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Tips for Working from Home

Human Capital Management (HCM) is, in many ways, positioned at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. In a short amount of time, the pandemic has radically altered the nature of the workplace in organizations across the United States and around the world. Along with providing guidance to keep employees safe and healthy, HR now has a key role to play in helping an organization’s employees adjust to a new reality: The home as a workplace. Below, we provide tips and guidance for employees who find themselves working from home, along with tips for managing remote employees.

From navigating work hours to handling relationships to work wear, the following are some
fundamental practices for finding success when working from home.

» Designate a consistent workspace: Pick a place that will function as your primary home
office—It could be a spare bedroom, a desk in your bedroom, or even the kitchen counter.
Starting your workday in a consistent “home office” sends the message to yourself and
others that you have “gone to work” for the day. In the same way, packing up sends the
message that you are finished working and transitioning to personal life.

» Set ground rules with the people around you: Communicate with those who live in your
home about when you will and will not be available. Let them know when it’s okay to
interrupt and when they shouldn’t interrupt unless it’s an emergency (it can also be helpful
to discuss what constitutes an emergency). Negotiate what kind of background noise is
acceptable and what is not.

» Set ground rules for yourself: When working from home, it’s important to decide what your routine will be. When will you start and end work each day? When will you take breaks? To the extent that your job allows, designate specific times for checking email or social media— Working from home can be a lonely experience and it can be tempting (and detrimental to productivity) to check email or social media every time you hear a ping.

» Set ground rules with your team: Agreeing on ground rules that will govern how a team
works is especially important when one or more members are remote. Teams should discuss and decide on work schedules, preferred methods of communication, expectations for responsiveness, standards for dress and appearance, and how meetings will be led so that everyone has a chance to talk. It is also helpful to revisit the frequency with which team meetings should be held. Set aside some time in the meeting agenda to discuss and work through any challenges that remote work is posing for the team.

» Communicate your schedule: When you work from home, your coworkers can’t see if you are physically at your computer or not, and many coworkers will find it harder to interrupt you. Having your calendar and social network status up-to-date lets them know if/when you are available to connect. Resistance to interrupting people at home can be strong, so it’s also a good practice to regularly remind coworkers that you welcome interruptions—if you do.

» Get ready for each workday: As tempting as it may be to work in pajamas every day, having a consistent “get ready for work” routine and a clean, put-together work appearance can take the place of the office in signaling to you—and others—that it’s time to work.

» Create a to-do list: To-do lists can help you move through the workday without having to
stop and think about what to do next. With no backdrop of busy coworkers and watchful
managers, a to-do list can help you stay motivated. It feels good to check things off the list,
and helps keep distractions and procrastination at bay.

» Check in with your manager regularly: When you work from home, your manager generally has less visibility into what you are working on and how well it’s going. For that reason, it’s important to schedule regularly occurring check-in meetings with your manager. Check-in meetings should be a time to tell your manager what you have accomplished and discuss any challenges you’re having.

This article is written by APQC in the document COVID-19 ORGANIZATIONAL SURVIVAL GUIDE, Featuring insights and strategies from APQC’s 5 major research areas.

APQC helps organizations work smarter, faster, and with greater confidence. It is the world’s foremost authority in benchmarking, best practices, process and performance improvement, and knowledge management. APQC’s unique structure as a member-based nonprofit makes it a differentiator in the marketplace. APQC partners with more than 500 member organizations worldwide in all industries. With more than 40 years of experience, APQC remains the world’s leader in transforming organizations. Visit us at, and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

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