Although some businesses are opening back up, many have asked their employees to work from home permanently.
Feelings are mixed. You may be excited to not have to fight traffic and get an extra hour of sleep. However, you could also be missing the camaraderie of working in close quarters with your coworkers.
Either way, you’re now working from home indefinitely, unless you find a new job.
Below, we’ll discuss some tips for succeeding as a remote employee, as well as give you some guidance on potential changes to your tax situation. Read on to prepare to work from home.
Create a Dedicated Home Office Space
If you aren’t careful, working from home can become a distraction fest. Working in front of the TV can turn into watching TV with your laptop open.
Setting up a dedicated office space keeps work and home from bleeding together. It also helps you shift in and out of “work” mode when you start and finish the day.
Get Dressed Every Morning
Working in your pajamas may sound appealing, but dressing up in real clothes helps shift your mindset into work mode. Additionally, you want to look professional on video calls with your team members or potential clients.
No need to go fully formal unless your company asks you too — just putting on a nice shirt and real pants (even jeans) can get you ready to crush your workday.
Start and End at the Same Time Each Day
Rolling out of bed and into the office whenever you want sounds nice, but you’ll be more productive on a schedule. Get into a morning routine and start at the same time each day. You’ll be less stressed.
Also, end the day at the same time. Time boundaries help keep your work from eating up personal time.
Breaks are necessary to keep you motivated and productive. Take a 5-10 minute break away from your desk every hour, and take a longer break for lunch (30-60 minutes).
Set Firm But Friendly Boundaries With Family/Partner/Spouse
If you have a family or have a spouse/partner, you need to set boundaries for when they can bug you about things. Be friendly but firm. Make it known that you need to be focused during your work time.
Now, let’s cover some communication tips.
Once you’re at home, you realize how important a common office is to regular team communication.
Take initiative when communicating. Stay in constant (but reasonable) touch with your team and boss to ensure projects are done accurately and on time.
Familiarize Yourself With Communication Tools and Software
Now that you’re at home, being skilled with remote work software is valuable. Familiarize yourself with the tools your company uses.
Also, look into productivity and project management tools for yourself. These will help you manage your workload. Plus, being skilled with productivity software is a marketable skill if you go looking for a different job.
Track Coworker/Boss Communication Preferences
Speaking of software, find a way to efficiently track your boss’s and coworkers’ communication preferences. For example, you may use a spreadsheet to track each team member’s schedule and preferred method of communication (email, text, phone call, video chat, etc.).
Communicate By Video Chat When Possible
Video chat isn’t as good as face-to-face communication, but it’s much better than text-based chats. Not only does it provide a clearer form of communication than text, but it can help you deal with loneliness or isolation you feel while working remotely.
Alright, now, let’s go over some things that you, as a remote worker, should keep in mind for tax season.
*We always recommend speaking with your tax preparer before making any tax decisions*
Deduct Your Home Office Space
The IRS lets people who work from home deduct their home office space and other expenses on their tax return if it’s used exclusively and regularly for work (another reason to create a dedicated office space).
In particular, you can deduct money from your taxes for space itself, as well as a certain portion of your homeowner’s insurance, mortgage interest, property taxes, and some utilities.
Hold On to Your Receipts
You must keep accurate records and receipts for anything your deduct on your taxes. These come in handy in the rare case of an IRS audit. You can keep these records on your computer, although having a backup hard copy helps in case something happens to the electronic version.
Know Deduction Limitations
W2 remote workers that are considered employees cannot deduct unreimbursed employee expenses unless they itemize their deductions. There are other limitations as well that the IRS explains in detail on their website.
What if You’re Self-Employed or an Independent Contractor?
Remote workers that are self-employed or independent contracts (not W2 employees) can deduct most of their work-related expenses as business expenses. They must generally keep the same records, but they are not subject to the same requirements as employees (since they run a business).
However, self-employed people and independent contractors must pay self-employment tax if they earn over $400 in a year. Tax payments must be made on a quarterly basis to avoid fines and penalties. Most recommend saving 30% of your self-employment income in a separate savings account for your convenience.
Succeed While Working From Home
Working remotely comes with its upsides, but you now have some unique challenges to tackle. Follow our guide above to remain a star employee even when you’re miles from the office.