Home Sweet Home Office
How much does your environment affect you? Are you one of those people who can sleep anywhere…even on an airplane? Are you equally comfortable in crowds and alone? Can you focus on work whether you’re in an office, on vacation, and while traveling?
Not all of us can. In fact, most of us struggle with one or more of those scenarios. Especially when work is involved.
Some people thrive in the coffee shop scene, where other people and distractions provide a backdrop while maintaining a connection to the rest of the world. Others prefer a quiet office with minimal decor, no music, and a professional feel that has a specific purpose. Still others are most productive on the road in a hotel room or working late into the night at home when everyone else has gone to bed.
What’s important here is not that you pick one of those environments, but that you know where you perform your best. And whenever you need to work remotely, we’ve got seven ways to set yourself up for success.
7 Ways to be More Effective when Working Remotely
- Function First. Figure out what tools you need, and make sure you have them readily available. For example, if you print a lot or need to scan often, then you’re going to want a printer nearby. If not, then every time you need to print or scan and have to walk halfway around the building or can’t do it at all where you’re working, you’ll be pulled out of your workflow and waste time.
Once you have what you need, you can add what you want. Maybe you like bare walls as a clean slate for inspiration. Maybe you get ideas from inspirational posters, or maybe family photos keep you motivated on the end goal of providing for them. Get some workspace organizing ideas here (scroll to the bottom).
- Make a Strong Connection. Consider your internet needs–not just the bandwidth, but its transmission as well. If you’re working from home and you use dish/satellite for your internet and cable, you may still need to get hardwire access. If you’re working in a public place such as a coffee shop, you may think you can simply log on to their public wifi. However, your company’s security policy may prohibit transmitting work materials that way. Different companies have different standards, and you should familiarize yourself with their recommended performance speeds and their security policies as you determine your optimal remote environment.
- Communicate Clearly. Similar to your Internet needs, you’ll want to evaluate your phone connection. Most of us no longer have physical phone lines at home. We use our cell phones for pretty much everything, especially when we have a hosted phone system for work that provides phone number masking and a complementary app. But don’t forget to think about the actual calls you may need to make and receive. Are you planning to use speakerphone? If you’ll be around other people, do you want your conversation to be overheard? Is it going to be too loud for the other person to hear you? You may want to consider investing in a hands-free headset for clearer calls and so you’ll be able to take notes or pull up relevant information when on a call. And if you’re working at home where other family members might be, then you probably want to be in a room with a door that you can close to shut out noise.
- Get Comfortable. As much as people praise the walking meeting or stand-up desk, most of us office-workers still spend the majority of our work time sitting. You’re going to want a comfortable and supportive chair. Your living room couch may be your favorite place to sit and watch movies, but it may be too low to have a desk or table in front of it. Same with the cozy little nook in your hotel lobby or coffee shop. That kind of seating may also subconsciously signal relaxation rather than focus and cut down your productivity.
In the Infinity office, we have desks that can be raised or lowered at the push of a button. You may not need that in your remote space, but the option is available. You may find that you catch up on emails quite comfortably while riding a stationary bike and then you switch to a desk or the kitchen table for writing. Again, the key here is to figure out what works best for your working style and then find (or create) a suitable environment.
- Set a Schedule. Having regularly scheduled hours to work will help you to be more efficient during those times no matter where that work is being done. A schedule can also keep you on track when remote environments offer more distractions. An important, and often overlooked factor, is making sure you schedule break times remotely, too. If you start working from home, for example, you can easily fall into the ‘always-on’ trap, simply because you do not have a physical difference between work and home. According to a recent Inc.com report, “Remote employees are more productive than office employees.” They site survey results that show “1. Remote workers take 22 minutes a day for breaks, compared to 18 minutes for in-office workers. and 2. They also worked an average of 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year.” This may fly in the face of traditional wisdom, believing that workers without supervision tend to slack off, but again we see that different people thrive in different environments.
- Manage Your Motivation. On the flip side to the above where a home worker might have trouble turning work mode ‘off,’ there are others of us who struggle to stay motivated when working outside our normal office space. There are ways to improve upon this, too. For example, if you need more supervisory input to stay on track, then you can set up mini check-ins throughout your day or week. You might also want a shared calendar or tool that can visualize task completion, send reminders, and communicate issues. If your company uses O365, then you can accomplish both of these through Teams and Planner, respectively.
- Don’t Let Your Professionalism Slide in Your Slippers. One of the most beloved aspects of working remotely is the more casual atmosphere. Setting up your own home office can mean decorating however you want, dressing however you want, and listening to music as loudly as you want. People have reported, however, that they feel different depending on what they’re wearing. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear sweatpants while working from home, but you should be aware if what you wear impacts the way you answer the phone or speak to and email clients. A more casual approach can sometimes make you look less professional. Again, the trick is creating clear boundaries no matter where you work so that your head is in the right place.
So there you have seven ways to make sure your work environment works for you. These considerations should help you be more effective, as well as more comfortable, no matter where you are.
And it may well be that you are most productive in a traditional office atmosphere. That’s fine. You can go to your company’s office, or you can possibly replicate one in part of your home or in a co-op space. Technology is affording us more and more flexibility in the ways we work, communicate, and collaborate, so don’t be afraid to take advantage. Talk to your IT services provider about what it would take to set you or other employees up with remote access.