The trend towards working from home has accelerated by the impact of COVID-19. As a result, companies have been scrambling to deal with how to best manage this change. While the change has been painful for many people, they have adapted out of necessity. There is now a new expectation for a remote and mobile workforce. The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not likely to go back in!
Recent surveys state over 80% of employees want to work from home for part of each workweek. Based on these trends, here are some tips on how to be effective when setting up a home office and working from home.
Variations in Home Work Areas
Working from home can be a challenge for many people and there are many variables. A person’s home may be a house with an available room for an office. Others may live in a small apartment with a shared open space for work. Variations include having young children or other dependents living with the employee. Shift work of a spouse/partner is another factor and there are many other variables.
17 Tips for Employees Working from Home
The following recommendations are not always possible. Yet, they are best practices contributing to better productivity:
1. If possible, designate a room with a door that can be closed for work.
2. Include a desk in the room for your computer equipment and paperwork.
3. Shut the door for conference calls. Make sure everyone you live with knows they are not to disturb you when the door is closed. Perhaps even look at installing a red (or other coloured) light so that others know when you’re free to talk and when you shouldn’t be disturbed.
4. Communicate to those you live with. Convey what is required to work efficiently. Have an exchange of ideas, and reach an agreement for your working environment.
5. Use an ergonomic chair with good lumbar support, adjustable arms, and variable height. Back, neck, and shoulder issues are becoming a huge problem for those that work from home and it’s important not to be too stubborn and sort this out early on.
6. Set up a separate monitor on the desk for a “dual monitor” set up with the laptop screen. The use of dual monitors is proven to significantly boost productivity.
7. For audio, you can use a headset. For clarity, a wired headset is better as wireless headsets can have static issues or drop off.
8. If you are in a separate room, the best option is to use a tabletop device like a Jabra speaker. This device has a built-in microphone and very advanced noise-canceling digital technology. Note that the Jabra can also be used as a Blu Tooth device for your cell phone and be hands-free.
9. With conferences, one should consider the use of a separate webcam versus using the laptop camera. There are a few reasons for this:
10. Webcams offer higher video resolution and picture quality
11. You can mount the webcam so that it is pointing slightly down towards you versus a laptop camera that has an angle pointing upwards to your face. A camera pointing down is usually a more flattering view. There are many mounting arrangements for a web can including a tripod or flexible mounting arm. Many webcams have a ring light which can brighten up your face and hide shadows
12. Ensure proper lighting. If ceiling lighting is insufficient add task lighting.
13. On work hours, make sure you put in an honest work day. Respect your employer for your employment agreement and career. Consider the time you save from not commuting to work as the time you can spend for planning and creative thinking. This can be an investment in your career. When the day is complete, have some discipline to devote time to personal requirements. Having a healthy work-life balance is important.
14. If you need to flex your hours, make sure you have an agreement with your employer. Make sure you put in an honest workday. When working at home wear clothes that are consistent with your work role and dress appropriately for video conferences.
15. There are situations where you need to turn the video camera off. When your camera is off, you should have a “headshot” photo appear. To set this up you will need to upload your headshot photo in the video-conferencing application. This is under your profile. For example, in Zoom go to Settings, Profile, Edit My Profile.
16. Take breaks every hour to ensure you stretch and move around. Get the blood flowing and walk to another area of your home.
17. Make sure you hydrate as dehydration will tire you and is not healthy for your body.
Making the effort to improve your productivity when working from home. Do what you can to improve and make sure you maintain a healthy work-life balance.