MIT Open Learning

By: MIT Open Learning on April 6th, 2020
4 Minute Read

Print/Save as PDF

A Guide to Working From Home, From MIT Open Learning

Technology Insider | Professional Development | Leadership

Remote work tips and tricks for managers and employees from MIT Open Learning and beyond.

Between 2005 to 2017, the United States' workforce saw a 159% increase in remote work. Despite this general trend, many organizations and their employees were not prepared to make their workplaces completely remote.

As working from home became a mandatory step for companies across the United States to reduce the spread of COVID-19, you may have found yourself scrambling to align with scattered colleagues, or attempting to balance your newly-entangled work and home life. 

Following these work from home best practices should improve your productivity if you're new to managing remotely or working from home.

leadership tips for managing remotely

Distributed teams are a necessary step to flatten the curve, but this model poses a significant challenge for managers who are used to leading in-person. Adjusting the way you measure and communicate success is key for maintaining a well-aligned team.

Shift YOUR Goals and Measures of Success

In this new work from home experiment, the number of hours an employee works is not necessarily a viable or informative measurement of productivity. So, if you’re looking to keep your team on track, you may need to recalibrate your expectations and update your measurements of success.

A recent piece in The Atlantic recommends setting specific, measurable goals to help guide your remote management approach. Work with your organization and your team to develop these goals and make sure to communicate them clearly and often.


To that end, communicating goals and more vocally celebrating successes will be paramount for keeping your employees motivated. In the age of social distancing, virtual check-ins will replace the hallway greetings, coffee breaks, and cubicle banter that you and your colleagues rely on for social stimulus, validation, and the transfer of institutional knowledge.

Common office niceties like supportive affirmations or simple nods in the hallway also bolster employee mental health and wellbeing, according to MIT Sloan School of Management.

So, make your next conference call a video one and replace your annual team retreat with a virtual game night. Schedule regular video chat check-ins, or brown bag "lunch and learn" sessions to reinforce the importance of workplace learning. This will help keep your team on the same page, while maintaining camaraderie and combatting loneliness.

remote work tips for Employees

Balancing work and home is already challenging for professionals in any industry. Now, maintaining strong physical and emotional boundaries while working from home will be critical for maintaining that already illusive work-life balance.

Get Comfortable

The best impromptu remote offices should have good lighting, the right technology, and your own personal touches. Most importantly, remote workspaces should be outfitted with whatever ergonomically friendly furniture is available. If a back-friendly office chair isn't available, sitting at a table and avoiding the couch or bed during office hours will help reduce back pain, neck pain, and eye strain.

If your home doesn't have a dedicated office space, make sure to turn off all of work devices and pack up any work-related items at the end of your work day, to avoid the temptation of working overtime at home.

Replicating an on-site office at home is another great hack for increasing productivity, according to MIT Horizon. If a whiteboard, calendar, or bluetooth mouse keeps you on track at the office, consult your manager to see how they can help you replicate that office environment at home.

Stay mentally and physically Healthy

Staying healthy while working from home is challenging, but necessary. MIT Horizon recommends getting up every hour to take a walk. If a walk isn't an option, jumping jacks or planks between meetings will also raise your heart rate and keep your body moving.

It can be easy to lose track of time while staring at screens. That's why non-exercise breaks are also important for staying productive and regaining focus.
Get up to make a coffee or a cup of tea, prepare your lunch and eat away from your desk, or take a moment to stretch. This will make it easier to settle back into the tasks at hand. Using these breaks to connect with someone via video chat is also a great way to stay social during the work day.

Set Boundaries

The last, and probably most important best practice for remote work is setting clear boundaries with your colleagues. Inform everyone about your work hours and make sure that you stick to them. This will prevent burnout that can often happen when professionals blur the lines between work and home.

Share, Share, Share

Whether you're a manager or an employee, working from home requires more frequent and clearer communication.

A distributed workforce isn't able to benefit from the informal communication that on-site managers and employees rely on to share their latest challenges, wins, or questions. That’s why it’s more important than ever to share your work more proactively and check-in more frequently with your team.

Work is changing, and industry leaders may struggle to meet the sudden demand for a digital approach to work and workforce education.

We hope that you can use these remote work best practices in a way that fits your situation, or the specific challenges and needs of your team.