Tips for working from home

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I’ve been a remote worker for a little over 2 years now. Generally I work 4 out of 5 days from home. This article will share a few tips I’ve learnt along the way.

Dedicated space

My first home office was the dining room table. At that time I really didn’t like working from home and did it infrequently. The hustle bustle of the household – kids flying past you, pots and pans crashing and vacuums whirring – all leads to distractions that make you grossly inefficient. Years later when we were considering moving out of town, my biggest concern was whether or not I could cope with working from home more regularly. We planned that I would have a dedicated office space if we did, however the dining-office had scarred me a little so I was still concerned.

But let me tell you, what a difference it makes! My dedicated space is located on the other side of our garage at the opposite side of the house to the living areas where the rest of the family hangs out. Be sure to get yourself a lockable door handle to keep the family out during conference calls too.

If your lucky enough to be building a new home I’d also suggest:

  • Line and insulate your walls with acoustic solutions
  • Install roller blinds that combine a block out and opaque blind – great to help with lighting during calls and manage heat
  • Install a ceiling fan and/or heating/cooling solution

Office setup

Splash out on a really good office setup. Start with the basics and keep adding to it over time as you can afford to. Check with your employer and see if they can help fund you – I am on a BYOD program that gives me enough to upgrade my PC every 4-5 years as well as add bits a pieces to the office setup.

Things I love about my setup:

  • Good quality sounds so I can rock out
  • 2 horizontal and one vertical screen (great for documentation)
  • Coffee machine!
  • Foot rest and decent office chair

I’m thinking about doing a video tour of the office in a future article. I’ll provide a full parts list when I do.

Use technology well

Collaboration technology such as Microsoft Teams makes it really easy to keep a finger on the office pulse. At a minimum you need your direct team to be on-board with your chosen technology – If their not you’re going to feel a little isolated. Use and adopt the technology well – ideally you want as much communication as possible to happen within your chosen technology so that it is available to everyone at anytime.

Using Microsoft Teams as my example:

  • Try to keep multi-person conversations within Microsoft Teams group chats or team channels. By doing so you ensure remote workers can keep up to speed or even participate in these conversations
  • Make all meetings a Microsoft Teams meeting regardless of whether the bulk of attendees will attend in person. This gives remote workers the opportunity to join meetings that they might not have been able to previously
  • Consider recording any important meetings so that they are available to watch at a later time
  • Turn your video on during calls and meetings, and encourage your team to do the same. There are lots of opinions on using video, ultimately its a personal choice but here are my thoughts:
    • Video makes a meeting more engaging
    • It forces you to concentrate – people tend to multi-task while on a call, and in my opinion there is an element of disrespect to this. Either your on the call and giving it your full attention, or you should excuse yourself if you think you have no value to add. Of course there may be times when you might need to be a fly on the wall, and in those cases no video multi-tasking might be acceptable
    • Be camera ready – you don’t need to get as dressed up as you would for the office, but at least do you hair and wear something unoffensive on your upper half (don’t stand up if you haven’t put your pants on!). I keep a few polo shirts at the ready and swap out of my casuals for customer facing meetings
  • Use document collaboration capabilities – this ensures everyone can work on the same document in real-time

When I started working from home we used Skype for Business mostly. We have since transitioned to Microsoft Teams – that’s made a substantial difference to my feeling of connectedness. The right tool is really important.

Human contact

As great as video conferencing is, real life human contact is much better and cannot be replaced. Visit the office or catch up with colleges as often as practical. For me, that’s once a week. As a team we decided Fridays would be the day the whole team would make all efforts to be there in person. We also try to organise a social gathering every 1-2 months to catch-up outside the work setting.

Set a daily schedule

Figure out a schedule that works for you, share it with your team and set some expectations. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

  • 05.30-12.00:  Focus time – I appreciate minimal interruption during this time and will be unresponsive to email and IM
  • 12.00-15.00:  Generally available – best time to organise meetings as I keep this clear
  • 15.00-17.30:  Generally available – online meetings only

Exercise

Being that I’m a short walk from the bedroom to the home office, and an even shorter walk to the kitchen, its really easy to do next to no physical activity in a day. I’ve had days with a little over 1000 steps – that’s really low! It’s important for your physical and mental heath to get some exercise in – be it a walk, run or visit to the gym. Personally, I aim to do something at least every 2 days.

Also, avoid the fridge at all costs! You know that coffee machine I have in my office, that really helps with this.

Work-life Balance

Make sure you figure out how you will balance work and home life. The lines may become blurred when they are both the same place. I go in to detail on how I took on work-life balance in the article below.

How I took on work-life balance

Wrapping Up

Whether you work from home or are considering it, I hope that you found at least one takeaway from this article that you can put in to practice. There is no one size fits all solution so read more, try more and find what works best for you. If you’d like to keep the conversation going, please do so in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.

 

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