Work from Home – eight things for work at home success

Week two of our lockdown. Hopefully you are up and running from home, but it is far from normal yet, right? As the novelty wears off (or thin) check out this post for a list of eight things you may not have set up yet in your adjustment to working from home. These little things make a big difference in sustaining work from home when it stretches from those first few days to the new normal at least for these next few weeks.

Check that you have these eight things covered in your work from home set up:

  1. Consider some background music
  2. Check the ergnomics of your workspace
  3. Make sure your video call set up is well designed
  4. Vary where you work at home
  5. Try new ways to interact with your computer
  6. A way to track your time
  7. Continue being collegial – seek or provide advice to a colleague
  8. Keep socially connected and interacting with others

1. Consider some background music

If you don’t usually listen to music with headphones in the office then you may be tempted to work in silence at home too. However, this can be a mistake as a touch of ambient background music can subtly enhance your mindset and stave of a sense of isolation.

Since my home office is in the corner of the living room, I play background music on my TV which has Youtube. Always great is the Cafe Music BGM Channel which plays ‘cafe’ music – a non-intrusive selection of light jazz or other instrumental background music. Even if you do like working in silence, try using music during your coffee breaks for a touch of that cafe atmosphere you may be missing.

2. Check the ergonomics of your workspace

Remember to set up your desk and equipment for working safely. You may have had a workplace safety expert assist you with your office workspace set up. Make sure you access some guidance to help you self-check your at-home space too. If you work in more than one place around the home, check all these setups.

3. Make sure your video call set up is well designed

Following on from the last point, make sure that you have your camera for video calling in a sensible place within your desk setup. This will be a core part of work for at least the next few weeks, so don’t scramble to set it up everytime you have a call scheduled. Have a stand or at least a pile of books to have the device with the camera in it at the right height. This also tends to look most flattering too, rather than you looking down at the camera when it is closer to desk height.

The ergonomics of my video call set up caught me out the past couple of days. I had some long video calls and ended up not sitting in the best position and could feel it in my neck later on. So make sure your desk works for both situations – working at your computer screen and for video calls – without needing readjustment (as you will neglect to properly make these adjustments every time).

4. Vary where you work at home

When working in your office, you don’t spend the whole day at your desk. There are meetings, quick catch ups in the corridor or staffroom, presentations to go to and offsite meetings. When working from home during this lockdown, you have none of that variety. So consider varying where you work in your home. Use your desk for the more focused work like report writing and calls with clients but use an alternative space for other tasks such as team communication. Take the chance of being at home to read any longer reports or professional circulations from your armchair or other comfy spot. This variety will benefit your body as well as your mind.

Part of making this work is looking at what screens you can use around the house. Linking your smart phone or smaller device to a larger screen can really help. Can you cast from your device to your smart TV? Think of the various screens around your house (if they are modern enough) as a resource you can use to ease demand within your bubble for everyone getting online, space and privacy. Important if you are not alone in your bubble and need to work around others and their requirements for work or school.

5. Try new ways to interact with your computer

This is also a great time to try some alternative ways to interact with your computer. What do I mean by that? Well your computer is the conduit by which you do most of your work. Your great work gets into that report, memo or email via your computer. So there are productivity gains from optimising the flow between you and your computer.

These days there is so much more than reading off your screen and entering text with your keyboard skills. You can dictate to your computer or it can read aloud to you. These tools are hard to try in a shared office as you disturb others, so this time is your chance to experiment. If you have some reading to do, get your computer to read it to you as you tidy up at home or exercise on a treadmill. Added benefit is that you spend less time sitting at your desk.

6. A way to track your time

Without the structure of work it can be difficult to keep track of your time. Consider whether you have a good system of recording this at home and if not create one. It may be as simple as pen and paper or it could be an app which will make time recording easy. Whatever the system, fit it around your preferences and be diligent in updating it until it becomes a habit.

7. Continue being collegial – seek or provide advice to a colleague

Planning is a profession – we are constantly learning from others and sharing our experience with colleagues. We learn so much from each other by physically sitting together in our workspaces and overhearing our work experiences. Don’t lose this important part of worklife. Ensure you contact colleagues, provide support and feedback and talk work over with others. Less experienced staff may not wish to interrupt others or send an email to request advice for minor queries. But these may make it difficult for them to get on with their work. So ensure you extend them the clear opportunity for some advice on their project.

8. Keep socially connected and interacting with others

It is so important to incorporate social interaction in to your day. Regardless of who is in your bubble with you right now, you need a break to connect with others beyond your household. Schedule a call over morning tea time with colleagues or with others you know who would appreciate it. You all benefit from a break from work to connect and interact. Setting up these sorts of connection points in your day are just as important as the work related calls – and this requires some planning now as you can’t bump into them in the corridor or staffroom.

There are also plenty of good ideas circulating online for facilitating daily catch ups with colleagues, team building and just keeping people’s spirits up. Other more structured ways to keep the team going are:

  • the ‘bookclub’ concept but focused on topical planning issues or something the team has had to read
  • all listen to a podcast or TED talk and share your thoughts
  • simple games such as quizzes to crosswords through to bringing your team together in a quick multiplayer online game.

More in a future post on why I think gaming has lots to teach us adapting to a digital (and remote work) life.

Stay safe, stay connected.


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