Working from home for an extended period is a new reality for many of us. But, for small business owners, work from home (WFH) isn’t necessarily new.

According to 2017 data from the Small Business Administration, about half of small businesses are home-based. Just over 60% of companies without paid employees operate out of the home, as do 23.3% of small employer firms.

These stats are before COVID-19. Today, many small businesses have moved to work from home because their physical locations have closed. Lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, but for some, working from home is here to stay.

Whether you’re working from home for a few more weeks or permanently, learn how you can make WFH work for you.

1. Set up your at-home workspace.

When my company first instituted its work-from-home policy in response to COVID-19 in mid-March, it took me a couple of weeks to settle into my groove and create a workspace that works for me.

Granted, I’m still at my kitchen table (having moved recently, I have yet to set up a proper home office—that’s on my shelter-in-place to-do list). But, I now have a laptop stand and other equipment, including high-quality wireless headphones, that allow me to be productive. I also have a secondary workspace—a patio chair on my deck—that I transition to in the late mornings or afternoons to get some fresh air and a change of scenery.

Ideally, your WFH setup will include a dedicated workspace where you can focus, distraction-free. If you don’t have a home office, experiment with places around your house to find a space that’s quiet, comfortable and conducive to productivity.

Need more? Check out these recommendations for setting up a more productive remote workspace.

2. Stay connected with your clients.

Right now, connecting with customers is vital. We’ve assembled some tips on how to keep lines of communication open and retain customers during the pandemic, which I encourage you to check out.

If your physical location has closed, but you’re still offering services, then let customers know. You don’t necessarily have to say you’re working from your home, but you do want to communicate that you’re fulfilling orders, holding classes or taking on new clients.

Crucially, mention the safety precautions you’re taking, such as contact-less delivery or video conferencing. Virtual classes and meetings may even become fixtures of your business once shelter-in-place orders lift.

3. Sound professional (but be human).

Projecting a professional image continues to be an essential part of building and maintaining customer trust.

To help with this when you’re WFH, consider getting a separate business phone number. One key advantage is that you’ll know when you’re receiving a work call and can answer accordingly.

Professionalism extends to video conferencing. Button up, at least from the waist up, to represent yourself and your business well.

All this being said, we’re living through unprecedented times. There will be hiccups, such as a child or pet crashing your video call. Hopefully, your clients and partners will understand, and you can extend the same courtesy to them.

4. Practice self-care and create boundaries.

You’ve probably seen an article or two about the importance of self-care during shelter-in-place. It’s worth repeating this message as many of us face new kinds of stress and anxiety. Taking time for yourself is not only good for your overall health but also the health of your business.

As we found by speaking with small business leaders, practicing self-care helps you be in a better place to run your business. It’s akin to refilling a gas tank: it’s harder to keep going when you’re on empty.

Working from home can add another layer of stress as the lines between work and personal life blend. One way to help is to set boundaries, such as not checking email after a certain hour or turning off your cell phone during meals. It can take discipline, but the reward is that you’re re-energized and refocused when you clock back in.

Work Safely and Productively from Home

One way you can optimize your WFH experience is by getting the right tools. For instance, check out 8x8 Express, the complete small business phone system that’s ideal for home offices. It includes a dedicated business number and unlimited calling, texting and video meetings for just $12/month. Right now, you can get 8x8 Express free for 30 days.

If you’re a larger business or need additional features, contact us. We’ll walk you through finding the right communications solution for your business.