free whitepaper: Unifying IT SolutionsI'm not sure what your work from home set up looks like, but mine includes an ironing board behind me. There's a set of golf clubs in the corner, and a pile of old clothes on the floor. My late grandmother's bookshelf tries desperately to bring some order to the room, but even it is filled with a hodgepodge of stuff.

The problem is, I never intended to work from home. My "home office" can be best described as a storage room mixed with a little bit of the chaos. So when the work from home mandate went into effect, I—like many others—had to simply make do.

With the recent wave of remote work, we all could use a few tips to be as productive as possible. We've already written posts such as Service Management in This Time of Widescale Remote Work and Five Security Priorities to Consider With a Remote Workforce. Below we discuss five tips to make working from home work for you.

Tip 1: Get your tech up to speed.

It should go without saying, but you can't work from home on a toaster. You will need a computer—preferably the one work has provided you. Make sure you have your laptop charger and any other materials you need to work from home effectively, such as a mouse and keyboard. 

As for software, be sure everything is downloaded that you need access to, such as your company's VPN, Outlook, Teams, Zoom, or GoToMeeting. 

Then there's a strong Internet connection, which is essential for video calls. You may look at upgrading your plan if it's too slow. If your whole family is home, be sure the kids aren't streaming YouTube videos while you're trying to have a one-on-one with your boss.

Tip 2: Get webcam-ready.

Speaking of one-on-ones, many companies prefer their remote employees to use webcams for meetings. Video conferencing helps make people feel more connected during this time of social distancing, with the added benefit of eliminating miscommunication that can occur over phone calls. When you can see a person's face and read their body language, there's much less chance of things getting lost in translation.

As for business attire, how people dress is entirely up to them and/or their company's dress policy. Webcam work attire is unique in that it doesn't show the full body, so it often involves "business on top" and some form of pajama pants or "party on the bottom." However, according to many sources, getting professionally ready in the morning as if you were going into an office plays a large role in determining your mindset for the day. 

Tip 3: Keep clear working hours.

It can be easy to slip into the habit of working round-the-clock when there is no physical office to drive to each day. But just as you designate a work from home space, so should you designate a work from home schedule. Make sure everyone in the house knows not to disturb you when you're in the zone, including pets!

Keeping work and leisure time separate will benefit your mental health so that everything is not rolling into one big mess. You'll be able to get more work done and disconnect easier in the evenings once you've established a schedule and stuck to it. What's more, your family and friends will thank you when they see you being present in their lives and not glued to your phone or laptop.

Tip 4: Socialize with colleagues.

Just as you may have had in the break room at the office, part of remote work includes knowing when to let your hair down (or put on a silly hat) and casually connect with colleagues. Many teams have established a weekly happy hour in the past few weeks. Get on board with whatever your company culture is offering, or instigate it, if you feel comfortable. We all need some time around the water cooler, as it helps maintain everyone's sanity and also keep morale up as we navigate this work form home climate together.

Tip 5: Communicate.

The importance of communication cannot be overstated in regards to remote work. Without the benefit of being able to see someone in person every day, there are a lot of unknowns. When do you clock in every day? Tell everyone your availability and make sure people are aware of any upcoming time off you have scheduled. Be especially prompt when answering emails and other messages.

Also, be very clean on the daily expectations your superiors have of you. Take as many opportunities as you can to communicate over the phone or video chat so as not to rely solely on text-based communication, which has the highest potential for miscommunication.

Now go out (or rather, stay in) and make working from home work for you!