Organizations are continuing to find ways to protect workers from the threat of coronavirus (COVID-19). Many businesses are encouraging employees to work from home to try ebbing the spread of germs and keep staff safe.

Prior to the global health crisis, remote work was more common than ever, with 43 percent of Americans working from home at least occasionally, according to Gallup. A recent survey by PwC found that even after COVID-19 is no longer a concern, 55 percent of executives anticipate most of their employees will work from home at least one day per week.

That may sound like a dream for those with a long commute or for people who crave a more flexible schedule, but if you’re not used to it, it could be daunting—and it may take time to adjust.

Are you concerned you'll have trouble staying focused or worried you'll miss out on team collaboration and regular interaction with your colleagues? To help you make a smooth transition and stay engaged, here are eight steps you can take to start working from home more effectively.

How to Work from Home

1. Create a Dedicated Space

One of the most important ways to make sure your time at home is productive is to create a defined space that can serve as your office. In an ideal world, you’ll have a spare or guest room that can double as a home office, but even a small corner of your kitchen table will suffice.

Once you identify the space, turn it into a work-like environment. Proper furniture and lighting can make a difference. A desk and office chair are optimal, but any table or counter will work—especially temporarily. If work-from-home is more than just a passing phase, you might want to invest in actual office furniture. No matter what, working from a bed or couch—which you likely equate with relaxation and leisure—could be a productivity killer.

Related: Are Online Classes Worth It? 12 Pros & Cons of Online Learning

2. Have the Proper Technology

If your work computer is a laptop, it should be easy enough to get up-and-running. Yet if you’re typically on your computer all day, you may want to invest in an additional monitor and keyboard. Your employer may supply or cover the cost of necessary equipment, but if it’s your choice to work from home, you might have to pay for it yourself.

Other equipment and technology to consider:

  • Desk light
  • High-speed internet access
  • Printer
  • Landline for dependable phone connections
  • Camera for FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom meetings

3. Establish Firm Office Hours and Set Boundaries

It can be easy for people who work from home to get distracted and start tidying around the house or surfing social media. To make sure you stay on task, establish firm office hours and do your best to stick to a defined schedule.

It’s a good idea to set ground rules for other people in your household and make it clear that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re free to run errands or provide rides.

One potential pitfall of working from home is allowing your work time to bleed into home time. By setting specific work hours and making a point to shut down at night, you’ll be fresh and ready for the next day.

4. Dress for Work

One trick for getting in the right mindset for at-home work is to groom and dress as if you’re going to the office. It may be tempting to skip a shower or stay in your pajamas, but that’s ill-advised.

“If you’re dressed for bed, your brain will think it’s bedtime,” writes The Guardian's fashion expert Hadley Freeman. “Putting on a suit or smart dress gets the work mindset. I have a friend who likes to work from home in party dresses, as they make her feel like she is a) on it and b) having fun, even though she is sitting in her living room and knocking out more advertising copy.”

A party dress may be taking it too far, but, by waking up, eating breakfast, and getting dressed, it may be easier to transition into a work state of mind.

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5. Make “Work” Friends

One possible loss you may experience when you start working from home is collaboration, teamwork, or, simply, human contact. As you’re adjusting, schedule meetings with colleagues to brainstorm or just catch up by phone or FaceTime.

Some remote workers enjoy spending their time at a local coffee shop or library, simply to have contact with other people. You could reach out to neighbors who work from home and meet for coffee to get the social time you may miss from being in the office.

6. Stay Connected with Your Team

While it’s important to maintain a healthy social life in general while working from home, it’s also important to stay connected with your team.

If you’re in a supervisory role, you may be facing new challenges when it comes to managing remote employees. With a dispersed team, it can be difficult to encourage collaboration, foster engagement, and ensure productivity. Keep the line of communication open between yourself and your teammates throughout the workday so you can effectively work together toward common goals.

As an individual contributor, it’s also important to regularly communicate with your boss and coworkers to keep progress flowing smoothly. Using an instant messenger like Microsoft Teams or Slack can help you stay in touch throughout the day.

7. Limit Distractions

Working from home can bring multiple distractions that you don’t typically encounter in an office setting. It may be tempting to leave the television on in the background or wash a load of laundry while you’re on the clock, but doing so can hinder your productivity.

Take steps to limit distractions and create an effective work environment. Remember that the added comfort of telecommuting shouldn’t come as a sacrifice to your job performance.

8. Coordinate with Others in the Home

If your household has more than one person working from home, it’s important to be respectful of each other.

Coordinating schedules ahead of a busy day can help you avoid disruptions and unnecessary stress in your relationships. If you know you have video calls throughout the day, for example, let others know in advance so they can plan ahead. If you expect others to be quiet while you’re working, be sure to return the courtesy when they have meetings.

Related: How to Work from Home When Your Kids Are Home, Too

Working from Home Effectively

There are many benefits to working from home, like less time sitting and more time for exercise or spending time with loved ones. With a bit of planning, and by following these simple steps, you should be able to be productive and focused while working from home and have more time for things you enjoy.

If you find you have extra time that you might otherwise have spent commuting, consider sharpening your skills by downloading our free business essentials e-book and taking an online course. Check out our course catalog for a variety of engaging and interactive courses on business fundamentals.

This post was updated on September 4, 2020. It was originally published on March 12, 2020.

Michele Reynolds

About the Author

Michele Reynolds handles brand marketing and PR for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to HBS Online, she led communications for TripAdvisor and Gazelle and has been widely quoted in national media outlets, including CBS News, Reuters, and The New York Times. Michele earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. Outside work, she spends time with her teenage daughter, plays tennis, and visits her enormous extended family.