Remote Working Made Easier
With the threat of Coronavirus and the mandatory edict to stay at home we find ourselves with a remote work force practically overnight. Prior to the state mandates, remote working had been on the rise due to a number of factors. According to 2017 U.S Census data, approximately 8 million people (5.2% workers) worked solely from home. In a recent survey of working professionals and hiring managers have reported a whopping 80% of workers would choose a position that offered flexible workspace options over those that didn't. Remote working offers so many benefits to both the employee and the employer that we have embraced this as a company from our inception. CyberLancers has no home office or headquarters. All of our employees and contractors work remote.
While I have been fortunate enough to have this and other opportunities to work remote over the last several years, I recognize that this will be a big adjustment for many people. I would like to share with you some advice to making your work remote from home transition a success.
First, recognize the importance of self-discipline. Many people will hear that you work from home and assume that you are either in your pj’s all day or attending a conference call pants-free. Contrary to such assumptions, remote working and laziness do not go hand in hand. Establishing and maintaining a good routine helps keep you in a business frame of mind and encourages productivity. A good routine will also include breaks. Breaks can include something as simple as grabbing a snack or could be a walk around the neighborhood. Either way, including breaks in your routine can increase creativity and focus while decreasing feelings of burnout.
Second, minimizing distractions is going to be a key part of making your remote working experience successful. At the start of my tenure working from home, it was very difficult making the distinction between chores and work. I found myself cleaning dishes and doing laundry because it felt like work. While yes, housework is work, my clean and organized house had very little benefit to my employers. Family and pets can prove to be distractions also. Pets and children have an uncanny ability to vocalize themselves at the worst possible moment. I find it such a privilege working from home and the last thing I want is my cat rubbing it in a client's face. Implementing clear and consistent boundaries with those you love helps you not only focus on work, but it helps you leave 'work' and come 'home' at the end of the day.
With those things in mind, I have some recommendations on setting up a home office. If a dedicated room is available, I always encourage that. Ideally a home office should be far enough away from the noisier parts of the house so that you won’t be routinely disturbed by day-to-day home life. Invest in a great desk and I even recommend a standing desk to help combat stress, fatigue and injury. Having programed my whole life, I have caused much damage to my shoulders and neck and the standing desk has been a life saver. I lack the endurance to stand the whole day and am much too impatient to keep raising and lowering, so a little creativity was in order. A trip to Ikea and $500 later I built a combo sitting/standing desk. The left side is seated with a nice office chair (that my former employer was kind enough to donate) and the right side is standing. I do all my planning, meetings and design seated and all coding standing with the nice monitor. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone but if you do have the opportunity switch positions during the day, I highly recommend it. Make the office your own and decorate it with inspirational items that help you concentrate and remind you that this is a place of business.
Don’t overlook the importance of a fast network connection to run whichever systems your employer or clients require you to have to perform your job. Some industries, like healthcare, have very strict policies and require extra security measure to ensure the protection of data. Ideally systems will be external facing and typically will run quicker if they do not require a VPN back to a home office. This may not be possible for all industries but most of the world is moving to hosted secure systems in the cloud and systems are typically much faster when hosted on the larger providers like Amazon (AWS) or Microsoft (Azure).
This might seem contrary to my other recommendations, but when it comes to phone systems there’s nothing that can beat a plain old telephone system (POTS). Yes, I am a die-hard software developer, but I am here to tell you VOIP and cell phones are still far inferior in quality to a great, low-cost speaker phone. I still chuckle every time a new client comments on how great I sound, and I reveal it is a speaker phone.
At least In terms of meetings and staying in touch there are so many choices the only difficulty is picking the right one for you and your company. Now available is Zoom, GotoMeeting, Webex, join.me, Teams, slack, skype, just to name a few. So many video conferencing software packages they have now become a commodity. I would say choose one that has the features you like and is the most affordable and as a hint many have a free version like google hangouts. The paid versions have more features and allow more folks to join the meeting. One of my favorite features is “click to call” which allows me to click a button to have the meeting call directly to my speaker phone. Saves me a solid 5 minutes just not having to punching in numbers.
I would say there is no better time technology-wise to make the shift to working remotely. While I wish it were under cheerier circumstances, I am a personal believer that we can be much more productive by eliminating the commute and set up shop in the living room.