As thrilling as it may be to sit pantless eating Pringles on your couch for the few glorious days you’re allowed to work from home, it turns out there are better ways to get the most out of telecommuting. And even if you rarely find yourself toiling behind your laptop at home, keep this in mind: by next year it’s estimated roughly 63 million Americans will be telecommuting on the regular.
With that in mind, we asked a few of our colleagues who spend most of their 9-to-5s at home to help us compile a trusty list of tips and tricks for getting sh*t done.
1. Have a designated office and close the door
Make sure whoever you live with knows that you’re working, and not to interrupt. Avoid common spaces and post a sign or note on the door that indicates you’re “at the office.” If they need you, ask them to text or call—it’s essential to establish boundaries for both psychological and productivity purposes.
2. Stick to a schedule
It’s easy to feel like it’s a free-for-all without formal office boundaries, so set up a routine that keeps you on task. As convenient as telecommuting may seem, when you’re already home you’ll likely find yourself working longer or later than usual, so keeping a strict schedule will force you start and stop at reasonable hours.
3. Set up shop near natural light
There’s more than a little evidence to suggest that natural light plays an instrumental role in our quality of work and productivity. If you can’t find a proper private spot near a window or skylight, though, pick up a full spectrum lamp.
4. Get a standing workstation
We’ve said it before, but the benefits of a standing desk cannot be overstated. Keep one of these guys around, or simply move your setup to a counter or tall table and spend at least a few hours working on your feet.
5. Get on Slack
Rather than drown in a sea of emails, phone calls, and instant messages to communicate with your colleagues, convince your manager to get the team using Slack. It’s a glorious (and gif-friendly) centralized communication platform that allows you to do everything—chat, share documents, send files, etc.—all in one place.
6. Go the hell outside
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s shockingly easy to hole up for an entire day and forget you haven’t actually stepped foot out the door. Bad idea. The change of scenery is not only good for your mental health, but exposure to fresh air and nature has been shown to improve cognitive ability.
7. No TVs
Unless you’ve been hired to annotate every episode of The Price Is Right, do NOT turn on the TV. If you need white noise to focus, stick to music.
8. Allow yourself the occasional casual day
When you feel you’ve earned it, treat yourself to some time working from bed or spread out on the couch. If you’re up for it, consider picking up one of these to make it even more comfortable.
9. Get ready every morning
Why bother wearing anything more than sweatpants, right? Wrong. Getting in the habit of waking up just before you need to sign in for the day is no good. You should start every morning as if you were headed off to the office, showered, shaved, and dressed. Not only because you’re a civilized human adult, but because it will also help put you in the frame of mind that you’re actually headed to work and not simply settling in for a day of lounging around the house.
10. Keep your desk clean and presentable
There may not be anyone around to see your wreck of a workstation, but who knows when the boss may announce an impromptu video conference call. You don’t want to be caught shirtless covered in crumbs and clutter.
11. Eat a proper lunch
Don’t graze on crackers and cheese and call it a meal. Use the fact that you’re not relying on to-go garbage food to stock up on groceries and make something slightly healthy. It’s also important to make lunch plans with professional contacts and friends a couple times a week. Do all you can to avoid letting yourself go full-hermit for five days.
12. Buy some plants
Having greenery in offices can boost output by 15 percent, according to a recent study by Cardiff University’s School of Psychology. Plus, Tim Ferris—productivity guru and author of bestsellers The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body—swears by setting up a spot alongside his “indoor rainforest” when working at home.
13. Remind yourself how much commuting sucks
It may sound corny, but it’s the truth. When you’re feeling bummed or burned out, remember how awesome it is that you don’t have to deal with traffic or crowded subways twice a day.