Before March 2020, working from home was still perceived as a questionable choice for anyone wanting to get ahead, especially if you're just starting out in your career. Working from home was considered a coveted privilege, reserved for employees with longer tenure. Even then, such a concession was usually reserved for Fridays.
It took the COVID pandemic to break this stigma. There is no contradiction between working from home and nurturing your long-term career ambitions. In March 2020, billions of workers were thrown into a completely new way of working, kickstarting the largest cultural shift in how we work since the industrial revolution. Within just three weeks, the percentage of U.S. employees working from home doubled from 31% to 62%. Today, 97.6% of workers would like to work remotely forever after this pandemic is over and 1 in 2 US employees won't return to jobs that don't offer remote work.
It's remarkable how quickly people adapt their job responsibilities when faced with a little bit of adversity. Newly remote workers quickly learned that you could, in fact, work more productively and collaborate from home, ditch meetings for more efficient asynchronous work, and save wasting an average of 54 minutes per day commuting. All while spending more time with family members and achieving a better work life balance.
Remote work has never been more accessible. We're seeing the next wave of world-changing companies adopting permanent remote work at an increasing rate, driven by both employers and remote employees learning about benefits. There's never been a better time in history to start a remote job search. There are remote-focused job boards and fantastic resources on how to find a remote job or how to ask to work from home.
“I believe we’re nearing a sea change in how we work,” wrote Darren Murph, the head of remote at GitLab, in a very well-timed late 2019 blog post titled Why we believe all-remote is for everyone. “It’s easy to point to stratospheric rent prices in major urban centers, soul-crushing gridlock, and shifting mindsets in what society values in a career as reasons for turning to remote work.”
We've established that remote work is here to stay but that doesn't mean it's without challenges. The transition from traditional office to home office can take some getting used to. If you're reading this post, it's likely that you're struggling a little but it's important to remember that working from home is a skill. People can learn to work from home just as they can learn to speak Italian or play golf.
This post covers some helpful remote work tips and best practices to help you do your best work from home.
How to work from home productively
For some, working from home can be filled with distractions. Remote work means you can avoid pesky co-workers interrupting your workflow, but it doesn't stop family members and others from drawing your focus. Working from home life also comes with a myriad of other challenges involving motivation, time management, overworking, video conferencing/collaboration, and general productivity.
Thankfully, there are strategies, tools, and technologies you can implement to work through all of these challenges. The following tips may take time and discipline to put into practice, but they'll help you work from home as productively and stress-free as possible.
Set up your workspace right
Let's start with the most obvious. Your work environment has arguably the biggest impact on how you work. If you don't have access to a spare room to set up a home office, that's totally fine! All you need is a designated space; preferably somewhere private, quiet, and free from distractions — yes, that includes the TV — so you can focus and do deep work. Ideally, a separate room helps create a clear delineation between work mode and home life.
Wherever you choose to work, we highly recommend setting up a permanent workspace, not one you have to pack down each day. This means investing in some essential equipment:
- Standalone desk: Unless you're really tight for space, the dining table won't cut it. Having a high-quality desk specifically designed for computer work can make a huge difference. It's also not to be used by family members or housemates when you're trying to work, nor will it be left messy after a meal.
- Ergonomic chair: If you're likely spending 30-40 hours per week at your workspace, it needs to be as comfortable and ergonomic as possible. High-quality ergonomic chairs will last for years and are worth the investment. You may not notice, but small discomforts and shuffling distracts your focus and can impact your mood — invest in the best chair you can afford.
- External monitor: If you've worked in an office environment before, this one is probably a no-brainer. An external monitor (or display) is an extra screen that plugs into your computer, usually much larger than laptop or notebook screens at 24" or more. Typically you’ll spend around a third of your day in front of a computer screen and investing in an external monitor can increase productivity by up to 50%. If you don't believe us, just try it out for a few days and return it, you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to work on a larger screen. We recommend investing in the best quality you can afford to reduce eyestrain, particularly monitors with low blue light and flicker-free technology.
- High-quality internet: Home internet connections are generally geared towards leisurely usage, such as video streaming Netflix, and general web browsing. For remote workers, reliable and fast internet is a necessity, especially if you're video conferencing or dealing with large cloud-based files. If you have kids and other family members using the same WiFi, this can put even more pressure on your bandwidth. To test your internet speed, go to google.com and search for internet speed test. We recommend a minimum of 50 to 100 Mbps download speeds for working from home, and at least 10 Mbps upload speeds if you upload large files to the internet.
- Good lighting: Bad lighting can reduce your energy, focus, dampen your mood, and lead to eyestrain and headaches. It's bad for working productively. In general, natural light is the best. To best avoid glare, aim to have natural light in front of or next to your workspace.
- Notepad: This one is optional, but there's real science behind it: writing things down boosts memory and focus. An uncluttered desk is good for focus, all you really need is a simple pad or notebook to jot down ideas, sketches, or to plan your day. Our favorites are Muji, because they're simple and look nice.
- Water jug/bottle: You likely aren’t drinking enough water, but you knew that already. What you may not know is that not drinking enough water has a negative impact on your cognitive performance, mood, and energy. Keeping water at your workspace acts as a visual cue to remind you to drink water throughout the workday, but it also deters you from breaking your focus too much to get a glass of water.
This might sound like a lot to invest in upfront, but ensuring you have the right workspace to do your best work is the single most important thing you can do to optimize productivity. There's no need to go overboard — your workspace doesn't need to be complicated, just invest in the best essential equipment you can. If you're employed, ask your manager if there is any budget to help you set up your workspace. It's pretty clear there's a strong case for productivity and cost savings over time.
Set boundaries for yourself and others
Transitioning to remote work can be hard, but it can also be challenging for others around you, especially when there are no clear guidelines or boundaries. Everyone who works remotely has to figure this out. It can take some time and experimentation and is particularly difficult if you have young kids at home who can't understand. Sometimes, your Slack-abusing co-workers are the ones who can't seem to understand!
It's impossible to avoid all interruptions and distractions at home, just like it's impossible to in an office environment. However, an important first step is to set some ground rules with the other people in your home and those you work with.
- Verbally define boundaries: This may seem obvious, but the first step should be a verbal discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page. Take some time to talk through how you structure your day with your family and be clear that when you're working, you're working. Allocating specific times for breaks can help to break up your day and set expectations on when you can spend time together.
- Physically remove your workspace: Not everyone has the luxury of a designated home office room with a door, but it's critical to separate your workspace from your leisure time in any way you can, both physically and mentally. Wherever possible, set up your workspace in a quiet, secluded space where there are minimal distractions. Not being able to unplug is the most common work-life challenge faced by remote workers. Having your workspace in a different part of the home creates a physical separation and that acts as a mental cue switch off at specific times.
- Be clear when you're unavailable: According to Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote employees worked an average of 26 hours extra each month during COVID. This is a recipe for burnout. Just because you're working remotely doesn't mean you need to overcompensate and be online longer. The key is to set clear boundaries with yourself and your coworkers when you're working. At 5 pm, clock off. Nothing at work is as important as we pretend it is. Leave your computer at your desk, set your Slack status to offline, mute notifications, and add your working hours to your Google Calendar.
Remove, reduce, or block out distractions
It takes you 20+ minutes to get back to work after a distraction. If this doesn't sound like much, consider that research from RescueTime found workers were checking Slack once every six minutes on average. Distractions from co-workers, family, and external stimuli when working from home have a huge impact on productivity and our ability to get real, meaningful deep work done.
Sometimes distractions are unavoidable, especially if you have kids or co-workers who are not used to asynchronous work. If you can't remove these distractions, try to reduce them. If that fails, simply block them out. Distractions are the enemy of good work and lead to stress and working longer hours than necessary.
- Invest in noise-canceling headphones: This one is particularly important if you have kids or live in a noisy area. Beyond providing background noise, music has been shown to improve productivity, cognitive performance, and motivation. If you've never owned noise-canceling headphones before, don't realize the power they can have on your concentration and focus until you use them. We recommend the Bose QuietComfort 45. Pair this with Brain.fm or focus playlists on Spotify and you'll have remote work superpowers.
- Focus on deep work: Deep work is the #1 job skill that will never be obsolete. The concept was coined by Cal Newport in a 2012 blog post and refers to the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks. This likely isn’t the type of work that fills your day naturally, so it's something you need to focus on cultivating. Leave your phone in another room, block out work time in your calendar with your colleagues to focus, ask your family members not to interrupt you, and put on headphones. You'll be surprised how easy it is to get a "full workday" done before lunch. Your co-workers will think you have superpowers (because you do) and getting job responsibilities done productively means you'll have more leisure time and a better work-life balance.
- Consider childcare: This one is for the parents who may find having young children at home a major distraction. This is a personal decision as much as it is a financial one, but investing in childcare for even a few days per week can dramatically improve your productivity and better balance home life.
- Reset expectations with your kids: One technique parents can employ is to train children to keep themselves occupied. This will take time and discipline, but if you find children are constantly distracting from your workday, try gradually responding less and less. This signals that interruptions while you're working are not okay and teaches them to understand boundaries and when your work hours are and when leisure time begins.
- Set a schedule, and stick to it: This one is part of keeping consistent work hours and part setting work-life boundaries. Just like your body learns to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, setting a consistent schedule and regular work hours helps you build habits and routines that reduce distractions. Your family and co-workers know exactly when they can and cannot reach you and you'll find it easier to "clock off" and separate your personal life from work.
- Work from a co-working space or library: Even just a few days per week to focus on deep work, this can be a viable option if you find you just can't work productively from home. It's also a great way to break up your day — walking or commuting to a separate space is a good signal for your brain that it's now "work time".
- Find work-life balance elsewhere: This is a final expedient, but sometimes things just aren't working, particularly if your coworkers are new to asynchronous work or simply don't respect focus and work-life balance. We've all worked with colleagues who incessantly email or Slack 24/7 and expect you to interrupt your workflow to respond instantly. Even worse are pointless "let's jump on a call with no agenda" meetings. These distractions aren't conducive for good work and negatively impact your work-life balance. The best remote companies think critically about asynchronous work and establish a company culture of reasonable expectations around response times and focused work. Try to chat to your co-workers about setting boundaries and reducing distractions so the team can work more productively, but if it's not working, move on.
What kind of jobs can work from home
The COVID pandemic has accelerated the global transition to remote work. 75% of the American workforce had never worked from home before lockdowns began in March 2020. Remote work isn't the future of work — it's forcing companies to adapt their jobs to fit into a remote-first world.
So what kind of jobs can work from home? Essentially, any job where part or all of the work can be done online is a great candidate for remote work. Before the COVID pandemic, remote work was still a small niche, usually reserved for home businesses or sick days. After COVID, employees, and employers were forced to reevaluate and adapt. A great example is school teaching — millions of educators around the world had to rapidly adjust and adopt new collaboration tools and set up a dedicated workspace at home.
While it's true some jobs, particularly blue-collar jobs, need to be done onsite, many industries have been surprised with how easily the transition has been and how jobs can be restructured to allow for remote work — it just takes a little effort and there are some useful ways to prepare for this. Today, Growmotely estimates that 3 in 4 remote workers believe that remote work will become permanent. The reality is that most jobs, even blue-collar jobs, have some repetitive and admin task that can be done at home.
With improving collaboration tools and the unrivaled flexibility remote work provides, more and more industries are transitioning to remote work, both "tech" and "non-tech". A common misconception is that you have to be technically skilled to work at "tech" companies. This couldn't be further from the truth — most companies hiring remotely are in need of traditionally non-technical roles, such as customer service representatives, sales development reps, recruitment, human resources, and virtual assistants.
Here are some key industries and sectors that are growing fast and hiring remotely:
Healthcare and medical
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed great strain on the healthcare and medical sector’s workforce and infrastructure, forcing a global shift in how companies operate and hire. Despite this, these are industries that are growing fast and a new wave of exciting health and wellness startups are hiring all over the world. Some of our picks for healthcare and medical companies hiring remotely are:
SaaS and Enterprise Software
Technology and software companies have always been at the forefront of the remote work movement, with SaaS companies such as Basecamp, Doist, and GitLab advocating for remote work for over a decade. Some of the largest Software as a Service (SaaS) and enterprise software employers in the world have coalesced around a hybrid remote company model, including Spotify, Salesforce, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
"Software is eating the world" as Marc Andreessen famously wrote 10 years ago, merely pointing out that global business was entering a new phase. Today, SaaS and enterprise software industries are growing fast and still at the forefront of hiring remote talent globally. Here are some of our picks for some fast-growing SaaS and Enterprise Software companies hiring for work-from-home jobs:
These remote-friendly SaaS and enterprise software companies are hiring for remote jobs across a myriad of different roles, including operations, marketing, customer success, product management, and content. And of course the more obvious types of jobs such as design, data science, and software development.
The Human Resources industry is one of the fastest-growing for remote jobs in the world. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this sector is poised to grow even stronger in the U.S. by 7% by 2028 (the average is 5.2%).
We believe the demand for HR workers will grow even faster than this. Accelerated by the global pandemic, both employees and employers are valuing the benefits of remote work and experiencing higher productivity levels. Managing a distributed workforce comes with new challenges and as more companies make the switch, HR managers and effective HR and collaboration technology become invaluable.
Here are our picks of exciting companies specializing in human recourses and HR tech that are hiring remotely:
These remote-friendly human resources companies are hiring for remote jobs across a variety of roles, including Marketing, Software Development, Customer Success, Sales, Account Management, Content, and UX Design.
Remote friendly companies
Remote work is no longer a tiny niche. Thousands of the world's top companies like Coinbase, Zillow, Google, Twitter, Square, and Shopify have joined the growing list of remote startups and companies announcing that staff can work remotely permanently even when their offices reopen. The world witnessed a historic shift due to the COVID pandemic, and there's never a better time for office workers to start a remote job search or for employers to attract remote workers.
We recently wrote our list of 120+ fully remote companies, which are our top picks for companies that are 100% remote have job postings for roles in 2022. Most companies are adopting a hybrid remote model, which means they allow employees to work remotely or from an office.
Here are ten of our favorite remote-friendly companies hiring into 2022:
Lattice is a people management platform used by 2,750+ companies around the world to help employees perform their best. They have offices in San Francisco, New York City, and London, but are also a distributed team and are hiring across many roles remotely.
Square is a financial technology company started by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. They help millions of sellers all around the world accept payments and run their businesses, from EFTPOS machines, secure card payment processing, to eCommerce stores. We love Square because they're breathing new life into commerce and financial tech, with a particular focus on small businesses. Most incumbent players in this space are expensive, ugly, and hard-to-use but Square builds tools to make starting and running a business affordable, seamless, and easy.
Square employs over 4,000 people all around the world and has offices around the U.S., as well as in Dublin, London, Toronto, Melbourne, and Tokyo. They're growing fast as well and are hiring for exciting growth in 2022.
ConvertKit is simple email marketing software for online creators. With 19,500 paying customers sending 500 million emails per month, ConvertKit are 100% independent, 100% remote and are growing rapidly.
They’re also a 100% remote team of 35 people in 24 cities across 7 countries. ConvertKit “hire A-players and treat them like A-players because we believe in the power of great company culture to help us grow”.
ConvertKit also offers great benefits, including profit-sharing, a $3,200 remote equipment allowance (US employees), health insurance, 12 weeks parental leave, and biannual team retreats.
Canva is an Australian graphic design platform. Their tools and templates allow anyone to easily make nice-looking social media assets, emails, presentations, documents, and anything else without the steep learning curve of traditional design tools.
Since Canva was founded in 2013, they have experienced explosive year-on-year growth. They had 750,000+ users in their first year and were recently valued at $40 billion with more than 55 million users. We're a bit biased because we love an Aussie success story, but we love Canva because they're making good design accessible to everyone, regardless of technical ability. They're a WORK180 Endorsed Employer for All Women and take care of their 1,500+ employees worldwide with great benefits and fair compensation. Their 4.7/5 Glassdoor rating reflects that!
“We're a fully remote and completely distributed team, so we can work wherever we're happiest.”
You might have seen GitLab in the news recently: they were the first fully remote company to go public. GitLab makes software for software developers and has grown to a massive remote team of over 1,400. As one of the "original" advocates for the power of remote work, GitLab are big fans of the advantages of a distribute workforce and asynchronous work. They even wrote a handbook on it.
Spotify is a Swedish audio streaming company that gives you access to millions of songs, podcasts and videos for a monthly subscription. They've been growing consistently quarter-on-quarter and have over 350 million monthly users! As a hybrid remote company, they employ thousands of remote office workers all around the world, but also have permanent offices.
“We believe people from different backgrounds, with different identities and experiences, make our product and our company better – just as our users come from everywhere, a diverse team helps ensure we create a product that is accessible to a wide range of people.”
Hotjar is a software company that makes user/visitor analytics. They help businesses analyze the behaviour of customers to improve conversion rates. We love Hotjar because they are a fully remote company with over 200 employees and their software is used on almost a billion websites in 180+ countries. That's pretty insane.
You'll love working for HotJar if you're a fan of asynchronous work. As a 100% remote company, they're big on autonomy and moving quickly and independently: “We hate bureaucracy and slow-moving organizations – but we're suckers for well-defined processes.” Here's another quote we love:
“If I had a dollar for every time someone at Hotjar interrupts my day by asking “Hey, are you busy? Can you check something for me super-quick?”... I’d be pretty poor.”
A great way to describe MURAL is an "online whiteboard". MURAL is a space for teams to collaborate visually and solve problems faster — perfect for remote teams. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing companies, MURAL is used by 4,000+ customers worldwide and over 75% of the Fortune 100.
Founded in 2011, MURAL is now a global team of 700+ with headquarters in San Francisco. We love MURAL because they're a breakout collaboration tool driving towards the future of collaborative distributed work — teams no longer need to be face-to-face to collaborate effectively and productively.
Mailchimp is the leading marketing automation platform and email marketing service for businesses of all different sizes across the world. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Atlanta, Mailchimp is a crazy success story — they have more than 15 million customers and 1,200+ employees worldwide, but are 100% founder-owned.
As more and more businesses go digital-first and remote, Mailchimp is expanding faster than ever and hiring for dozens of roles across all facets of their business.
Culture Amp was founded in 2009 to help companies conduct anonymous surveys. Since then, they've expanded globally and are used by 4,000+ companies and more than 25 million employees. Today, Culture Amp is an employee analytics platform that specializes in helping employers make positive changes and improve their teams with employee engagement, performance, and development tools.
Cutlure Amp is a remote-friendly company with 500+ employees and offices in Melbourne, San Francisco, New York City, and London. As more companies make the switch to remote work, employee engagement tools like Culture Amp are becoming more important than ever — they're growing fast and hiring all over the world for a big 2022.
How to avoid remote work scams
At Himalayas, we carefully vet every single remote company and remote job to ensure they're legitimate. Remote work scams are on the rise — before you apply for a job, spend some time researching the company and reading the job listing. Most importantly, you should never incur any expenses to be interviewed and hired by a remote company. If a recruiter or anyone claiming to be a representative of a company is asking for money to proceed with your interview (usually for a "start up" kit or to pay for a background check, chances are it is a scam.
Here are some key things to check:
- Does the company have a legitimate website and social presence?
- Check to ensure the company has a Glassdoor profile (with positive reviews), as well as a genuine Linkedin presence with real employees that have previous work experience.
- The job listing should be included on the company's careers page — if it's not, that's an indication that the person you're speaking to may not be a real representative of the company.
As with all things, the best thing you can do is take the time to research the company and the job and to trust your gut. This is especially important if a recruiter has reached out to you directly. If you're really not sure, reach out to the company directly and ask for more information about the job or to simply confirm it is a legitimate role they're hiring for.
If something doesn't feel right, walk away and don't waste your time: there are thousands of great remote jobs out there.
Looking for a remote job or looking to hire remote talent?
Either way, we'd love to introduce ourselves. We're Himalayas, a remote job board, that is focused on providing the best experience for remote job seekers and employers.