Tips for Working At Home

With the outbreak of the coronavirus many of us are being asked to work remotely. Over my 30+ year career I’ve telecommuted about a third of the time. Below are a few simple tips that I’ve learned over the years.

Setup a Dedicated Well Equipt Work Area

Try to find a spot in your home that’s quiet and away from distractions. That comfy couch in front of the TV is not the best choice. My first home office was in my bedroom. Having a door to close and lock was one of the key features of this office.

Don’t compromise on your home office equipment. Trying to do CAD on a laptop screen will not work. My equipment at home has always been better than any office I’ve worked in. I’ve had to invest my own money, but I’m pretty sure my career has benefited.

Seriously think about workspace ergonomics. Your work at home maybe temporary, but office related injuries can haunt you for the rest of your life. Mayo Clinic has office ergonomic guidelines here:

Schedule your Work and Breaks

It’s best to set a work schedule and keep to it. When I first started working from home I would set a timer to remind me of when to take breaks. The timer not only kept me from working too long but also kept me working too little. Homes have lots of distractions many of which are much more fun then working. Having a timer to remind you of when you can get up and waste time is helpful.

Set Rules for Family and Friends

Make sure family and friends understand your work schedule. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you’re available for playtime, partying, and doing extra chores around the house. My solution for this problem has been to adopt a flexible work schedule instead of the typical 8am-5pm. When my kids were young I would work when they were sleeping. My dogs know I’m home so I always take a break in the middle of the day to take them for their walk. For chores around the house I just make excuses for not getting to them, and magically they get done. My wife is the best.

Over Communicate with Teammates

Working remotely requires a team to communicate constantly with each other. Face to face conversations at the water cooler and in cubicles are replaced with Instant Messaging. Conference room meetings get replaced with Zoom and Skype. Physically pointing to plans and discussing issues with teammates is done by sharing your screen and “pointing” with a cursor.

My personal opinion is when a team is physically separated communication will organically improve. Since my office was closed, and the Team has been relocated to their homes I’m pretty sure that the number of team “contacts” has gone up drastically. I’m IM’ing all day. I’m communicating with our young staff more often. Task leaders are setting up more short meetings to share information.

Don’t Overwork Yourself

For me overworking is the biggest problem I have with remote work. You can’t get away from the office by going home. You can’t even get away from work on vacation. It follows you everywhere. Laptops, cell phones, internet hot spots, all have contributed to my workaholic-ism. This dilemma reminds of a quote by Harold Kushner – “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ” Food for thought!