Technology / Productivity

Working from Home: Structuring Your Life for Remote Work

by Josh Burnett
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Published on March 17, 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations worldwide are encouraging employees to work from home. In areas that have been hit especially hard, many employees don't have a choice. They are being ordered to stay home or avoid group settings by their governments — in efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

While many people thrive while working remote, it's not for everyone. It's easy to get distracted and unproductive within the friendly confines of home. Or you might miss the hustle and bustle of interacting with people at the office. There's actually quite a bit to working remote (successfully).

If you are facing the possibility of going remote, you can take steps to set yourself up for success and not miss a beat, including five tips on how to work from home from CBT Nuggets trainer Jeremy Cioara:

Let's walk through what you need to consider when structuring your job for remote work: setting realistic expectations, setting up a good space to work, and preparing that space.

Set Realistic Expectations for Remote Work

The first things you should consider about telecommuting have more to do with how you work, rather than what you're working with. Many people get caught up in creating an office space and buying the correct equipment — that they put the cart before the horse. However, there's some foundational prep work you need to do before you even turn on your laptop.

Create a set schedule. There are two sides to this coin. The first is your employer's expectations: do they need you to be online for specific hours or times of the day? Does the time zone you're in impact this? Are you allowed to set your own working hours as long as your tasks are accomplished? How does this fit in with day-to-day life wherever you'll be working (e.g., at home where other people might be)? Knowing what your boss expects of you is vital to being able to meet those requirements.

You'll also need to consider what works best for you. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Do you have kids who need a bit of help getting out the door to school every day? Do you have a staff meeting that occurs right when your spouse gets home from work?

Planning out your workflow in the context of your daily life will prevent a tremendous amount of stress in the long run.

Set clear boundaries. This goes for both yourself and anyone you're living with — as well as your boss and team members. Working from home presents a unique temptation always to be available. Even on Saturday, it might be appealing to knock out small tasks so you don't have to think about them all weekend. However, this is a recipe for rapid burnout. Be sure to set working hours and take time to refresh yourself regularly.

If you're living with others, be clear about when you can and can't be interrupted. The transition to working remotely is an adjustment: your family is probably used to being able to interact with you freely when you're home, but that will almost certainly need to change during working hours. Develop routines, signals, or time periods where you can focus on getting things done consistently.

Communicate proactively. If you're doing this right every step of the way, it will initially feel like you're over-communicating. It's easy to underestimate how much information is passed through casual interactions when you're working in the same location as your coworkers. Passing statements in the hallway, the ability to glance over your office-mate's shoulder to see where they are with a project, and pre-meeting chatter are all examples of critical information pathways you're suddenly excluded from when you're on the other side of the screen.

Meet other remote colleagues. Chances are you're not the only person on your team or organization who is telecommuting. If there are members of the team you haven't met in person, set up a quick videoconference and introduce yourself. Getting to know your colleagues requires a more intentional effort than when you share an office space, but it's no less critical in fostering effective working relationships.

Choosing a Place to Work at Home

Working from home is a blanket term that often involves places other than your house. Some people prefer the steady hustle and bustle of a coffee shop. Other people like to work outside. Perhaps a home office is a perfect setup, or maybe you enjoy the quiet intensity of the library. However, these latter few options may not be available as cities close public places and establishments, so you should set up a home office.

Here are some of the top things you should consider when setting up your office away from the office.

Setting up a home office is essential. It doesn't have to be a massive setup or even be its own room, but establishing a central location where your files, external hard drives, paper records, printer, and other items live is a cornerstone of staying organized. Importantly, set up near an outlet. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a videoconference, see that your battery is low, and realize you there's nowhere to plug in.

Think about your living situation. Just as you should set clear boundaries with the other people in your house, be courteous as well. Do you have to be available to talk on the phone or conduct video conferences regularly? If so, you should probably be secluded so you aren't disturbing others — and they aren't disturbing you.

Will confidential information be displayed on your screen? Privacy laws and confidentiality clauses don't have exceptions for family members or roommates. Thinking through these factors beforehand will keep you out of trouble — and in the best possible position to work efficiently.

How to Prepare Your Space

This is arguably the most visible aspect of remote work, but it's easy to miss critical details if you don't work through your setup methodically.

Make a checklist. Take a look at your desk at work. What do you use all the time? What do you have at home? Think through everything from dual monitors and webcams to scanners and printers, along with any proprietary equipment necessary for your job. Ideally, you'll be able to grab the equipment from the office that allows you to do your work at home. If that's not the case, then think about what you have and also what you need as you transition to working from home.

Check your internet. Connectivity is so crucial to telecommuting. There are two parts of the connectivity problem: connection and access. First, do you have fast internet where you plan to work? You probably know that wireless connections are slower than wired connections, so if you have the option to use a wired connection, that's preferable.

However, wireless can also get finicky the further away you are from the access point. If you're set up in a back bedroom, garage, or basement, you may need to reconfigure or reposition your router for better access. Here's a quick video on how to optimize (or fix) your wireless access at home:

That video is from the article: Why Your Wifi Sucks and How to Fix It

Ultimately, you probably just have a slower connection at home than you had at work, so make do with what you have. You'll be back to your blazing fast commercial speeds in no time.

Check your VPN access. Many companies employ VPNs to securely access internal resources. Some require VPNs for all connections. In either case, most remote workers have tangled with a VPN at some point. Don't get us wrong. VPNs are awesome. VPNs create secure tunnels from your house to your office, and make sure no one is looking. They can also be a pain to set up.

Make sure you have everything you need to access the resources you need to work. In the case of VPNs, that can be the VPN client, password, or even a 2FA application. If you have trouble accessing internal resources, call your IT team.

Have a backup plan in mind. Things break — computers, cellular coverage, or the internet. City, state, and company guidance will likely dictate what options you have for a backup plan to keep working. In some cases, your company may allow limited access to on-site facilities. Otherwise, check with your company policy on purchasing items for your time at home.

Being (Remotely) Successful 

Remote work can be challenging for some people. Ensure that you get off on the right foot by carefully and methodically planning the way you'll work — as well as the logistical factors you need to take into account.

Establishing solid routines and preparing an effective office setup will go a long way toward maximizing your enjoyment of the benefits working remotely has to offer.


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