Tips from Work-at-Home Warriors

Working from home has become more common but has accelerated dramatically with the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Companies have increasingly asked employees to work from home and socially distance themselves to decrease the chance of exposure and spread.  At MondayCall, most of our employees are pros at working remotely and have for years been collaborating with team-members and customers effectively.  We’ve compiled a shortlist of favorite tips that we hope will help make you more effective working from home!

Every person has their own preferences on what makes them most effective.  Some people need background noise to work, others need complete solitude. Some people need to remove all distractions (like food and Netflix) and others use these effectively as mini-breaks to keep the motivation and output high. The key thing here is to honestly recognize what makes you effective and double-down on it. Everyone likes sitting on the couch and listening to music but be honest if you are really getting work done. 

In no particular order here are a collection of tips collected from our team – we hope some of these are useful:

  • Get great wifi access. The extra MBPS are extremely valuable, particularly on video conferencing calls.  Most people don’t seem to regret getting extra bandwidth.
  • Mesh networks have been particularly effective at extending wifi access throughout the house/apartment in a seamless way.  They are easy to use and also let you do work in more places if you need to move about.
  • When video conferencing, if possible, turn on the video.  It helps everyone get more engaged and frankly, it disciplines you to pay attention on calls.  Of course, don’t eat and multi-task when on a video call. Also, keep your workspace clean (at least where your camera is pointed to) – particularly if you are speaking with a customer.  Ensure you have proper lighting, paying attention to facial clarity and avoiding bright backgrounds. Prep a bit by running your own conferencing session with video on and scrutinize what is being shown and what message it might send.
  • We use Zoom as our video conferencing tool (and they are our customer!).  It has a nifty virtual background feature that makes things visually interesting and is a great conversation starter as you are waiting for people to jump on the call.  You can also purchase inexpensive green screens to optimize your background as well.
  • Identify a quiet place where you can take calls and not have background noises interrupt.  If you have a dog, the doorbell often causes the dog to go nuts. If you have kids and they have been self-quarantined from school, then it is essential to figure out the place where daily household noise is minimal.
  • The mute button is your friend.  Perhaps your best friend.
  • While we’re talking about reducing potential embarrassment the “turn video off” button is also extremely important.  Some of our team-members have purchased camera cover slides as extra insurance!
  • It’s possible to have an even more effective workspace at home than at work.  With the right adapters and computer, you can even have more simultaneous screens at your beck and call.  I use a Macbook pro and have 4 USB-C slots. I literally have 3 additional 24” monitors connected via inexpensive USB-C to HDMI adapters so that I can have 4 windows open (including my laptop).  It’s great for multitasking and enabling swivel-chair type work between two applications.
  • An additional piece of technology that can be useful is a good quality microphone with noise-canceling capabilities.  One of our team-members swears by this one.  On a conference call, having a clear voice helps a lot versus using your stock laptop microphone.
  • When moving about the house on a call, having a good Bluetooth headset can make a big difference in convenience.  Having two hands free while on a call can help you multi-task and be more productive. This inexpensive one is highly rated and has worked well in the field.
  • Multi-tasking is interesting.  Recent research has found that there is no such thing as multitasking however, it does seem possible to do two unrelated things at once.  For instance, participating in a conference call while folding laundry seems to kill two birds with one stone.  Trying to review a document while on a conference call is ripe for taking your attention away and the dreaded, “I”m sorry, could you repeat that again?”
  • Another basic need for the home office is an all-in-one printer/scanner. The use of the scanner for capturing and distributing hard copy materials can be more professional then camera-phone pictures. One that utilizes your wifi or Bluetooth enables you to locate it nearby, but not be dependent on local network wiring.
  • Addressing the audio needs of your office, a nice external speaker and mic can also help make the conference call experience higher fidelity than your standard mic and speaker on your computer.  Nice stereo-speakers are also great for music that makes you productive. Be honest with the optimal playlists – I find that anything with words (lyrics, podcasts, etc.) competes with work – if so choose the appropriate music genre that enhances your attention. Spotify and other music services even offer playlists for natural sounds, like ocean waves and forest sounds which might make a nice change of pace as background noise.
  • Everyone has their favorite beverage that keeps them going.  A double-walled coffee press keeps the coffee warm for a long period of time.  Many of our team-members swear by the Yeti mugs and tumblers which can keep your coffee or tea warm for much longer than a regular cup and minimize the number of trips you need to make from your workstation.
  • By working from home you should presumably save on commute time which means you probably can work out more (keeping you strong and healthy and more productive).  If that’s the case then you should theoretically be sorer. A couple of recommended products for reducing soreness while on a long conference call (and it might help you pay attention more too!) are a trigger point massager, a hand roller and of course foam rollers.  
  • Instant messaging is key to quick and informal communication.  Most organizations have platforms like Slack to collaborate internally and to create a strong sense of community. If you don’t have such a platform, definitely recommend it!  We use Slack (also a customer of MondayCall) and they have a nice basic package to get you started.

Working from home can be just as productive as working in an office.  While it’s no replacement for the ability to talk at the water-cooler, to walk by a desk for impromptu meetings, or to have a dedicated space for focused work and meeting rooms for uninterrupted collaboration —  a good process and a few tools can closely approximate it from home. And while many corporations are asking people to work from home for the next few weeks and possibly longer, investing a little time, energy and tools to making you more productive at home can help you beyond this time period and whenever you may work from home in the future.

If you have other tips you have found to make you more productive when working from home or benefited others when engaging with you, please share them in the comments. We are all in this together.

Comments

  1. As a Work-From-Home employee for the last 2.5 years, I can confirm there is much you can do to create a productive and comfortable environment. My tip… Maintain your work practices. Continue to dress and prepare for work as normal and stick to your usual schedule. Also, I second the suggestion to utilize the video aspect of conferencing as much as possible. It will help to maintain the benefits of in-person engagements. Enjoy your new commute and the extra time!

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