How to Work Remotely for Newbies

Co-authored by Meg DeForest (Community Librarian, Jasper Place Branch)

Many of us are beginners at working from home and to avoid the perils of working from home, here are some tips and online resources to help you get started.

1. Getting Ready to Work

Create a designated work area 

  • Set yourself up for success by finding a quiet area and clearing it of distractions. Make sure your workspace is well lit with natural light, if you can.  Think about what kind of space you need to work best.  Do you need some music or white noise? Consider our free digital resource Naxos or Ambient Mixer
  • Make sure you’ll be comfortable with good seating and/or a standing desk set-up. Since most of us are not regular remote workers, your work from home space may be less than ideal for extended use. Pay attention to how your body is feeling and try out different postures and positions to find what works for you. We have an ergonomics you can watch on LinkedIn Learning.

Be camera-ready 

  • This is a great strategy so that you are always ready to take part in video conferencing. There are positive psychological benefits to getting out of your PJs and feeling ready to work.
  • EPL has some resources for Smart Videoconferencing techniques available from Freading.

Take care of yourself 

  • Take time for breaks and to do some physical activity. It can be easy to get immersed in a project when there’s an absence of your typical workplace distractions. Take time to block off breaks and leave your at-home workspace (you could walk your dog, or do some stretches).
  • Start an at-home work ritual. For example, making yourself a cup of tea while setting up your daily to-do list.  A ritual that takes between five to 10 minutes signals your brain and body that the workday is starting is most effective.  Make sure you create an end of workday ritual too!
  • Need some help managing your to-do list? Check out this LinkedIn Learning course.
  • Repurpose your commute time: think about how long your commute usually is and reinvest this time in yourself. Read a book, keep a journal, create an at-home fitness regime. Whatever you do, use that time to support your work/life balance. Check out some of our digital content for great ideas on reinvesting your time in you!

2. Communication

Connect with others 

  • It’s easy to feel isolated or disconnected when working remotely: be intentional about scheduling time to connect with others, over phone or chat. If you have any questions about our digital content you can contact our staff by chat.
  • Mix up the tech: use multiple means of communications and try not to rely on only one form of communications. It’s also a great practice to use voice and video to ensure you are seeing and hearing from each other to keep you connected and on the same page. Suggested e-audiobook: “Opening Doors to Teamwork & Collaboration”.

Keep Communicating 

  • When we’re not seeing each other in person, communication becomes even more important and it is better to err on the side of overcommunicating. Ask your supervisor about what kind of responsiveness they expect.  Set frequent and regular check-ins with staff and colleagues. This can be daily or weekly, but it’s important to have a standing meeting to check in since you won’t be running into each other at the copy machine. Suggested eBook: “Collaborating in the work place”.

Setting expectations

Track your daily progress

  • Make a list of daily priorities and check things off as you complete them. Any tool that tracks what you need to do and what you have accomplished can help. A great example of an online productivity tool is Trello.  
  • Share your list of completed tasks with your manager/supervisor: it’s a great way to stay accountable and report on your time. Suggested guide: “How to use your iPhone as a tool for productivity”.

3. Tips for Working at Home with Kids/Family

  • Working from home is already a significant shift for many people, but it gets even trickier when your house is full of children that also need to be homeschooled. While most people might typically avoid this arrangement, this is now a reality for many families. The good news, however is that others have already been doing this successfully, and have tips to share about their experiences.

Set clear expectations around your schedule 

  • Be intentional about when you are working and when you are spending time with your kids. “Think about your expectations for them while you are working, and clearly communicate that to them. Promise that if they keep their end of the deal, you'll be able to stop working at the designated time and do something fun with them later” (Nicole Roader, School time is not work time (and vice versa); dividing your attention means that your kids aren’t getting what they need to succeed, and neither is your work.

Be flexible 

  • You might be used to working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and your kids might be used to going to school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but overlapping those two schedules without making concessions is a recipe for stress. “Save less critical tasks for times when distraction is likely, and reserve more high-stakes assignments for when you are distraction-free,” ( This might mean saving work for when the kids are asleep. If co-parenting is an option, trade off on time spent with the kids to ensure that they are adequately engaged throughout the day.
  • You may have more time to focus on work earlier in the day when your kids are still sleeping and later in the day after they go to bed. Be flexible with your workday and experiment with finding the best time for report writing, planning, conference calls and brainstorming. If your work at home schedule is different from what it was before, update your calendar and let your manager and colleagues know when you are available.

Pick the days and times for school that work for your family 

  • “Nowhere – NOWHERE – does it say that you need to work on school material Monday through Friday, or when it’s daylight out” (Joan Concilio, If your kids require extra support with their studies, perhaps move that time to evenings or weekends and allocate more unstructured time during the day when you might need to focus.

Work outside the box 

  • It’s possible to add work to tasks that don’t require your full attention. You can snuggle on the couch and watch TV with the kids while answering emails, editing documents, or planning for the next day.

Take frequent breaks 

  • Things will come up, and taking breaks helps you deal with them proactively, rather than reactively. Taking time to check in with your family helps everyone understand each other’s needs and leaves less room for surprises.

Help children help themselves 

  • Give your kids access to easy-to-manage meals, including options that don’t require cooking (like a banana dipped in peanut butter, yogourt and granola, or cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches), or prepare meals in advance that only require reheating.

Expand your “bag of tricks” 

  • Every parent has their own arsenal of distractions they can pull from, but with everyone at home it’s time to prepare as much as possible so that you can deploy them at a moment’s notice.
  • Search the Internet for free activity sheets.
  • Find simple craft kits that can be done with minimal supervision.
  • Expand your collection of toys, games, puzzles or Madlibs.

 Other Resources: