9 Dos and Don’ts of Working Remotely That You (and Your Boss) Should Know

To keep productivity up and avoid burnout, employees and management need ground rules.
Updated April 3, 2023
Woman working from home

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The option to work from home has improved the lives of many Americans. Employees save time and money by not having to commute. 

And if you find a high-paying job in another state — or even another country — you no longer need to relocate. Plus, the move can lower your financial stress.

However, adjusting to a remote schedule initially can be a challenge. To simplify the process, here are some dos and don’ts that remote workers — and the companies that hire them — should follow.

Do set up ground rules and expectations

Drobot Dean/Adobe young businessman in black suit pointing towards wrist watch saying its late

Some companies have very strict schedules for remote workers, while others are more laid back, as long as you meet deadlines.

New remote workers should make sure they understand company expectations while management should also make ground rules and day-to-day expectations clear.

Do try to minimize distractions

oes/Adobe daughter sitting on her dads shoulders while he's working on his laptop

One downside of remote work is how easy it is to get distracted by family, roommates, and pets. Even our favorite gadgets or snacks can pose obstacles to getting work done.

Remote employees should try to minimize such distractions as much as possible during workdays.

This might mean working in a room separate from family, getting some noise-canceling headphones, or keeping your cell phone away from your desk. Take any necessary steps to make sure you remain focused.

Do get the right technology

Kateryna/Adobe man sitting in a video conference with colleagues

Before you begin working remotely, make sure you have all the tools needed for the job. In some cases, the employer will provide a laptop and other technology so you can work from home. 

Other companies might ask employees to work from their own computers.

You must have reliable internet and any software required for the job. Set up whatever program your team uses to communicate, such as Zoom or Slack.

Do maintain a regular schedule

Arsenii/Adobe male freelancer removing glasses due to headache while working from home late at night

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — when many were thrown into remote work for the first time — some workers struggled to create clear boundaries between their private lives and their work schedules.

Social media management firm Buffer surveyed remote workers in 2021 and found that respondents considered not being able to unplug to be the biggest struggle related to working from home.

When the workday is not defined by a clear start and end, it can start to feel like you’re always connected. Clearly defining when you will be off the clock can help you avoid feelings of burnout.

Don’t roll out of bed and work in your PJs

Prostock-studio/Adobe young girl using laptop to work from home

When you work remotely, morning routines can look very different than they did when you had to go to an office. But that does not mean you should roll out of bed and start the day in your pajamas.

Your morning may no longer involve showering, rushing through breakfast, and running out the door, but it’s still beneficial to give yourself time to prepare for the day. 

This might include brewing coffee, stretching, and reading over emails. And it should include getting dressed.

Don’t work from bed

sementsova321/Adobe woman working in bed using laptop and smartphone covering mouth while yawning

Very few people are likely to be productive working from their beds. If you’re going to work remotely over the long haul, it is crucial to set up a designated space to work. 

This might be a full office or even just a designated corner of the bedroom where you set up your work computer and have space to focus.

It’s important to separate a workspace from the space where you relax, even if they’re very close to each other.

Don’t take remote work for granted

fizkes/Adobe tired businessman with painted eyes on stickers

Just because you are working from home does not mean you can unplug anytime you want, take naps in the middle of the day, or be generally uninvolved.

Successful remote workers continue to check in, even on slow days, to let management know they are engaged. When there is no boss around to monitor your work, it can be tempting to take the freedom of working from home for granted. 

However, long-term remote workers know that communication is important and that work should be taken seriously no matter where it’s happening.

Pro tip: If you want to grow your career — and boost your bank account — it is important to avoid taking remote work for granted.

Don’t forget to schedule breaks

Maria Sbytova/Adobe woman having beagle on harness standing in park during day time

Even if you have a decked-out home office, it can feel very mundane to walk from your bedroom to your workspace and stay there all day.

Part of setting boundaries with remote work means taking regular breaks so you can get up and move around a bit. Consider scheduling a half-hour every day for lunch or a midday walk. Pencil in an afternoon coffee or tea break.

Management should not expect employees to be glued to their screens or sitting in meetings for eight hours straight with no breaks.

Don’t sit all day

Jose/Adobe woman telecommuting while balancing on a gym ball

Breaking up the day with movement is also important. Anecdotally, there were lots of tales of people gaining weight during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With no commute and no office hallways to walk through, workers ended up spending a lot more time sitting down.

Recent research has found that sitting for long periods regularly can have a significant negative impact on overall health. So, if you work from home, it makes sense to get up and move a bit every hour or so.

Bottom line

Meeko Media/Adobe woman relaxing in office chair with colleagues asking for work

If you work remotely, there are certain expectations and boundaries that both you and your boss should understand and respect. This will keep productivity up and help you avoid burnout.

With the proper ground rules in place, you are more likely to excel in your job. You might even become so successful in your career that you will achieve the dream of retiring early.

So, make sure you discuss expectations with your boss so you are both on the same page.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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