Whether because of the coronavirus or for other reasons, if you suddenly find yourself working at home, it can be a big change from your routine at the office. Home officing can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you’re prone to distraction or have kids or pets around.
But there are many tools available to help workers from a variety of professions stay productive, including analysts, graphic designers, agency directors, and .NET developers. Everyone’s needs are unique, but you can use this list as a starting point for your work-at-home checklist.
1. Separate Workspace
A separate space in which to work is important for both physical and mental reasons. Physically, you need a place to put all your equipment and paperwork, one that supports your wired or Wi-Fi connection. Mentally, even though you’re not at the office, you still need a place to “go” to be in work mode, and one to leave when you’re ready to end your workday.
If it’s a separate room, great. If not, try to claim an area of your home, such as a table or desk, where your things won’t be disturbed and that is at least somewhat removed from high-traffic areas.
2. Strong Connection
The next best thing to being in close physical proximity is a reliable virtual connection. Make sure you can maintain connectivity via wired internet or Wi-Fi. Check your equipment or have a tech professional do so. If your Wi-Fi router is older than five years, it may be time for a replacement. If nothing else, access the router’s management software to ensure it’s using the latest firmware, which can improve performance and security.
Additionally, check with your internet provider to make sure you have the best connection for your needs. Consider price versus performance and check to see if your employer will cover new costs you might incur. You may need to upgrade to ensure you have enough bandwidth for teleconferencing, large file sharing, and other intensive tasks.
It might not occur to you if you have a nice, spacious monitor at work and only use your laptop occasionally at home, but a big screen can make a big difference. Depending on your setup, you may want to invest in a good monitor that enables you to display multiple screens. While you’re at it, think about your keyboard and mouse. All these peripherals can be attached to your laptop in a variety of configurations.
Start by working on your laptop and staying mindful of what’s holding you back. Does your hand cramp up every time you tap the touchpad? Are you tired of squinting at your screen? Shop for equipment that will help you be the most comfortable and productive.
4. Communication Devices
You need to be able to communicate with your team, so make sure they can see and hear you, and vice versa. Most laptops have cameras and microphones, so experiment on your first couple of video conferences. Can you see and hear everyone? Can they see and hear you? If something’s not working well, investigate equipment that’s compatible with your system.
Maybe you never really thought about your chair at work. But once you sit on that hard kitchen chair, you’re wishing for some of the ergonomic features your work chair provides.
You don’t have to invest in top-of-the-line office furniture but something that’s one step up from what you have now could make a big difference. If your work-at-home arrangement is long-term, think about a full setup that includes a functional desk and chair plus a sitting-standing platform that allows you to change your position several times per day.
6. Online Tools
Your success with working at home will depend largely on your ability to communicate effectively and remain productive and efficient. Many online tools can help:
- Google Docs enables you to create a document and share it with others, allowing for easy collaboration.
- Zoom is a great tool for teleconferencing, giving you the option to host up to 1,000 people. Multiple participants can share their screens for presentations.
- Todoist can help you keep your tasks in order. When you don’t accomplish something, you can easily push it to the next day.
- Trello is a project management tool. Using a system of cards, its interface makes it easy to see who needs to do what and when.
- Slack can help your team stay coordinated, providing a space in which to have important virtual conversations.
Try some of these applications or use the ones your company recommends.
Working at home is much different from going into the office each day and may require some adjustment. The key is to be aware of what’s keeping you from being as productive as you can be. The good news is, whatever challenges you identify, there’s usually a solution to help.