By Stella Lee, ESC Encore Fellow
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and nonprofits closed up their offices and started allowing employees to work from home. Over the past two months, 62 percent of employed Americans have been working remotely. While states are slowly starting to reopen, some employers are rethinking their work from home policies. In fact, Twitter announced they will allow employees who are in a role that enables them to work from home to continue to do so forever. At Empower Success Corps (ESC), our staff is working remotely and Consultants and Fellows are shifting into virtual roles to support ESC clients.
Perhaps your occasional or temporary working from home is going to turn into a long-term scenario. If so, it may be time to move your “office” space out of the kitchen and into a more permanent and dedicated space.
Stella Lee, an ESC Encore Fellow, is well versed in the concept of working from home. After spending a decade making the daily trek into an office working for a Fortune 50 company in marketing and business development, she was given the opportunity to work remotely from home. Stella discovered several ways to set up a home office that has enabled her to work effectively and comfortably. “The situation we are currently in is obviously unique. There may be several people in your household who are working remotely. I recommend, if you can, to find a place in your home just for you,” said Lee.
Setting the mood.
“It is important to find a balance between an environment that will make you productive and efficient and a space that will make you feel most comfortable for your work style,” said Lee. Take into consideration things like light and noise. “It can be very distracting to hear the dog barking or doorbell ringing in the middle of a Webex, Skype or Zoom conference call.” Here are some things to consider when setting the “mood” for your workspace:
- Noise: try to find the most soundproof space.
- Light: consider a space by a window. If that is not possible, find a good desk lamp or a space with overhead or floor lighting.
- Climate control: get a space heater, fan or air conditioner (as needed).
- Pleasantries: have a small wireless speaker to play background music, a bowl of candies/snacks, hand cream, a picture of your family/friends/pet, or a box of tissues.
While traditional office furniture is still a staple in many home offices, consider options that are ergonomic and comfortable to your working style as well as good for your health. Research finds that sitting all day raises your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Standing desks and exercise balls can help prevent you from being sedentary. If you do go with a standard desk and chair, if you can, invest the time and thought into selecting one that is best for you. “Your office chair is like your bed, you spend your entire workday sitting in it. If you choose a traditional office chair with armrests, make sure you are getting up and moving around every hour,” said Lee. “Or consider a more ergonomic one to help with balance, back pain, and/or muscle toning while you sit.”
Devices, equipment and tools
Choosing the right computer often depends on the type of work you do. Having a laptop can make your work more portable. A larger desktop screen will be less strain on your eyes, especially if you work on multiple documents and spreadsheets. “Perhaps you might even consider a setup with dual/multiple screens. Make sure the top of your screen is level with your eye line for an optimal ergonomic setup,” said Lee.
Think about what items would be ideal to have in your workspace: a printer, second monitor, fax, copier, shredder, landline phone, stapler, writing implements, etc. “Having to go downstairs to pick up items off of the printer can be distracting and disrupt your workflow.”
Don’t forget time management tools. “Google and office calendars can help you keep track of meetings and deadlines. However, if you like a hard copy calendar or datebook, be sure to keep it in an easily accessible location.”
Mentally prepping your workspace
Prepare a surface that is cleared of any items except your work materials. “Only place work related items on your desk and not your unpaid bills, magazines or other reading material,” said Lee. What are some things you might see around the office if you were physically there? “Perhaps get a copy of your organization’s mission statement and post it in your office space for inspiration.”
As you have more and more accounts to log in to – email, online software, social media, etc. – it can be challenging to keep track of usernames and passwords. “There are many password manager services that are free or that you can subscribe to such as LastPass and 1Password. However, a sticky note with login credentials on or near your computer/laptop can work just as well.”
Be sure you have antivirus software running on your computer. The general rule of thumb is that you should be running a scan of your computer at least once a week. “If you are on the internet often, downloading files, or viewing sites that have a lot of popups, you can run scans as often as two to three times per week or even daily,” said Lee. If you do have a camera on your computer or laptop, consider covering it when ideo calls are not in session. “You can purchase clip-on webcam blocker for less than a dollar. Or go low key with a piece of masking tape or Post-it Note.”
Again, pick and choose what is most important to you in a home office. You may have constraints with either your physical space, furniture or equipment. “Prioritize what you can control. A home office can be anything (and anywhere) you want. Whether you have a dedicated room for your office or you are in a cozy corner of your spare bedroom, make the spacing inviting and comfortable for you,” said Lee.