Nonprofit Consultant

The Official Guide to Working Remotely: Tips from Nonprofit Veterans

Nonprofit fundraiser working remotely and typing on a laptop with cat lying nearby

Everyone loves the idea of remote work, and its rise in popularity everywhere, even within nonprofits, is a boon for introverted or self-motivated personalities. Let’s be honest, though . . . not every person who works from home falls into one of those categories. However, it is possible to make working remotely work for you, no matter your personality. Read on for practical tips on how to work from home without sacrificing productivity or workplace satisfaction.

Routine Is Your New Best Friend

Working from home means less direct supervision of your schedule, but that doesn’t mean you should throw routine out the window and work whenever inspiration strikes.

Setting a daily routine, including a consistent start and end time, will bring order to your day and ensure that you show up for your colleagues in a timely manner. It’s far too easy to blur the lines between work and personal life without structure.

Set Boundaries

Tips for setting personal boundaries are all the rage on social media these days. In this case, setting boundaries has less to do with keeping in-laws in line and more to do with preventing burnout.

We all work late sometimes, but it’s best to set parameters for those overtime hours. At the end of your normal workday, take a moment to decide on a nonnegotiable quitting time for the evening, then embark on your tasks. This will lead to higher productivity during your additional hours and keep you from being chained to your desk 24/7 . . . which is bound to happen to the workaholics among us unless checked.

Save Your Brain, Take Those Breaks

Eating at your desk may be tempting if you have a lot to do, but it’s best not to fall into this trap, especially in the unchanging environment of your own home. It’s incredibly easy to become listless and lacking in motivation from being stuck in the same room all day.

Take your lunch break (for real). Blink in the sunlight of your backyard for five minutes, make yourself a snack, or go on a walk. Your work will improve and so will your mental health.

Choose a Workspace and Deck It Out

You don’t have to commit to décor the way these dedicated college students did with their dorm room (although, more power to you if you have the energy). Your workspace should, though, be separate from your usual living area, optimized for your work style, and feel like a generally pleasant environment in which to spend many hours of your day.

Keeping your workspace separate has real benefits, including fewer distractions, higher focus, and reduced stress due to less time spent staring at a pile of laundry while finishing a project. That dining room table just isn’t cutting it.

Home office optimizations to consider include a portable standing desk, dual monitors (or three, if you’re an overachiever), an ergonomic chair, and (need I say it) a keyboard you don’t hate. Top it off with organizational tools and some personal touches, and you’re set up to actually want to work in your home office. No back pain, no problem.

Welcome the Valuable Distractions

More than likely, you will experience interruptions to your day that you don’t usually have in an office. Kids want attention, your spouse needs a quick discussion, and your roommate is particularly chatty that day. These interruptions are good for you in moderation, and it’s best to accept them with open arms. A benefit of remote work is that your day gets to feel a little more human than it otherwise might.

Obviously, you can’t get carried away and go completely rogue on your schedule. But as long as you keep these interruptions reasonable and communicate your meeting schedule well to avoid inopportune surprises, your interactions during the day will lift your spirits and keep your work enjoyable.

Engage with Your Colleagues

We’ve all heard the maxim “Work friends are the spice of life” (that’s how it goes, right?). Misquote aside, it’s true that giving your favorite colleagues a call can greatly relieve a bout of workday ennui.

Building community on the job can take some time and is somewhat dependent on the company culture, but it's worth investing a little time in.

Go Public

Despite the aforementioned benefits of a consistent workspace, there are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes you absolutely must go to a coffee shop or local library to get a change of scenery. The simple act of getting out of the house and existing in society (without much actual interaction), could be just the ticket to changing your perspective, digging out of a mental rut, or seeing a project in a new light.

To Wrap It Up . . . 

Lack of routine and loneliness are the two greatest enemies of remote work success. Do everything you can to combat them!


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