Between babies, bed rest and cross-country house hunting our company has gone through a crash course in working remotely. We’ve learned a lot about the habits and tools needed to stay happy and productive. Here are our best practices.

Habits

Keep your routine – It takes consistent effort to get ready for work when technically you could just drag your laptop in bed at 9:00am, but a routine is what keeps you sane. A little formality before work helps prime your mind for a more focused the day. Unplugging after hours is just as important. It’s easy to plug back in when your office is 10 feet away, but blending your home and work lives is a slippery slope. Before you know it you’ll be dreaming in Excel formulas.

Dedicate a space or machine – It’s way better for your psyche to have a dedicated space for work, even if it’s the corner of your living room. Of course one of the benefits of working remotely can be portability – the freedom to work from a coffee shop for a change of pace. In that case, having a dedicated laptop you only use for work is key. At the very least, having different profiles to log into will help keep personal distractions from bleeding into your work day, and vice versa.

Set family rules – If family members are home while you’re working, figure out the best way for them to communicate to you. For Bruce, our Senior Systems Engineer, it’s by text message. A weird request? Maybe, but communication guidelines can keep your family from interrupting you at your most stressed. When you start hearing, “Whoa, I was just going to ask if you want lunch,” nobody wins.

Replace your commute – Make up for your lost commute with something commute-ish (a walk, a jog, etc.) Movement is an important tool in transitioning out of your work day and into your personal time.

Get social – Don’t lose the time you gain to the minutia of the day. Carve out time for those hobbies that get you face time with other people. Working remotely is an isolating experience. You’ll miss the lunch time banter around the office, and you’ll need a replacement.

Tools

Zoom – We’ve tried Google Hangouts and Skype, but found Zoom to be the best video conferencing fit for us. Zoom emulates conference bridges, so each user calls in. There’s a professionalism to it that feels right for businesses, whereas the bubbly icons and sound effects of other tools felt a little casual. Also, the screen sharing features on it are fantastic and allow you to easily share individual windows.

Slack – We use Slack exclusively for all internal communications (which we argue about here.) Aside from it being a more fluid and instant communication tool, it has helped our culture. Drawing that line for internal communications lets us keep things a little more fun, and the open nature of channels over email threads includes all our employees, no matter where they are.

Avaya IP Softphone – We have an Avaya phone system in our office. The Avaya IP Softphone loads your phone’s profile and features onto your laptop. The goal is to have everything needed for work on a single machine, and the Softphone makes our get-up-and-go offices significantly lighter. (If you’re in the market for a new phone system, this is a good place to start.)

LastPass – We recently adopted Lastpass to wrangle the 100+ passwords we use on a weekly basis (I talk about how it changed my life here.) Lastpass’ ability to share access to specific accounts and groups has helped us keep our remote workers’ credentials just as strong as if they were working from their office PC.

ShareSync – We use ShareSync for general customer file sharing. It’s secure, intuitive, and accessible from anywhere for our key team members

Evernote – For the worker who needs to jump between devices, there is no better note-taking tool than Evernote. I run it on my work PC, my home PC and my iPad. (our full review here.)