This week millions of Americans will begin working from home for an extended period of time. For most, it will be the first time they've worked from home for such an extended period of time.
For others, the challenge will be trying to remain productive while their spouse, roommate, and/or children are also home from work and school.
With that in mind, today I'm going to share several practical tips I've come to learn after I left a long career as a specialist to work at home full-time.
Tip 1) Setup A Place To Work For The Duration
One of the most important things you can do is dedicate a place in your home as your work-space.
It could as simple as commandeering a section of your kitchen table, or setting up a folding table in a bedroom.
Where ever you choose, set it up for the duration with all the comforts of your office desk including things like a power strip, phone charger, pens, and sticky notes.
And if you're using a laptop, consider investing in an external monitor (or two,) and full size keyboard and mouse.
If you're worried about sitting all day now that everything's within arm's reach, I can highly recommend this transforming work-space which allows you to easily switch between standing and sitting.
Tip 2) Keep To Your Routine
The biggest mistake I've seen people make when they begin working from home is they don't keep to their previous routine.
This often results in their work day starting late, which then leads to having to work through dinner to finish the day's work.
Instead, try keeping to the same routine you had when you weren't working from home, heading into your home work-space when you'd typically start your commute.
Tip 3) Batch Your Emails
Another mistake I see many make when they begin working at home is that they start instantly responding to every email as it comes in.
This isn't something most of us can do at work, and quite frankly it's counter productive.
Instead, try opening your email client once every hour or two in order to more efficiently address new emails at regular intervals.
Tip 4) Take Breaks Away From Your Work-Space
This may seem counter intuitive, but my personal experience agrees with studies that show taking regular breaks every couple of hours makes you more productive, not less.
So don't feel like you have to work eight straight hours with only a few minutes off to use the bathroom and stuff some food in your face.
Instead, get up regularly to stretch and unplug, and you'll likely find (like I did) that you're more productive for doing so.
Tip 5) Make Sure You Have A Good Network Connection
You may find that, with so many other people working at home (or on an unexpected break from school,) your wireless router is struggling to keep up.
If so, you may want to run a wired connection from your PC to your router, even if it means laying out a long Ethernet cable each morning.
I'll include an Amazon link to the Ethernet cables I use here since they work well and come in extra long versions.
Tip 6) Your Own Broadband Connection?
My wife and daughter both work for local school systems, which means that along with my grandkids, they're home using our internet connection most of the summer.
After trying several different services, routers, and dozens of configurations, I finally found the best results came from getting a second Cable Modem (and the appropriate splitter) from my local Cable Company.
While it may seem counter intuitive, I've definitely have a higher speed and more reliable connection now that the family and I each have our own Cable Modem paired with a “Middle of the Road” plan (as opposed to when we all shared a single Cable Modem with a “High-End” plan.)
Tip 7) Quiet, Please
If you're like me, you think better when you can hear yourself think. But it's also not reasonable to expect your family to be silent all day long.
To address this, I've used several different solutions.
First, if I'm in another room and finding the family's activities are distracting me, I find I can mitigate the distraction by softly playing some Jazz or Classical music.
And for louder noises, I encourage family members to wear headphones during the work day.
A lot of parents don't know it, but most video game consoles allow users to plug a standard pair of headphones right into the game controller to eliminate blaring TV speakers.
That's not only a great way to listen to games, but also works when using a console to watch YouTube, NetFlix, and other streaming services.
And for family members who want to watch Cable or Satellite TV without running a headphone extension cord from the back of the TV, most can view the very same content on their phone, tablet, or PC (with headphones 😉 by using the Cable or Satellite Company's official app.
If all else fails, before buying a set of expensive “noise canceling” headphones, consider trying 3M's WorkTunes product.
I originally purchased these to listen to audio books as I mowed our three ache plot each week (as well as snow-blow our three hundred foot driveway after each winter storm.)
But over the years I've found it's also useful to block out my surroundings when I'm trying to concentrate on my work.
Tip 8) Equipment That Really Works
There's some additional equipment you may want to add to your home office if you'll be working there for an extended period of time.
These include a quality webcam, microphone, and headset for your phone or PC.
When it comes to webcams, I've purchased several but found only the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 or C922 work well enough to recommend.
Next, if you're going to be doing a lot of WebX or GotoMeetings, I'd recommend a high quality headset for your phone, or if you plan to use your PC I'd recommend either a HyperX Cloud wired headset, or a Cosair wireless headset.
I've spent hundreds of hours in online conferences in each, and both products are excellent choices.
Finally, if you're going to be the one presenting during web meetings (or appearing as a guest on podcasts) there's only one quality USB Mic on the market I'd recommend: The Blue Yeti microphone (I own several.)
Pair it with a good “pop filter” and you've never sounded better 😉
After brainstorming and writing up these tips over the past few hours, I'm now curious to hear what tips you might have to share?
If you're up to it, please share your tips with us below as either a Forum or Blog comment.
Until next time, Peace ✌️
Shawn M Tierney
Technology Enthusiast & Content Creator
Have a question? Join my community of automation professionals and take part in the discussion! You'll also find my PLC, HMI, and SCADA courses at TheAutomationSchool.com.
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