Work from Home Tips

Aerial view of a man using computer laptop on wooden table

Alright, I’ll get in on this topic too. I started working from home a couple days a week in 2017 and transitioned into a full-time WFH position in 2018. Maybe I’m a little late to this but I have some unique things to add, so here goes.

  • Be available! Working from home is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. I spent several years commuting to an office and am very happy that I no longer have to do that. So I want to make myself as available as possible to my coworkers so that myself being remote is less of an inconvenience for them when they need me. I don’t want it to be a problem. That said…
  • Check your email once an hour or less. Email is not for real-time communication. That’s what Slack, Teams, IM, and phone calls are for. Changing your attention to your inbox frequently is a major disruption to any work that is complex or requires consistent attention. If it is right-now critical, someone will call you.
  • Do your work first. You know what your job responsibilities are and what long-term projects you must make progress on each day. Work proactively by giving these tasks priority. Take care of them before the all small daily requests that cross your desk get attention whenever possible. They can drop your productivity on important tasks to zero if you let them.
  • Schedule your solo work. You might be very busy, but a remote worker with an empty calendar leaves the opposite impression with their coworkers and boss. This has the added benefit of deterring others from gobbling up your whole day with productivity-killing meetings.
  • A wireless headset is a must. This allows you to get up and move around on audio-only calls. Make a coffee, empty the dishwasher, or just get up to keep the blood flowing. Headsets often have less sensitive mics that won’t pick up softer noise, which is an added bonus. Get one with its own mute button too. There are two wireless standards used for headsets, Bluetooth and DECT. DECT offers much lower latency and higher quality audio than Bluetooth, although it is more expensive. Consider using a wired headset for your most critical calls.
  • Default to mute. If you aren’t talking, keep your mic muted. Some noises are unpredictable (doorbell, kids, computer ding, etc.).
  • Start your car once a week. Let it run for a few minutes. Its not good for a car to sit for weeks without running.
  • Maintain a separate workspace. I have a dedicated home office, but this could easily be a bedroom, dining room, or even a garage. Wherever you can escape from the other activity at home is perfect. On nice days, it might be even be the back deck. Setup your workspace like you would in an office with a second monitor, comfortable chair, separate mouse and keyboard, and a dock for your laptop.
  • You don’t have to use Wi-Fi. A wired connection at your desk is generally more reliable, and it allows you to experiment on your Wi-Fi network without affecting your computer’s connectivity. Most homes don’t have cat5 cable run to each room like an office building, but you can still get Ethernet from your router to your workspace using Powerline Ethernet (electrical lines) or MoCA 2.0 (coax). I use MoCA 2.0 at home with excellent results.
  • Take a lunch break. You still need mental breaks from work to stay fresh, even though you are at home. This is a good time to get outside for a bit and clear your mind.