Tips To Stay Professional While Working from Home

David Klenda

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May 12, 2017 (Updated: October 3, 2023)

Remote work has become the new normal for many professionals all over the world. But just because you might be flying solo in your home office during the day doesn’t mean tossing your professionalism out the window. Whether it’s the temptation to call your bestie during the workday to vent about a stressful project or the constant distraction of your cat’s adorable antics, staying professional while working from home is a no-brainer if you want to stay productive.

How Professional Do You Need To Be, Really?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, remote and flexible work arrangements are so valuable these days that workers are more than willing to overlook a pay raise if it means they can work from home. Many professionals state the benefits of remote work include higher productivity, better work-life balance, and greater flexibility to complete work at their most productive times. Communications technology has also made it much easier to stay home and still interact with a remote team and get things done. Plus, many employers find it cheaper to let you use your office space and not theirs.

The benefits are obvious. Your commute is only a few steps away, and parking is free. You can fit work tasks around the other events in your life. You can respond flexibly to the needs of your family. You don’t have to shave as much.

But working from home isn’t always as productive or engaging as we’d like it to be. Sometimes, we get distracted or go MIA for too long when we really should be completing that to-do list we noted last week. This is where staying professional while working from home can become a challenge.

Your New Normal

You used to go to an office space at a scheduled time to work with colleagues and be overseen by your boss. You were paid for your time at the job. But now, you start work when you’re ready. You take breaks when the mood strikes, and you might even turn on the TV for some background noise when that wasn’t even an option in the office. You probably dressed for the office, too. Now, most of us who work remotely (let’s be honest) often opt for more comfortable work attire (hello comfy gym shorts).

In an office, you most likely held yourself to certain standards. You showed up on time or early. You were always well dressed and groomed. You never let personal business interfere with your job. You handled stress and setbacks with a calm demeanor. To your coworkers, you broadcasted a confident aura. You’d never do your job any other way.

Are you holding yourself to the same standards now that no one is looking? “Of course,” you might say, but look more closely.

The Dangers of Working From Home That No One Tells You About

Why do many private schools require a dress code? Why do high-end professionals go to work in suits rather than T-shirts and sweatpants? It’s because dressing professionally is a given and universal expectation when working in an office.

Donning a tie, putting on makeup, and polishing your appearance are the first steps to a great day. You dress for the job you want. Do you want to be un-showered in pajamas in your basement cruising Instagram? That sounds like unemployment, not a dream job. Most remote workers will tell you they take steps to dress up a little and mimic the feel of being in an office — if just to maintain a level of professionalism. While this is truth for many, there are many more who don’t take the time to focus on the professional decorum of their work.

Some of these dangers will catch you when you’re not aware of them, too. Take social media for example. Sure, it’s tempting to walk away from the computer and take a scroll break. But too many of these breaks to hop on social can be detrimental to your overall productivity. Scrolling for five minutes can easily turn into an hour or more, wasting your time.

Even while writing this, I stopped mid-sentence to respond to a “What’s up, bro?” message on Facebook.

Being one person at work and another in your free time is natural and healthy, but when the line between workplace and home starts to blur, your work ethic can slip. So, avoid these dangers and stay professional while working from home.

Tips for Stopping the Slide and Staying Professional While Working From Home

How can you prevent yourself from becoming a sloppy puddle of your former self? Use these tips to stay professional while working from home so you can get your to-do’s done:

Create a Professional Space

Establish an office or even a corner of your home as a professional space. Even if you work at your kitchen table, for the time you are working that square footage is a cathedral of professionalism. Keep your workspace as tidy as you would if surrounded by peers. Imagine at any time your boss or a potential employer could show up to evaluate you.

Work Like You’re On The Clock

Set a time to start work. Perhaps it’s the same every day or maybe it adapts to your life, but for today work starts then and not a minute late. During that time, you are a professional and you’ll act that way. All of the high standards you have as an at-work star will apply, even if no one is looking.

Avoid Distractions

Set up your space in an area where you’re least likely to get distracted by things around the house (cough-cough, that package that you know has your new Airsoft gun in it). Try noise-cancelling headphones for distraction-free work during your most productive times — or for when your neighbor decides to mow the lawn.

Dress for Work

You can dress down but consider keeping it professional to get yourself in the mindset of work. Arranging your appearance is an important preparation ritual even if you don’t have a video chat on your schedule. Buy some new attire, even if it’s just a pair of new comfy jeans. Besides this, come up with a comfortable but professional-looking approach to dressing for the day, even when working remotely.

Employ The Kids

Do you have kids that are home with you? If so, set boundaries with them and help them understand that even though you aren’t physically going to work, you’re still at work. Several things can work here. One, give them titles and jobs. Keep your “Research Assistant” or “Vice President of Pencil Sharpening” busy. Two, if they need you for a non-emergency, schedule it into your day. And three, make the kids a part of your break schedule. Spend time with them during lunch, take a few minutes here and there to read or play a game. This can help recharge your batteries and stay professional while working from home.

Be Amazing at Home

You have accomplished a dream: working on your time in your place. Your commute is gone. You can dress comfortably. You can adapt to the needs of your family. Beware of the pitfalls, though. You may not always be the rock-solid worker you were when you dressed up to drive to work. When all the other people in your new office are under ten and watching cartoons, you might not exhibit the work ethic you used to.

So, set some boundaries, keep a positive attitude, and ask yourself: “What slippers would Warren Buffett wear to the office?” Use these tips for staying professional while working from home as the first step in thriving in your remote role.

Author Image - David Klenda
David Klenda

CopyPress writer

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