We’ve seen an increasing number of companies inviting or requesting employees to work from home where possible, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Twitter has gone even further and made it mandatory.

More companies are likely to follow their example to help minimize spread of the coronavirus. So that you’re prepared, we’ve gathered together a set of tips from the 9to5Mac team. We all work from home, and have each learned valuable lessons about how to make it work well, in addition to mistakes to avoid…

Separate home and work as much as possible

One of the keys to working from home is to separate the two environments as much as possible. If you have the luxury of having a spare room, creating a home office is of course ideal — but there are still steps you can take, even if you don’t have that kind of space.

For example, having a desk somewhere, even a small one, tends to be better than working at your dining room or kitchen table. It means that you aren’t reminded of work when you sit down to eat in the evening. Similarly, working in your bedroom is rarely a good idea if a room for rest and relaxation becomes associated with work.

One option is something like a Japanese screen. When you finish work for the day, pull the screen across so your work area is out of sight.

Separate socially as well as physically

If your family is at home while you work, it can be tempting for them to think that means you’re available to chat or take care of domestic chores. You will need to create clear boundaries, asking them to view you as being away at the office during your working hours.

Popping in with an occasional cup of coffee, good; acting as if it’s the weekend and you can take time out to do home-related stuff, not so much!

Conversely, be careful that work time doesn’t creep into personal time. Try to stick to business hours: start on time, end on time.

Minimize clutter

This can work both ways. You don’t want to be distracted by domestic clutter while you’re working, or by work-related stuff when you’re relaxing in the evening.

We recommend keeping your working area tidy, and especially putting working items away when you finish. Having an open MacBook and paperwork in sight can make it hard to relax and forget about work at the end of the day.

Dress to suit your own needs

Some of those who work from home swear by comfortable clothing, and say that being able to work in sweatpants and T-shirts is one of the best things about it.

But others find they need to dress professionally to put themselves in work mode. Figure out what works best for you, but personally I find that a switch between work and relaxing clothing helps.

Put some thought into furniture

If you’re likely to be working from home for an extended time, consider asking your work to pay for appropriate furniture. Don’t make the mistake I did when I first started working from home and sit on a dining room chair: they are designed for sitting down for the duration of a meal, not a working day.

Personally, I took the advice of a number of friends and invested in an Aeron Chair. They’re not cheap, but are comfortable and cool when working long hours. If your company is asking you to work from home, it still has the same duty of care toward you as it does in the office, and the same health and ergonomic requirements apply. It’s not unreasonable to ask it to guard against back problems by paying for a decent office chair.

You may want to think about other options, too, like sitting on an exercise ball to keep your core muscles active, or a sit-stand desk converter so you can stand for part of the day.

Don’t spend all day at your desk

One downside of working from home is you don’t get the everyday exercise and natural breaks you do when working in an office. There’s no commute, no stairs to climb, no meetings, no canteen…

It’s worth ensuring that you are moving regularly during the day. Personally, I drink tea by the gallon, so get up at least once an hour to make tea.

Take a lunch break away from your work area, too (especially if your MacBook has a butterfly keyboard).

Think about exercising before you start work, perhaps using the time slot in which you normally commute, and stand and stretch regularly during the day. The Apple Watch stand reminder can be useful here.

Keep in touch with colleagues

Working from home can feel quite isolating if you don’t have regular contact with colleagues, so consider tools like Slack, Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype as ways to keep in touch during the course of the day.

If your team doesn’t already have a chatroom, it’s a really great idea to create one and keep the chat window off to one side, checking in between tasks.

Check out our separate piece on recommended apps and services.

Finally, noise-canceling headphones can be gold!

If your family is at home during the day, or there are other noisy distractions around, noise-canceling headphones can be one of your most valuable pieces of home-office equipment. Over-ear models tend to be the most comfortable to wear for a full working day. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and Sony WH-1000XM3 are both excellent options.

Do you work from home and have your own tips? Please share them in the comments below.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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