For many of us, 2020 was the year that we got to learn how to work remotely whether we liked it or not! Learning how to do it and mastering the skill of working from home are two completely different as anyone who is still struggling to make it work can attest!
In this blog post, we outline a few top tips garnered from those who have long loved their home office and have figured out how to be productive, professional, and truly happy with their work from home set up.
Create a designated workspace:
If you live in a big enough space and have the room to spare, setting up a home office can be a wonderful thing. Still, most folks are relegated to working at the dining room table, the couch, beds, or a combination of all the above! However, not having a designated space for work-related activities is problematic for several reasons: these spots are far from ergonomic, making it tough to stay organized, and perhaps do not promote a separation between work life and home life. Now, you don’t need a Pinterest worthy spot, rather you just need a corner or section of your home where you can assemble all your supplies, sit comfortably, and close up shop when 5 o’clock hits.
Stick to a schedule:
Speaking of the clock, those who have successfully worked from home suggest that creating and sticking to a schedule is key to both staying productive and happy at home. While the corona virus may have changed your obligations in the home, if you’re children are out of school or you are caring for an elderly relative, as routines allow, try to make your home schedule mirror that of what you had when you were physically in the office. By creating this schedule, you can be sure to be available when the bulk of your coworkers and clients are online and thus be more responsive to questions and requests.
Use your out of office:
Stemming from the idea of the schedule, when your work day is over, whatever time that might be, you need to be clear that you are not available to your coworkers or customers (unless of course there is an emergency!) Be sure to set up an out-of-office response on your email letting folks know that you’re away from your desk, when you will be available to respond to their email, and who they can contact in the event of a true emergency. Then, switch your phone to silent and set up similar messaging for your voicemail. Doing this ensures that your time away from the office is truly your own (and even keeps your employer out of legal trouble for not paying you for working off-the-clock).
Know who and when to call:
One of the trickiest parts of working from home is feeling like you’re on your own. Typically, when you run into a snafu in the office, you can just swing by the relevant co-worker’s cubicle and address the problem in mere minutes (or at least forge a plan for fixing it!) When you’re home, however, you can’t always tell who’s in the office and available to help – or if you’ve always been remote, you may have no clue that your company even has that designated someone. To help employees be their most effective here, companies should create a detailed plan of action for common problems that tend to pop up, including a first-call person and a second option, as well as information on what workers can do while their system is down to maintain productivity.
When more folks began working from home due to the Covid crisis, so did hackers. They have been developing and sending out computer viruses and malware at record speeds. With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you’re protecting your employees from cyber-attacks. Where possible, have employees use computers and software provided by your company, give them access to a VPN (very private network), and instruct them on keeping up to date with password changes and how to avoid spam and phishing emails. Further, on the back end, look at your system and confirm that your firewalls are up to date and functioning properly for optimal protection.
When you are in the office, your coworkers are most likely your main source of distraction, be it chatting at the water cooler or simply lingering to socialize after meetings. When you’re home, however, the TV, radio, the relentless call of the laundry machine, even your own family members, can all serve to pull you off task. While distractions are somewhat inevitable, consider establishing “do not disturb” periods during your workday when everyone knows that you are hard at work and you can focus all your energy on the task at hand.
Take a break:
As we touched on before, chatting with coworkers and socializing help to organically build breaks into your workday. Without those interactions, however, it’s easy to forget to take a break, especially if you’re really immersed in a project. However, taking regular breaks to eat, to answer nature’s call, take a walk, or merely to stretch is actually important to your continued productivity. Similarly, if you are someone that truly thrived and misses the social connection with your coworkers, be sure to take steps to maintain those relationships by emailing, texting, or calling just to touch base.
Dress the part:
You had to have known that we were going to call out your tired old sweatpants eventually, right? While you don’t need to transform into your formal office wear each day, you should make an effort to be presentable, particularly if you are client facing and will be seen on video conferences. In recent years, the rise of athleisure wear can make you feel professional without compromising comfort. Further, while you don’t need a grand hairstyle, you should be sure that your appearance remains in keeping with your company’s dress code and personal appearance policy, such as keeping beards groomed and makeup natural.
Give yourself some time:
For many, working from home is a whole new endeavor and it is going to take a little getting used to. Now is not the time to kick off a ridged regimen or pile new requirements on your workers. Rather, you should try to create a flexible environment where folks are given the time to learn new systems, given grace when they hit even mild roadblocks, and encouraged for the small victories. As an employer, you should be both their resource and their greatest supporter.