For about 10 years of my 16-year career in the IT industry, I worked exclusively from home. I lived in Utah, but the company I worked for was located in Southern Calfornia. I always said that I could fix anything remotely, short of internet connection issues and hardware issues (since I was unable to be onsite to physically switch out the hardware). From those years of experience, I have some tips to help you work from home.
Now many people are faced with the prospect, or even need, to start working from home. Many think it’s amazing to not have a commute or to be able to work in your pajamas. But, having done this for several years, let me tell you, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Working from home can be extremely difficult, especially if there are kids around, which many will be with all the school closures. These tips to help you work from home will make your life easier.
The Right Hardware
While it may not be feasible for you to go out and order or purchase the needed equipment, your company may be able to offset some of the cost, or you may be able to borrow some of the equipment you need from your office. Having the right hardware in place can really improve your productivity when working from home.
1. A Second (or Third) Monitor
I always say that productivity increases exponentially with the addition of each monitor. So, if you have 3 monitors, you are 3x more productive than someone who has 1 monitor. It is not based on any sort of scientific research, but I believe it is true.
Using another monitor really makes a lot of the things you need to do for work much easier. Depending on what you are using (laptop, desktop) and the ports that are available on the device, you may have to get an adaptor in order to connect it to the second monitor.
2. A Docking Station (for a laptop)
The best way to connect an additional monitor to your laptop is to get a docking station. This way you can also connect other peripherals like a printer, a keyboard or mouse that isn’t Bluetooth capable, and more. I love using the Pluggable brand docking stations, as they are universal to any make of laptop.
3. A Power Strip
Plugging your computer directly into the wall can actually cause some serious problems. In the event of a power outage or a power surge, you could severely damage the hardware you are using. Make sure you are protected through a surge protector. The added bonus here is that you will have several more empty plugs available to you for plugging in phone chargers, printers, additional monitors and more.
4. A Wireless Mouse
If you are using a laptop, the trackpad or TrackPoint (in Lenovo ThinkPad machines) is just not efficient when it comes to getting a lot of work done. An external mouse can be a huge benefit. Even if you have a desktop, purchasing a wireless mouse can really help you not be tied down to one location if you need to move the mouse out of the way for needed paperwork.
5. A Headset
If your job requires you to be on the phone, a headset is going to be essential. With VOIP (voice over IP) services, sometimes you can install a “softphone” on your computer that allows you to make and receive phone calls just like you are sitting at your office. Sometimes your hardware phone can even be taken from the desk in your office and plugged into your house giving you the opportunity to use your regular office phone from home.
In either case, using a wireless headset will help you be able to work and talk at the same time. A headset will also come in handy if you have to attend any video conference calls. When you just use the computer’s audio settings there can be some significant feedback on the chat, which can be extremely annoying for the other participants.
How to Access Your Company Remotely
There are a couple of different ways people can work from home. Most of it is dependant on what your company has set up for remote work. Many companies have a remote desktop that you can dial into in order to accomplish your tasks.
Remote desktop allows you to sign into a workstation that is at your company, or in the cloud, but connected to your work environment. It is a completely different environment, so any software you have on the computer you are using to connect will not be available on the remote workstation.
Another way people sign into work is through a VPN. A Virtual Private Network essentially takes the computer you are using at home and virtually places it on the company network. Your computer will act exactly like you are sitting at your computer inside the office.
Remotely connecting to your actual machine is another option people can use. Programs like Teamviewer or LogMeIn allow you to remotely access the computer you use at work from your home computer.
Finally, if your company uses a lot of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) tools like Salesforce or Slack, you could log into those services from your home computer. This wouldn’t require you to be on your company network since all of the tools are available online.
One of the hardest things about working from home is staying productive, especially since most of the kids will also be home during the time you will need to work. There are a few things you can do to help keep your productivity up even when you are cooped up with your entire family.
Close the Door
Even if you don’t have a dedicated office in your house, you can still go into your bedroom and close the door. During your “working” hours make sure the door is closed and the kids will have to pretend you aren’t there. A sign on the door might even help out when the kids forget about the situation.
Take Set Breaks
Make sure when you are working that you schedule some break times into your day. If you don’t plan in advance, you could end up taking way more breaks than you think you are taking. Housework tends to blend into regular work when you are home, so make sure you wait until your scheduled breaks to take care of those household needs.
Get Ready for the Day
It is really tempting to wake up late, just in time to start your workday. Doing this can really backfire for you though. When you don’t get ready before you start your day, it’s tempting to just run go take a shower in the middle of your day. This ends up drawing out your getting ready for the day and might eat into your workday more than expected.
Also, when you are sitting around working in your pajamas, it can be hard to get focused. Getting ready for the day during the time you normally do, puts your mind back into that “working” mindset to help you focus on the tasks at hand.
With the kids home, there are also Jr. High and High School kids at home. If you don’t have someone else at home that can take care of the kids while you are working, get a neighbor to come help out with your kids during the day. When the kid’s needs are being taken care of it will give you a chance to focus on work and get more done.
Working from home can be difficult, but you can definitely make it work! If I could do it for 10 years with a newborn, you can definitely make it a few weeks during a quarantine especially with these tips to help you work from home! Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com