Working from Home: Tips, Tools & Strategies
One in three Australians currently work from home at one time or another and that number is rising. If you’re one of those people reading this at 9am in your pyjamas basking in the glory of a leisurely breakfast with absolutely no intention of adding to peak hour traffic, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
It’s not just these obvious benefits we love. Working from home usually means a quieter atmosphere for increased focus, less distractions, time and money saved on commuting and increased time with family and friends.
But it can bring it’s own unique problems; isolation, information security issues, lack of community, health and safety issues, and duty of care issues. So to make it work for you, your stakeholders and your career progression here are some tips from the team at Launch.
The Home Office – Starting Point
Whether you spend just a day in the home office or work the whole week at home, your home office should be very similar to your work office without the distractions.
Try to see your home office from your employer’s point of view. They have a duty of care for you during office hours so make sure your chair, desk and space are at a standard you would expect at work. You need to ensure everything including your hardware is setup to decrease the chance of injury to you and the people in your space, be it partners, children or even pets. It’s an obvious one but you’d be amazed how many people attempt to work from the dining table only to find it wasn’t really a great spot.
The Set Up
Your actual work station should be a mirror image of your work desk to ensure your efficiency at your home office is the same as your efficiency at work, if not more.
So if you operate with two or more screens at work, you should have this set up at home or if you need to video conference frequently, ship in the right hardware to make sure you’re accessible and constantly not “having technical issues”. We’ll go into the best tools for working at home later.
The Home Office is Not Exactly Your Home
Your home office needs to be an area that is a designated work space for the purpose of work only. It needs to be separated and somehow removed from domestic life. Close the door, turn on your “work” music. Have a signal that shows others you are preoccupied. This will also trigger your own mind-set that you are in “work mode” (even if you are in your dressing gown) and you are focused. On that note, keep your office overstocked with paper, pens, post-it-notes, marker pens. Keep time-wasting, distracting visits to the shops, kitchen and other rooms to designated break times. The more segregated your office is from your home the better the functionality, your focus and productivity.
Probably the most important part of making the home office work is to keep strong communication lines open with head office, your peers and stakeholders. One of the biggest issues both employer and employee have with remote workers is the inability to collaborate and create solid social bonds through face to face contact and build meaningful connections. Off the cuff conversations and incidental meetings that can lead to new ideas and input simply do not happen remotely and this can frustrate both employers and employees.
To ease this, try to organise monthly or regular get togethers. If this is not possible, use a group chat tool such as Slack. For constant conversational communication nothing beats Slack and it keeps getting better. Slack now offers video conferencing and a whole range of tools to keep your communication, colloquial, quick and sometimes down right funny.
Another tactic to try is to cut down on email and keep communication lines through a group chat or your project management tools. Less will be lost in the translation.
We’ve also heard of remote-working team members that have webcams always switched on to his or her team in head office so they can see and importantly hear any conversation taking part in their part of the open plan office. The head office team love it as they know the remote worker is “live” and is always there, and the remote worker feels totally connected to the team. Simple old school technology used wisely.
Other tricks of the trade for making life easier in the home office is staying organised. If you don’t have a scanner try camscanner or if you love using Evernote they have a great tool called Scannable. Keep all your receipts together ready for expense reports with SquirrelStreet or Shoeboxed.
For most companies, while they are saving money by not establishing global offices for remote workers they however are increasing their vulnerability to IP theft from hackers or if your devices are lost or stolen.
To protect one of your most valuable assets, your data, you need to invest in secure communication structures, better project management tools, software and VPN’s. But VPN’s or virtual private networks we believe are essential. They basically create a private communication network over the public one i.e: the internet, so it’s an added layer of data security that only those authorised can access.
From a home point of view – be smart, keep running your antivirus software update and run it weekly. Stick to just one reputable provider such as AVG as running multiple variations may interfere with each other. Update your passwords, look at using Lastpass to protect all your passwords and try to store as much as you can on the cloud and not your device.