I began listing these tips when the pandemic hit and many people started working from home. As I have been working from home since 2009, I thought that I should share some of my experiences with you. However, I posted these tips on Twitter. It is time to put them on my blog. Here’s what I learned:
Do not work on your bed. You see it all the time on TV and in the movies. A person on the bed, bend forwards over stacks of papers that are spread around them, a laptop on the side (so they need to bend even further to reach it), and a snack balancing on the covers. Don’t do it. Why?
A: Bending forwards that way to write or type with legs bent or folded will lead to lower back problems. It can even upset your stomach.
B: If you take notes by hand or on a laptop, your wrists are at a very unnatural angle. Watch out for carpel tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.
C: the temptation to lean back into your pillows is too big. Your “just let me just close my eyes for 5 min” becomes a nap that can stretch in time while your body is in an awkward position.
Dump the household
Ignore your house. This is easier said than done but you must try. Working from home means that you are surrounded by all your chores, all the things on your to-do list, all the sounds from people and pets outside, all the temptations of the snacks in the pantry, the coffeemaker, the DVD player, all your books, and the wine bar.
Set a block of hours to work (I work in blocks of two hours) and during that time, you don’t pick up the phone, don’t get the mail, etc. Don’t quickly put laundry in the dryer or start the dishwasher as depending on the model, they will beep when they are done and the natural impulse is to get up and tend to that machine. You end up working around the drying cycle instead of your schedule.
Surround yourself with water. I have a water bottle on my desk, one on the breakfast table, one near the coffeemaker, one on the vanity in our bathroom, etc. This way there is no excuse for me not to drink water. I made it a rule. I sit down, I must take a sip. I enter the bedroom, I must take a sip. I take a coffee, I must drink water.
The spot in the house where you work must be as uncluttered as possible. I have the luxury that we have a library in our home and I just confiscated it in 2009. Not everyone has that extra space, I realize that.
If working from home is not just a new experience but might become permanent, start scanning your home now. Be pro-active.
You need to check for a good seating area (clean, smooth writing and reading surface) with space for papers, the correct distance between chair and table height for your posture (avoid shoulder hunching or tendinitis with correct arm/wrist placements), and a spot that is in range of outlets.
If you have an older home, you may need to get extension cords. Get one that includes USB ports.
Check for good lights. If you can be near a window, great. See where the shadows fall, or if the early morning light might irritate your eyes. If you are right-handed, let the light fall on your work from the left.
Get a good chair, your lower legs should not dangle.
If you set up on a table, think about storage cubes or towers. And, get yourself a few extra flash drives and possibly, an external hard drive.
Check your internet connection to see if your bandwidth supports what you need for work while the rest of the family is using the internet for entertainment. Can they still stream when you work late?
Check with your colleagues what time schedules they will follow. If you settle on daily check-ups, then try to agree on a time that you all tune in for a video-chat or group text. That keeps everyone from interrupting the others and when scheduled, it becomes a routine.
If you never worked from home for an extended period of time before, don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself less productive. It takes time. This is basically a new job as your environment changed substantially.
There are many articles online about productivity. Scan them if you want however, remember that what works for one person does not work for all. You need to adjust and see for yourself what is best. This matters especially when there are young children in the house.
Home Owners Insurance Policy
It cannot hurt to check with your insurance agent if working from home changes anything especially if it becomes permanent. Did you spent a lot of money organizing a home-office, is it permanent, do you need to add expensive electronic equipment to your overall coverage, are clients going to come to the house, do you have a sign outside indicating an office space, etc.
Check too if you will be receiving work through the mail. If so, consider a PO Box to separate your work mail from your private/family life. This is not just to avoid accidental openings of items that are ‘for your eyes only’ but depending on your job, it might become a requirement to protect clients’ privacy.
Yes, it does. My initial corner in front of the windows was super all summer long. But then it turned cold and windy. Being at the top of the hill means that we catch a lot of wind, and it can be noisy. So, I moved (well, hubby did) the desk to an inside wall in the library. Much quieter.
If you have tips for others, share them in the comments!