What are some great Best Practices when working form home?
Like many office workers, you may have found yourself, post-pandemic, still working in a hybrid role shared between some days in the office and some days working remotely or at home. Most corporations have deemed this to be the “new normal”.
While there are many benefits to working from home, there are also risks as well as a handful of tips and tricks to better the experience overall. That’s why we have compiled this list of best practices for you – to ensure that your productivity is not hampered just because you’re not in the office.
1. Stick to The Plan
Changing where you work shouldn’t mean changing when you work. In fact, many studies have shown that working from home can promote a greater yield of productivity. The time it takes to get prepared for the day and out the door is reduced, there’s no commute, and there can be fewer distractions (in some people’s cases, not all). Whether you find yourself with more time and flexibility or not, it’s important to stick to your daily routines and follow your schedule. For the night owls, that means not sleeping in until the very last possible minute. And for the overachievers, that means taking your scheduled breaks in their entirety and stopping work at the end of the work-day. Work-life balance is incredibly important for your own mental health as well as for your family. You can use “Insights” in your Outlook calendar to help you schedule out your days by paying attention to things like deadlines, meetings and even breaks. Outlook Insights can even schedule your lunch every day so that your availability is reflected to anyone you have your calendar shared with.
2. Define Your Space
Whether you have a home office, or you’re working from the dining room table, it is important to define your work area as just that – your work area. In addition to this it’s important to have everything you need in order to be productive. If you’re used to using two large screens at the office, working off a 13-inch laptop screen at home might not be the most ideal. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your employer to provide the tools that are essential for you to do your job. In most cases it is highly recommended to have the exact same setup in both of your workspaces. This usually means a laptop that connects to a docking station with dual monitors, and a detached keyboard and mouse. You may also require a webcam and a headset in order to take part in live meetings.
Another important factor is ergonomics. Your monitors should be elevated to just below eye level as that is what optometrists recommend for the best eye health and least amount of strain. Your posture and repetitive strains will be affected by the type of chair you use, so it is recommended to use a chair with adequate support and adjustability. You may not be in the position to ask for an office chair, or to even buy one yourself, so finding a seating area that is the closest to that as possible should be a high priority for you.
3. Remain Vigilant
There’s a reason why cyber-security is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. If spammers, scammers and hackers weren’t finding at least a moderate amount of success with their criminal activities, they wouldn’t still be doing it. That’s why there’s always some new scam or virus that is a little harder to catch than the last one. When you’re working remote or at home, you likely don’t have the benefit of all the security infrastructure that’s found at your office. You (and your company) are more vulnerable in several ways.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi: There is nothing to stop a hacker from parking outside your local Starbucks, broadcasting a Wi-Fi SSID (name) like “Starbucks Free”. Once you connect to that SSID, the hacker can monitor everything you’re doing online and, in some cases, can even gain remote access to your PC without you even knowing. As often as possible, use trusted Wi-Fi connections that you know are safe. Ones where you need to ask for the password or agree to terms and conditions on a splash page are a better choice. If your company has provided you with a cell phone that has a data plan, you should “Hotspot” your Wi-Fi connection from your phone. If you have no choice but to use a sketchy Wi-Fi, do not do anything sensitive like signing into your bank account. Save those activities for later when you’re on a secure connection.
Use a VPN: A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a simple but effective technology that essentially tricks your PC (and the rest of the world for that matter) into thinking you are not where you say you are. If your company offers a VPN, when you log into that VPN your PC thinks it’s at the office. It can talk to the other devices on the office network like printers and servers. This also means your PC is safer behind your company’s security infrastructure. If your company does not have a VPN set up, there are plenty of options online for a small fee. Avoid the free ones because even though they’re free, you’re paying in some other way, usually by ad revenue or tracking. Use a trusted VPN service to ensure your PC is not tracked and your data is encrypted as it travels across the web.
Multi-factor Authentication: Two-factor, 2FA, Multi-factor, MFA or any of the other names out there for it is one of the most sure-fire ways to keep your online activity safe. Every single account that requires a login and a password should have MFA enabled. This is true for corporate AND personal accounts. Multi-factor essentially means “something you have and something you know”. And example of this is that you KNOW your password and you HAVE your phone on you with an MFA app installed. Other options are a USB stick or a swipe card that must be plugged into your laptop to verify that it’s you because only you have that specific device (like a key). It takes a little time to enable MFA on all of your accounts, but the reward is worth it. Hackers have 99% less of a chance to break into one of your accounts and steal your data (or money) when you have MFA enabled.
Physical Security: At the office you have the benefit of knowing that the doors lock at a certain time. There is often security and surveillance that adds to the safety of your equipment. It should go without saying that when you are not physically in front of your PC, no matter what location you are working from, your account should be locked (Windows button + L). Depending on where you are it might not be safe to leave your PC and phone unattended at all. If you are working from Starbucks, you should pack your PC away and bring it with you even if you’re just taking a quick bathroom break. If you are working from a space where others are working as well, you can build trusted relationships whereby you keep an eye on each other’s equipment.
Backup Remote Systems: No matter what the scale of your work is, if you’re working from home it is important to back up your data. In doing so, you protect your business from unforeseeable events such as a disaster or cyber attack. Having a remote back up system in place is a cost effective way to mitigate damage and get you back up and running as soon as possible.
4. Stay Connected
It is important to stay in touch with your colleagues and employers. You should use the tools provided to you for things like virtual meetings and collaborative projects. Keeping in touch with your peers on a social level can help reduce the feeling of isolation. You can do things like schedule a video call for lunch where no shop talk is allowed, or host a virtual beer/wine event at the end of the day on a Friday. Optics and impressions can go a long way when it comes to this new level of trust that employers have become concerned with. It never hurts to over communicate with your direct report, or to check in with others on projects you are working on together. Turn on your camera when you’re in virtual meetings and encourage others to do so as well. Make sure that you are being heard in meetings. I don’t just mean the most common saying from 2020 (“you’re on mute”), I’m talking about raising your virtual hand when you have something to contribute. If you’re not as vocal as some of your co-workers, suggest a meeting format where everyone gets a chance to speak, react and contribute.
5. Get Out
During the height of the pandemic many of us started to encounter feelings of cabin fever or restlessness. Regularly working from home can reproduce some of these feelings. It’s important for your own mental health that you find time to get out of the house and take in some other experiences other than just migrating from the desk to the couch. Taking a short walk or going out for lunch/dinner can be a game changer when it comes to your health and productivity. Taking a 20 minute walk every day where you elevate your heart rate and breath fresh air is said to be one of the easiest ways to maintain your health. Another option is to get a membership with somewhere like the YMCA where you can walk on an indoor track, work out at the gym, or swim in the lanes. This can be extremely beneficial if you live somewhere cold and can’t always take a short walk. There is often a breakout space or library at these facilities where you could work remotely from for a change of scenery.
We hope these 5 suggestions help you to have a better experience whether you’re working fully from home, partially remote, or some sort of a hybrid work model. This list is by no means definitive and there may be factors that you need to consider that only apply to your circumstances. Take a moment to think about what would make you enjoy your setup more and what would make you a happier, healthier, more secure and more productive employee. Don’t hesitate to let your employer know what you need to accomplish this. If this truly is the new normal, make sure you’re not treating your workspace like a temporary setup. Remove the roadblocks to your success and find the joy and benefits of the hybrid work model.