9 Tips Working From Home

by Michael Hoffman

There are oodles of tips on the Net for working from home.  Here is a compact version.

1. Create a morning and closing routine

Routines are important because they prime us for jumping into our work and help us transition back to our personal life, respectively.  There are lots of articles on the Net regarding morning and evening routines.  If you do not have solid routines, it could be an idea to do some research and find what floats your boat.  It should be emphasized that by making the preparation of the following day part of your evening routine you exponentially increase your potential to start the day off right; that could include deciding on your top three priorities (or at least one) for the following day, tidying up, entering notes, choosing which clothes you will wear and anything else you do in the morning – when you are a bit groggy, that can be done the day before.

Including one bite-size exercise routine each morning if you are not the type to do a full morning work-out, like me, can get your creative juices flowing.  Even a few push-ups, sit-ups, planking or some curls can be enough to give you a sense of early morning accomplishment without really taxing you.  Also, quite importantly, drink a couple of glasses of water as soon as you can in the morning when it is dehydrated from hours without liquids.  If two glasses are too much, start with one – or even a few sips and build up, but do it consistently. Perhaps not the most pleasant thing to speak about, it’s still worth mentioning that if you often have bowel issues or hemorrhoids from too much sitting each day, you might be amazed to find out that those problems tend to disappear after about two months of consistent morning hydration.

2. Keep regular hours

Beginning with regular sleep hours (at least 7), keeping regular work hours is the important discipline that enables us to perform at our best.  Sometimes it is impossible to do, but the more consistent we are with our days, the more effective we tend to be. Learn more about Why We Sleep.

Start and finish at the same time every day

Take advantage of taking a 20-30-minute siesta after lunch

3. Set up your home office – in a dedicated room if possible

Do not just plop down your laptop on the dining room table (or worse, a coffee table) and get to work.  Make sure you have got your space set up so that you have the things you need at arm’s reach. Those things can include paper, pens, paper clips, tape, stapler, a hand calculator, your headset, desktop mic, charging cables, etc.  On the other hand, not having a trash can in your space ensures that you get up out of your chair at regular intervals.

Your desk and chair should be appropriate for working or else you could end up with muscle spasms in your neck or back.  Be very aware of this because it can take weeks to recuperate from seemingly minor physical discomfort.

If there are other people in your home, let them know how important it is that your area is your office, and let them know what your expectations regarding that.

4. Help your family understand that you are at work

If family members are at home while you are working, help them understand the limits to your availability while you are at work.

It is a good idea to announce that you are going to work each day in order to help them understand that mommy or daddy are now unavailable except when it is very important.  This is more difficult or even impossible with younger children, but the point is that setting limits will help all of you handle expectations.

When you are done with work for the day, you can also announce, “I’m home again!”  Young children will enjoy the playfulness of you pretending that you were gone and give them the signal that it is time to do family things.

This last part is actually quite important because otherwise children can be a bit insecure as to whether you are going to go back into your home office, therefore not willing to engage with you.

Bottom line: clear lines make happy families.

5. Step outside the house a least once during the day

Also, buy a floor mat on which you can do some basic stretching exercises, yoga, or meditation. In any event, get away from any screens for at least 30 minutes to give your eyes and mind a break.

6. Feel free to socialize with colleagues

You might have a coffee machine at home, but not one that you’ll stand around and share some niceties – and yet, we all need some socializing, so reach out to colleagues and let them in on the latest news or a bit of humor.

7. Get good at video conferencing
  • Have sufficient lighting: Remember that you are presenting yourself.  Doing that in dingy light reflects (sorry for the pun) on you.
  • Place your camera at eye level: Having your camera at eye-level ensures that you do not look like you are looking down on people.  If you are using a laptop, this means that you need to keep a box, or a stack of books close by so that you can use them to prop up your laptop.
  • Use a headset or a desk mic: Nothing is worse than someone using $5 ear buds and holding the terrible mic to their mouths to speak.  Invest in a good headset or desktop microphone.  99,9% of the time, your company will pay for it.
  • Take good notes: Even if you are digital man-o-war, there is still a lot more flexibility with an old fashioned notebook and pen (after which you will of course digitize your notes using a scanning app or by re-typing your notes – allowing you to make edits, additions, links and cleaning things up).  Keeping meetings to 25 and 50 minutes allows all parties the 5-10 minutes, respectively, to tidy things up before the next meeting.
  • Clean up your room: It is mind-boggling as to how many people lack the awareness or sensitivity to keep their home office presentable for video conferencing.  No one wants to know how much of a packrat you are or that you still live with boxes all around you.  If you do not want to tidy up your whole office, at least take care of what is in view.
  • Pay full attention to what is going on in the meeting at all times: Do not do anything else but engage in the meeting. I promise you that some people get quite annoyed when they see your eyeballs darting around while you take care of some emails.  If you absolutely need to take care of something, excuse yourself and turn off your mic and camera.  This way you can re-enter the meeting later. Let people know (in smaller group situations).  In larger groups it is usually preferred that you do not interrupt them to do that.
8. Overcommunicate

It is easy to distance yourself or feel distanced by colleagues when working from home.  Touch base regularly.  If your boss is not scheduling regular daily stand-ups and other meetings, recommend that she/he does.

9. Stay positive

Perhaps working from home is particularly difficult for you.  That should not affect your professional behavior.

Talk about your issues with friends, colleagues, family, your boss, in order to work them out, but do not let it interfere with your attitude at work.

Your comments will help me improve this blog and blogs in the future.  Thank you in advance.

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