The Work-From-Home Tips Real Simple Editors Swear By
We’ve been working from home for almost three months now. Here’s how we get everything done.
Working from home isn’t for everyone, but the last few months of lockdown, social distancing, and precautions against spreading COVID-19 have forced most office workers to switch to full-time remote work anyway. Working from home comes with many luxuries, but it also has its own challenges—including managing motivation and focus while surrounded by the comforts of home.
In the last two to three months, most people new to the WFH life probably have developed their own working from home tips. Still, with many office workers across the country—especially in large cities and those working for large, national or international employers—expecting to continue working from home for the foreseeable future, it may be time to adjust your home office situation to pick up a few tricks to make the coming weeks and months of remote work a little more pleasant.
With that in mind, Real Simple’s editors have shared the tips, tricks, and hacks they’ve picked up over the last three months of working from home. Whether you’re working from home and managing childcare at the same time, struggling to adjust to working in a small space without a home office, or otherwise adjusting to this new reality, read on for the methods our editors are trying.
1 Find the right background noise
I owe a lot to two Spotify gems that work wonders when I need to focus. One is a playlist of Mozart’s Sonatas—I just put it on shuffle and immediately get in the zone. The second is a 10-minute “Warm Pink Noise” sound—I set it on repeat and get totally absorbed in the task I’m doing. Both have helped me find concentration and mental solitude while working in a house full of people and distractions. – Maggie Seaver, Associate Digital Editor
2 Set boundaries
I have definitely struggled because there’s no real reason to ever “turn off.” I’m used to having morning and evening events with meetings throughout the day, so like everyone else, I’ve never spent this much time in front of my screen. Where I used to come home and enjoy watching TV, I don’t even do that anymore because my eyes and mind need a break from screen time. Instead, I’m reading a lot more (physical books—not on a device) and listening to meditative podcasts or books on Audible at the end of the day to wind down.
I’m trying to really set boundaries for myself while still being productive, and for me, that means walking around for a minute (from my living room to kitchen) once an hour when my Apple watch signals me it’s time to stand. And even when I want to do that extra work thing I think of on the weekend or at midnight—there’s not much stopping me because I live in my office now—I’m making a conscious effort to stop and think before acting. “Can this wait until work hours?” I ask myself. Spoiler alert: The answer is usually yes. – Lisa DeSantis, Deputy Beauty Director
3 Create your dream workspace
Get a dog.
Get a kid who is shockingly, blessedly self-directed when it comes to distance learning.
Create a space to work outside. Three months ago, it was all about creating something that could front as a home office. Now it’s about fashioning a spot in our weed patch backyard where I can comfortably do work (the umbrella is in the mail as I type). I’ve been working every summer for more than 30 years, and I could never total up the times I’ve sat at a desk on a glorious summer day and stared outside longingly, like, if only I could work out there. And despite everything that feels hard and impossible now, I actually CAN work outside this summer. So I will. (It helps to have a cabinetmaker husband, who’s built me an outdoor sofa so far and will surely have other things on his punch list as I figure out what I need.) – Rory Evans, Executive Editor
4 Find your work buddy
My brother and I are the only ones in our immediate family who still have full-time jobs and have found it very helpful to set up our workstations in my living room and pretend like it’s our actual office and we are coworkers. We take coffee breaks together and have helped each other stay motivated since we stablished this system. I highly recommend working side by side with a family member that has a similar work schedule. – Flavia Nunez, Fashion Editor
5 Balance what you can—and accept what you can’t
I have a specific place in my apartment that is designated for work—and I keep the rest of my home separate for relaxing and living my personal life.
As far as balancing work and kids in the same space, it’s nearly impossible, in my opinion. Pretty much everyone I work with now knows my daughter because she can’t resist popping on camera during my meetings. – Heather Morgan Shott, Senior Director, Digital Content Strategy
6 Branch out
Home, huh? I have felt incredibly privileged to have a space in which to work, and the health with which to function here. But I’ve also felt incredibly disconnected not being able to commute into New York City. It’s easy to become isolated and lose perspective on people, families, towns, that look different from mine. The thing that’s helped me the most is to read. Not just social media, but to read newspapers both national and local, progressive and conservative. To read novels that illuminate life experiences I can never know. Reading widely helps me make sure that my work doesn’t become small. – Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief
7 Establish transitions
At the beginning of working from home, I had trouble with the morning transition into work mode and knew I needed some type of routine to ease me into the day. So, I started devoting about an hour before I start work to a few tasks that put me in a good headspace. I journal and reflect on how I’m feeling, read a couple chapters of an uplifting book (currently Glennon Doyle’s Untamed), and do a quick meditation through an app. It feels good to be able to give myself that time and I know that the work I do afterward is better for it! – Brandi Broxson, Senior Editor
8 Sit up
I’m sure this isn’t revolutionary for most people, but sitting up STRAIGHT really helps me focus while I’m working from home. For example, if I’m on the sofa, I can’t let myself get too cozy, so I make it a point to sit facing forward. I try to sit at the table, too. – Leslie Corona, Senior Associate Home Editor
9 Keep everything corralled
At the end of the day, I’ve found that leaving my work computer, planner, mousepad, or any other work equipment sitting out keeps me thinking about work, and since I don’t have a home office or separate workspace, it feels like I can’t turn off my work-brain. To adjust to my small space, I found a large tote bag. At the end of every day, I gather all my work accessories, put them in the bag, and tuck the bag in a safe, out-of-the-way corner. It’s my signal to my brain that work is done for the day. – Lauren Phillips, SEO Editor