Working remotely isn’t like taking a vacation, as we all well know by now. The distractions of our private abodes can cause additional stress, a lack of resources could hamper productivity, and the mentality that you’re either working all the time, or not at all, could be detrimental. Thankfully though, some of us have been doing it for much longer than others, and there’s plenty of helpful tips on how to turn your home office into the ideal place to get things done.
Choose a dedicated work space
Before all else, you need to set up a work space to get things done. While it might seem like you could just plop yourself down anywhere in your house or apartment, there really is a different mentality that comes with having a dedicated place to hunker down and do some work.
Ideally, you’ll want a well-supplied, distraction less place where you can tune out the rest of the household and focus on work. A comfy, ergonomic chair, at a desk where you can set up a second monitor, pens, notepads, coffee mug, and anything else you might need. Of course, for those in a cozy apartment shared with others, this might not be feasible, but if you can even find a kitchen counter where you can pull up a stool, where no one else will bother you on your laptop, that will do.
Discuss boundaries with your roommates or family
Which comes to the next point: discuss your work set up with those living in the home with you. Personally, I like to share my workspace with others, as I love to chit chat throughout the day, so I welcome visitors into my home office as often as I can. But as much as I love her, I can’t have my 4 year old daughter around while I work, because I become the center of attention to her.
If you do have roommates, it’s probably an easy discussion that, if you’re in your work spot, don’t disturb more than necessary. If you have family members, and young children specifically, it becomes the tradeoff of telling them you can’t be disturbed during certain hours, but of course you’ll be available outside of work hours for family time.
Setting your work hours
Which gets to the next point: you need to know when work starts, and when work ends. The COVID-19 pandemic has come with stories of people working longer hours, as they are kind of always at the office when the office is at home. That’s not healthy, and you need to set yourself a routine that differentiates between when work starts, and when it ends.
For some people who can leave the house, this means walking the dog, or going for a coffee before they start their day. Personally, no matter when I start my day, family dinner time and my daughter’s bed time never take priority over work.
One tip that long time freelancers have offered is to set up a schedule for when you’ll be available for meetings an instant messaging, dedicated blocks of hours where you’ll be working without distraction, and then free up the rest of the day for the family. This seems to me to be the ideal set up, as you can really set your own hours, and get the best of all worlds.
And especially if you’re living alone, don’t forget to make an effort and schedule some social time for yourself. A regular part of my routine lately has been to schedule social calls with friends, family, and even fellow coworkers. It breaks up the monotony of working in a quiet room, and keeps the social feeling of an office or the outside world in your life and to some degree.
Getting your tools set up
Your office may decide many of the tools that you use for work. For example, while we use many Google Suite tools where we work, we use more secure systems for video calls, instant messaging and task management. There’s not much negotiation on what we’re allowed to use in those areas.
But some areas might be entirely up to you. If you can choose your instant messaging platform, there’s not much better than Slack out there, but maybe use WhatsApp if you’re worried about privacy. For video calls, if you’re company has CISCO WebEx, great, but if not, there’s always Zoom or Skype. If your company hasn’t provide you with collaboration tools, there aren’t much better than what Atlassian offers in Trello and Jira, both of which are free for users of small teams. If you need a To Do List app, Todoist is good and cheap, but free for basic functionality. And of course, find yourself a good music app like Spotify, or a podcast app like Stitcher, if you like to listen to something while you work like I do.
And if any of these tools are giving you problems, you likely still have an IT department working somewhere in the world who can help you. While they can’t physically come to your desk and “turn it off and turn it on again” to help you out, apps like TeamViewer will allow them to take remote control and fix problems for you.
Working from home isn’t the same as working from an office
No matter how you cut it, it’s just not the same. An office space is designed so that you can do your job in just the way your company’s culture has decided it should be done, either giving you the most privacy possible to do so, or the best collaborative space to be a team. And beyond those facilities, the availability of coworkers to chat with around the water cooler, or the unlimited office supplies available for thieving, just can’t be replicated at home.
But that doesn’t mean working from home is a downgrade; it’s just different. I personally feel much more productive working from home, because I don’t get tired from commuting to my work desk, as I would spending an hour in traffic. Knowing that I am working towards goals on my own time, rather than an 8 hour shift I’ve committed to, gives me more motivation and purpose.
And not having to wear pants every day is a pretty nice bonus.