Apr 22, 2020

10 practical tips for working at home

Many Washingtonians, Californians, and others have been working from home for more than a month now due to COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders, while people in other parts of the country are just setting up their home offices. Regardless of how long you’ve been enjoying a 10-foot commute, here are ten tips our team has assembled for working effectively at home.

  1. Update your email signature It may sound simple, but the email signature tends to be “set it and forget it.” If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to swap your office phone number to your cell phone number so you don’t miss any important calls.
  2. Change your voicemail. If your office doesn’t already have a voicemail system that automatically sends a transcript via email, it’s a good time to look into it. That way, you’ll be notified of voicemails that hit your office line while you’re at home.
  3. Take a moment for your modem. Everyone, from adults trying to conduct conference calls to kids attempting to access online learning, is suddenly bogging down your internet connection at the same time. If it’s been awhile since you’ve refreshed your modem, consider an upgrade to make everyone’s lives easier. Also, it’s a good time to change passwords and make PCs in the house undiscoverable to help protect from opportunistic hackers.
  4. Set up Click-N-Ship. If you need to mail things for work this handy USPS service is free to set up and offers batch and individual shipments using your own packaging or flat-rate boxes orderable online. You can even schedule a pickup, so you don’t even need to drive to the post office.
  5. Download Scannable. This easy-to-use app makes it incredibly simple to take high-quality scans of documents and images and email them off to partners, vendors, and clients in seconds.
  6. Be heard. By now, we’ve all probably experienced those conference calls when we can only hear every other word that someone is saying. As fun as it is to play, “Guess the assignment,” it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality headset or headphones with a built-in microphone to ensure that virtual meetings run smoothly.
  7. Schedule me time. Work-from-home offices look different—and so do office hours. We’re hearing from many professionals that they’re feeling like they’re working longer and more grueling days from home. That’s why it’s more important than ever to schedule time for exercise and breaks throughout the day and commit to following that schedule. This will help relieve some of the stress associated with trying to manage work and life while everyone’s at home.
  8. Connect with colleagues. The office is a place for work, sure, but it’s also a place to connect with your coworkers. Retain some of that togetherness while you’re apart by setting up a virtual water cooler group on Facebook where you can share funny links and memes and stick to your office social calendar—virtually.
  9. Take note of what’s behind you. Avoid windows, whiteboards with confidential info, and clutter in the background while on video calls. In this ZDNet read on effective video conferencing, blogger David Gerwirtz says, “I’ve done national TV interviews on the floor of a bathroom during the middle of a move, where only a plain wall was visible behind me. I’ve done video conferences in the middle of a doctor’s appointment simply by putting the door to the examination room behind me. I’ve done video interviews in hotel room corners, just sitting in the guest chair. The corner added a bit of dimension to the shot.” It’s worthwhile to note that programs like Microsoft Teams offer a “blur background” feature.
  10. Practice kindness. To be sure, this is a trying period for all of us—but we’re in it together. The more we can help each other by practicing kindness and empathy, the better off we’ll be. Now’s the time to channel that famous quote from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” In business and in life, the best tip we can share right now is this: Be a helper.

Yeah, we get it. We’re talking to the walls, too.

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