Here are six takeaways to make sure that you are ready to work from home and avoid making mistakes working from home. Thanks to mass media and social media, you may be led to believe the world is not a safe place to live in. (Hint: it’s not true, the world is actually safer than it has been, the statistics prove so, including the United States.)
However, with the coronavirus (COVID-19), you won’t know when your employer is going to consider asking you to not show up to the office but work from home. It can be very sudden and you should be prepared.
I understand that an office is simply not necessary to go to work if you are a knowledge worker; it’s an easy way for an employer to cut overhead costs, and make it flexible for workers to work anywhere they feel like it. However, we must avoid being ableist during these extenuating circumstances. Moving forward, here are six takeaways to help you prepare. From my experience having my first professional job involved teleworking, I know what it’s like working from home and for some it’s a wonder and for others it’s not a pleasant experience. For me, I prefer seeing people. Others have may have no choice between either office experience.
Make Sure You Have an Ergonomic Setup
Depending on your employer, you may or may not have the support for ergonomic desks and chairs. This comfort is where you may want to spend money (from $300 and upwards) for a high-quality ergonomic chair. Imagine sitting in that chair for 52 weeks or more than 250 days or more than 2000 hours each year. You deserve a chair that lasts for a long time and will be worth every single penny for your back and comfort.
If sitting is not your preference, perhaps a standing desk is your choice. These are expensive, but completely worth having.
Without an ergonomic setup at home, you may cause injury to your body when you least expect it. There is a reason for those accommodations to ensure that you sit correctly and prevent any unnecessary body discomfort that could become permanent after time. This paragraph serves as advice from a young professional to new and young professionals.
Make Space For You
While working from home may sound luxurious, you need a space in your house that is dedicated to work. With email being actively attached to our pockets, it’s hard to keep work away from home. Now that work is at home, whether your situation is telework, home business, or relegated to working from home because of circumstances beyond your control, you deserve a work space that is separate from the home.
If that’s not possible to carve out a room, ensure that a desk is reserved only for work and just work. Mingling between home and work business can have problems where you might make mistakes. Also if you have family, the desk is a domain where you get to work and it won’t be distracted by the busy thrill of working from home.
Get a Reliable Internet Service
And with a reliable internet service, a backup in case your primary internet service goes offline. While home internet is fairly reliable, there are times when the internet goes out, slows to a crawl because of bandwidth capacity, and it might take a while to fully get back online. Consider the time it might take to recover after a storm, power outage, or error from the ISP.
In those cases, what do you do? Choose a mobile data plan that offers tethering or a service that offers affordable tethering. While it might not substitute for intense internet, it can suffice for email and chat programs. It might not be great for transferring large files or conducting high-definition video conferencing.
From my experience, data tethering isn’t exciting and I’ve done it while riding as a passenger in a car across Texas where data service was not reliable. I was able to get work done, however I would have preferred being connected to a reliable service. Your region may have many different internet service providers with a varying degree of service quality.
Set Yourself Boundaries
Going back to carving out your own space, it’s helpful to set up boundaries so you are not constantly bogged down with the whims of living and working at home. It might be nice to work from home and avoid the commute to the office, yet you are faced with challenges that you might not see at work. These include pets, chores, children, family,
errands, etc. It’s kind of funny to think that you have to set boundaries, but essential to get work done.
These boundaries don’t have to be strict, but it ensures that you get the most out of your work without being distracted. It can tend to be distracting if there are mounting responsibilities at home where working from home is not productive. I’ll let you use your best judgement here because every home situation is different.
For me, I had to set limits to what I could not do at home. With the internet and working from home, it’s very possible to find avenues of distraction that aren’t productive. It might be great once in a while to take a break from focusing on work, but it depends on your home situation.
Make a Schedule
This seems like a silly suggestion, but I am reminding you here. Make a schedule. It’s very easy to skip lunch, miss out on appointments, or do work once you get your second wind for the night. Make your schedule and keep it. Much like how many of us have meetings and conference calls during the day, make it an opportunity to change your routine so you don’t feel burned out sitting in the same area of the house all day long working. Make a schedule.
Set a schedule to visit with friends and stick to them. Since the commute from home to the office is just a hallway, how about make time for friends after work? It can be a pleasant experience in order to adjust while working at home. Now that the pandemic is shutting things down, consider changing it up by enjoying time with friends via text message, video chat, and even that genuine phone call. People have smartphones, be smart and use the phone part! Even a walk around the block or the park can be a relief from staying cooped up indoors for what may turn out to feel like an eternity.
Go Outside Once in a While
One thing I noticed very early on when working from home: I would never go outside. This may seem trivial at first, but I would never even make it out the door for days. While this may seem extreme, you may not notice it unless you have social activities, pets (read: dogs), or children. The longest I would stay inside would be nearly four days. This is weird of me to say this, but it really didn’t help me that I would work at home and keep myself entertained at home, and only leave the house if I needed food or had a social activity. That is no way to live.
Make yourself available for your friends if you get into that situation. It might not be asking for much if you are mobile and if the weather allows, for you to step out for lunch, take a walk, or make it a habit to invite friends to dinner or events (when you or your friends are not sick). You deserve a healthy lifestyle where you can be happy while working from home.
Working from home is a wonderful dream and many of us professionals have the ability and freedom to do so. What I suggest is to look into these factors before you jump into working from home. You may feel that working from home is luxurious, a dream, but there are reasons why some folks work from home because of their circumstances. You might encounter realities where you might form unsavory habits that cause you to slack by teleworking. I know there are horror stories of folks not dressing up, only wear underwear, or staying in pajamas all day. If you get the opportunity because of your job, consider cherishing this temporary privilege to work from home and present that kind of ethic when you log on from home to go to work.
Need More Guidance?
- Ars Technica: Suddenly working at home? We’ve done it for 22 years—and have advice
- GitLab’s Guide to All-Remote
- GitLab: Remote work starter guide for employees: how to adjust to work-from-home
- Consumer Reports: Working From Home Because of COVID-19? These Tech Ideas Can Make It Easier
- NPR’s Life Kit: 8 Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You