Remote Working

June 18, 2020

I spent a year working from home and grew up around people who did so to me working from home is not unusual. My current role allows me the ability to work remotely when I need to. The idea of remote workers is not new, nor is it novel. My wife works from home now permanently as her company is based in another city and her role requires her to be in Auckland. This works well for both her and her company. I worked for myself for nearly a year and then remotely in another country for 3 months.

Here are some of my tips to being productive at home:

1 - have a dedicated workspace.

One of the reasons I now avoid working from home is that I cannot stand working at the dining room table. As I mentioned my wife is permanently based from home. We are very fortunate in that we have a sleep out serving as a spare room/office. We have it setup with a large desk, docking station, monitor, mouse/keyboard and printer. I've even run a LAN cable from the router to ensure good internet speed into the office. This allows you to mentally distance yourself from 'home' when I was working for myself, we lived in a different house, but I turned our upstairs spare room into my office, this allowed me to get away from 'home' even if I was just walking up stairs.

When the Government determined that we had to go home I was already trying to figure out a way to make remote working at home for me work. I can't take my wife's office, but perhaps I could re-purpose a corner of our bedroom, or a corner in the lounge - or make the children share a room! I don't think that will happen. When working remotely we were living in a serviced apartment, so I had a desk in the lounge that I set up with a monitor and keyboard. It was cramped but it worked. During the COVID lockdown we ended up having my niece and sister-in-law with us at Level 3. So with an antique writing desk in our bedroom, the sleep-out home office and a repurposed set of drawers in my daughters room we had three seperate office spaces in our house!

2 - Make your home office comfortable.

Get a whiteboard, or note board, somewhere where you can be creative to write or draw. Make sure you have access to a decent coffee machine. The luxury of popping to the coffee shop in the bottom of your building is gone for many people in the suburbs, so access to decent coffee is a must - well for me anyway!

3 - Take breaks.

Go and make a coffee, eat your lunch at the dining room table. Set yourself a start and end time - like you would at the office.

4 - Stay in touch.

Make sure you keep in contact with your team members, use apps like MS Teams and Zoom. It can get lonely working from home. Its one of the reasons I like being in the office. But make sure you keep in touch, you need to for your own sanity. You may also find that losing the ability to bounce ideas off other people is hard and you are resistant to calling people as you don't want to interrupt them - think of using the phone in the same way you would do as walking up to someone in the office.

5 - Distractions.

These are unavoidable especially if you have small children at home, make sure you set your office up somewhere that you can close a door. Not ideal - but maybe your bedroom will have to do for the short term. You treat going to work at home just as you would leaving for the office. If you start work at 8 you just say "Daddy/Mummy is going to work now" and most kids grasp that. Our 5 year old knows that when Mummy is in the office she is at work - and I am the one probably more guilty of bugging her than the children!

6 - Get dressed.

Whilst I am not suggesting you put a suit and tie on to work from home - it is great to be able to work in a t-shirt and shorts! Make sure you get yourself ready for work when its time to work. Sitting around in your pajamas does not put you in the right head-space and you probably won't be as productive as you otherwise could be.

7 - Make sure you have the right tools.

Talk to your company or IT department to ensure you have access to all the right folders and files you will need to work remotely. Go and spend $30 at the stationary shop on things like a stapler, scissors, post-it-notes and anything else you think you may need. When I first started working from home I suddenly realised I had very little in the way of office supplies - that was a rookie mistake.

If working from home is not in your business continuity plan and you have the workforce who can work from home, speak with your IT company and see how they can help you ensure your business can keep working in the event you have to send everyone home.

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