These last months since the onset of COVID-19 have been unimaginable. We have transitioned from our normal usual lives to stay-at-home, physical distancing and face masks. Everyone, no matter who you are, has had the world turned upside down in some way or another by this pandemic.
With businesses now requiring employees to Work From Home (WFH), many are challenged on a daily basis. We have had figured out really quickly how to implement remote work in a home environment.
Gaetano Dinardi, Director of Demand Generation @ Nextiva, offers the following suggestions in his article Working from Home – Tips You Can Do Right Now:
• Build a Permanent Workspace. The first step in your WFH journey is to designate an area of your house specifically for getting work done. This could be an unused or spare bedroom that you convert to a home office or, if your house is small, a portion/corner of a room generally used for another purpose. Regardless of space or location, establish an area and commit to working in this space every day.
• Invest in Quality Technology. Setting up a home office may require a small investment. You may have to purchase technology, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet or remote phone system to continue to do your job. A high-performance router will save you from many technology hassles. Purchase whatever you need to comfortably and efficiently do your job. Invest in a good pair of headphones with long battery life, Bluetooth compatibility, microphone and noise-canceling features.
• Get Comfortable Office Furniture. Depending on the amount of space available, consider purchasing a large desk, bookshelves and a comfortable office chair. You will be working in this space every day and should consider functional and ergonomic furniture/equipment.
• Set Specific Work Hours. If you are going to make WFH an everyday commitment, you must set specific business hours of your choice. Some individuals are most productive and focused during morning hours and others in the evening. By setting specific work hours and sticking to them, you will increase performance and develop a healthy work schedule. Communicate your work schedule to co-workers, teams and your boss. At the end of the day, shut down your laptop, set your work app to “away,” and close your office door.
• Make a To-Do List and Use a Planner. It can be challenging to keep track of what you have to do throughout your workday. Start your day by reviewing priorities, tasks and deadlines. Set goals and time limits for each task. Use a calendar/planner to keep track of deadlines, appointments and meetings. If you are not a list or planner person, there are plenty of modern project-management apps available like Asana, Basecamp and Trello.
• Do Not Work in Your PJs. “Dress for success” is not just a corporate catchphrase; it really also matters when you WFH. You will be better equipped to get work done, handle any kind of video chat with a co-worker or client and be mentally and physically prepared for the day. Even if you do not leave the house, dress for work as if you were in the office, even if it is just from the waist up. It makes the right impression and puts you in the professional mood.
• Develop a Morning Routine. Another enjoyable perk of WFH is not having to get up, rush out of the house, and commute to an office. But you don’t get to skip your morning routine altogether. Take a shower, make your coffee and breakfast and prepare your lunch, just as though you have to leave the house. You should continue to set an alarm to prevent you from sleeping in too late and keep you on a healthy sleep schedule.
• Exercise/Stretch Regularly. Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increase happiness, enjoyment and interest levels. These are all important for productivity. Regularly stretching helps you maintain posture. If your day allows, take a lunch break and go for a walk, go to the gym, or stretch.
• Eat Healthful Meals and Snacks. Another WFH reality is that we have full-time access to the kitchen. When it is time for lunch or a snack break, do not be drawn to the usual unhealthful snacks, such as chips, cookies, or leftover pizza. Research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables has a direct positive link to overall productivity levels.
• Stay Off Social Media. Social media can be a giant time-suck if you are not careful. Many mobile apps reveal to users how much time they spend in each one. Know your company’s social media guidelines. Minimizing mindless use of social media helps avoid distractions, so you can focus on getting more done. Shut-off social media notifications during the day and mute notifications on your phone.
• Listen to Music. Depending on the nature of your work, it helps to turn on some background music. Choose a streaming service that lets you pick moods for focus and productivity. Since you are working at home, make sure you can quickly mute the music to take a business call.
• Use Video Chat. Video conference is the hallmark of remote work and is a great way to connect with your team. WFH can get lonely, especially if you are single or live alone. Insure that remote employees feel valued and included through live video meetings and conference calls. The meetings should have an agenda actively involving all members. Dedicate time to meet privately with each member so they can share status updates, receive coaching and discuss developments from their personal life. There are many video-chat applications available today, such as: Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and Cospace.
• Avoid Family, Friends and Pets. This avoidance can be difficult, especially if you have young children at home, or have multiple pets, all of whom want your attention. If you are home all day, every day, then family and friends might intentionally or unintentionally interrupt you. Communicate your work hours clearly to your family and friends. Make time outside of work to get together with them and have fun.
• Declare Your WFH Availability. Define dates and hours of your WFH schedule to your colleagues, what you are working on and how others can get in touch. Use a business-communication app like Nextiva with status (away/available) features indicating your real-time presence.
• Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks. Just because you are not in the office does not mean you are not a target for hackers. Your work machine is extremely valuable for thieves and criminals, so take care to work securely.
Katie Sweeney, writer in her article How To Create the Ultimate Home Office, published in the Nob Hill Gazette features decorating tips from leading San Francisco designers. Selected ideas are listed below:
• Jonathan Rachman: “Don’t be afraid to use patterns, be it in your window treatment, flooring, rug, or ceiling. Colors are everything!! The right color will put you at ease, while the wrong ones would drive you absolutely bananas. This is different for everyone.”
• Dina Bandman: “I love using wallpaper in almost any space. It’s a fast and easy way to add personality to a room – especially if it’s a bold design. Having flowers in a home office brings nature inside and is calming and inspiring.”
• Suzanne Tucker: “Surround yourself with a few personal touches – such as photos of pets and loved ones. Layer (furnishings) with textiles, pillows and throws, forgo the blah office accessories and use, for example, vintage china tumblers, wicker baskets, vintage letter opener, crystal paperweights. Wall art – a bold abstract, a pretty watercolor, a collection of vintage works on paper – is the perfect accessory for a home office. It does not have to be expensive. Just look for something that speaks to you, something that puts a smile on your face. Posters are a no-no unless you are 12. When it comes to furniture placement, think about the ‘flow’ of your space. Resist the temptation to shove all furniture up against the walls. Try not to place yourself with your back to the door.”
• Jay Jeffers: “I treat home offices as very residential by using chandeliers, lamps with nice shades and good natural light from windows. Having equipment like a printer in plain view are unnecessary and unsightly mistakes. Devote a small portion of a closet to storage for the printer, paper, etc.”
• Regan Baker: “We always source plenty of trays. Visually they can streamline even the most cluttered of desks, corralling wayward pens, notepads or paperwork. They can also be exceptionally functional organization tools, helping categorize items in a shallow drawer or materials for a current project.”
As we wait for this crisis to pass, having a home office will leave you well-prepared. In the meantime, it is important to stay positive, be kind to yourself and others, and find your own silver-linings as you enjoy the benefits of WFH.