoretically, be done remotely are likely to suffer. Activities such as critical business decisions, negotiations, creative brainstorming, employee onboarding, giving sensitive feedback are best done in person. Still, the potential and opportunity for remote work becoming a norm in many types of work is there.
However, this potential is not equal for all.
According to a study by Pew Research Center, one's ability to work from home is highly related to level of education and income. 68% of professionals with a postgraduate degree and 58% with a bachelor's degree say their job can be done remotely. However, 83% of employees who completed high school education and 71% with some college say they can’t do their job from home.
Most low-skill jobs are not only unable to make the transfer to home-office format, they are also likely to be the most affected by the post-COVID-19 labor market shift.
The same McKinsey study I mentioned above talks about the likely occupational shift. While customer sales and service roles, food service, as well as less-skilled office support roles are to see the most negative impact, jobs in transportation and warehousing are likely to increase due to the growth in e-commerce and the delivery economy. Still, those increases are not likely to counterbalance the disruption of many low-wage jobs.
Hence, remote work, for all its shortcomings, can be considered a privilege.
How do Employees Feel about the Home Office?
What’s the general feeling among workers?
Buffer and Angellist surveyed over 3500 workers all over the world to discover these attitudes.
32% of remote workers most appreciate the ability to have a more flexible schedule; 26% the flexibility to work from anywhere; 21% the freedom from having to commute on a daily basis, and 11% the ability to spend more time with family!
The Pew Research Center survey I mentioned above also questioned professionals whose work can be done, for the most part, from home. It shows many employees are on board. In fact, of the 71% of those currently working from home, 54% would like to continue doing so after the pandemic is over.
The same group of surveyees also stated that the transition from traditional to home office had been very or somewhat easy. 87% found having the right tech and equipment at home easy; 80% had no trouble following deadlines; 77% found adequate workspace; 68% found it easy to complete work without interruptions, and 64% found it easy to feel motivated to do their job. However, the last point was also the one with which the most significant percentage—36%—struggled.
This brings us to the more challenging aspect of working from home and the issues that come with it.
The State of Remote Work by Buffer and AngelList asked the remote workers about the most impactful struggles. It seems, when confined in a home office, people most struggle with collaboration and communication (20%), loneliness (20%), inability to unplug (18%), and managing distractions (12%).
It’s because of these struggles investigating how to survive home office shouldn’t be underestimated!
Tip-Top Home Office Tips by Landbot Team
I could have written this article combining my personal experience with research. But my personal experience is, well, way too narrow to be applied generally and the research is way too general to be personable.
So, I rolled up my sleeves and built a conversational survey, and spent about three weeks pestering my coworkers to respond to it.
Here is the result!
1. Resist the Hermit Trap
When I surveyed my coworkers, the most recurrent words in the “tips” section featured “shower” and “dress.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Because, let’s face it, we’ve ALL been there at least once!
As tips go, it couldn't be more basic. Yet, it’s probably the most fundamental one. When working from home, it’s way too easy to abandon your civilized self. After all, there is nobody to judge and observe.
But stepping down the hermit path is dangerous because it often sneaks up on you. It starts with a “taking a lazy day” and staying in your cozy bed. It ends with you not being sure when you last took a shower. Worst of all, it affects your motivation and productivity while making you feel like there’s little point to living.
Get up, take that shower and get dressed! You don’t need to wear the same stuff you would wear to the office, but the change helps you prepare your mindset for work. Even if it’s just changing your night-pajamas for a day-pajamas.
Even the littlest of efforts will keep the hermit-trap at bay!
2. Have a Designated Work Space
The second most common advice was to have your designated work environment.
As Fernando, our VP of Marketing, puts it: “Don't work where you eat, sleep, Netflix-and-chill.”
Having a specific space to work helps you to make the mental “cut” between work and home life. It helps you get started as well as turn off later.
However, from personal experience, I know it’s not always possible. Living in a tiny apartment, my options are limited, especially since I have to share the space with my boyfriend, who also works from home. In situations such as ours, it’s virtually impossible to have a designated working space. Nevertheless, you can always trick the system. You can strengthen your cause with the other tips on this list such as getting dressed, changing the environment (even if it’s as basic as circulating between the couch, kitchen table, and the puff), and not using any of your work tools (such as a laptop) after work hours for personal stuff.
All in all, if you can’t set boundaries physically, do so mentally. Both are equally powerful, though the mental ones require more attention!
3. Guilt Trip is Not the Best Form of Travel
Interestingly, quite a few of my colleagues warned against overworking out of guilt. Remote workers' guilt does seem to be a very common phenomenon, especially for those experiencing home office for the first time.
I guess because we are at home and comfy, we feel like we have to overcompensate. Yet, these feelings are misplaced. In an office, you would not think twice about stopping by a coworker to chat for 15 minutes or take a coffee break in the kitchen away from your desk. At home, doing the same thing may feel like cheating.
Do not venture on this guilt trip!
Those minibreaks and chit-chats are an essential part of your workday. They fuel motivation, creativity, and overall productivity.
Taking due breaks makes you a better employee, not worse.
Our talent manager, Esther, warns: “Never think that those who are in the office work more than you and never think that they think that you don't work because you are at home.”
4. Don’t Overwork by Accident
Some remote employees overwork themselves out of guilt, others simply because of the lack of planning or awareness.
Not having a specific time when we have to “get up and leave” makes it very easy to forget about time altogether. It happens to the best of us. At the beginning of the quarantine, I often found myself still working at 7-8 pm, two hours after the work time, simply because I got carried away.
So, many Lanbotters warn and advise you to plan your work time and finish at the time of day you are supposed to finish. Don’t work until you have completed all your tasks. That’s not how you would behave in the office, so why do it at home? Whatever it is, it can wait. There’s no need for 12-hour workdays.
5. Connect with and without Purpose
Yes! Loneliness and communication are on the top of the list when it comes to remote work struggles.
That’s why taking care of connections is also prominent on the remote work tips list.
You might think your day is already filled with endless chats and video conferencing. However, you can’t live on that. Limiting your communication to work-related activities is depressing as well as unrealistic. Just think about your day in the office. How often do you just chat or exchange a fun comment?
There are two parts to the communication advice we would like to impart.
Firstly, don’t rely solely on messaging. Slack, Skype, and other tools are great and serve their purpose. However, sometimes trying to get your point across using chat can be complicated, create unnecessary misunderstandings, and get you all worked up for nothing. So, don’t be shy to “pick up the phone” and turn what would be a 30-minute messaging battle into a 5-minute conversation. It not only solves problems and prevents misunderstandings quicker, it also helps you feel more human.
Secondly, a video call to your coworker doesn’t always have to have a work-related purpose. Sometimes, just having a coffee and talking about the latest episode of whatever-show-is-trending is enough. Quite simply, it cheers you up, helps you feel connected to the rest of the civilized world, and makes your workday more lively.
Victoria, our Head of Affiliate, brings a unique perspective to this particular home office tip as she was one of Landbot’s post-COVID permanently remote hires working from a different country. She says: “Get to know your colleagues. It's a given that you won't work with everyone in the company, and in many cases, it's easy to box yourself within your team. You might not need to work with everyone, but you should definitely get to know as many people as you can. After all, you are one big team, and given the time we spend working, it's more like a work family.”
So, it’s loud and clear! Nurture the personal aspects in your remote work habits.
At Landbot, we tend to play virtual games (like the virtual escape room project) to break the virtual ice on a team or company level. On a more individual level, we use “Virtual Donut” on Slack to connect coworkers across the whole company at random to share a cup of coffee and get to know each other.
6. Keep Personal and Work Life Separate
This home office tip is very straightforward. Don’t use your work tools for personal purposes!
In other words, don’t use your work laptop to watch Netflix; play games or check up on social media. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to watch your streamings after work but do, at the very least, change the screen. Also, keeping your work laptop/phone on after work hours makes avoiding answering work messages and calls after-hours more difficult.
It might not seem like much, but it makes a whole lot of difference for your subconscious mind. Staring at the same screen for hours each day drains the energy and makes separating personal and work lives. If you don’t close that laptop, you never really disconnect.
7. Minimize or Embrace Distractions
Try to tune out distractions. Yes, yes, I know! It’s easier said than done. Nonetheless, it’s possible to maintain a degree of control.
For example, when the majority of employees all work from home, private and group chats can get on your nerves because they NEVER stop. In this case, be strong and mute them. Designate a slot in your day to be your “focus hours” and block everyone out. Otherwise, it might be hard to get any work done.
As per home distractions, it's harder—especially if you live with the very young or very old. You can minimize the distractions by establishing rules or simply embracing the chaos and working around it.
For instance, my aunt works as an executive in a big health supplements company and spends most of her time on conference calls. When she started working from home, my grandpa really didn’t understand the concept and thought she wasn’t working, which led to a lot of interruptions. She embraced the chaos and put grandpa in charge of organizing coffee and snack breaks at specific times and keeping the house in order while she worked. This made grandpa feel included and gave him a sense of purpose while my aunt could enjoy her social breaks at appropriate times without interfering with her work.
If your neighbors are noisy, you can always work around their habits (like I learned to record videos in the morning to avoid having my not very talented neighbor playing guitar in the background). Or take advantage of local co-works, coffee shops, and (if you really need your peace) local library!
8. Ex-Commuter? Leverage the New-Found Time!
Did you use to commute to work?
If so, you have extra time on your hands. Don’t let it go to waste by succumbing to an overwork mentality or committing to the “joys” of hermit-lifestyle.
It takes me around 50 minutes—realistically—to get to and from work. So, home office, for me, meant two hours of extra time each day. I got one hour of extra sleep in the morning… or actually, an extra hour to stay up in the evening and enjoy leisure activities. The second hour, I used to finally devote myself to regular exercise which made all the difference.
You got more time! Treat it as a MIRACLE that it is 😅.
9. Change the Environment
Another essential home office tip is all about change. Change is refreshing and invigorating. It makes everything seem more exciting.
So, whatever is your home office setup, change it up!
As I mentioned before, the change can be as small as changing from your work table to chill in a puff or on your terrace for a bit. Or, it can be as elaborate as venturing out of your house in search of natural light or social buzz and settling in a co-work or a local cafe at least once a week. Some Landbotters even grouped in each other's houses to change things up.
10. Graduate Well-Being: Develop a Stellar Home Office Routine
Our last tip? Combine all of the above and create a home office routine to outshine them all.
Take a shower, get dressed, choose the space, drink water, take the coffee breaks, chat with your coworkers, go running, respect your work hours, have a proper lunch break, listen to music, leave your house every now and then even if it’s just to shop for groceries, take a power nap, stretch… The possibilities are endless.
The point is, working from home is not just about work. It’s about you, too!
Remote Work: Yes or No? What’s the Verdict?
Do we love it or do we hate it?
According to my survey, remote work is here to stay. Sure, there’s a tiny minority who were not so happy about it and would choose the real office over the home one every day. The rest of us… we loved it or expressed the healthy mixed feelings loving some parts of it (the perks) and not the others (the struggles).
Though, nobody liked it when it was forced by the quarantine - that much was clear.
All in all, most of us are happy to work from home permanently or opt for the 50-50 approach and mix home office with the real one.
Read for yourself:
“It is much appreciated when you have to do something very focused, but I really like the atmosphere of the office and I wouldn't change it for anything” — Xavi, Marketing Operations Analyst
“I like it when it is my choice, not by obligation. In fact, if I had to work remotely by obligation, I would not do it at home, I would look for a workspace outside my home.” — Esther, Talent Manager
I've been working remotely for over a year now. I think living through the pandemic was and is the challenge, not so much the remote work. Deprivation takes a toll on you, when you can't go where you want to go, see the people you want to see or do the things you want to do. In terms of work, I think it depends on how well-organized you are as a person. You can be equally productive and completely unproductive in either setting. — Victoria, Head of Affiliate
As I have the great opportunity to go back and forth to the office, with the flexibility to stay at home when needed, the experience is 200% positive!! —Alan, Sales Manager
“I love it. I love changing my landscape, working outdoors whenever I want, explore libraries and coffee shops, and visit my friends and family abroad and be able to work at the same time.” — Jana, Graphic Designer
“Mixed feelings: I usually love working from home but missing the office, then I usually love working from office but missing home 😅 But anyway, I do love working from home: waking up a bit later, taking a shower without any rush, snacking at all times, preparing pasta 🍝 without being forced to prepare Tupperwares 🥲 and finishing work shift with a cold beer straight away 🍺” — Alessandro, Customer Success
“I love it! I think going every once in a while to an office can be positive but I feel I'm more productive at home.” — Francisca, Sales Enablement Specialist
Just so you know you are not alone in your struggles, here are a few home office stories to entertain you.
“....The day my dog ate the wifi cable and I had to call a technician.” — Sofia, Customer Support
“The average age of my neighbors is 104 years old, so I'm always updated on the news as the TV is at 100 volume always 😂 ” — Alan Sales Manager
“I was confined for about one year in Seville, and during that whole year, I was listening to really loud construction noises... Like terribly loud, ground shaking and hammer smacking on the walls noises. I guess my neighbors decided to take turns while working on improvements on their houses during that entire year + constructions on the streets too! So yeah, people had to bear with me on - a lot of - calls with a not so pleasant background noise 😅. I think a whole year confined and working from home with construction noises is as bad as it can get.” — Rafa, Customer Support
1. Wake up
2. Prepare a 6-cups Italian coffee
3. Change my clothes
4. Turn on the laptop
5. Realize it was Saturday
6. Cry” — Alessandro, Customer Success
“Anyone who has met with me in the past year has seen my cat's butthole on camera at least once. He always picks the best angles!” — Cris, VP of Customer Success
“During lockdown last year, I was presenting during a call with all my team and my boyfriend showed up shirtless behind me.” — Anna, Lifecycle Marketing
“The story is funny, terrible and amazing at the same time... some time ago, during a daily meeting, I met my new flatmate, a mouse named Jerry! You can imagine that the Daily Meeting turned to be HILARIOUS. Jerry was kinda cute, but everyone told me I had to kill him, so now Jerry is RIP, but I'm pretty sure his family is still somewhere in the building, and they are not happy.” — Ilaria, Product Designer
To Wrap it Up!
After reading this, I sincerely hope that you have a better idea of how to survive working remotely.
Writing this article, I realized why I didn’t like my first experience working from home—I hardly followed any rule on the list. I was a freelancer so I didn’t keep specific working hours, I didn’t even respect the weekend, so I ended up exhausted and burnt out. Also, freelancing is more isolated than being part of a team, none of my work contracts lasted for long…
Today, I sincerely enjoy it mainly because it gives me time to focus on my well-being and over life quality. The difference is not just in my own organization and attitude but also in the team. Having a great team around you creates a support cocoon that never lets you slip too deep into bad habits. And of course, if you have the option to pop into the real office once in a while, it makes it all the better.
Speaking for myself, remote work, whether full-time or part-time, is the future for many professions. The flexibility and comfort cushion the demands of a 40-hour workweek giving us a chance to improve our lives inside and outside work hours… hyper-personalize it like the marketing campaigns you can build with Landbot 😂 😂 😂