With the spread of COVID-19, there has been a drastic jump in employees working remotely as non-essential businesses shut down across the country. In February 2020, Flex Job published statistics that 4.7 million (approximately 3.4 percent of the population) were working from home. Fast forward just one month, and it’s become a daily reality for the majority of Americans.
While this has increased the work options and decreased potential exposure, it’s also an adjustment for employees who have never worked from home. Working effectively at home takes time. Learning the correct methods and investing in the right tools is a part of this process. Here are 5 tips that you can use to effectively work from home now and in the future.
Tip #1: Create your workspace
This is essential to working effectively at home. Most employees start out at their kitchen table, and this is a big no-no. It may seem central and accessible, but it’s a hassle. You’re stuck moving your work every single time that you want to do something else in that space (like eat), or the environment is simply too loud between partners, kids, and pets. More importantly, the height is off and you will find yourself with back, shoulder, or neck aches.
If you want to have an effective work from home environment, you must invest in your space. A dedicated desk with a nice desk chair and office supplies is a good start. You might want to consider getting the following:
- Sit/stand desk
- Desk chair…your dining chair does not have the right ergonomics
- Monitor stand/Laptop stand
Make sure you have a quiet environment where you can take work phone calls and video calls. When you’re designing this space, it’s also a good idea to have a professional background behind you. After all, you may be comfortable working out of your unfinished basement, but do you really want your entire office seeing your hot water heater or washer/dryer behind you? Or your bathroom. Yes, I know there’s good light in there and you might have a great seat but it will distract everyone because they want to see what’s in your bathroom. Put some thought into your space and it’ll repay you with productivity!
Tip #2: Outline a schedule
Working remotely rocks when you find the right schedule that works for you. Now, odds are you can’t entirely design this like you’d want to. You won’t be able to stay up all night and sleep all day. There are some meetings and appointments you’ll have to schedule according to others on your calendar. That said, you can design other parts of your schedule that were previously dictated by working in an office.
If you’re an early bird who likes to wake up early, you can get up, walk your dog, and get a jump start on the day by 7 AM. On the other hand, if you prefer to sleep in, start working by 9, and do most of your productive work in the afternoon, then you can absolutely do that. As long as you coordinate your projects with those on your team, the rest is up to you. You can even work after dinner if you prefer to take breaks throughout the day. – Of course with the exception that your boss may require you to be available at certain times of the day, and you should honor those requests.
After you work out the schedule that works best, you’ll want to outline a basic schedule, so your coworkers know when you’re most available to collaborate. For example, if you’re normally assisting your children during certain times of the day, then this can be helpful to know. Knowing that you’re also working early in the morning or late at night will also help cooperation.
Tip #3: Invest in the right tools
Investing in the right tools to use when working from home can make all the difference. These tools may ultimately vary with what your company uses, but here is a quick list to keep in mind.
- Computer: Having the right computer helps. If you are a graphic artist and have a powerful computer at work, you will need a home computer that is similar to keep up the same level of performance.
- Monitor: While we all love these cool 14” laptops for the convenience of carrying around, they will put a strain on your eyes after working off it for more than 6 hours. Investing in a 2nd monitor will boost productivity. Going to 3 monitors will open up a new world for you if you live in spreadsheet land.
- Ergonomics: Proper keyboard and mouse to keep a strain off your wrists. Invest in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse!
- Headphones/Headset: You should also consider getting a headset to help block out the noise and give you a closer microphone when in meetings. Your AirPods will not block out sound.
- Strong WiFi: This is a no-brainer, but you’d be shocked at how big of a difference it can make between a productive and non-productive workday.
- Favorite communication and connectivity tools for remote workers:
These tools can help you stay healthy and in touch with coworkers and communicate effectively even when you’re not in the same office space. As you continue working remotely, you may continue to add tools to this list that work well for you.
Tip #4: Follow your company policies
Even though you are working away from the office it does not mean you are free from company policies. Keep aware of what you can do on your work computers. Also, follow the policies that allow you to join the corporate network. This can be making sure your personal computer has VPN, anti-virus, is encrypted, and has any other software needed to connect to the network.
Consider keeping home and work separate as part of your workflow. If you are able, use your work computer for work and a home computer for home. This way you can keep your files separate.
Communication with your boss or supervisor is essential. Make sure you understand the expectations for your work and your workflow during this time. Ask questions about projects and get clear deadlines. Remember, you are working from home, not on vacation.
Tip #5: Take breaks
Effectively working from home means that you still have both of those things (work AND home), and they remain separate. A work-life balance is incredibly necessary for your mental health. When working remotely, you may find that you and your coworkers don’t have schedules that align exactly, and this can often result in interruptions or another email coming in right as you were getting up for a snack or self-care time.
In order to work effectively, you must take breaks and clear your head. If it helps you, outline your schedule and build in breaks. Start out each day with self-care time and don’t get online until 8 or 9 (when you would’ve gotten to the office) and be strict about the time you’re logging off. Have a list of “self-care” items that you want to check off during the day. Walk around the block, take coffee breaks, make some personal phones. Give yourself an opportunity to clear your head because your work will benefit.
Many work-from-home employees are tempted to power through the workday until they’ve completed their to-do list. Yet, not getting up to stretch, exercise, shower or eat can actually inhibit your productivity. In order to work effectively, you must take breaks and clear your head. Outlining your daily schedule and building in breaks can ensure that give yourself an adequate opportunity to clear your head. It’ll ultimately increase your productivity and benefit your work.
With three in five U.S. workers doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic, employers have had to remain agile in how they respond to the difficulties that arise. Working from home is often a learning process, but the above tips can help ease the transition. When in doubt, create a workspace and schedule that work for you and collaborate with your coworkers through a variety of remote work tools. And don’t forget those self-care breaks! Those can make all the difference. How do you work from home?
While I have this awesome setup, I have another workstation for private meetings. https://edelalon.com/blog/2020/03/covid19-work-from-home-work-from-van/