March 27, 2020
John Vomhof Jr.Staff Writer
With many workplaces closed to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID19), millions of Americans suddenly find themselves navigating the challenges of working from home.
It can be hard to stay productive outside of your normal work setting, so it’s important to make sure you have the right equipment — and game plan — to make it work.
To learn more, we chatted with Derek Meister, a Geek Squad Agent who provides online support for our customers and has nine years of remote-working experience.
Replicate your work tech
First and foremost, be sure to bring your company laptop and power cord home from the office. You’ll also want to make sure you know how to remotely access your company’s virtual private network (VPN) and any other systems you’ll need to use.
If you’ll be working remotely for an extended time, it’s probably a good idea to try to recreate your office workspace as much as possible. For example, you might want to get an external monitor, USB keyboard and mouse.
Beware of your bandwidth
Keep in mind that it may not just be you home for the next few weeks, and that can affect the speed of your Wi-Fi. A house full of family members can stress older routers if you’re trying to connect to work systems while others are playing online video games or streaming movies.
If things are running slow, try to close out of any non-essential programs, or even turn off the Wi-Fi on devices that you aren’t currently using. It also might be time to upgrade your router to a newer model that can better handle a heavy load.
Stick to your routine
It’s best to keep your normal schedule, if possible. Set your alarm for the usual time. Wake up, take a shower and get dressed — it will help you get in the right mindset for your workday.
Plan out your day to ensure you cross items off your to-do list, and try to avoid distractions such as TV, housework or frequent trips to the kitchen. An hour of productivity can disappear more quickly than you might think.
At the same time, make sure you set boundaries on your schedule. Don’t let work become a round-the-clock endeavor now that your office and home are the same place. And don’t forget to take your normal breaks for lunch or a cup of coffee.
It’s also important to get up and move around. Derek recommends using a smartwatch, activity tracker or smartphone app to remind you to move once an hour.
“It’s easier to get in your daily number of steps while at the office, so take time to recharge by stretching or taking a quick walk — whether that’s around the block, your backyard or even just the living room,” he said.
Create a dedicated workspace
It’s tempting to lounge on the couch with your laptop, but it’s not a good choice for productivity. Instead, try to create a dedicated workspace that feels most like your office environment.
If you have a home office with a desk, that’s perfect. If not, the dining table or kitchen counter might do the trick.
“Make sure you set ground rules with your family,” Derek said. “If you’re going to use a separate room for your work, make sure they understand that if the door is closed, you’re working so they’re not disappointed that you aren’t immediately available.”
He also recommends picking a spot with a window.
“It’s good for the soul and way better than a dark, windowless room,” he said.
More tips and tricks
Here are some additional tips for working from home:
- Make sure you have a list of phone numbers for all your co-workers, because you won’t be able to just swing by their desks when you have a question.
- Take time to replicate watercooler chat in a shared communication channel, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This helps to not only keep the lines of communication open, but also reduces the feeling of isolation.
- If you’re using a video conference system to conduct meetings online, use the call-in option for audio (if available) instead of relying on your computer’s microphone and speakers. This allows you to move around with your phone during the meeting in case you need to step away from your computer.
- Make sure you actively participate during remote meetings conducted by phone or online chat. When you’re not in the same room together, it can be easier to forget who’s there and often people find themselves less likely to speak up than they would in person.
- Consider recapping your day in an email, even if it’s just to yourself. It’s motivation to see what you’ve accomplished. This can also be a good way to check in with your boss, because it’s harder for them to get a sense for what you’ve done when you’re not in the office.
- Finally, know who to call if you’re having technical issues, whether that’s someone in your company’s IT department or the Geek Squad at your local Best Buy store.
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