I realize that much of the world is currently dealing with the new reality of trying to work from home. I have been working from home now for about 16 months, and with the exception of a handful of trips to meet with some of our business clients, a couple visits to GreenVulcano Technologies offices as well as some re-energizing visits with my family in the beautiful country of Italy.
I too had to go through some adjustments in order to not lose my sanity. I have learnt a few things even before the Covid-19 crisis that I would love to share with you.
#1 Commit to your space
First it is important to pick and create your new workspace. Whatever location you chose, make sure it feels like a dedicated and functional work area. When creating this new space, there are several factors to consider. You should invest in the right chair; your lower back can be under constant amounts of high stress which could create fatigue and possibly discomfort over time. Make sure that the lighting is adequate and oh, one side note here… if normally you need to wear glasses to read, please do so. People on the other side of your webcam will notice if you tend to be blind like me and you’re not using your glasses! Do a nice job with the wiring of your laptop and chargers. Purchase a phone stand (less than $10 on Amazon), it will change your life and plus you will know where your phone is at all times.
#2 Get dressed up!
I never changed my routine, except for maybe the time that my alarm clock is set to wake me up in the morning. One benefit with the new reality is I get to wake up a little later since I don’t have to assist the children before they would normally leave for school. Pros: I sleep longer and my migraine count is much lower. Cons: you get the temptation to lay in bed for hours. Just don’t! I take my shower and get dressed up as if I had to go to the office. I usually wear my jeans and the company hoodie as much as I can.
# 3 Videoconferencing with style
Don’t forget to check your background. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate…” (cit.) ? Always use the earbuds: they will help you to focus on the videocall/meeting. They will also help you to hear and be heard by all the participants who don’t use them.
Follow the golden rules:
- Mute yourself when not speaking.
- Be on time.
- Check if all works correctly.
- Fully engage remote participants.
- Choose the proper software and hardware.
- Wear work-appropriate clothing.
- Frame the camera correctly.
- Have the right light.
- Look into the camera.
- Pay attention.
#4 Spoil yourself
Make sure the fridge has your favorite juice or sparkling water. Set some time for a quick and healthy snack (I prefer fresh fruit, but I also drink a lot of expressos in those few minutes between meetings: please don’t judge me?). You should build your dream office as if you were (and you are) your own CEO.
Buy some plants with flowers and consider some wall hangings with the pictures of your best friends and family members to remind you of why you are working in the first place. Try using scented candles.
#5 Agree on the rules
One of the things that make the current situation a bit different than usual is that with the majority of the world under lockdown, there’s a good chance that you are not alone in the home office. It’s possible that your kids and spouse are dealing with some of the same challenges: home schooling, remote working, chatting with friends via internet, etc. This can all work ok if you agree ahead of time on some basic rules and scheduling. There is a time to work, a moment to break, there is lunch possibly together and time to be quiet. At night we will all celebrate together and have fun, but during the busy times we all need to be courteous to the rules. Not surprisingly, children adapt faster than grown-ups do to these new situations. You might find that your biggest confrontations will be with your husband/wife and not the kids. Be patient!
Clean your desk of the historical clutter. Trash the things you have not been using for ages and move anything non-essential somewhere else. You will be so proud.
I am very lazy. I used to play soccer back in Italy twice or three times a week. Here in Boston there’s no such a thing as having futsal fields every other block. Plus, the weather can be terribly cold. Since gyms are also in lockdown, I try to walk almost every day or anytime it is possible. Thirty minutes of walking helps to remind me that there is a real world spinning around my desk. Moreover, I alternate the walks with my wife and one of my children to catch up a little bit more with our little life stories that I share with my kids or those moments of intimacy (or what remains of it) that can be shared with my wife. The kids really love the one on one time and will probably be one of the things that they remember the most when they look back to these days in the future!
Also, I am also told by my good friend Michael D., who is the opposite of lazy, that there’s a lot of yoga on Youtube and that may help with your back. Since I am out of excuses, I will have to give it a try.
#8 Keep up the small talk
We always start every meeting with 5 minutes of pure fun. Share with your colleagues what happened to you the day before and let’s laugh together. Don’t be shy, open up. It will make for a better meeting and a good time with good people who you get to know a little bit better each day.
#9 Tech support
There is nothing worse than a slow laptop or a hesitating mouse pointer on your screen. Your laptop or desktop is your companion. It needs to be in good health. If you need support, contact your company magicians for they can help you! Spend some time cleaning your folders. If you’re not currently working on the cloud, make sure to backup your important stuff. Uninstall all the unused software from your disk, and don’t forget to keep the anti-virus software updated.
Oh, by the way, clean your keyboard and your screen with a proper spray and cloth. It will shine like brand new!
#10 Think positive
I smile as much as I can. I am among the few who can work from home and I am fortunate to be able to make a living from it and for that I am grateful! Offices, restaurants, airports, bars will reopen one day soon and things will return to a place that we all desire to see again but until then we are simply working from home in our new reality and we are surrounded by the people we love. Remember, postponing a trip today doesn’t mean we are cancelling it forever.
I found more time to talk to my mom and my brother even if they are 4,089 miles away and ironically, in some way, we are now closer than ever.
Live long and prosper.