Posey's Tips & Tricks
Top 5 Tips from a Work-from-Home Veteran
The global coronavirus crisis has forced millions of people into remote work nearly overnight. For work-from-home newbies, Brien has some critical advice for making the transition as painless as possible.
Early on, I promised myself that I wasn't going to write about the current coronavirus pandemic. This morning, however, I began to realize that I might be in a position to help those of you who are suddenly having to work from home.
I say this because I walked away from my corporate job 20 years ago and have been working from home ever since. Yes, I work on the road when I travel for my spaceflight training, but I do the vast majority of my writing in my home office. As you can imagine, I have had plenty of time to figure out what works and what doesn't.
1. Set Expectations
One of the big challenges I ran into when I first began working from home was related to setting expectations. Friends and family members sometimes assumed that since I didn't have to get up and go to a job, I was free to spend my day doing whatever I wanted. It took quite a while to convince people that even though I was at home, I still had work to do.
Eventually, I discovered that the best solution to this issue (at least for me) was to work a non-conventional schedule. I usually work from the time that I get up until about noon, and then do some more work from about 7:00 p.m. until around 11:00 p.m. That way, I get to spend the afternoon taking care of errands, domestic chores or whatever else I decide to get into.
My point is that if you are working from home, you will need to establish a schedule that works for you and your employer, as well as your family, roommates or whoever is living in your home. You will also need to set a few ground rules. If those around you would not disturb you while you are at the office, they should not disturb you when you are working in your home office.
2. Maintain a Dedicated Office Space
Everyone's situation is different and this suggestion might not always be practical, but if at all possible, you should try to have a dedicated work place within your home. There are several reasons why I make this suggestion.
For starters, having a separate space makes it a lot easier to forget about work at the end of the day. In my case, for example, I use the second floor of my home as dedicated office space. At the end of the day, I walk downstairs and leave my office behind, just as I used to leave my "real job" at the office at the end of the day and drive home.
Another reason I recommend having dedicated office space is that it can help you to better manage distractions. I have found that having a dedicated office space gives me a quiet place to work. I don't have to worry about being distracted by someone watching television or talking on the phone.
Finally, there can be significant tax advantages to having a dedicated office space. Of course, you will need to talk to a tax professional about that one.
3. Get Out Once in a While
A few months after I started working from home, I began to realize that I was starting to leave my home a lot less frequently. I have found that making a conscious effort to spend time away from home can be very therapeutic. There's just something rejuvenating about fresh air and sunshine.
Normally, I make it a point to do something away from home almost every day. I might go to a restaurant for lunch, take a walk around the neighborhood or go to the grocery store. Whatever it is, I make a point to not spend all of my time in front of a computer.
Right now, of course, a lot of people are on lock-down. The state where I live has not issued a stay-at-home order yet, but I have still been trying to avoid going out if I can. Even now, though, I try to take breaks and spend time in my backyard as an alternative to venturing out in public.
Naturally, everyone needs to do what works for their own unique situation, but I would encourage you to look for ways to get outside once in a while without exposing yourself to the disease in the process.
4. Comfort Matters a Lot
If you work from home on a full-time basis, you will inevitably end up spending a lot of time in your home office. As such, your office needs to be comfortable. Otherwise, you won't be as productive as you could be.
Over the years, I have made a number of investments in the name of making my office more comfortable during those long-duration writing sessions. This has included things like a good chair, a desk that is the right height for me, good-quality monitors that don't cause as much eye strain, better lighting -- the list goes on. While it's true that you can end up spending a small fortune on your home office, the investment may be completely worthwhile if you are going to spend a lot of time there.
Obviously, right now it can be tough to get those sorts of things. You might consider temporarily repurposing items from around your home in an effort to improve your workspace. If you continue to work at home (even part of the time) once the pandemic is over, you might consider spending some time figuring out what you can do to make your home office as comfortable as possible.
5. Don't Forget About 'Me Time'
Finally, the best advice that I can give you is to make time for yourself. Once you start working from home, it becomes way too easy to fall into the trap of working all the time.
Make sure to set aside time for yourself and stick to it. Don't let your workaholic co-workers rob you of all your personal time.
Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.