Are you an experienced road warrior, or is this your first time working from home? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with 12 practical tips to create an efficient home office environment that will keep your productivity on track.
Tip 1: Take a Business-Like Approach to Working at Home
Let’s be honest: you probably know your work habits better than anyone else.
Take a moment of self-reflection to assess your three best – and three worst – work habits.
Keep these in mind and look for ways to build on your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses when working remotely.
For example, if you’re tempted to blur the lines between home life and work, segregate your work time by creating a fixed schedule — then show up on time to your home office, fully dressed in work clothes, ready to start each day.
If you are easily distracted by a television or social media, turn it off while you’re working. (You can save it for a break or a reward for completing a project early.)
And if you feel the need to maintain a social connection with others who are working from home, consider setting up a group video chat (such as on Skype) where you can see other people working – and they can see you.
Tip 2: Create a Calm, Productive Home Office Environment
Unless you have superpowers of concentration, you’ll want to create a workspace that’s segregated from the rest of your regular home life.
Based on extensive surveys we’ve conducted on work preferences, we know that a workspace with access to natural light and a view to the outside is a top priority.
Take the movement of the sun into consideration when selecting an area to work – a desk facing a west window may be perfect in the morning but too bright or hot in the afternoon.
Children at home also pose a special challenge. Working from home is neither a vacation nor a babysitting job. Having said that, you can still pitch in to help with chores during your daily work breaks.
Professor Robert Kelly’s children are the breakout stars of this BBC broadcast from Kelly’s home office in South Korea. (See more about this heartwarming story here).
Tip 3: Good Ergonomics Help Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity
Working long hours at an improvised desk with a poorly fitted nonadjustable chair can lead to real health consequences — including potential joint pain or back pain. You also need to make sure your desk and keyboard set up allow you to place your arms comfortably on the work surface. The monitor needs to be positioned properly at eye level so that you are not leaning forward or looking down at the screen.
Formaspace can help.
Did you know that Formaspace can custom manufacture up to five benches or desks for you in five working days (or less!) through our Smart Ship program?
To help you get started, we’ve prepared two special Smart Ship configurations that are designed to work together for your home office – they provide the right ergonomic combination of a fully adjustable chair, an adjustable desk, and a 7-way adjustable monitor stand.
Our first office-in-a-box offering is a professional-grade, steel-framed desk finished in sapphire blue with a handsome solid maple work surface that’s designed to last for generations. Two upper shelves offer ample storage for reference books, files, or a small printer. Eight power outlets hidden behind the work surface keep your cables neat and tidy. And the 7-flex monitor arm provides nearly infinite monitor adjustment, so you won’t strain your eyes. And to make sure you are seated comfortably, we include a 3-way adjustable seat (with separate adjustable lumbar support) to give you proper support throughout the workday.
Click here to choose this Office-in-a-Box combination. You can customize your order to select your preferred frame color, worksurface material, shelving options, and more. (Be sure to include a note in your order requesting the 7-flex monitor arm and 3-way adjustable seat.)
Our second Office-in-a-Box option is a desk with caster wheels for added flexibility (you can roll this into position as needed). Here we have pre-selected a durable high-pressure laminate surface and a lower shelf that’s perfect for a computer printer. Customize this order by clicking here. (Be sure to include a note in your order requesting the 7-flex monitor arm and 3-way adjustable seat.)
Tip 4: Ramp up Productivity When Working from Home
If your business already uses of some sort of groupware (software that allows the group of people to work together efficiently), then you’re already ahead of the game
Groupware solutions, including category innovator Slack, Google’s G Suite tools, or one of the many collaboration platforms from Microsoft, allow you to share information with your co-workers just as easily from home as if you were working in the office.
One of the great advantages of working from home is that you are in control: you get to adjust the lighting, the temperature, and the music selection. But what if you miss the sound of other people working around you and need that to get into the working zone? (We’re talking to those of you who like to work in coffeehouses or open offices.) Visit Coffitivity.com to play the sound of a coffee house or other crowded space right in your home office.
Hopefully, this will help you get into the proper working groove.
But don’t forget to set an alarm to ring every 30 or 45 minutes. You need to get up, move around and stretch for five or ten minutes to get the blood flowing. These short breaks are a good time to wash the dishes, prep a meal for later in the day, sweep the porch, or walk around the block.
Tip 5: Establish Reliable Connectivity
If your main Internet provider service goes down, be sure you know in advance how to use your phone as a temporary wireless hub for your computer. (If your budget allows, having two Internet providers can provide an additional level of reliability.)
You may need to upgrade your home wireless system to ensure a good connection in your new home office. A mesh wireless router with two extenders placed throughout the house will provide good coverage, even in a larger home.
Reliable power is another consideration. A battery backup system that allows your computer to work for an additional two hours can keep you productive during electric outages.
Lighting can damage your equipment too. Protect your investment in electronics with a surge protector rated for 3000 Joules or higher.
Finally, Bluetooth headsets are very convenient, but they do need charging throughout the day, and sometimes, they can get accidentally disconnected. That’s why it’s good to have a standard cabled headset on hand to make sure you’re able to be heard clearly on conference calls.
Tip 6: Master the Art of Remote Communication
If you are new to working remotely, take care to avoid falling into common miscommunication traps.
For example, when it’s time to discuss a sensitive topic, or you want to make a joke with a colleague, or you need to get some critical feedback, make a video call instead of using email or chat.
While video calls aren’t as good as a real face-to-face meeting, you’ll still be able to convey non-verbal cues that will help prevent accidental misunderstandings.
If a video call is not possible, a voice call is your second-best alternative.
Limit your use of email or chat messages to communicate factual information only.
Tip 7: Video Call Do’s and Don’ts
The first rule is to practice making test calls in advance, so you don’t fumble your first call with co-workers. You don’t want to be the one wasting everyone’s time because your setup isn’t working.
Practice using the common systems (Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc.) you might be using with a friend or sympathetic colleague until you are familiar with the setup controls.
If you are in charge of organizing a larger video conference, it’s a good idea to offer a practice training session for your attendees so they can familiarize themselves with the software you’ll be using — and iron out any setup issues before the actual call.
Take the time to set up an area in your office for video conferencing. Create a flattering, non-distracting backdrop. Proper lighting will help you look better on video. Take a tip from Instagram influencers and invest in a ring light that will light your face evenly and prevent you from looking tired or washed out.
Tip 8: Meeting Management Tips from Telecommuting Pros
When it comes to working remotely, over-communication is key.
Make sure you use meaningful email subject lines that can be searched easily. Acknowledge receipt of important emails or chat messages.
Distribute useful agendas for online meetings well in advance. Make it clear why the meeting is happening, what decisions need to be made, and which actions need to be taken.
During virtual meetings, it’s very common for some people to participate on a voice line only. In that case, you need to verbally describe anything that is shared on screen.
It’s also a good idea for the meeting facilitator to introduce each participant clearly, repeat questions as needed, and to check in with participants to make sure they can hear/are still connected, etc.
Once a meeting is completed, close the loop as soon as possible by sending out notes with a summary and any outstanding action items.
Tip 9: Keep Work Secrets Secure in Your Home Office
You need to take security seriously when you’re working in remote locations. Printed or electronic documents, such as customer lists, product plans, trade secrets, vendor and customer contracts, need to be protected.
Keep sensitive, printed documents locked away when not in use.
Employ proper computer and mobile device security hygiene to protect electronic communications.
Use a sophisticated password locker system to secure your passwords. Do not write them down on Post-it notes stuck to your monitor.
Make sure your computer is loaded with the newest operating system updates as well as a state-of-the-art virus protection software recommended by your company’s IT department. (If you’re using Windows 10 and don’t have a suggestion, try using a combination of the free built-in Windows Defender and the paid version of Malwarebytes.)
Make sure you are backing up your files. At the very least, email documents to yourself, but a more sophisticated system will allow you to create secure remote backups in the cloud. Follow the recommendations of your IT department.
Finally, be careful when connecting to wireless access points not in your control. Sophisticated hackers can set up malicious access points. Follow the recommendations of your IT department and use a VPN (virtual private network) to make sure your online communications are encrypted from end to end.
Tip 10: Take Care of your Health by following Sound Wellness Principles
It’s a bit ironic, but it may be harder to achieve a successful work life balance when you work from home.
On the one hand, you may find distractions in the home make it difficult for you to work effectively throughout the day. On the other hand, you might find it difficult to separate yourself from work, knowing that an email remains unanswered, or a phone call could be returned if you just took a few steps into your home office.
Poor sleep is a problem when some people work from home. That’s why it’s so important to establish regular working hours and to “shut down” at the end of the day when it’s time for your normal home life.
During this period of social distancing, normal social outlets have been curtailed, and that’s not good for our mental health. In response, many people are turning to new alternatives, such as happy hour group video chats (collectively known as #quarantini), to serve as a substitute for getting together with your friends at restaurants or other hangouts.
To maintain healthy social relationships, consider setting regular appointments to meet with your friends over video chat conferences. This will help you keep in touch, and you can also gently suggest to your friends who want to chat throughout the day that they save it until your next regularly scheduled call.
Tip 11: Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks and Get Enough Exercise
If you are prone to snacking throughout the day or have difficulties with portion control, working from home can be a dietary challenge.
Concerns about adequate grocery store supplies are adding to the anxiety.
Why not kill two birds with one stone by choosing nutritious meals that have a long shelf life and can be easily prepared at home using some commonly available kitchen gadgets.
Now is the time to stock your freezer with whole nuts, including almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and brazil nuts. These can provide a healthy, low glycemic index snack during break times.
You can also cut up vegetables to snack on, such as broccoli, celery, cauliflower, carrots. Enjoy them in a low-fat dip along with dried fruit, such as apricots, raisins, etc.
Don’t forget that working from home allows you the opportunity to use some time-saving cooking devices, including a rice cooker (which not only can cook rice but also healthy steel cut oats for your morning breakfast); a slow cooker (cook a tender pot roast for the evening supper), and an Instant Pot for fast bean dishes, delicious soups, or healthy vegetable recipes.
If supplies of the grocery store get low, consider switching to items that have a long shelf life, such as whole beans or rice products. You can also extend the shelf life of many items by freezing. If you like milk or cream in your coffee, why not freeze “ice” cubes of milk or cream and keep them in the freezer?
We mentioned earlier about setting up a timer to remind you to get up and move around every 30 to 45 minutes.
Given that most gyms and swimming pools have been closed to encourage social distancing, now’s a good time to consider solo activities like hiking or biking to get enough healthy exercise.
Tip 12: Follow Proper Sanitation Procedures and Health Guidelines
Our final tip has to do with keeping your workspace clean and hygienic during this time when we’re all concerned about coronavirus.
The EPA has issued a list of cleaning products that have been demonstrated to be effective at preventing the spread of viruses. Download the list of approved products here.
If you are unable to get proper hand gel, isopropyl alcohol can be helpful as well.
Here is the proper way to clean your phone.
Avoid sneezing or coughing around others if you can. Keep tissue around to cover your mouth. If no tissue is handy, always sneeze or cough into your elbow to keep germs away from other people.
Finally, washing your hands on a regular basis for 30 seconds is one of the best ways to help prevent transmission of any flu or virus pathogen; we recommend singing a verse of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive,” as shown in this twitter clip.
Gloria Gaynor washing her hands to I Will Survive is the hand washing video I didn’t know I needed pic.twitter.com/3HotD7RsS6
— grant 🧔🏻 stay home pls (@urdadssidepiece) March 12, 2020