I have been a working adult for close to thirty years. I have had the luxury of spending the majority of that time working from a home office. It began as a salesperson, where I would travel for four days a week and spend one from a home office. Later, it was just because I frequently lived away from where my work was. As more and more people have to begin to work this way with the impact of COVID-19, I thought I would share my top five tips for working from home.
Find an isolated and quiet place – or not
The area does not always have to be a dedicated office, especially if it is just a short term arrangement. If your house clears out after 8 am as everyone heads to their daily routine, work at the kitchen table. If not, maybe grab your laptop and head into your bedroom, not the most ergonomic way to accomplish it, but quiet and privacy do help. In our current climate of social distancing, your local coffee shop is not a good option at this time. But once this passes, and if working from home becomes your new normal, coffee shops are a great option for a change of scenery. With the right headphones and their reliable wifi, you will be fine, just overly caffeinated.
Do not complete your honey-do list or home projects
It is very tempting when working from home to want to complete your weekend tasks, projects, or items on you home repair list. Resist this temptation. I recommend the only thing you allow yourself to catch up on is laundry. Laundry has the unique time elements of being very similar to a quick cubicle conversation or a longer one when folding. But by doing laundry, you are away for prescribed times that are generally acceptable and allow you to feel you get a benefit from being home by completing it.
Train your family and pets
You are now working from home, not just home. I have found this means stressing things like keeping the house as quiet as it can be with a family. Communicate when essential meetings are. Maybe that is a good time for a quick trip for the kiddies or your pets for their daily walk. The key is that they know why you are home, and that is to work and not hang out. The other beautiful part of working from home is it can allow for family lunches or dinners, more planned time with them as your new no commuting life allows. But set those boundaries to remain productive. People and pets will interrupt you; others will understand.
Your wifi will likely be blazing fast when you first start the day; you will be amazed at how quickly you can work. Then your children and neighborhood will return to their homes around 3 to 5, and that blazing fast connection will barely align with your typing. Your web speed will slow to a crawl. You share your internet connection at some level with your neighbors, so plan for this ahead. Do you edit videos for your youtube channel in the afternoon, do that first thing.
Utilize your communication tools
If your company has phone systems from Cisco, RingCentral, CloudCall, and others, you may have what is called an IP Phone, or softphone. All of these can run as an app and turn your laptop into a phone. Softphones are great for working from home, so you are not so reliant on a poor connection on your cell. Check and see if you have such an app and use it often. Save your mobile number for your friends and colleagues. Tools like teams, Slack, WhatsApp, chatter, and others can also assist with those quick chats you would typically share over your desks.
Working from home helps you reduce miles on the car, allows you to be more productive, and can be a great way to exist. You may shower at odd times and have phone calls in your pajamas, but roll with that. Understand your day may also extend at both ends. I typically begin work at 7:30 and can be still working at the same time that evening. The immediacy of the work causes that.
Working from home can be a challenge; it is more than gaining commute time; it is a time to be disciplined and productive to take full advantage of fewer disruptions and meetings. Since you are new to this, one last tip, keep the TV off, it can be background noise next month, when you are used to this new environment.