Thursday, March 19, 2020

Home Office Survival Guidelines

Yesterday I needed to cancel my nonessential travel plans, and called the hotel.  While I was waiting
to be transferred to a reservation agent, there was a message that said, "If you hear a pet or young child in the background, please understand.  Our reservationists are currently working from home."  This made me smile, and wished I could have used that on my voicemail for the last 15 years.  As WineTalent comes on our 16th year in business, our headquarters have always been a home office, and my colleagues work from their home offices.  It has been a great commute for me for years, but for anyone new to remote work, here are some pointers on how to create a productive home office environment.

Location, Location, Location:  Find a spot that allows you to focus on your work and minimizes distractions.  15 years ago, that location was a tiny pull-out computer cart in the corner of my living room.  This was a shared computer with my sons.  After rushing them off to school, I'd come back, clean the sugary fingerprints off of the keyboard and mouse, grab my coffee and focus on work until they came rushing back in after school.  Focusing for 6 hours allowed me to get projects done, important calls returned and my day prepped for tomorrow.  After things quieted down I'd finish up my day and turn the computer over to the kids for homework and games. 

With a growing family, we put an addition on the house.  During construction my office was a former laundry room as well as anywhere I could use my laptop and phone.  My office now is in a corner of a room upstairs, with doors that lock.  And I have a "do not disturb" sign I can hang on my doorknob when I'm in a video or conference call.  Pretty close to everything I need. 

Avoid Distractions:  Before I sat down to write this, I kicked my daughter and husband out of my office.  With school out, home schooling is in.  But not in my office. 
Next I put my earbuds in and put the background music on.  Spotify is my go-to app once I get to work.  I turn on something that is interesting but not distracting, and the music pauses when the phone calls come in.  And I can't hear anything going outside of my office--perfect!  My family knows when I'm at my desk I'm there to work.  But they've gotten used to this.  For anyone just starting out, set ground rules with those around you if you have to.  If I'm on the phone, my family knows not to interrupt me, and always checks to see before barging into my office screaming.  The code that I can't be distracted is that my office door is locked.  If they come in, and I put my hand up, index finger up, they know that they can't interrupt me now.  Lots of notes get written and shoved in my face if it is urgent, but normally they know I'll get back to them when the call is done.  Normally!

Set Office Hours:  WineTalent's my business, so I set the rules.  I have put some rules in place for myself to stick to, which helps me maintain regular hours for my clients.  I start work at 9 am everyday, and wrap up around 6 pm.  I make calls and schedule things during those hours, especially during my prime focus hours of 4-6 pm.  If you are working remotely, it might help you to look at times you can commit to working, distraction free.  Perhaps you and your spouse now find yourself working from home with young kids home too.  Tag team as best you can.  Maybe you work an early shift and switch off during the day to care for the kids, then wrap up work so your spouse can work a late shift from home.  Of course, if you have set hours, do your best to keep the kids engaged while being able to meet the demands of your job.  During these tumultuous times most people are going to understand if there are a few hiccups. 

Roll with the Punches:  Did your child just walk in stark naked during your video conference call?  Did the dog just start barking at the mailman while you were pitching your idea to your boss?  Believe me, it happens to all of us.  Do your best to appear professional while also working in a new situation, in a time of uncertainty.  You being active and staying on top of your work shows you are a professional.  Keep it up.

Some Small Lifesavers:  I've learned that these items are indispensable when working from home:

  • A lock on the office door.
  • A "Do Not Disturb" sign to put on your door.
  • The mute button on your phone.   No one knows you are employing it and if you are on a conference call you'll avoid having the whole team know your spouse is screaming about the chaos ensuing in the family room
  • A Post-It note to cover your camera when it isn't needed.  If you are just getting geared up for a video interview or conference, make sure you have your camera covered until you are ready.  Maybe mute your microphone too until you are camera ready.  And I always cover my camera when I'm not using it.  
  • Headphones, earbuds and music to drown out the background noise.
  • Shared Calendars:  If you and your partner both work from home, use a joint calendar app to assign tasks to each other and to block out time that you require for work.  
  • A sense of humor.  When my kindergartener walked into my office in her swimsuit, asking where her goggles were, my video interviewer was quite surprised.  Luckily he was a life-long swimmer and could commiserate.   He knew how important it was to get ready for practice.  
Enjoy working from home. You may never want to go back to the office!

Want more ideas?  Here are some great articles I read recently: 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Amazing post. Thanks for sharing.

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