By now many of you have had to pack up your desks and set them up at home and continue your regular scheduled work days from there. Now I’m sure that most of you are very excited to work in pajamas, avoid a commute & have the TV on in the background…

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that is not going to do anything for your productivity PLUS you’re going to start feeling like a depressed slob pretty quickly.

As a company Realistic has always operated under a remote model. Before we had offices we worked solely from our homes, so we know a thing or two about how to have a successful work-from-home environment.

We’ve compiled a list of six tips to help you make the most of your home office:

Tip #1 – Set a Routine

This step is crucial for work-at-home success, and is our #1 tip for a reason.  The easiest way to ruin productivity when working from home is to NOT have a morning routine.  Get up, work out (if that’s something you do in the morning) take a shower, put your grown-up clothes on, do your hair and make-up and make your bed.  Doing so wakes up your brain and body and puts your mind into work mode.

Tip #2 – Create a Work Station

If you don’t have an office in your house, it’s important to set up a place where you are going to have zero distractions.  This means you probably shouldn’t be posted up on the couch in front of the TV – BUT – if that’s your only place to sit down, we recommend putting a sheet over the TV.  That way, if you are tempted to binge Tiger King you have to physically get up and remove the sheet (more on this in a moment).

If possible, find a place at your dining room table with your back to anything that might be distracting. Set up your workspace to match your office so your brain can more easily get into the zone.

Also, play around with spaces in your house as your needs change.  For example, you may want to be set up by the window so you can see outside and take in some much needed sunlight.  Find an area that will best suit your comfort and allow you to concentrate. It may take a week or so to figure out so don’t get discouraged.

Tip #3 – Create “Distraction Shields”

Once your workspace is established, you’ll need to protect yourself from distractions.  Our favorite method is putting on our headphones and playing calming music to help us find a flow state.  If music itself is distracting, try some crowd noise sounds or a white noise playlist.  We don’t recommend listening to podcasts if you’re trying to concentrate.

Setting boundaries with the people you live with is also important. This is no different than telling a co-worker who keeps stopping by to chat, “hey thanks, but I need to get something done, could you come back later?”  The key is to be clear and consistent in setting these boundaries and respecting those of your housemates in return.

Tip #4 – Take Breaks

One of the major benefits of working from home is not having people drop by your desk and interrupt you.  This allows you to get more done in shorter amounts of time, but can also create an over-focused funnel where you’ll realize it’s 2pm and you’ve been working straight for 6 hours non-stop!

Set a timer to take a walk, work out, or even have a dance party with yourself. When you crank all day without a break, it’s a sure-fire way to burn out.

Tip #5 – Host Smarter Meetings

This one might be one of the more challenging ones if you and your team aren’t accustomed to having meetings remotely.  Missed social cues, talking over each other and the lack of a clear agenda can cause people to mentally check-out or miss crucial information.

When hosting a remote meeting, a lot of energy and nuance gets lost in translation so you have to act as though you’re on stage.  Don’t be afraid to over-enunciate and be a little more animated than normal. Also, designate one person to be the meeting host or moderator.  Their job will be to keep everyone on the agenda and maintain focus if people start talking over each other.

As for which video conferencing tools to use, we recommend Google Hangouts or Zoom.  This allows everyone to see each other and even setup rules where users can be muted until the moderator calls on them.  We don’t recommend traditional conference calls by phone unless you have a small team who is seasoned to working that way.

Tip #6 – Find Your Flow

If you’re not familiar with flow states, give this link a quick read.  As the days drag on and the novelty of working from home wears off, it will become increasingly important to figure out how to inspire flow states day-to-day.

For us, the best time for a flow state is in the morning.  We minimize all meetings and inter-company chatter in the mornings to allow ourselves the longest runway to find flow and get stuff done.  Some days this can’t be helped, and we try to adjust so that we have at least one 3-4 hour block of uninterrupted time in our day.

This last tip also ties in nicely with Tip #3.  Setting clear boundaries and expectations to both your housemates and remote co-workers is key in creating flow states and experimenting with optimum time in your day.

We realize this is a big change for a lot of you and not everyone can easily adjust.  Hopefully we were able to provide you with some helpful advice that will help you make the most of your remote work and maybe even create some positive habits for when we’re all back at the office again.