The dos and don’ts of working from home



Read time
6 mins


If you’re not used to working away from the office, it can be tricky to make the switch. Our top 10 dos and don’ts will help you adjust

Whether you’re working at home to cut down on your commuting time (and vehicle emissions), create more capacity to care for friends or relatives, or because of social distancing restrictions related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), it’s an indisputable fact that a greater proportion of the workforce is working from home than ever.

Working remotely brings with it a number of perks – an uplift in productivity is one of the most often-cited benefits – but loneliness and communication difficulties are real risks.

To make working from home a success, you’ll need some basic guidelines and principles. Here are our key dos and don’ts for successful remote working.

Do maintain regular contact with your team

Just because you’re working away from your physical workplace doesn’t mean you’ll be working ‘on your own’ or without access to vital files and systems – modern digital tools should mean that working remotely is almost the same as working in your office. While you won’t be able to enjoy a quick hat at the kettle with colleagues and friends, tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Workplace by Facebook will help you keep in touch with peers and staff.

Opting for a cloud-based HR system will also make it easier for your organisation to stay in contact with its people, and for employees to take actions such as update their personal details, log absence and holiday requests, and review objectives/ 

Don’t snack all day

Just because you’re away from the office you don’t need to snack all day. One of the downsides of working anywhere is that we usually find ourselves either at home (with our fridge and food cupboards within easy reach) or, even worse, in a coffee shop or cafe where they have a huge selection of tempting cuisine.

One way of eliminating temptation is to buy only healthy food – after all, if it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it. 

Do dress appropriately

Spending the day in your dressing gown won’t help your productivity or state of mind. While dressing up in your usual office gear probably isn’t necessary (especially if you usually opt for a suit), do make the effort to shower, brush your hair, and put on something presentable. More and more of the tools that remote workforces use to stay connected include video conference facilities – and you wouldn’t want to be caught on camera in your pyjamas. 

Don’t turn the TV on

While you might find ambient noise – the sort that replicates the gentle chatter of the workplace – soothing and helps you to focus, popping your favourite Netflix series on your TV is likely to prove a distraction and a significant hindrance to getting stuff done. Instead, opt for the radio – whether something classical like Radio 3, or more commercial such as your local station – or take your pick from the endless stream of ‘music to work to’ playlists you’ll find on sites such as Soundcloud, Spotify and YouTube. Email newsletter Flow State drops a new artist into your mailbox most weekdays– giving you an endless supply of new music to discover. 

Do invest in the right equipment

If you’re expected to work from home regularly, your employer should have invested in the hardware to enable you to do so – such as a laptop and mobile phone. But you can’t (or shouldn’t) be expected to work from a laptop all the time; doing so creates the potential for serious musculoskeletal problems further down the line. Set up your home office as best you can, with an external monitor, mouse and keyboard for your laptop, and a decent chair and desk. Some employers will give their staff allowances for such equipment. 

Don’t work from 'just' anywhere*

While a change of scenery can help to boost your creativity, having a routine and a dedicated workspace is really important. Try, for example, joining a local co-working space where you can network with other professionals rather than camping out in a coffee shop.

And absolutely no working from your couch or bed – no matter how tempting it might be. Doing so will cause back problems, make it really tempting to go back to sleep or slack off, and it’s not an appropriate background for a video call. 

* If your organisation offers a work-from-anywhere option, consider setting up a dedicated workspace free from distraction and noise. This will help you stay focused and work uninterrupted, no matter where you are.

Do decorate your workspace

If you’re set to spend a lot of time working from home, try to make your workspace as enjoyable a place to be as possible. That means getting all the things you need – whether that’s pens and pencils, notebooks and tissues, for example – as well as items to spruce up the place. Try adding pictures or photos of family and friends, a notice board, and even a houseplant or two. You’ll probably also want to get a desk lamp so you don’t strain your eyes on gloomy days. 

Don’t forget to take regular breaks

Taking a break is just as important when working remotely as it is in the office. Stepping away from your screen for even a short while can protect you from headaches, eyestrain and a bad back. Have a more productive and useful break by opting for a healthy snack, or to squeeze in some exercise – preferably outdoors if you can. For an extra creative boost, try 10 minutes of mindfulness or meditation. 

Further reading: How does exercise improve work productivity?

Do get things organised

Save yourself time and frustration by organising your home office (or work bag) to ensure that you have everything you need and know where it is. Make a list of the items you use frequently and ensure you have them with you if you’re working away from your regular workplace or your home office. 

Don’t limit yourself to the 9 to 5

Work when you’re most productive. Some of us are early risers and others hate getting up at the crack of dawn.

If you’re working from home (and as long as you’ve informed your colleagues), working between the hours that align with your internal clock and natural rhythms enables you to make the most of the period of time when you feel most productive and motivated.

This article was first published in November 2016. It was updated in March 2020 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.