COVID-19 has changed the way we work, and people across the country are having to learn how to work from home for the first time ever. I’ve been doing this for a decade, so I’ve compiled my best tips for how to work from home to help you remote work newbies! Read the whole article to learn how to work from home like a professional hermit or click a link in the table of contents below to jump directly to the section that will help you the most.

How to Work From Home Like a Professional Hermit

I’ve been working at home for the better part of a decade so it’s mostly business as usual at my house — except for the fear that we’ll run out of toilet paper because of all the hoarders.

I say it’s business as usual, but in all actuality, our situation is a bit unique as we are currently living in a super cheap off-season Airbnb on the shores of Lake Michigan. One of the cool things about having the freedom to work from home.

I don’t say that to minimize or downplay the seriousness of what we are going through or its impact on business. I had two of my largest clients (probably heavily invested in the stock market) disappear three days before their bills were due. We’ve had several projects canceled and delayed, and like many Americans, we are wondering how we will make it through this crisis — looking to diminishing personal funds and stalled government talks wondering how we will pay our bills when entire industries are stalled.

But I do know a thing or two about working from home — and I know many of you are struggling with adjustments to your workflow on top of all the other chaos in the world. So let me save you some time and give you the best lessons I’ve learned about working from home in the last decade of my self-imposed social isolation. Read on to learn how to work from home like a professional hermit.

How to work from home like a professional hermit and tips for your ideal work from home routine
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

You are in charge of your work when you work from home.

Many of the lessons I learned about working from home took years of shaking off the ways I’d been told I was “supposed” to work. It wasn’t a matter of unlearning bad habits so much as a matter of learning myself. Our society values and promotes a very specific work routine, and frankly, it’s not the best fit for a lot of people.

When you are working from home, you have total control over your work routine. You choose when to take your breaks, how to schedule your day, and where you work. You decide what tools and resources to surround yourself with and how to store your things. In many cases, you will also be facing more freedom in determining what you work on as distant bosses empower employees in new ways to minimize interaction.

This freedom is the primary benefit of working from home. Optimizing your personal workflow will increase your productivity (which can increase output or decrease time spent on tasks — you get to choose) and increase your quality of life.

How To Optimize Your Work From Home Routine

It’s going to sound cheesy, but the first thing you have to do is spend some time taking inventory of yourself. This can be done through journaling or simple reflection, but you need to ask some important questions to help determine your ideal personal workflow and work routine.

When do you feel the most productive?

You’re used to working a daily grind of 9–5, but that just isn’t how the majority of people work best. Some people operate better early in the morning; some people prefer starting later in the morning; others work best at night. Figure out when you feel the most productive, and know that this could be different for different types of tasks.

How long can you focus on work at one time?

I cannot focus for short amounts of time. I have to have at least a solid hour to work on something, and if it’s a big project — I need the entire day blocked out or at least a large portion of it. What is your focus like? Do you prefer jumping around to lots of different tasks to keep yourself interested or do you need to focus for a long time on one thing to get into a flow?

What types of tasks do you work on throughout the day?

Most jobs require several different types of tasks — some are more mind-numbing and can be completed while you binge-watch the latest episode of your favorite show. Others require intense concentration or creativity. As you think about the types of tasks your job requires, consider which tasks you can batch to handle them more productively. Set schedules to handle certain types of tasks once a week or once a month. Switching gears between tasks (and windows/tabs in your browser) takes up a lot more time than you realize. Batching can cut your workflow down significantly.

What other goals would you like to work on throughout the day?

When you’re at the office, the options for your 15-minute break are pretty limited, but when you work from home, your breaks are as long as you’d like. Maybe you’ll cook a healthy lunch or practice yoga. Maybe you’ll take an hour in the middle of the day to learn a new language, connect with friends on social media, or play guitar. When you work from home, you can also live from home at the same time. You just might be surprised at how much you enjoy life when you have time to live it.

You just might be surprised at how much you enjoy life when you have time to live it.

Need help with goal-setting? I’ve got a unique method to weed through the creative clutter in my dreamer’s brain and focus on the priorities that really matter.

How to Work From Home: Ideal Work From Home Routine

Considering all the things you’ve just discovered about your personal workflow, now you have to develop the ideal work from home routine. Up until now, this advice has probably seemed pretty free-reign, free-love, hippy-dippy in nature — but when it comes to establishing a routine, you need to be more rigid with yourself. Time has a way of getting away. A schedule is how you reign it in and keep yourself on track. When you work from home, Excel spreadsheets and email are just as capable of stealing all your time as The Bachelor reruns or your neverending Facebook feed of whackos.

How to work from home like a professional hermit and tips for your ideal work from home routine
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Your Email Schedule Is Yours When You Work From Home

I never jump straight into my email when I first wake up in the morning — well, sometimes I do… but I pay for it in focus and mood the rest of the day. Having a personal morning routine that comes before I check my email was one of the changes I made that really helped my anxiety. You don’t realize how inundated you are by email, but if you don’t have a specific routine for when to check it, you are probably wasting a lot of time and mental energy. I have my primary inbox tabs open at all times, but I only check them between tasks to keep myself focused unless I am waiting on a specific response from someone.

Switching gears between tasks (and windows/tabs in your browser) takes up a lot more time than you realize. Batching can cut your workflow down significantly.

Splitting Your Day When You Work From Home

Although it isn’t right for everyone, you should definitely consider splitting your workday. Rather than doing all of your work during 7 or 8 consecutive hours, consider scattering work chunks throughout your day. Although this may seem like you’ll be working all day, it actually allows you to live all day — scattering your work tasks between the things you love to do and need to do to sustain your life and your household. Rather than working on work for 7 hours and then cooking/cleaning/laundry for 3, try mixing your household chores in with your work and give yourself a couple small entertainment breaks. Or try splitting your work into day work (emails, calls, business maintenance while the world is accessible) and night work (creative or research-based projects for after the world goes to bed).

Live all day.

Mindless Tasks On Autopilot When You Work From Home

One of the best benefits of working from home is being able to do other things during your mindless task work. If you have data entry or other plug and chug repetitive tasks that you can practically do in your sleep, lump them all together and do them while you are watching your favorite shows or movies or listening to your favorite musician do a live stream performance.

Write it Down — But Be Flexible

Write down your ideal work from home routine and do your best to follow it. Note what works and what doesn’t and be flexible with yourself. You can make changes to your overall routine as needed, and yes, you can make changes to your daily routine on a whim. How flexible you should be with your schedule depends on how much rigidity and structure you need to work effectively. Most people need the structure of a routine to keep themselves on track so don’t just throw it away on a whim. Instead, adapt it to fit your needs.

Time has a way of getting away.

A schedule is how you reign it in and keep yourself on track.

Different Days, Different Schedules

Optimizing different days for different tasks, schedules, or types of work, can have dramatic impacts on your productivity and quality of life. I actually have a few different routines that I mix and match depending on the types of projects I am working on to increase my productivity and keep me in the optimal state of flow. The key is to make every day a healthy mix of productivity and life-living. If you like the routine of the same thing every day, then stick with that — but if you thrive best with a bit of chaos, this can be a good way to inject it without throwing your whole system out of whack.

The key is to make every day a healthy mix of productivity and life-living.

How to Work From Home Comfortably From a Bed or Couch

I don’t have a home office, and I’ve never worked out of one. Although I very occasionally work from a desk or table, almost all of my work has been completed from a bed or a couch with a simple laptop, and I’d hazard to guess that I am one of the most comfortable workers around.

How to work from home like a professional hermit and tips for your ideal work from home routine
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Legs Out Front

I don’t know if this is a matter of preference, because I’m super short, or because it’s really the best and most comfortable way to work — but I suggest working with your legs out front even if you are working on a couch. That means you need a footrest or recliner. If you don’t have one, just move another chair in front of your seat.

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

If you’re trying to figure out how to work comfortably from your couch or bed, pillows are the answer. My favorite work at home pillow setup uses 7 pillows. You can adjust as needed, but here are some suggestions:

Armrests — I usually sit against one of the couch armrests for additional support. On the other side of me, I use 1 or 2 pillows to build an arm rest. If you are in bed, building an armrest on at least one side of you will keep you more comfortable.

Headrest — I don’t always use pillows to build a headrest, but if I’m going to be settling in for a long batch of computer work, it can help. Combine a firm pillow to fill the space between the wall and your head and a soft pillow for comfort

Back Support — Place a firmer pillow at the lower back and a softer pillow at the upper back for good support. A neck pillow or additional pillow at the neck can be helpful as well. Feather or shredded memory foam pillows work excellent for back support when working from a bed or couch.

Desks for Working From a Bed or Couch

I don’t have a lap desk, though I’ve thought about purchasing one. For me, a pillow works just fine — though you should always put something hard on top of the pillow so your laptop doesn’t overheat. A large cutting board works well.

Bonus Tip: Use several pillows to position your laptop higher during conference calls.

Side Table for Essentials

If you are working from a bed or couch, you need a side table to keep a drink, notebook, pen, your phone, and who knows what other nonsense you need to do your job. Keep it accessible, keep it clean, and keep it organized.

Dealing With Family & Roommates When You Work From Home

If you are the type of person who requires quiet in order to work then it can be difficult living with other people while you work from home. Be honest with yourself and your family and roommates about your needs for quiet time and uninterrupted work time. This can be particularly challenging if you have children, but carving out time for your work is critical to working from home.

If you live with other people and especially if you have children, creating a home office is going to be a necessity — even if it’s a corner of the room. Help your family and roommates understand that when you are working (headphones on or in a certain place or looking at your computer), you should only be disturbed for emergencies.

Dealing With Feelings of Isolation When You Work From Home

All new remote workers should be aware of their mental health as increased isolation may affect you negatively. If you start feeling depressed, reach out to a healthcare professional. There are plenty of telehealth options for counseling and therapy these days, but simple adjustments to your routine may help. Make an effort to take care of your mental health during this time by meditating, getting plenty of sunlight, drinking water, and exercising. Take time to relax. Hot showers are my go-to.

If you are used to working in an office environment, you likely already miss the daily conversations you had at work. Replacing that type of easy built-in connection can be difficult for remote workers. Just because you’re isolated physically doesn’t mean you can’t connect with others socially. Connect on social media or through phone calls and video chats. Looking for new friends and connections? Comment on your favorite articles online. Join new groups on social media. Start conversations.

I love working from home; I literally cannot imagine working any other way. Being in control of your own working environment and routine is challenging in the beginning, but once you figure out the best setup for you, you’ll be amazed at the level of productivity and quality of life you experience. I believe that as more Americans experience the benefits of working from home, it will be difficult to convince them to come back to crowded and poorly lit offices.

I strongly suggest keeping track of your work routine as it changes. Note increases in productivity and output so that if you want to make a case for continued remote work, you have evidence to do so.

What are your favorite tips for working from home?

Like this post? You might enjoy my post on goal setting for creatives if you struggle with traditional resolutions and goal setting like I do!