Are you working from home like the rest of the world? If so, this might mean spending more time in front of your laptop, working from your kitchen table or in a makeshift office – while trying to block out you partner or housemates who are also at home. Regardless of your work situation, now’s the time to set yourself up and work from home like a pro.
Read on to learn how to set up your energy efficient home office, create a routine and learn how to resolve those “tech issues” with these 3 tips.
#1 The home office basics
Let’s face it. When you previously worked from home your internet mostly did the job just fine. But now, you depend on your connection for absolutely everything. Do you know whether you have the right internet speed? Here’s how to find out.
Google “free internet speed test” and check your “download speed” Mbps. For a couple working from home, you need around 35 Mbps. A couple with two teenage kids who are streaming music and playing computer games, you’ll need around 100 Mbps. And for the singles out there, 15-20 Mbps should get you through.
Working from home every day also means your nice standing desk and the big monitor your company provided may not be available, but you can make do with what you have. If permitted, grab your work monitor from your office and if you can and set it up ergonomically. How? Here’s a quick test to do right now. Sit back and close your eyes, then open them quickly. Your eyes should land on the URL bar of your browser. Otherwise, make sure your laptop is sitting at a good height by using some books to prop it up.
When sitting at your home desk, it’s really important that you have the right chair, or at least set yourself up properly to avoid back or wrist pain. If you are one of the lucky few to have grabbed your chair from the office then you are at least starting from a good place. Regardless, here’s how to do a quick check on your chair, desk and mouse positioning. Sit away from the desk on the chair as though you are in a car. Then pull up the chair to the desk and assemble your keyboard and mouse. The keyboard should be about 5cm above your thigh, tilted away from you.
Next, I bet you’ve started thinking about your increasing energy usage. Here are a few habits you can put in play now to minimise bill shock in the coming months:
- Turn off your laptop and screens overnight at the power point, or if you’re as forgetful as we are, buy a “smart power board” that does it for you.
- Have your charger plugged into your laptop only when charging. Forgetting and leaving it in degrades the laptop battery and chews up energy.
- Consider whether you need to have all the lights on in the room you are working from (and look around to see if any other lights have been left on unnecessarily).
- Finally, make that switch – get those energy efficient lightbulbs you’ve been putting off buying. We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again because they really will save you money on your upcoming energy bill.
One thing we love at Nectr is a good house plant. They brighten up a space and purify the air. Put the finishing touches in your office with a Spider Plants, Aloe Vera or Devil’s Ivy.
#2 Create a routine – we are creatures of habit
Now that you are on your way to setting up your home workspace, let’s set up your daily routine. Now that gyms and restaurants are closed, all we have to look forward to are trips to Coles and group Skype dinner sessions (actually those are pretty fun).
One thing we have noticed since working from home is that our working day has lost its structure. Instead of switching off at 5pm we are either still working or constantly “making up” for that mid-morning unscheduled 20min shop trip. When the clock strikes 5pm (or whatever time you generally finish), switch off and unwind. Finish off that task in the morning.
Some of us at Nectr have children while others live alone so our routines are vastly different, but one thing that’s worked well for all of us is making sure that we clock in and chat or have a call at 8.30am on the dot. It gets our minds into gear and gets things ticking along.
Procrastination a problem? Make a check list of the small easy tasks you have to do and start with those. Make sure to physically tick them off your list – psychologically this will tell your brain that you’re kicking goals and those bigger tasks will flow.
If you choose to get some of your housework done throughout the day (and let’s be honest, that is one of the benefits from working from home), be mindful of how much energy you are using and when you use it. Do you need to use the clothes dryer or do you need your air conditioning on?
P.S. Did you know an average Australian travels 16km to get into work every day? That’s two hours of travel time per day that you are now saving. Put this to good use by getting a little exercise in or even check what tax deductions you can get on your awesome new home office.
#3 Communicate, communicate, communicate
Reportedly there was a 500% increase in conference calls in China when they started working from home in January, according to Microsoft. Now, the rest of the world is following suit.
While none of us are new to the concept do you actually know how to set up a call without “experiencing technical issues”? Follow these steps and look like a pro in front of your colleagues:
- Because the traditional headset was created with short-range microphones, they work much better than VOIP (voice over internet protocol). Whilst the sounds of planes flying overhead or your dog barking may be your natural soundscape avoid sharing these on a conference call by using headphones in your laptop instead of using your laptop mic.
- Mute your participants. Not everyone is as clever as you, dialling in with your headphones, so background noise will prevail. Either ask everyone at the start of the call to mute themselves, or if little involvement is need from the participants mute all of them and leave a chat box open for questions and feedback.
- Having just one participant with bad bandwidth on their phone can cause issues for the whole group. But now that you are a pro, you can fix this. Ask everyone on the call to be quiet, then look at the participants on the system you’re using and see where the static is coming from. Ask that person to put themselves on mute.
These tips will not only help at work, they will also make your next Skype dinner party a particular success. You’re welcome.