Staying Home to Work
With a blink of the eye the roaring 20’s were turned on its head and suddenly our daily lives took a drastic turn. Who knew at the change of the decade within two months a majority of us would find ourselves sheltered in place, homeschooling our kids, and working from home? Now just weeks into this temporary state, it appears we may be living like this for the next few weeks or months as states like Virginia have extended their shelter in place until June 10th.
While more and more businesses have already allowed employees to work remotely, many of us are faced for the first time having to create a functional home office. But do you have the main essentials to get the job done from your house? In this blog we’ll go over some of the basics to help you create a productive, and even healthy, work space at home. Much of this may be common sense but maybe you’ll pick up a tip or two.
Location, Location, Location
If you’re like me and have kids being homeschooled, the first thing you need to figure out is where you can set up shop that will allow you to focus on the tasks at hand and offer some privacy. Not all of us have the luxury of a spare bedroom that we can convert into an office.
For quite some time now I’ve had my eye on the girls’ playroom but that dream was quickly squashed when my youngest daughter decided she wanted her own room at the start of all this. So I’ve opted for a desk in the corner of the master bedroom that is located on the opposite end of the house from the girls’ bedrooms and has a locking door for times I need to take a client’s call or focus on a project without interruptions.
The downside to working from your bedroom if you have a spouse is when those late night inspirations keep you awake, it’s hard to jump on the computer to be productive without disrupting the sleep of your significant other.
Essential Items for a Home Office
It’s a given that you’ll need at least a laptop computer to work remotely but what are some of the other necessary elements one might need to make this transition a success?
Gone are the days of the dreadful ethernet cable and thankfully most homes are equipped with wireless routers that make working almost anywhere in the house possible, even your garage. A solid, dependable wifi signal is a must but depending on your house, there may be some obstacles to obtain that.
Because I live in an attached home we have several walls with metal interiors that don’t play nice with the wifi waves creating many dead spots. By using two wifi repeaters in addition to my wireless router I now have a solid wifi signal throughout my entire home.
Chances are most of us have a functioning printer in the event you need to print important documents. If you are in need of a new printer, many of today’s home printers are wireless and offer mobile printing options. You may also want to consider one with scanning and fax options although many professions don’t require those options as everything is moving towards electronic docs. Should you require a scanner there are several mobile apps that use the phones camera to scan and save to a pdf.
Whether you work from a laptop or desktop, I’ve found the addition of a second display screen very beneficial for my productivity. This saves me valuable time being able to see multiple windows or applications at once and also reduces the amount of clicking . My second wide screen is positioned vertically to reduce the rotation of my neck, which I find handy for email, calendar or web research. If you are limited to a laptop, by all means retrofit with an external keyboard and pointing device. This will allow you to get closer to positioning the equipment at a more comfortable height and distance.
If having a phone is a crucial part of your business and you don’t have a company cellphone, check with your office to see if they can forward an office line to your home or cellphone. Another option is to set up a temporary VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) account like Vonage.
As a last resort, you can use your own phone but if you don’t want people having your personal number hit *67 then dial the phone number. The drawback to this option is the number will come up as “Restricted” and most people won’t bother to answer the phone thinking you’re a telemarketer (apologies if that is your profession).
In this new age of social distancing it will be harder to have a productive face to face conversation and a traditional conference call can sometimes fall flat with regards to personal interaction. Many companies, organizations, schools, families and friends are now turning toward group video chats to help add that personal touch.
This feature is available in many formats from Facebook Messenger to Apple’s Facetime, however Zoom appears to be leading the pack and swiftly became the preferred platform by providing simple connectivity for all participants. This is a great way to hold weekly conferences with at home employees, sales presentations, or the much needed happy hour come Friday evening.
Sharing and Accessing Files
Many companies are already using cloud services for accessing files and data remotely from almost any device. Cloud storage is a great way to access the office and share files.
There are many cloud services available from top companies like Google Drive, Drop Box, Amazon Web Services, Apple’s iCloud, and Next Cloud. Or for sharing one off files without having to commit to a service plan, companies like WeTransfer allow you to send files up to 2gb for free.
Some cloud services are also a good option to backing up your computer’s data in lieu of traditional external drives that run the risk of crashing.
For files that contain sensitive data make sure to use a service that allows for encryption (an encoded file that only authorized parties can access).
Another way to share files with employees that live nearby is via a usb flash drive or sd card. With capacities of up to 256gb you can securely add a lot of files that you can drop off on your coworkers porch. Maybe even leave a plate of cookies for a nice touch.
About that Healthy, Comfortable Workspace
Now that you have the basics for an essential home office, it’s important not to overlook the ergonomics of your set up so you can continue to work in a healthy, productive environment. Spending hours hunched over a laptop on your desk or dining room table can have serious consequences down the road as well as restricting your productivity.
The heart of your ergonomically correct office starts with using a proper chair. Important features include adequate seat height and depth, and armrests that do not interfere with your posture. Often ergonomists use the analogy of piano to describe how one should compute; your arms and hands should ‘float’ over the keys. Thus the importance of ‘computer-friendly’ armrests.
Several of our manufacturers offer accessories that will allow you to make your current home office more comfortable and healthy to work from. Products like Humanscale’s Quickstand ECO converts your existing desk into a healthy, active Sit/Stand workstation.
In the not so distance past, phonebooks were a way to raise your laptop or monitor to a better position. Now there are a numeous keyboard platforms, monitor arms and laptop stands that allow for optimal positioning. Consider consulting with an ergonomist in selecting the appropriate keyboard platform for your needs.
What Will the Future Hold?
The future of Working From Home has arrived and many companies are creating budgets for employees that can be used to help create an ergonomic office. Even our sales team is currently working at home but we are here to assist your company by creating a healthy, comfortable workspace no matter where you are working from.
And one last note offered by a former coworker when I asked friends what they need for their essential home office. Coffee and music were at the top of his list. And I have to agree as this blog is the result of many cups of coffee and a synthwave playlist on Spotify. Stay healthy and stay well!
A.J. Chippero is a marketing consultant for MB Contract Furniture as well as a father of two girls currently being homeschooled due to the school closures from the COVID-19 virus.