Home working: how to stay sane and productive


Yes, you've probably read this before, but I'm still going to post it!

Read this first: How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind

That article perfectly describes everything I've learned (either the hard way, or by reading other articles) about my experiences while working from home.

And I consider myself somewhat of a veteran:

  • In 2019: I worked from home for 33 days (out the ~200 that I've worked)
  • In 2020: I've already racked up 30 days as of writing this
  • I work with a team of about 20 people, spread across 8 countries and 6 timezones. There's only three of those in Belgium, and I've only met about half of them physically. The rest I've only ever seen through a webcam. So basically my entire team is remote and the only way to talk to them is through Mail/Teams/Jabber/…

So tips for working from home:

  • Get dressed, get out of bed, get out of the couch. Keep your regular routine. Wake up at your regular hour, go to sleep at your regular hour, eat lunch at 12:00, etc.
  • Let people know during what times you're available. It doesn't need to be 9-5, but people need to know that when they call/mail/chat you, they can expect a response. Same goes for running errands etc: let people know you're AFK, and for approximately how long.
  • Have a seperate workspace: a proper home office. Get a proper desk and chair (ideally the same things as what you have at the company office). And a monitor, keyboard, mouse, laptopstand, …
  • Stay hydrated: put a bottle of water next to you. It helps against unhealthy snacking, and keeps you healthy and hydrated throughout the day.
  • Remind your team that you're still there: be a little more verbose on Teams/Slack/Chat than you normally are.
  • Don't do things that you wouldn't do at the office: no Netflix, no working from bed, …
  • Take a proper lunch break, it's easy to just keep working and eat at your desk, but you really do need a break to stay productive.
  • Get physical! You need 10k steps a day to stay healthy. If you don't commute back and forth to your work, that's about 3000 steps less for me. So you've gotta compensate for that somehow. Go get lunch from a grocery store nearby and go on foot, or by bike. Take a walk around the block when you've finished your day.
  • When it's 5pm, shut your laptop down, close it and start a decompression ritual (something to make your body and mind aware that it's now OK to relax). I recommend stuff like: cleaning up your desk, vacuuming the house, taking a shower, going for a walk/run, getting groceries.

Tips for dealing with remote colleagues:

  • Create a ‘watercooler’ chatroom: mute notifications for it so you don't get disturbed. Post anything in there that you normally would talk to your colleauges about: movies, what you did last weekend, latest news, cool articles related to your job, funny cat videos.
  • Get personal: get a one on one chat going with your colleagues, for more informal one-to-one topics.
  • Share your screen (and ideas): if you would've gone over to your colleagues desk and talked about something together there: start a meeting instead. Share your screen and share your ideas. Jot down ideas in Microsoft OneNote, Notepad, Evernote, …
  • Get a daily standup meeting going: get everyone together in one meeting, once per day (ideally the start of the day) and let every teammember answer three questions: What did you do yesterday, what will you do today, and are you blocked by something?
  • Record everything, and record it with written words. This one is especially useful if you've got teammembers in different timezones. If you discuss something in a meeting during Europe office hours, write down the meeting notes and share them with the entire team. This way, once the American team wakes up, they can read up on whatever decisions have been made and chime in with their ideas as well. Write it down, don't record meetings: it's impossible to ctrl+f on a video. It's very easy to do so in slack.

And that's it. That's all I can think of right now.

Stay sane, stay at home!