The idea of working from home (WFH), or telecommuting, sounds like a dream come true. But if the time comes and you find that you really do need to conduct business from home, even temporarily, you’ll quickly find that WFH may not be the dream you imagined.
So while it might be a challenging adjustment, armed with the right information and perspective, you can be just as productive working remotely.
Ask for What You Need
If you’re asked to work from home, especially if it is a temporary relocation, ask your employer for the gear you’ll need. That doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but don’t assume it will all be your responsibility. A few things to ask for include:
- Wireless Mouse/Keyboard
- USB Hub
- Any Software/Apps Needed
- Printer (if needed)
As a guideline, ask for whatever you think will be required to do your job. Expect to be given the least you need to work efficiently.
Create an Appropriate Work Space
A workspace is essential when you’re WFH. It sounds great to work with your feet up on the couch, but it gets uncomfortable fast. Carve a space out in your home where your computer, files, and any supplies you need can live, even when you’re not at work.
Make it a quiet space, out of the main traffic flow of the house and not in a room with a television. Also, be sure there are plenty of power outlets in your spot. And if possible, a door. A door is the Holy Grail of working out of your home, but if you can’t have a door, find the quietest, most private place in your home so when you’re working you’re separate from as many potential distractions as possible.
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Equip Your Workspace
If you’re WFH temporarily you may be out of the office for few days, or maybe a few weeks. Either way you won’t want to spend a lot of money on your workspace. So, what are the can’t-live-without essentials?
- A good chair. Yes, this is very important.
- A home computer that can run your apps/software, assuming the office isn’t supplying one. A refurbished computer might be a good option if necessary.
- Headphones are essential and if you’re going to be conducting conference calls, a headset is best.
On the list of ‘nice to have’ equipment are a few things that you can work without, but will make WFH easier:
- An extra monitor. If you’ve never had a second monitor, your life is about to change for the better.
- Extra computer power adapters/mouse/keyboard, etc.
Make Sure Your Internet & Wi-Fi Meet Your Needs
All internet and Wi-Fi setups are not created equal. The bandwidth you have at home is probably slower than what you’re accustomed to in the office. Test your internet speed, then test streaming, web conferencing (if possible), and file uploads and downloads in the location you plan to use for your home office.
If you need faster speeds, try tweaking some settings, and if that doesn’t work, call your internet service provider to request a temporary increase in internet speeds. Some providers will allow you to increase and later decrease your services with them.Think You Have Slow Internet? What’s Considered a Good Speed?
Also, be sure your temporary office setup is in an area with strong Wi-Fi coverage. If necessary, consider installing a mesh network to improve wireless coverage.
Be sure to test your internet speeds while using a VPN (virtual private network) because you’ll probably need to use one, and VPNs can slow things down.
Setting Expectations for Yourself and Others
Working from home may mean there’s a delay in your response time. Depending on your job, you may not have access to all the same things you do at the office so it might take longer to get in touch with people or to find the information you need. Communicate potential delays with co-workers, clients, and supervisors.
Also set expectations for yourself and the people who occupy the same space you do, too. That includes setting boundaries for your family to guide the hours you work.
Create a Schedule and Manage Your Time Well
The lure of the kitchen, household chores, the television, and the sun in the backyard is enough to distract anyone. Don’t fall for these distractions. It’s easy to lose time when you work from home.
Keep a calendar, make a schedule, and track all your meetings and appointments. Use to-do lists and task management or productivity apps to make sure you know what needs to be done, and that it’s getting done.
Consider downloading a time logging or time management app to keep track of the number of hours you’re working, when you start work, and when you stop for the day. Some apps will also track what you do on the computer.
Video Conferencing Etiquette
Working from home will probably mean your meetings are moved online. If you’re using video conferencing software like Zoom.com or GoToMeeting.com, there are a few matters of etiquette you should practice during calls.
- Turn on your camera: Unless it’s a meeting where all you do is listen, use a camera as a means of maintaining a professional image and a sense of physical presence.
- Mute your microphone: Your background sounds are amplified for everyone else so do the group a favor and stay muted unless you’re speaking. Bonus tip: Configure your video conference software to mute by default when it starts.
- Choose appropriate lighting: Participants will want to see your face as they’re talking to you.
- Keep the background clean: You don’t want your colleagues seeing all the clutter you haven’t had time to manage.
- Don’t wear your pajamas: The adage ‘Dress for success’ is essential when you’re WFH. You may not need a three piece suit, but staying too casual will detract from your professional image and your productivity.
Avoid WFH Bad Habits
Anything that’s a no-no at work will be a no-no at home, too. The reason employers block social media sites from corporate networks is because research shows you can lose 2 hours and 22 minutes everyday checking on social media. Unless it’s is a part of your job, save it for your “after work” hours.
Stay Connected to Your Coworkers
How many times a day do you take a break to connect with your colleagues, share information, or just get away from your desk? If you’re WFH, that’s a lot harder to do, but no less important. Use an application like Slack.com––a messaging system for teams––to stay in touch with the people you work with.
Collaboration is also essential. You probably rely on the strengths of your colleagues all the time when you’re at work. Don’t let working from home stop that. Use a collaboration tool, if necessary, but connect with the people who can help you do your job better.
Body language is an important and overlooked aspect of communication, especially at work. One surprisingly effective stand-in for body language when working remotely is the much-loved emoji! Use them often, and appropriately, and you will convey important non-verbal cues to your co-workers.
Above All Else: Be Flexible
Working from home is mostly about flexibility. You need to be able to work amid distraction, roll with last minute changes, and struggle through poor communication from other people. You can handle it!
Mistakes happen—the cat is going to walk across your computer during a video conference, or the dog will bark, or the delivery service will bring a package, or your kids will choose that exact moment to try to kill each other in the loudest, most embarrassing way possible. It’s okay. Just correct and keep moving forward.