Are you one of the millions of Americans now working from home? It can be quite an adjustment. One day you’re working out of the office, surrounded by coworkers, and the next, you’re at home, telecommuting from your PC or laptop. Adjusting to the new normal can be very challenging, too. There are new distractions, workflows have changed, you’re probably using new software for communication, remote employee monitoring and more.
However, that challenge doesn’t have to be insurmountable. The following tips will help make working from home simpler and more effective, whether you’re sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic, or your position changes permanently to remote status.
1. Close to the Modem/Router
If you’re working remotely, it means you’ll be doing everything over the Internet. Not only will you need high-speed connectivity, but you need to ensure that your workspace is positioned correctly. No matter what type of router you have, closer is better. The closer your workstation is to the router, the better the signal strength and the faster your transfer speeds will be. Note that the more devices you have connected to your network, the slower the entire thing will be, so you might want to limit the number of devices connected during work hours.
2. The Right Space
This might seem pretty obvious, but it bears mentioning. If you’re constantly being interrupted, your work is going to suffer. Make sure that you have some quiet space where you can set up your home office. This area should be off limits to kids, but it also needs to be away from reminders about chores and other things that might distract you.
3. Mitigate Interruptions
Chances are good you struggle with interruptions in the office, but they can be even more problematic at home. From kids to pets, making lunches to helping with homework, doing laundry to vacuuming, nosy neighbors to well-meaning family and friends calling on the phone, you need to find a way to mitigate those time-consuming interruptions. Helpful resource: Collaborative Space Etiquette
4. Prepare for Meetings
If your company is big on meetings, you need to ensure that you have the right setup for it. There are actually several things you’ll need to consider, including the following:
- A private, well-lit space where interruptions will not happen
- A microphone and speakers/headset
- A webcam
If you’re doing your meetings via your tablet computer or laptop, chances are good that it has a built-in webcam and mic, but that’s not always the case. Double-check your setup so that you’re ready when it’s time for a virtual meeting. Helpful resource: Virtual Meetings: The Invisible Meeting
5. The Right Communication Software
Whether we’re talking about meetings, team collaboration, interoffice communication, or something else, you’ll need the right communication software. You can’t (and shouldn’t try!) to handle it all by email. That just won’t work. Make sure that you and your team have the right support, whether that’s Skype, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, or something else. There are other tools that can help with collaboration, file sharing, and the like, such as Trello, Drive and Dropbox, Slack, and more.
6. Stay on Track
What are you working on? When is it due? What about your coworkers? The right calendar can help the entire office stay on track and productive. You’ll find a wide range of calendar options out there. Google is free and very popular, but you may also like Zoho, or another commercially available business calendar.
7. Threat Protection
For anyone working from home, it is more important than ever to protect your computer from hackers, malware, and prying eyes. This is particularly true if you’re dealing with sensitive information. In addition to modern antivirus/anti-malware software, you should also have a VPN that can block your IP address and make it more difficult for attackers to target you or the information on your network. Note that your company may have a specific VPN required, so check with IT first. Helpful resource: Cyber Security For Employees.
8. Get a Second Monitor
You’ll quickly find that you need more screen real estate than you imagined. A second monitor allows you to expand your working space and is particularly important for anyone struggling to handle their daily tasks from a small laptop. However, even if you have a PC with a larger monitor, it may be worth investing in a second screen to help boost productivity. Be warned, though, once you go double, it’s hard to go back to using just one monitor!
9. The Ability to Withstand Temptation
If there is one thing that surprises those forced to work from home for the first time, it’s the difficultly with staying focused. Everything seems to cry out to be done. You need to wash the dishes and do the laundry. The house needs to be vacuumed and the kids’ toys need to be picked up. The lawn needs to be mowed. The list goes on and on. One of the most critical things for you to cultivate now is the ability to focus on getting your work done and ignoring the temptation to do other things. Pretend that you’re working in the office rather than at home.
10. Gadgets and Tools
Finally, make sure you’ve fully outfitted your workspace. Think about what you’re going to need to stay productive and comfortable. This goes beyond a laptop and a decent chair. You’ll need a power strip to stay connected, charging cords for devices, access to a printer and scanner, and so much more. Take a strategic view and make sure that your home office is as well-appointed as your work office.
If you’re new to working at home, it can be surprisingly difficult. The tips above will help ensure that you’re able to stay productive, while minimizing distractions and unanticipated downtime. With a little patience and the willingness to get beyond the learning curve, you may find that you’re actually more productive at home than you were in the office.