In a matter of mere weeks, working remotely went from being a slowly growing trend in the business world to a lifesaving necessity due to the coronavirus. For some businesses this abrupt shift to being a remote worker was amazingly simple, as they had been preparing many of their workers to work remotely on their own. For others, however, this switch from in-office to a hastily designed home office was anything but smooth sailing. Working remotely may be a dream to some and an absolute nightmare to others who have become accustomed to the buzz of a workplace and the routine that it provides. For some families, working from home means competing for internet space as children and partners are also on multiple video calls or doing their own work. Now that many businesses anticipate staying remote for an extended time, many employees that find themselves in a remote position may want to rethink or redesign their home office. Our team at Spectra Networks can guide your employees on the software and hardware as well as the extras that might make their time at home more productive and efficient. After many months of dealing with clients who have adjusted to remote work conditions, here are our top 9 “must-haves” essential to working from home. Remember that your situation may vary slightly as each industry has different office needs, but this is what we have found to be essential to be comfortable and get the job done.
A Dedicated Workspace
If you have spent the last few months working at your kitchen table or stooped over on the living room couch while trying desperately to get your work done, now is the time to carve out a dedicated workspace in your home. In this workspace you will need a few key items. A desk, office supplies, outlets, shelves, and a chair. (We will revisit the chair when we talk about ergonomics.) Even if the space you intend to use is small, make sure it has adequate heat/cooling and light in which to work. This space will not only save your home or apartment from your office mess, but will allow you to shut off work during non-work hours. At the end of the work day you will hopefully be able to step away from your dedicated workspace and resume your home life, even if it is basically in the same space.
Adequate Internet Connection
As long as you work from home, your internet connection will be your lifeline to getting work done in a productive and efficient manner. If your connection is slow or gets dropped often, your work will suffer. In our last blog, we discussed how to help speed up your slow internet connection. Check out some of the simple steps you can take to improve your speed, including: moving closer to the router, repositioning the router, changing the MGz, and changing the channel to get faster speeds. We also recommend prioritizing what is used during the work day that could slow down your connection such as video games and streaming services. If these techniques don’t improve your router, you may need to consider a wi-fi range extender or an upgrade for your router.
If you have become accustomed to working with one monitor or a small laptop screen, may we suggest the benefits of a dual-monitor setup. Honestly, once you start using two screens, it’s really hard to go back. Not only does a dual screen allow you to get a comprehensive view of what you are working on (without the need for more software), but it also allows you to run multiple applications simultaneously. How great would it be to have multiple documents open and be able to see everything you are working on all at once?
Noise Cancelling Headphones
This one is a no-brainer if you have children, live near loud city traffic, or never know when your dog will start howling. Depending on how chaotic your home is, you may need headphones to help you concentrate better or to cancel out distracting noise from other family members who may also be working from home. Be sure to check out the many different kinds to find one that fits your needs.
Project Management Software
Sure, back in the office it was easy to meet with team members and compare notes on projects you were collaborating on. Unfortunately, at home, you may feel isolated and out-of-the-loop when it comes to projects that require the input of many different departments. That’s where project management software can help keep everyone on the same page and improve your collaboration. ProofHub online has compiled a list of some of the best project management tools to improve your communications of team projects. ConsumerVoice has given a great side-by-side comparison of many project management tools for you to compare.
We have said it before and we will say it over and over again. You need to have a backup plan for your data. Now that you can no longer rely on the security backups done automatically at the office, you will need to have a way to save all your data after hours of working daily. Talk to your manager about what backup plans you should make and whether there are contingencies if you should lose power, or if some other emergency arises. There will usually be an office policy on backing up data so that there will be no downtime. There are several ways to migrate data from remote laptops and devices to the organization file servers. Be sure you are following office policy and timing when it comes to these backups.
At the top of this blog, we mentioned getting a desk and chair for your remote workspace. These purchases should not be taken lightly, especially if you plan on being at that desk for hours each day. Choose a desk height that allows for your arms to rest easily on the surface without hunching over. Choose a chair that gives lumbar support, and you may want to invest in a footrest that can help support your feet and ease stress on your back. Finding the right ergonomic office chair, though, can be tricky. There is no universally perfect model because each body is different. Recently, the Strategist online has given a great place to start. They provide a full listing of some of the best ergonomic office chairs, according to chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons. Check them out and consider the investment worthy for your back, neck, and hip health. Worth mentioning in this ergonomics discussion, are the benefits of a laptop stand should you only have access to a laptop for your remote work. This small and generally portable tool can be used at home or at work, once we all return to normal. A laptop stand allows users to elevate the laptop thus providing less of a strain on a users neck. Adjusting the height to the right spot can mean saving yourself a literal pain in the neck and possibly a headache or two.
Surge Protectors & MultiPlugs
A good surge protector and multi-plug is an essential item for any remote office. While it may seem like a simple tool, surge protectors can make a huge difference should an electrical mishap occur in your home. In regard to adding plugs to your work area, there never seem to be enough to plug in your devices, lights, and any extra items that you may find you need to work properly.
A Final Word
While we couldn’t anticipate the global health crisis that has so many of us working from home for the foreseeable future, we can see that working from home should be comfortable and filled with the tools that allow us to concentrate, collaborate, and work productively. If you are setting up your home office and find that you are lacking the tools you need to get the work done, talk to your team about adding some of these tools we mentioned today that can help you stay connected and efficiently working. While we all may have distractions like family members, children at home, pets wandering over our work space, and other competing things in our environment, you can have a comfortable space to work.