In a time of COVID-19 many of use are experiencing remote/distributed work for the first time or as it was once called Telecommute. I have been working from home the vast majority of my 15-year career and I wanted to give some tips to those experiencing full time remote work for the first time over the last few months. The negative perception about remote work I hope is now dead with Covid-19 forcing all office work to happen away from the office.
I have always felt when working from home you need to be on every meeting 2-3 minutes early, your audio quality needs to be 3x better than everyone else that is in the office at their desk or conference room and at home you need a dedicated space for work if possible. All of these have gone out the window. Everyone seems to be 3-5 minutes late due to back to back calls, everyone is using the speakers and microphones on their laptop or cell phone, and everyone seems to be working where ever they can (not everyone has a dedicated space and never planned on working from home).
My top suggestion working from home is get a solid headset for meetings. My biggest trigger is when someone joins a video conference and there is a ton of echo or the audio is just terrible because the join with the laptop speakers and microphone. This is the easiest of the three suggestions. It can set you back around 50-200 dollars but just buy the highest quality headset you can afford. At least buy a wired USB headset for your laptop such as a Sennheiser PC 8 USB headset. This is a simple plug and play headset that works on Linux, Windows, and Mac. I have one of these for conference calls when I’m a hotel room and taking a video conference from my laptop and it works great! If you want to go the wireless route a Jabra or Sennhesier bluetooh headset works great and have the best audio quality. Another wireless option is a DECT headset. I’ve tried several DECT headsets the best one for your money, in my opinion, is the Sennheiser D-10. The Sennheiser D-10 has a great range of at least 20-30 Feet and the audio quality for the cost of the headset is superb!
The next one that will have the most impact but it is one of the hardest is reducing meeting time. I schedule all my meetings no more than 50 minutes whenever possible. If a meeting is supposed to be an hour I will schedule it for 50 minutes to allow people on my team and the customers I work with time in-between calls. 30 minute calls I try to conclude at least 5 minutes early. Showing up on time is huge and just as important if you can’t make a meeting decline it. Decline meetings early don’t leave people hanging. Working from home for as long as I have I don’t remember a time when I haven’t eaten at my desk or have a working lunch with a client when I had local clients. Carve out time for lunch, I finally started doing this recently and it has greatly improved my mood not eating at my desk and taking a conference call.
If you have never even thought about working from home, having some sort of workspace just wasn’t on the menu until COVID-19. Finding a dedicated space to work is likely the hardest. Some people I work with set themselves up in their bedrooms or living rooms. I’ve also seen people setup in their kids playrooms or worse their dinning rooms right off their kitchens. If you don’t have a spare bedroom and you have the space in one of your rooms in your apartment or house get a small desk to work from, get a standing desk if you can. Don’t work from your bed or coach, your back will hate you forever. If it is possible, make sure your work space is in a room with a door. You need to be able to tell your significant other, roommate, children or even pets to go away and shut the door. Sometimes I just need to get out of my office and work somewhere else either taking my laptop out to my patio or taking a meeting on a walk. If you have a meeting that doesn’t require you to be in front of your computer take a walk and take your call, just bring a good headset with you if you need to verbally participate in the call!
The net of all this you need to find what works for you and your family. Working from home during a pandemic is nothing like working from home during a normal time. You have kids running around your house begging for your attention since they aren’t in school or typical summer activities. Find the balance. I’m lucky enough I can do most of my actual work whenever I want, I actually prefer to work later in the evening than during the day. I spend more time with my family in the afternoon. After they all go to bed, I’m in my office completing the tasks and actions I need to complete. Make the best of the situation and make it work in your favor! Stay healthy and when you leave you home office remember to please mask up!