Getting Your Home Office together

Now that you’ve been thrust by the Covid virus into working from home for months you may have experienced some difficulties. Or many difficulties. After all, one of the promises of teleworking is that your productivity will increase and your tension will decrease. If those aren’t happening it could be because your ad hoc home office isn’t properly organized. If that’s the case here are some tips for improving matters. It’s time to get your home office together. This may involve some negotiation.

Where

As in all real estate issues the first three items of importance are: location, location and location. Your home office should be located in a place that is relatively isolated from the rest of your home’s activities — at least while you’re working. Ideally that’s in a space or spaces, in the case of multiple home workers, that can be sealed off, at least acoustically, from the rest of your home during working hours. Not your bedroom, not the kitchen or dining room tables. Not the fire escape, especially in bad weather. Maybe the basement or attic, if you have one. The key rule here is isolation. One of the primary reasons for your improved productivity is a new freedom from interruptions. So you can do your work effectively.

If you don’t have the space at home for a separate office, and you have others living there with you, you might be able to achieve the same isolation results by a rules system. As in: don’t bother me unless <pick an appropriate level of event> is happening. Or: I’m available between X and Y hours but not otherwise, except in an emergency.

When

One of the clear benefits of teleworking is the freedom to choose your working hours, within certain limits. You may need to agree with your employer(s) to be available during certain hours but around that core set of hours you can choose what works best for you. This is particularly important for people with young children, children who are distant learning or elders who need care during daytime hours. Here, too the idea is to reduce stress among apparently conflicting demands. Spread the demands to minimize the stresses.

This leads to another time issue: management’s preconception that teleworkers will be slackers; the teleloafer in a Dilbert T-shirt of mine. The real life problem is getting teleworkers to stop working. You need to remind yourself to take hourly work breaks and to quit working at the end of the day, whenever that is. Avoid burnout!

Infrastructure

Here I refer to all the physical things that make your work easier. First, if you don’t have access to reliable broadband telecommunications now you will certainly need it in the future. Unless you happen to live in South Korea you may be one of the millions who find broadband access a continual struggle. In the 1970s when we first tested telecommuting broadband access at home simply didn’t exist. Now it does and it is a necessity for most of us.

Second, you need furniture that will help keep you with a healthy posture and unslumped. Ergonomic office chairs are designed for that purpose. Use them even if they clash with your decor. Use EarPods or other wireless communication methods so you can have a conversation without putting a kink in your neck.

Included in this category is the desk itself. Your lap is not suitable as a long-term desk. You need a piece of furniture where you can put your computer(s) to be easily accessible while allowing you freedom of motion and preventing undue twisting of your torso. If the situation demands, you may want to find a design that can be stowed away when you’re not working. Along with your computer(s).

Third, set up the lighting in/on your workplace so that it illuminates what you need to see without shining or reflecting in your eyes. Light where it’s needed is great. Light where it obstructs you is not great.

It’s also important to keep your home office free of obstructions. Many employers will insist on that as part of the agreement for your teleworking. It may be hard to convince people that tripping over your dog, cat or kids’ toys constitutes an industrial accident.

Security

Security is a work in progress for many organizations. The central rule is: don’t give away your employers’ secrets; under any circumstances. The details I leave for another blog, except use a virtual private network (VPN).

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