Many workers used to dream of working from home, but now that dream is a fast-growing reality for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But if you’re just figuring your way around remote work for the first time, or never had to make it your main practice before this, you might be finding it difficult to adjust to your new routine. Fortunately, there are a handful of tips and tricks that can help you not only be more productive, but keep you motivated and having fun with it.

Here’s our 17 top tips and tricks to keep you whistling while you work-from-home!

  1. Explore New Platforms

You don’t just have to stick to the first communication and team project platform that you find. There are many varieties of apps to choose from (Slack, Hangouts, Zoom, Asana, etc.), and they all offer different things. Start by fully exploring the one you currently use, and seeing if there are previously underutilized tools that can help you more. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, digging into some new platforms can unearth some surprising results!

  1. Don’t Be Afraid Of Cross-Talk

When you’re in a “live” office environment, you can find yourself staying connected through background chatter. We don’t always realize how connected we are thanks to the friendly ‘eavesdropping’ that happens when you work in an office.

While chat software allows you to have 1-on-1 private conversations, you’ll find yourself narrowing the amount of perspectives when you only problem solve with one person at a time. Whenever possible, you should bring up discussion points in a group channel, because you never know who will be able to weigh in with some golden wisdom!

  1. Leave Video Messages

When you can’t reach someone right away, your first inclination might be to leave them a voicemail or shoot them an email. But then you lose the holistic approach to communicating that video offers.

Video really is the best option to present ideas besides talking in-person, and there are plenty of online tools that can let you leave a pre-recorded video or even a recording of a screen share!

  1. Turn Your Training And FAQs Into Films

Whether it’s a narrated webinar featuring slides, or a live action video, turning your in-house and client-facing information resources into interactive and engaging cinematic content is a surefire way to boost your engagement!

Especially when face-to-face training is no longer possible, having a human touch to your educational pieces can do wonders. It also makes a great project for instructors who may not be able to lead their usual courses!

  1. Speed Up Your File Sharing

Make sure your team is on the same page and using the same platforms for online cloud storage, whether that’s Google Drive, Dropbox, or otherwise.

Ensure your file and folder sharing settings are set correctly, so there’s no back-and-forth requesting permission on important documents.

What’s more, you can integrate storage platforms like these with many project management tools, such as syncing Google Drive with Slack!

  1. Collaborate Your Calendars

Setting up calendars that communicate availability will help you plan your productivity, and make scheduling meetings child’s play!

Remember, most people will prefer to keep their work and personal calendars separate, so consider finding a common option that allows people to share only their work-related schedule, and make updates easily.

  1. Digitize Your To-Do List

Whether for yourself, or for group projects, having a platform that lets you categorize, prioritize, and synchronize your list of to-dos is organization 101.

Try something like Asana, so that collaborators can break down larger projects into subtasks and structure their schedule around what needs to be done, as well as store data about what’s already been completed.

  1. Stay Calm And Try Zenware

Zenware is any type of software designed to minimize distractions and improve focus and productivity. It does this by avoiding messy toolbars, confusing navigation options, and pop-up notifications.

If you have work that involves focusing on something for extended periods of time, such as programming or writing lengthy texts, then consider using software that removes every element except for what you really, really need to do your work!

  1. Firewall Yourself So You Can Focus

Tools, such as the open-source software “SelfControl”, can help you avoid your biggest online distractions by allowing you to set timed-release firewalls on certain websites.

Find yourself spending too much time on Reddit? Facebook? Your personal email inbox? Whatever the case may be, putting virtual locks on these time wasters can let you maximize your work time!

  1. Bring Your Background To The Forefront Of The Fun

Some video conference platforms, such as Zoom, let you mess around by offering different pre-selected or custom virtual backgrounds for your video feed.

That means that you can make it look like you’re streaming from the Taj Mahal, the middle of the ocean, or even outer space!

As a bonus, it can hide your messy or bland background if you haven’t set up a good video space at home yet!

  1. Put A Pin In It

Using visual collaboration tools that mimic real life lets you and your team brainstorm together just like you were working with pen and paper.

Try something like PinItTo.Me, a free app that lets you organize your ideas on a persistent online “corkboard” by creating, dragging, and dropping digital post-it notes. 

  1. Work Hard, Filter Harder

While it may not always make work more productive, playing around with image and video filters sure makes it more fun!

For instance, you can install SnapCamera by Snapchat. Just like Snapchat’s augmented reality filters in their own app, it allows you to use filters on your computer’s webcam feed.

Why not have everyone show off their favourite at your next touchpoint meeting? Just maybe don’t try it at your investor relations meeting…

  1. It’s “Lights”, THEN Camera, Action…

Like a sunflower, light can completely change the way you look.

If you’re doing regular video calls, make sure you have soft, natural lighting set up in your home office space. It’s a best practice to keep the light source BEHIND the camera, to avoid glare and triggering any automatic brightness levels set by your video software.

Make sure your space is also set up for your own comfort. Poor lighting can increase eye strain and even make you feel sluggish, especially if you’ll be working from your computer all day.

  1. Use Headphones With A Good Microphone

Headphones help reduce background noise, especially in a noisy home. Same with a good microphone that’s designed to be used up close.

Many earbuds have a built-in microphone, which can be great! Just make sure the mic hole isn’t rubbing against your clothes or desk, which can cause annoying sounds on the other end of the line.

  1. Quiet On Set!

When you’re going into a video call, make sure you minimize distracting sounds in the background.

This can involve setting boundaries with roommates or family members in the home, and letting them know you need quiet.

If that’s not enough, try live noise-reduction software, such as Krisp, that tries to edit out those annoyances in real-time.

  1. Maximize Your Monitors

If you’re moving from an office desktop to a laptop, you may notice a smaller screen size. There’s a fun and easy way around this, however!

First, if you have a second computer monitor, you should be able to hook it up in no time. Because what’s better than one screen? That’s right. Two screens.

And what’s even better than a second screen that’s the same size? A second screen that’s even bigger! Repurposing your entertainment devices, like TVs and projectors, can let you really work on the bigger picture.

Just be sure you consider camera placement if using another screen for video calls, as you want to ensure you are still facing forwards, from your audience’s perspective.

  1. Put Up A Stop Sign

Not an actual sign, but rather a signal for yourself to stop work for the day when it’s time to punch out.

It’s easy to let the lines blur between work and homelife when they both take place in the same space, but it’s important for your wellbeing to keep them separated somehow.

We recommend having a fun routine or activity you practice before and after work, that signals to your brain it’s time to switch it up! Take the dog for a walk, have a tea, change your outfit, whatever reminds you to stop, drop everything, and keep rolling on.