With sweeping mandates across the country to shut down workplaces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, or Covid-19, many people are being asked to work remotely from home or even being ordered into quarantine. In order to be successful in completing your daily workload, it helps to create a functional workspace at home. If you don’t already have a dedicated office, there will undoubtedly be challenges in setting one up.
How to Create a Functional Workspace at Home
A few simple strategies can help transform any area of your home into a productive workspace, even if you have limited space.
Choose the right spot
- Find a place in your home that has the least amount of distractions, but that is also conducive to working. If you have a busy household, your bedroom might be the quietest place, but working in bed all day isn’t necessarily good for your mental or physical health.
- That said, try to work in a space that has a door, and close it while you work. Not only will it limit distractions and provide a quieter space, but it will signal to the rest of your family that you are working and busy.
- You may not be sitting at a desk in your favorite office chair, so it’s important to consider an ergonomic set-up. You might add a pillow behind you if you are in a kitchen or dining chair so that you can it in a way that supports your back. Consider propping your screen up on a stack books to create a comfortable viewing angle.
- Make sure you have materials and equipment you need to be successful, such as computer or tablet, printer, important reports and files, etc. Even if you are being asked to work at home, it is likely your office is still accessible in some capacity if you need a file or piece of equipment that you can retrieve if necessary.
- Protect your electronics. If you have a lot of things plugged in, consider using a surge protector. It might be tempting to eat and drink by your devices, or carry them around the house with you, but it’s not a good idea. These are company property, so you are responsible for them. In addition, if something happens, you’ll have a tough time getting a new device or help with remedying a problem with the damaged device.
- Be patient with tech. It is likely the tech support services at your employer is being overwhelmed with requests and questions from people setting up to work at home and might not be as easily accessible as they once were. It is also likely that more and more people are logged in remotely, placing a strain on connection infrastructure.
- If you will be video conferencing, find a place in your home that has a background with little or no distractions, such as a plain wall. If that isn’t possible, make sure you pay attention to what is in your background and make sure it is neat and tidy and free of very personal effects. Keep things as natural as possible; hanging up a sheet behind you probably isn’t the look you want to go for and might make people on the other end wonder what you are hiding.
- Make sure your camera is at an appropriate height: straight on your face, not viewing up or down. Use books or other household objects to find the desirable height.
- Consider ambient light from windows and be sure there aren’t any light beams or shadows on your face in the video screen. Reposition lamps so the lighting in your new “office” is suitable for video calls at any time of day.
- When on a call, minimize distractions by closing any open browser or document windows other than the meeting window. Put your phone on silent and make sure the television and radio are off.
Working with kids in the home
- If you have children, talk to them about the changes you all will be experiencing with you working from home, and be clear about your expectations of them. That said, keep your expectations in check. You can’t expect them to be completely quiet all day, but you can expect them to be quiet while you are on a call.
- You may have to share workspace with your children, so try and make the best of it. Set up “offices” for everyone, even if they are just assigned places around the kitchen table. Create an “agenda” in which members of the family have to work quietly, and can have a little more fun time. Try a few things and see what works best.
Keep a sense of humor
Remember that now-famous BBC interview in which the professor’s two young children wander into the background? People around the world identified with him. So if your toddler wanders into the room or your cat decides to take a bath in the background while you are on a video call, make the best of it. Turn it into a joke or lighthearted moment, and not only will it be more enjoyable for everyone, it will make you look more human. In fact, you may consider a lighthearted post or series of posts on social media about the challenges and successes of working from home.
Working from home is what it is. The doorbell rings. The dog barks. Your partner’s phone dings. Your child has a temper tantrum in another room. Life happens and most people understand that because they are working from home and have interruptions too.
Keep in communication with your co-workers and managers. Let them know what challenges you are dealing with at home. They may be facing similar challenges, and they may have some great ideas to help overcome them. If not, at least you know you are all in it together.
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