In this blog post, I want to share some tips I’ve learned in the last months working from home. Do you have some great tips, please use the comment section to share them!
Technology is what makes working from home possible in the first place. It’s time to invest and get your technology in order. Invest in the right working environment for your situation. But the following are no brainers :
- Use an external monitor for your laptop and place it straight in front of you.
- Use a suitable desk and don’t work from the kitchen table (when possible)
- Use a chair you can adjust to your preference (you will be using it for many hours each day)
- Use a keyboard and mouse you can use all-day
Make sure you have the right applications. Lots of remote workers are leaning heavily on Microsoft Teams. Slack, WebEx, and Zoom. (Microsoft is giving MS Teams out for free to use) Also, keep in mind that not everyone is using the same application. For example, the company I work for uses Microsoft Teams (off course 😊), but some customers prefer to use Zoom. In this situation, make sure you have both applications set up and know how they work.
Conference calls are tough — there are time delays, not knowing who’s talking because you can’t always see the person, people getting interrupted on accident. Webcams can solve a number of these issues: the sense of isolation and that confusion. When you have a poorly webcam quality (<720p), it’s time to invest in a webcam with at least 720p or more. I noticed that webcam prices went up in price due to the demand but prices seem to drop slightly now.
“To be able to see the person you’re talking to I think is important”. And also, because we miss cues when we aren’t working together in person, make sure all colleagues understand each other. “Personally, I tend to overcommunicate, and I think that’s a good default setting,” Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is this clear?” You can even try repeating back what you heard the other person say, to make sure you interpreted the person’s meaning correctly
Make use you have enough light when making video calls. I’ve noticed many people’s faces disappear in the dark because a) their webcam is insufficient and b) it’s too dark in their environment. It can be useful to think about setting up additional lightning. I’m using light products from Elgato, but a lamp from IKEA could also work!
Audio, headset and microphone
When working in a room shared with others (kids, partner etc) it can be preferable to use a headset. People can hear you better and you them. There are several headsets (in ear, over ear etc). So there is definitely a model that for you. I use the Jabra Evolve 75. The reason I choose this headset, it’s fully supported for teams call, works 12 hours with a single charge and the audio quality is great!
When you have the room all for yourself, you can choose an external speaker/microphone speaker. For those who often anticipate in webinars etc you can think about buying a microphone.
Internet Connection, WiFi
Make sure you have enough bandwidth! Is your internet connection robust enough to allow you to video conference? If your bandwidth is low and you’re on a video call, try shutting down other programs to lighten the load on your connection. If your connection is really choppy, you can often shut off the video portion of a call and participate with audio only, which defeats the purpose of seeing your team but will still allow you to participate in the conversation. Also make sure you have a stable WiFi connection throughout your home. Make sure that you have enough capacity in the room(s) you be working from. When you have a larger home, you can opt-in for a mesh solution or multiple receivers throughout your house. In my situation I have 6 Ubiquiti Long Range devices setup. The result is that my connection is stable in and around (Tesla 😊) the house.
Another Internet hog? Kids. If your connection is not robust, set some ground rules about when kids can’t be online because mom is on a conference call, or stagger your video meetings with your partner or other family members if possible. With school closures and concerns about putting kids in daycare, as well as staffing those places up, parents are faced with a challenge, especially parents who have to physically go to work because they have no remote work option. If you are working from home with kids in tow, you’ll need to make a plan for education and entertainment. Stock up on books and puzzles. Also, it’s OK to use streaming services (Common Sense Media has good recommendations for kid-appropriate content)
Manage expectations with Work
It’s wise to have a discussion with your manager about what can actually be accomplished from home. Ask your manager what the priorities are, and discuss how tasks will get done. How are teams going to track projects they’re working on? How will they meet to discuss this? Will you all be connecting on Microsoft Teams or email? Will there be standing meetings at a specific time to get everyone coordinated? This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers. Be honest about what isn’t working or can’t get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.
When working from home, don’t jump from one meeting to another. Make sure that you have enough time and focus on getting some work done! Isn’t your desk or chair not working for you, think about buying a new one. Maybe your employer has some budget for these purposes or can lend you a chair or desk. Take a lunch break, take your dog and go for a walk! Walk to the kitchen for some water, stay hydrated.
Stay connected & presence
One undeniable loss is the social, casual “water cooler” conversation that connects us to people — if you’re not used to that loss, full-time remote work can feel isolating. To fill the gap, some co-workers are scheduling online social time to have conversations with no agenda. Use Microsoft Teams, chats and things like that if you miss real-time interaction. Again, embrace video calling and webcams so you can see your colleagues. Try an icebreaker over your team chat: What’s everyone’s favorite TV show right now? What’s one good thing that someone read that day? How was everyone’s weekend?
Are you a part of a Team? – Have a Daily (or weekly) Stand-Up!
Keep them quick and make sure everyone participates. It keeps the team engaged!
A thing to keep in mind when you’re working from, dress like you’re going to work. It triggers your mind that you’re working. Leave your sweat pants in the closet 😊 Last tip… Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc. have support for (animated!) backgrounds… although it can be great, think about the content of the meeting you have scheduled. An important meeting with a customer you see for the 1st time and animated background with family pictures….???? Maybe not such a great idea…
Hopefully everyone is staying safe at home and off course keeping social distancing…
Until next time and Stay Safe…..Xander