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  • February 10, 2022

Tips for Working from Home

Decorative Illustration In 2021, we went from a company with two offices where many of our people worked daily, to a fully remote company. While some of us have years of experience working from home, many others were new to it.

So at our annual Happy “Cogference,” Allison Merino (senior digital project manager), Eli Van Zoeren (web developer), and I hosted a roundtable discussion about tips for working from home, covering everything from productivity and work/life balance, to staying connected with colleagues. Some great tips came out of the session – and while everyone’s style and requirements are different, you are sure to find useful advice in this collection.


The absence of a daily commute, office routine, and atmosphere can be a big adjustment when working from home, but with a few tweaks you can bring some structure and focus to your day. There are two key aspects to maximizing productivity: design your space, and cultivate systems and habits.

Design your space

Everyone’s work needs are different. Whether it is a set of large monitors, or having a ready supply of lip balm or healthy snacks near at hand, the key to a successful work day is to reduce friction and distraction. One Happy Cogger even has a mini fridge in the office to minimize trips to the kitchen during the day.

  • Keep your desk, mic, and computer set up in a way that invites work and has you prepared to start your workday without busywork.
  • Clean your desk at the end of the day so you don’t need to do this chore in the morning.
  • Take notes at the end of the day on where to jump back into work.
  • Keep frequently needed items near at hand.
  • Incorporate flourishes or features that bring happiness to your workday (for example, colorful decorations, plants, the option to open a window, fidgets for your desk, or lighting).

Photo source – Brandon Jones, Web Developer at Happy Cog:

Photo source – Mark Reeves, Web Developer at Happy Cog:

Cultivate habits and systems

If that morning commute used to get you in work mode, then take a walk before starting work. The absence of an office lunch hour doesn’t mean you have to eat lunch at your desk. Get up and move around during the day to break things up. Find what works for you and then stick to a pattern.

  • Start at the same time each day and keep to a schedule.
  • Simulate a commute or get into your work clothes to start the day.
  • Take a break from the screen for lunch. Don’t just hop from your computer to your phone.
  • Breaks are important. Take a walk to get some fresh air or a change of scenery.
  • If there is something that you must get done each day (e.g. going to the gym), consider doing it first thing in the morning when you’re least likely to be derailed by competing priorities.

Staying Connected

Speaking as someone who worked remotely from home for over a decade before joining Happy Cog, I can definitely say that the best thing about working here is the people. I always enjoyed visits to the office and the random conversations around the lunch table or when getting coffee. But in the absence of these casual interactions, how does one build and maintain relationships outside of our work-focused interactions?

  • Post in social Slack channels and share photos, stories, or whatever is on your mind. We have a bunch of them; my favorites are #family, #pets, #food, #travel, and #movies.
  • Join informal small group calls. For example, we have Developer Rotations which are randomly chosen small groups that meet weekly for a three month stretch. They’re a great way to have more informal conversations with coworkers you might otherwise not interact with.
  • Take the time to ask after a coworker and just chat. The connections you make outside of just work topics can make a big difference.
  • When you have a question, post it to the larger group (for example, we have a #dev-chat Slack channel). Not only might you end up finding the answer just by forming your question (rubber duck debugging!), your question may end up being useful to someone else months later. Or, it may be that a solution will be found by getting input from multiple people.

"Chance favors the connected mind." -Steve Johnson


While working from home has obvious advantages, like being able to hang out with your pets while you work, it may mean sharing office space with a roommate or having noisy distractions in your work area. Find spaces that can be predictably dedicated to work and ways to signal to your housemates that “I am at work.” One Happy Cogger even made a light up “I’m in a meeting sign” that syncs to their work calendar.

  • If you’re sharing a workspace with roommates or family members, communicate about your schedules and needs during the week.
  • Have a separate space you can fall back on to work in if you or your housemates have a critical meeting or task that requires quiet or concentration.
  • Use headphones, or even noise-canceling headphones, to minimize noise and distractions. Even if some background sound filters through, wearing headphones can be a signal that you’re in work mode.
  • Have a clear end of work day boundary of some kind. For example, closing the office door or putting away the laptop. Just as it’s helpful to keep home life from sneaking into your workday, it’s helpful to have a clean transition out of work mode.
  • Use your calendar! Mark your workday start and stop times, and be sure to block out any out of office time to the calendar.

Like everything, our work from home setup and practices are a work in progress. But a few small changes can make a big difference. Even today as I wrote this article, I found it very helpful to take a break and walk the dog and to move to a different area in my house as a change of pace. I’m not a morning person, but the habit of getting up early to get in a workout might finally be kicking in to the point where I almost don’t need an alarm clock. I still have a messy desk, but really, it’s what works for the individual person. I hope something on this list will be useful to you!

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