As a virtual personal assistant, I am used to working from home to support my clients. Businesses are increasingly changing the way they work. The prospect of working from home something new. Here are some things to think about if you are new to working at home.
Getting prepared – before leaving the office
Access and security
If your company allows for remote working, or they are setting it up, make sure that you have everything set up before attempting to work from home.
- The IT department may have set up 2-step authentication as an additional security measure.
If you are using your own machine, make sure your employers are ok with this, especially if you are remoting accessing in.
- This leads me to firewalls and remote access. Some software and firewalls don’t allow a pop up of a remote access profile. I know this from experience. The only way to get around it was to disable the software. Check with your IT team.
See if your IT team have any spare ethernet cables. These are the cables that plug from your laptop into the broadband hub. You’ll understand why in a minute.
- Always check the devices and access are in place before working from home.
- Make sure you have all the software and apps you need to complete your job.
Check out Cheshire Police’s 5Cs campaign for internet security for more information
Have you got all the work you need? If you are working on hard copies and need files and papers to read, don’t forget to pick them up.
Remember to take your note pad, to-do list and pens if you need them. Do you have to print anything while at home? If printing is essential, do you have a printer? Have a quick chat with your manager printing and any costs associated with it. Chances you don’t need to do any printing.
Setting up to work from home
This might sound obvious but stay with me. Worst case scenario, you lose your broadband. No connectivity. At best, Wifi can be intermittent. Trust me; this happens often. The last thing you need when you are in the middle of a meeting is the screen freezing, or the others in the meeting getting a weird rap of one word, as one person put it.
One way to get around the Wifi issue is to have an ethernet cable and be connected directly to the internet hub, (remember the one you borrowed from the IT team before you left the office). If you need to get your own, most shops stock them and in different lengths.
It does mean you can’t go far from the hub, but you are guaranteed to have a better connection.
Designated work area
Find yourself a designated work area. It may be that you commandeer the dining table during ‘office hours’, or you do have a desk/office. Whatever it is, make it the work area.
Keep it clear, and as clutter-free as works for you. I say it that way as some people do find it easier to work with some ‘organised clutter’ around them. For others, it is a clear desk approach.
As tempting as it may be, sitting on the sofa with your laptop, with daytime TV on in the background is a no-no!
Sitting on the sofa with a laptop on your knee is a disaster for your back and subsequently, your posture. (I am already hearing H&S managers startup with DSE, and desk risk assessments)
TV is a great distraction.
Plan your day
Once you have your workspace set up, it is time to get to work. Just like when in the office, you need to plan your day, whether it be by writing your to-do list or scheduling everything in. You need to keep the structure.
- Avoid social media distractions, or getting distracted on personal stuff
- Plan your day and know what you have to get done. It is a lot easier to find those distractions and procrastinate when you work from home, whether it be surfing the net, doing housework, or having a family call, but if you know what you have to do, it will help you focus.
- Set some time aside during the day, (during a break, for example) to email or chat to friend and family, or go browsing the internet.
Have a look at my blog on time-management for more pointers
Even working from home means you are entitled to a break from the screen. Just make sure it is a reasonable break, and not a whole episode of This Morning. When you are in the office, there are usually people making ‘brew runs’. When you are at home, it is just you. If you don’t want to keep getting up, get yourself a big water bottle or jug and stay hydrated and stretch your legs.
Why not multi-task? While you are waiting for the kettle to boil, stick the washing in the washing machine, or put the dinner in the slow cooker.
Stay in touch with colleagues
Just because you are not in the office does not mean you can not still catch up. Try not to do it all over email. Some tools include Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Team meetings, WhatsApp. Don’t forget; you can always pick up the phone and speak to people too. If you have a work mobile phone, keep it charged so that people can get in contact with you.
Staying in touch will help ease the feeling of isolation and improve mental health.
With working from home, you can put the radio on for something in the background, and you have the choice of music playing.
Get a change of scenery
If you are not in quarantine, try not to spend all day indoors, even if it is just to go to the local shop. Going for a walk, getting some fresh air will stop you from getting cabin fever. You are worried about the time, make sure you log off and if need be, tell your colleagues
Home security is essential at the best of times. Only now, you may have more IT equipment and more data. Data protection still applies if you are working from home.
- Make sure you still lock your computer if you leave it.
- Make sure you lock your front door. Don’t have your computer screen facing the window.
- Work on a clean desk policy. At the end of the day, put everything away.
You don’t always think that pets would have an impact on you working from home until it happens. Dogs are more straightforward to contend with than cats. Take them for walks regularly, give them their dinner and a bit of a fuss and they are happy.
Cats, on the other hand, will do everything in their abilities to get between you and the laptop. No matter how many times you move them on, they will be back. They want something, and they want it now! This is where knowing your pet comes in. Most times, they want a fuss. Find out what they want and give it to them, because they are not going to leave you alone until they are satisfied. It is the pet equivalent to holding a laptop for random.
With five cats and a dog in the house, I have experience. I have had to get a stand for my laptop that props it up on an angle so that cats can not lie on it. Between them, they will wake up and drink, bark, meow, walk in front of the camera, lie on your keyboard, lie on your paperwork, sit on the back of your chair and even pull your hair, and sleep in the most awkward of places. You can guarantee that they will fine-tune the behaviour to when you are on a video call and to make it as difficult as they can for you.
If you want to do your work, please the animals.
I have not put working from home with children around. That would be a blog on its own.
If you have any questions or queries about working from home and want some tips, send me a message.
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