18 work from home tips other tech companies won't tell you

Justin Pot
Justin Pot / Published April 20, 2020

The internet is full of remote work advice. Have a dedicated workspace! Stick to a routine! Consider occasionally talking to people! That sort of thing.

Work from home long enough, though, and you'll learn some tips that most people won't share—because they don't want to admit to following them. I asked my Zapier coworkers about these sorts of tips, and they delivered. Here's their advice, with some additional thoughts from me below each one.

1. You can work in PJs, just not the PJs you slept in.

Chris VanderKolk, Integration Engineer

Wear whatever is comfortable, sure, but don't abandon routine entirely.

2. Put on your shoes in the morning.

Mike Knoop, Co-Founder

Maybe you don't love wearing shoes in your house—I'm Canadian, and to me, the very idea is offensive. But the point isn't shoes; it's routine. Little things like putting on shoes can help separate your pre-work morning from your work day, and that's helpful.

(Seriously, though, who wears shoes in their house?)

3. Nobody knows if you stop showering and brushing your teeth…except for you. If you feel better with freshly conditioned hair, then you'll work better with freshly conditioned hair.

Michael Doyle, Senior Customer Champion

You are now free from the tyranny of doing these things for other people—but maybe you should do them for yourself.

4. Drinking lots of liquids forces you to take periodic breaks.

Michelle, Customer Champion

It's all too easy to go for hours without ever leaving your desk. This is a crude but effective way to force the matter.

5. "Time shifting" is sometimes just an excuse to take an afternoon off—and that's okay.

Justin Pot, Staff Writer

You don't need to obsess over your hours anymore—so long as you're getting your work done. You'll probably end up working late some other day anyway.

6. It's okay to eat at your desk and keep working, just don't hover over your keyboard.

Michelle, Customer Champion

Snacking without anyone judging you is a work from home highlight, but food in your laptop is less great. Also, please turn your video off if you're eating during a meeting.

7. Call up a friend on Zoom to "work together."

Kate Zasada, Product Manager

Working at home doesn't have to mean working alone. Virtually coworking with a friend or coworker helps you feel connected—you chat a bit, but you're mostly there to work.

8. Join large meetings around 30 seconds late to make sure you don't show up on the top of everyone's screen the entire time.

Deb Tennen, Senior Editor

On some video conferencing platforms, the first people to join the meeting end up pinned to the top of the screen throughout the call, even if someone's sharing their screen. Not only is everyone watching them during the call, but if the video is being recorded, that means those people's faces are there for posterity. Of course, this tip only matters if you dislike attention so it doesn't really apply to me.

9. Wireless headphones mean you can go to the bathroom during a meeting without missing anything. Don't do this.

Justin Pot, Staff Writer

If you don't take my advice, at least turn off your microphone.

10. Virtual backgrounds aren't just to hide your embarrassing workspace. They're also a fun way to entertain your friends.

Brian Wendt, Frontend Engineer

Having said that: don't overlook the value of hiding your embarrassing workplace. Also: don't be afraid to go all out on virtual backgrounds. To misquote Ben Peter, our very own officially recognized Zoom background champion: "Your Zoom background isn't interesting unless you've suspended yourself from the ceiling."

11. Virtual meetings are the perfect opportunity to wear a silly hat, a fake mustache, or a onesie (I have done all of these things).

Amanda Cotter, Support Operations Manager

Everything about video meetings is, on some level, awkward. You might as well acknowledge that and lean into the weird—if only to make things feel more human.

Props make meetings better

12. If you adjust your camera ever so slightly upwards, nobody will notice you're putting your legs on your desk.

Olmo Maldonado, Senior Backend Engineer

Don't say you didn't learn anything useful from this article.

13. If your face doesn't have to be on the screen, go for a walk during your meeting.

Kate Zasada, Product Manager

I, personally, have trouble staying awake during meetings—so I'm glad Kate suggested this. It's hard to fall asleep when you're walking, in my experience.

14. No one knows if you're doing weird stretches at your standing desk or having a five-minute dance party with yourself (except the dog, who may still give you weird looks).

Katie Redderson-Lear, Escalations Team Lead

Nobody is watching. If they are, you have bigger problems.

15. You can see who talks about you the most on Slack by searching for your own name.

Carly Moulton, Senior Communications Specialist

Admit it: you're curious. Search for your name, then click the People tab, and you'll find out who really, really likes talking about you—for better or worse. Like this:

Search for your name in Slack and see who talks about you

16. You learn a lot about a coworker if you don't @ them in Slack—just mention their name and see if they respond.

Scott Williams, Senior Engineering Manager

Some people are wizards and will always appear in conversations at just the right moment. It's spooky. Speaking of which…

17. You can use Slack keywords to lurk on all the channels you're a member of.

Michael Doyle, Senior Customer Champion

This is the tool you're looking for if you want to be a spooky wizard who always appears in conversations at just the right moment.

Slack's keywords feature can really keep you informed

18. Use Slack to crowdsource ideas.

Justin Pot, Staff Writer

It's a lot easier than thinking up ideas on your own.

This is literally how I wrote this article

Want more advice on working from home? Zapier is a company of 300+ people that's been fully remote since the beginning. Check out our ultimate guide to remote work to learn more.

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