If 2020 has taught us anything about work, it’s that many of us can do it successfully from anywhere we’d like.
So far, our collective work-from-anywhere success has company after company announcing a shift toward permanent remote work. And it’s not just startups that have their employees homeward bound—big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, and, most recently, Dropbox are on the remote bandwagon as well.
But is this move toward working outside the office a good thing? For employees? Businesses? Families?
For humanity as a whole?
In short, time will tell. It’s far too early to completely understand all of the effects of WFH, but there are certainly some—both good and bad—worth paying attention to.
But before we get into the good and bad of WFH, we first have to dive into exactly what working from home is, how it’s become the norm for hundreds of millions of employees across the world, and more significantly, why WFH isn’t actually the future—it’s WFA: work from anywhere.
(Hint: Why limit yourself to working from home when you could work from, well, anywhere?)
In this ultimate WFH guide, you’ll be treated to a new look at remote work—a different perspective on where this trend is going, advice and tips for both employers and employees, and a unique list of WFH/work-from-anywhere best practices (this is not your typical tips and tricks, trust us).
Here’s what follows:
- What exactly is work from home (WFH)?
- Is working from home good or bad for us?
- How you can set yourself up for WFH/WFA success
- The policies and processes that businesses need in place to win at working from home
- 3 unique best practices specifically for working from home
- Related WFH content
What is work from home (WFH)?
Unlike most business jargon and buzzwords, work from home is actually what it sounds like.
Seriously, it’s about as simple as that. Whether your home is a house, an apartment, a condo, a dormitory—you get the point—if you “work from home,” then you work from the same place you sleep. (Okay, maybe not necessarily exactly from where you sleep, but from your place of shelter, your abode, your dwelling.)
What are some synonyms for work from home?
Although work from home is just about as straightforward as any phrase can be, depending on the context of your conversation, you may hear work from home referred to as something else.
Let’s take a look at what some of those other words and phrases are.
Some of the most common synonyms for work from home:
- Working from home
- Remote work
- Working remotely
- Virtual work
- Dispersed work
- Distributed work
So, as you can tell from the list above, not every synonym is as obvious as “work from home,” which is probably why people have taken such a liking to the phrase. It’s easy to say, it’s catchy, and there’s little room for confusion about its meaning.
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Is working from home good or bad for us?
Long story short, the jury is still out on working from home and whether it’s good or bad for us.
There are, however, plenty of data points, research, and opinions that paint WFH in a good light… and just as many that paint WFH in a bad one. Yup, pretty confusing.
Much of it really comes down to your personal situation—what works best for you, your company, and your lifestyle.
Here’s what’s reportedly good about working from home:
- Higher productivity from employees3
- Expected better employee morale with less turnover4
- Employers can tap into talent pools across the world
- Employees can work for any company in the world without uprooting their lives
- Remote workers, on average, save employers $10,000 per year on workplace utilities, events, food, supplies, and professional development5
- No commutes; reduction in carbon footprint6
And here’s what’s reportedly bad about working from home:
- Longer workdays, less work-life balance7
- Double-digit percentage increase in meetings8
- Virtual meeting fatigue
- Increase in work-life conflict9
- Without effective communication practices, innovation suffers
- Working from home just isn’t for everyone
Whether your WFH experience has been good or bad so far, one thing is for certain: remote work is not for the faint of heart. It takes an “always-on” mindset and attention span to keep up with your tasks and multiple avenues of communication, not to mention the fact that sitting home alone and staring at a screen all day can be a rather lonesome existence (video meetings don’t exactly have the same energy, comradery, or drama as in-person ones do).
So… is remote work here to stay?
Yes, yes it is. Remote work is far too beneficial for many companies, both small and large, to ignore.
Once companies are able to shake themselves free of big commercial leases, they’ll start seeing the increase in dollar signs to their bottom line. And once that happens, there’ll be little incentive for them to ever return to a big office model again.
Yet, with that being said, just how much WFH is embraced by businesses—and to what extent—is still largely unknown. For the most part, it looks like many tech and tech-inspired companies will end up adopting a “remote flexible” policy, which essentially gives employees the freedom to either work from home or the office on any given day.
The thing is, these offices—at least in many cases—won’t be the same size or be in the same places, as they once were. Many companies will occupy smaller office spaces in more places to accompany their distributed network of employees. This will further provide the opportunity for a global network of employees to pop in and out of their respective offices at their convenience.
Of course, if you’re opening your business up for remote work and you have offices in four locations across the globe, chances are not every employee is going to be within a reasonable distance to one of your offices. And that’s okay. The idea here is to give employees a shared space to work together should they happen to live in the same area and prefer to be physically in an office and around some of their coworkers.
In other words, it’s not about people going to work anymore.
It’s about work going to them.
And whether that’s truly good or bad is, like we indicated earlier, still up for debate.
How you can set yourself up for WFH success
Working from home isn’t here to stay because it’s easy. Nope, nobody is arguing that.
In fact, working from home has all sorts of challenges that require a specific focus, gameplan, and execution to overcome.
One of the first ways to set yourself up for remote success has nothing to do with technology or apps. Instead, it’s all about an adjustment to the way you think.
WFH Success Step 1: Prepare mentally
To ensure success in working from home, the first thing you need to do is to accept the realities of WFH and begin addressing your needs.
Most of your early successes will come down to your willingness to over-communicate. Not only will you need to double up on some of your typical work conversations, action items, and emails, but you’ll also have to get used to the idea of stand-up meetings.
“What the heck are stand-up meetings?”
Glad you asked. Stand-up meetings are typically quick, daily, or semi-daily huddle meetings between you and your team to check on the status of a project.
Stand-ups can be planned and scheduled, or they can be random and come up in the blink of an eye. Either way, getting yourself mentally prepared for stand-ups goes a long way in becoming a successful WFH employee.
Here are the three ways you can seamlessly transition to stand-up meetings and make them as productive as possible:
- Accept the fact that your “focus time” is open for interruption.
- Be engaged—keep your camera on, your attention on screen, and try to be vocal.
- Ensure you and your team are equipped with an online meeting solution.
This takes us to our second step in WFH success: technology.
WFH Success Step 2: Invest in reliable and flexible technology solutions
It’s a fairly straightforward step in the process, but one that too many companies cut the corner on.
When it comes to remote work, nothing could be worse for employee productivity—and morale, for that matter—than meeting software that fails to perform. That’s why it’s imperative that, if you’re a business owner or team manager, you do everything in your power to invest in the best online meeting tools, messaging apps, and video conferencing solutions. Even better if you can find one tool that combines all three (and more):
WFH Success Step 3: Create an office-like environment in your home
“Leave work at work.”
“Don’t bring work home.”
Two old sayings that mean the same things, yet in the wake of COVID-19, there’s no way to abide by these wise commands.
There is, however, a way to alleviate the tension of WFH and clear up the lines that working from home tend to blur between work and life. And that is to create a true, office-like environment somewhere in your home or apartment.
Of course, this is easier in a large two-floor colonial-style house than it is in a tiny studio, but the essence remains the same: to be successful at WFH in the long term, you need to dedicate a portion of your living space to work and only work.
This way, even if there are no physical walls to contain your work space, mental and emotional barriers will begin to form in your head and heart, leading you to associate a specific area of your dwelling with work and the rest with life. However, if you fail to set this boundary, work is going to rapidly creep up on you and infiltrate all aspects of your life, even when you think you’re just relaxing on the couch rewatching The Sopranos.
The policies and processes that businesses need in place to win at working from home
If your company was open to remote work prior to the global coronavirus pandemic, then chances are you’ve found your company’s transition to WFH smoother than most.
That’s because businesses with WFH policies in place early on are bound to outperform companies that had never considered—let alone tried—working from home before.
So, if your company is in the latter category, and you’re still fairly new to this whole WFH thing, here are a few processes and policies you need in place to make working from home work for you and your teams.
First, the policies:
- Set a mandatory online time frame for each workday (e.g., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. all employees must be online and working except for a one-hour lunch break and periodic 15-minute breaks).
- This sets expectations for working times and gives employees a shared understanding of when they’ll be able to reach others.
- Require employees to work from places with secure internet connections and, even more importantly, secure networks.
- The last thing your company needs while avoiding a global human virus is a software one. Seriously, security rocks.
Learn more about video conferencing security. Download the free cheat sheet.
- Require all employees to have their video on during video calls unless it isn’t possible due to personal location and/or circumstance.
- This helps foster greater connection, even from a distance. Who knows, supposedly there’s just something about seeing coworkers’ smiling faces that make us all fuzzy inside!
Next, the processes:
- If you’re not speaking during a video call, mute yourself.
- It seems silly, but ambient noise, passing cars, and crying babies can disrupt a virtual meeting faster than you can imagine.
- Have daily stand-up meetings.
- Depending on the size of your business, you’ll want to implement daily stand-ups for the entire business or for each team. These can, at times, feel redundant, but they keep everyone up to date on the work while also giving your employees the opportunity to stay connected.
- Use a shared, all-inclusive technology solution if possible.
- Remote collaboration is hard to pull off, but if you can find a software solution that has video conferencing, phone services, and a messaging app all in one, then you’ll be preparing your company for work-from-home success. Mobility is huge when you’re working remotely—you won’t always be working out of your home office. Sometimes you need to take a call while running an errand. Can your tools support that lifestyle? For example, RingCentral’s app can flip a phone or video call from your computer’s desktop app to your phone’s mobile app (and vice versa):
With these policies and processes laid out, you may be thinking that’s all there is to working from home.
But nope, there’s more.
In fact, we still haven’t gotten to the three unique best practices for working from home.
🕹️ Get a hands-on look at some of the clever ways in which RingCentral is designed for WFH teams. Book a product tour here:
💰 You can also use this calculator to see roughly how much your business could save by using RingCentral to support your team’s communication with each other—and clients.
3 unique best practices for working from home
#1 Start your day at the same time you normally would
If you’re used to waking up two hours before the start of your actual workday to get ready and commute, do not stop doing that when you work from home.
Trust us, we know how nice it feels to sleep in until 9 a.m. and flip open the laptop for the first meeting of the day. But we also know that only feels nice for about three days. Yup, just three. After that, you begin to feel sluggish and lazy, and it’s all because you’ve drastically altered a routine that your mind and body have grown accustomed to.
That’s why it’s imperative that you keep waking up at the same time when you work from home. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, have kids or don’t, there’s plenty to do with the time you’re used to spending commuting to work.
A few options for you:
- Go for a walk, run, or do a workout
- Read and/or write
- Get ahead on work
- Grab a coffee
#2 Get dressed for work as if you were going into the office
Spending all day in your pajamas may be acceptable on the weekend, but Monday through Friday? Nah. Not cool.
Not only is it uncool, but it’s also unprofessional and might give off a lazy vibe.
When you get dressed for work as if you were going into the office, you’re preparing yourself—both physically and mentally—for work. Yes, even when you’re working from home. Stay in pajamas, and you’re preparing yourself for the couch and cartoons.
To have a better shot at being successful at work from home, you need to draw the line between work and life in as many places as possible—including your outfits. You wouldn’t go to the gym dressed like you do for work, would you? Then don’t work from home dressed like you do for a night in with Netflix and popcorn.
#3 Slack off a little bit
We’re not advocating laziness here. Nor are we suggesting you sabotage your career by doing nothing.
What we are saying is: relax, take breaks, go for walks. It’s so easy to become glued to our screens when we’re working remotely, and when we do, we often fail to get up and give ourselves a breather.
For eight hours a day, we trick ourselves into thinking that every email and instant message has to be responded to immediately. And this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Think about it. When you’re in the office, you often get up to grab a snack, use the restroom, and go for a walk. During these moments, you’re unavailable—there’s no message you can respond to, no request you can address. Why? Because you’re taking a break. Crazy concept, huh?
Start “slacking off” a little bit during the day, and watch how much your energy and productivity improve.
Ready to make working from home more enjoyable?
If you put all of these things into practice, your WFH experience will greatly improve. It’s all about setting yourself up for success with the right time management, physical and mental preparation, and technology suite.
Once you have those three things nailed down, you’ll be golden.
And, just in case working from home has got you stressed out, don’t worry. Nobody said it was easy to completely overhaul the way we’ve grown accustomed to working and living. And nobody’s saying that it’ll ever be perfect this way.
But this is how it is right now and will continue to be in the future, at least for some people.
So whether you’re a WFH lifer or just doing it through COVID-19, start doing the things we mentioned in this guide to unlock newfound success and happiness in your work-from-home journey.
Chances are, they’ll help you enjoy a greater life, too.
Looking for more WFH content? Check out some of these resources:
- Work from home: 6 critical lessons for startups
- Work from home made easy
- The 5 best teleconferencing solutions for small businesses in 2020
- 7 group video chat apps to keep your team connected
- The best video conferencing equipment for better online meetings
Originally published Oct 19, 2020, updated Dec 09, 2020