Our Whole Staff Works Remotely: Here's How We Cope
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Our Team Has Worked From Home for Years: Here's How We Do it

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Our Whole Staff Works Remotely: Here's How We Cope
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The New Normal?

Just a few weeks ago, the notion of working from home seemed like little more than a daydream for many office workers. Not any longer. Amid the coronavirus outbreak and stay-at-home orders, millions of Americans suddenly have discovered that telecommuting — though it has its perks — isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially if you're living in cramped quarters, are trying to educate and entertain bored kids, or have pets that just will not stop loving on you. Cheapism's entire staff works remotely, so we've compiled our best tips and tricks to help you work remotely without losing your mind.

Related: Cheap Webcams for Staying in Touch While at Home

Don't Drink Too Much Coffee
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Don't Drink Too Much Coffee

I freely admit to being a coffee junkie and love nothing better than seeking out local roasters and coffee shops. And while that first cup or two gets me going in the morning, I've learned to moderate my intake as the day goes on. Switching to decaf helps curb the jitters, which can be a real distraction when I need to focus on a task. So does keeping the coffee maker at the opposite end of the house — it forces me to get up and walk a little when I do need that extra cup of ambition. — Scott Nyerges, deputy editor

Related: 10 Exceptional Coffee Roasters That Deliver

Establish a Clearly Defined Work Space
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Establish a Clearly Defined Work Space

Create an official work area in your home, such as converting an extra bedroom into your office. That way, you can shut the door at day's end and leave work behind mentally and physically. If you don't have a spare room to dedicate, even allocating a corner of a room will work (perhaps your living room or dining room) for setting up a work table or creating a desk. — Mia Taylor, staff writer

Trust That Your Team Members Are Working (Really)
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Trust That Your Team Members Are Working (Really)

Once the whole team works from home, it is all about trust and production level and not about whether they are at their desk. In these days of smartphones, there is no real way to verify what they're doing without becoming a "nanny employer" — and that's really not the relationship you want with your team. You have to learn to let go, just like you did when first started delegating tasks. — Max Levitte, Cheapism CEO

Related: 22 Essential Remote-Work Tools for Your Business

Keep Supplies Handy
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Keep Supplies Handy

Setting up a well-equipped workspace is critical. Include all the things your job requires, such as pens, pads, and other office supplies. If you have to start hunting for them during the day, you're just losing time. — Pat Shrader, editor

Related: The Best Things to Buy at the Dollar Store

Think in Terms of Projects Completed, Not Hours Spent
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Think in Terms of Projects Completed, Not Hours Spent

When you work from home, productivity is (or should be) measured less in terms of a 9-to-5 schedule and more in terms of whether you're getting your projects done. That may mean you don't put in a 40-hour workweek — and sometimes that you put in more than a 40-hour week. Track your time if you're concerned that you're working more than you should be. You may be surprised to find you're getting your work done in less time than a traditional workday. — Saundra Latham, senior staff writer

Professional Pet Sitter and Dog Walker
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Get Some Fresh Air

It's easy to get sucked into work and forget there's a whole world out there. Step outside for a stretch or take the dog on a walk a few times a day. It's good for your health and your sanity. — Anna Christakos, production manager

If You Can, Go to Your 'Third Place'
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If You Can, Go to Your 'Third Place'

That's right, live the dream: Go work in a coffee shop — once social distancing is over and done, that is. Starbucks popularized the concept of a "third place" to retreat from work and home, but that may be even more essential when you work from home and it's only the second place. There's a social aspect that can keep the remote worker from feeling isolated (in fact, the people you meet going to one coffee shop regularly can become good friends), but there's also a science behind it. As the Harvard Business Review explains, citing a 2012 study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Ravi Mehta in the Journal of Consumer Research, "the right level of ambient noise triggers our minds to think more creatively." That is: The sound of productivity around you can make you more productive. — Marc Levy, editor

Overcoming Technology-Addicted Behavior
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Use 'Do Not Disturb' Modes on Your Devices

If you're working from home using your personal computer and phone, it can be hard to stay focused when they're blowing up with notifications. This is especially true now, when so many people are at home bored and on social media. Change your notification settings or turn on a "Do Not Disturb" mode to see only work-related messages during the workday. Of course, you can also allow calls from specific numbers that may need to reach you urgently, such as a family member or your child's school. — Elena Klein, web producer

Take a Shower and Change Clothes
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Limit Multitasking … If You Can

When working at home, it's all too easy to get distracted by the messy kitchen that needs cleaning or the load of laundry that's waiting. Stay focused by making time for daily "home breaks." For instance, schedule yourself to focus on work for two hours, then allow a 20-minute break to deal with the dishes. Then head back to work for two more hours, and allow a 20-minute break for folding, etc. — Jennifer Magid, editorial coordinator

Related: 15 Mistakes to Avoid When Working Remotely

Include Pets and Plants
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Include Pets and Plants

Add some life to your home workspace. If you have a dog or cat that follows you everywhere, every day is "take your pet to work day." Put out a bed so the pet can be a comfortable "coworker." Add a plant or two (or more) to your office. Signs of life can make all the difference in feeling inspired and productive while working from home. — Kris Scott, editor

Don't Work in Your Pajamas
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Don't Work in Your Pajamas

As tempting as it may be, given that you're not actually going anywhere, try to maintain a degree of normalcy by getting up each morning, showering, and dressing for the day ahead. It will make you feel more professional and productive. — Mia

Remember to Exercise
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Remember to Exercise

It's easy to forget one of the basics — exercise — when sitting at your desk or sofa for hours, focused on a project. But don't put it off (or don't put it off too long, anyway). Getting away from your desk and getting sweaty (another reason to get out of your PJs) can improve circulation, gives you time to brainstorm, and is just better for your overall wellness. — Liane Starr, editor

Related: 11 Ways to Get Exercise While Just Going About Your Day

If You Have a Kid at Home, Don't Panic
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If You Have a Kid at Home, Don't Panic

If your children are out of school or daycare and you're suddenly tasked with working and parenting at the same time, don't freak out. First, explain the situation to your superior. Second, establish a reasonable schedule and prioritize work you can get done at certain parts of the day. For instance, if your child naps, try to get the most important and mentally taxing work done during that time. Utilize screen time for a kid when necessary. Know that things won't go perfectly, and that's okay. — Anna

Delegate Household Tasks
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Delegate Household Tasks

If you're suddenly working from home and there's a whole family stuck inside with you, don't make the mistake of trying to do everything yourself. Make a daily or even weekly schedule for basic chores such as meal prep and cleanup to share the load. Talk openly with family members about how unique this experience is for everyone, and how helping out with simple tasks can make life easier for everyone. — Dan Roberts, general manager

Listen to Music
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Listen to Music

Mehta's study has been widely interpreted as encouraging music during work. Not everyone believes it; one study last year from Lancaster University suggests music "consistently disrupts creative performance." But the fact is, everyone functions differently. There's certain music I can turn on that doesn't interfere with my work and might actually help, though music with a strong focus on words is often too distracting — which will rule out Courtney Barnett or some classic De La Soul. But something that's more about tune, beat, and atmosphere could really help work sing (so to speak). And the more familiar you are with the music, the more it stays helpfully in the background. — Marc

Encourage Virtual Socializing
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Encourage Virtual Socializing

Just like your onsite employees have the water cooler and lunch breaks, your virtual employees need nonwork-related space and activities to socialize and vent. Create a "fun" chat channel, organize a Zoom happy hour, or allow some chitchat time before conference and video calls. Employees that are friends and care for each other work better and are happier to "come" to work. — Max

Junk Food Causes Acne
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Stay Out of the Kitchen …

With the kitchen right there, it's tempting to get a snack at 10 a.m., another after lunch, and maybe something if you're working late. Don't. If you eat constantly at your desk, you're going to have an unpleasant result from your working-at-home stint — excess pounds. Ban yourself from grazing and get up to eat only when you normally would have at the office. — Liane

But Have Veggie Snacks Available
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… But Have Veggie Snacks Available

For some of us, the kitchen is part of our workspace and is unavoidable. To avoid getting ridiculously overweight, make sure you have cucumbers, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, and cauliflower ready for the ongoing pilgrimage to the refrigerator. — Max

Establish Boundaries With Children
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Establish Boundaries With Children

When my office door is closed, it means don't come in. This may be difficult to enforce at all times. But it's a good idea to lay some clear ground rules with children to help maintain at least a modicum of professionalism (and sanity). — Mia

Entertain Yourself When Doing Rote Work
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Entertain Yourself When Doing Rote Work

If part of your work involves tedious, repetitive processes, don't just sit there and grind your way through it. Let your mind do something else for as long as the task takes. Listen to a podcast. Get a few minutes further into the latest show you're bingeing on Netflix. Talk with family or friends on your phone. — Marc

Wake Up and Get Ready Before Starting Work
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Wake Up and Get Ready Before Starting Work

I am guilty of waking up to my alarm and rolling over to immediately check Slack or emails. Don't do that. Wake up and leave your phone alone. Make a cup of coffee, drink a glass of water, brush your teeth, etc., before you officially "clock in." And while you don't need to put on a full face of makeup, washing your face and changing out of your pajamas will make you feel more like a functioning human. — Anna

LinkedIn
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Join Online Professional Networking Groups

Working for home can be isolating, with fewer opportunities to meet other professionals and make contacts. Replace this loss by joining LinkedIn groups in your field of work, or Facebook groups dedicated to your profession, or other similar groups. It's also important to attend professional development events when possible to ensure that you're continuing to grow as a professional. Many of these are available online now. — Mia

Take Sick Days
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Take Vacation and Sick Days

It can be hard to justify taking time off when you work from home. You may think that you can still get work done when you're not feeling well, but it's smart to treat it just as if you were in a physical office. Sending emails from bed is not the same as resting. Even if you're not planning a grand vacation, it's still important to unplug and dedicate some fun time outside of your normal work routine. — Anna

Related: 10 International Work Benefits Americans Wish They Had

Leave the House
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Leave the House

Working at home all the time can make you weird — even socially awkward if you commit too much to a home office. Force yourself to get out of the house sometimes and (when it's an option) work where there are other human beings. Practice making sentences. — Kris

Straighten Up, Comb Your Hair, and Shave Before Video Calls
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Straighten Up, Comb Your Hair, and Shave Before Video Calls

Looking disheveled on video calls is not a good idea. Just as you would for in-person meetings, make sure you're looking your best. — Max

Keep Yourself Comfortable
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Keep Yourself Comfortable

If your work area is chilly, use a space heater (safely). If you need to brighten up your space with artwork, do so. Maybe most importantly, invest in a high-quality chair if you're going to be sitting much the day. Your back will thank you. — Pat

Related: How to Create a Home Office from Ikea for Under $200

Prepare a Treat for the Dog
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Prepare a Treat for the Dog

If you have a whiny dog, it is a good idea to have some treats that require some work on your dog's behalf to keep it busy. Long walks before work in the morning and again at lunch will also keep your pet calm and relaxed at home. — Max

Uninterruptible Power Supply
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Keep Your Equipment Safe

If you're working remotely, you're dependent on your computer and internet connection. So if something happens to them, it would be bad — really bad. Power outages and power surges happen. Buy a top-notch uninterruptible power supply unit for about $150 to protect your computer, modem, and router. These devices do more than just protect your equipment from disaster; they can also provide electricity to keep you working if power is out, which means you don't lose all the work you just put in on that big project. — Pat

Splurge on a Good Pair of Bluetooth Earbuds or Headphones
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Splurge on a Good Pair of Bluetooth Earbuds or Headphones

Even if you're not spending two hours a day or more on Zoom calls, you'll appreciate a set of earbuds or headphones to drown out a busy household. For those of us who spend a good portion of our day in virtual meetings, reliable Bluetooth connectivity and a good microphone are critical features to ensure your team can hear you clearly. For Mac users, Apple's Airpods are the gold standard when it comes to maintaining a reliable connection (though they aren't necessarily the best option when it comes to features such as battery life). The good news: Many of the knockoff earbuds available for $50 or less offer solid performance at a fraction of the price. — Dan

Related: 13 Perfectly Good Wireless Earbuds Way Cheaper Than AirPods

Mute When You're Not Talking
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Mute When You're Not Talking

The microphone on your laptop, phone, or desktop is incredibly sensitive, and capable of picking up casual conversations from two rooms away. Mute yourself when not talking to limit potential distractions for other listeners. And let family members know when you're about to hop on a conference call to avoid distractions and interruptions. — Dan

Move Around
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Move Around

It's a strange feeling to finish a day's work and realize you haven't moved from your desk or living room table in eight hours, much less left the house. Get up and stretch between tasks, and move workspaces every few hours. Switch seats a few times per day, even if that just means moving from the couch to the kitchen table. Using a tall table or a countertop as a standing desk is another way to feel more active. — Elena

Be Reliable
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Be Reliable

You're on the honor system when working from home, and it's important not to take advantage of that. Make sure you're reachable during work hours and that you communicate reliably, professionally, and frequently. — Anna

Related: 30 Lies That Employees Tell Their Bosses

Research Benefits
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Maintain Your Tech

No one is going to come free up disk space or update your software for you. Invest in a cleaning utility such as CleanMyMac or CleanMyPC. Use a backup service such as Backblaze in case something catastrophic happens to wipe out your files. Don't put off system updates if you can help it. Be your own IT hero. — Kris

Reach Out to Coworkers, Friends, and Family
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Reach Out to Coworkers, Friends, and Family

It's easy to forget how easily a traditional workplace can fill our need for socializing, especially when you can no longer saunter down to a friend's desk and shoot the breeze for a few minutes. Fight those feelings of isolation by scheduling regular times to connect with others. Chat with coworkers online about non-work tasks, grab lunch with a friend, and keep lines of communication open with family members. You'll be much happier for it. — Saundra

Take Advantage of the Freedom
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Take Advantage of the Freedom

Work in pajamas (or less) sometimes if you feel like it. Play music at full volume while working if it makes you happy. Do a little dance or air guitar solo in the middle of the workday. Zoom with your remote family for a few minutes. Remember: No one is watching. — Max

Related: Pajamas, Sweats, and Leisure Wear Perfect for Working at Home