8 Work From Home Tips and How Your Company Can Benefit from Remote IT Support
Today, more than ever before, people and companies are experiencing the benefits of working remotely. Now that so many have experienced the pleasure of rolling out of bed, walking into another room, and clocking in, the work from home culture is here to stay. It’s not only employees that are enjoying not sitting in rush hour traffic every morning. Company leadership is seeing more productivity from their staff. This is not the end of office days, but many companies will likely allow for more remote work days when it makes sense.
If you’ve tasted the joys of working from home, you’ve likely also experienced the temptations and challenges.
Do you find yourself making multiple kitchen runs instead of banging out that report? Are you blaming the kids for distracting you even though it’s your choice to join them for the tenth mid-day screening of Frozen 2 over the last week? Have you found yourself sleeping in until five minutes before you’re supposed to log in for work?
You’re not alone. Working from home is great, but it’s nearly impossible without a good plan. In this article, we’re going to take a look at eight work from home tips to maximise productivity. Once you have the right tools and a plan, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish before lunch. You might even be able to justify the next Frozen 2 screening with the kids.
Create a Proper Workstation
Do you know why businesses don’t equip employees with bar stools and tablets for workstations? Because it’s a terrible idea. The first step to working productively from home is having a proper workstation in place. Just think about your workstation at work and try to mimic that as best as you can.
You can’t be productive on an eleven-inch screen. Make sure you have a 25″ or larger monitor. Two is even better. If you’re working on a computer that has 4GB of RAM, that’s not going to cut it in most cases. If the computer is freezing every time you open a new application, that’s going to kill your productivity. Use a computer or laptop that can keep up.
If you’re lucky, your company will equip you with a home work computer. Other companies will have you log into their system remotely on your personal computer. Don’t worry about technical issues. You can always call your company’s IT support or IT consultant for remote help if you get in a bind.
The other half to setting up a proper workstation is comfort. Avoid using the kitchen table or breakfast bar for your desk. You actually need a real desk, similar to the one at work. You can find used and new small desks online. They don’t need to have built-in filing cabinets, but they need to be the desk height so you can work without wearing yourself out.
Having a real desk puts your body in the correct position to work optimally and minimise soreness and fatigue. Using the right chair is equally important. Sorry, the kitchen table chair won’t cut it. If you’re spending hours in a chair every day, it’s critical to get an ergonomic design that will support your body in the healthiest way possible.
When you’re sitting in your chair at your desk, there are some essential checkpoints to know if you’re doing it right. Your desk’s top should allow for your arms to stay perpendicular to your body when typing. Ideally, your chair’s armrest will support your elbows while you comfortably type or use a mouse. Your monitor should be at eye level to avoid neck strain and eye fatigue. Some people use an adjustable sitting/standing desk to reduce back pain and increase blood flow.
Upgrade Your Internet Speed
There are few things more embarrassing than having to tell a client that your internet is too slow for video. Having to tell them that during the video call is a great way to hurt your credibility. If you’re working from home, you need to make sure you have a fast, reliable connection throughout the day. If your internet plan is the basic package and you’re using a router from ten years ago, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Not sure how fast your internet is? Do an internet speed test. Just type “internet speed test” into your browser, and you’ll see plenty of options. What is your download speed? Netflix, for example, requires a connection of 25 Mbps if you want to stream high-quality content. So 25 Mbps will work if you’re only streaming Netflix. If the kids are home, your spouse is working from home, and you’re home, chances are 25 Mbps is not going to cut it. The national average is 64 Mbps, and if you’re doing video conferencing and kids are streaming, you’re going to want at least that or more to avoid any lag in your connection.
Fast internet speed will do nothing for you without a router that can handle it. You want a router with a multicore processor and at least 128MB of RAM. The hardware in your router matters a lot. Today’s routers need a lot of processing power to handle heavy video streaming, file downloads, data backups, and online gaming. Get a router that supports Mesh Wi-Fi if you have a large house to maximise your Wi-Fi coverage.
Use Time Management Tools
You’ve got your workstation dialled in, your internet can handle all your demands, now you’re primed to waste a lot of time surfing the web. But you don’t have to! Our minds are always looking for distraction, especially when we’re doing something we’re not enjoying, which is often our work. Time management tools fall into two categories – managing appointments and managing your productivity time.
If you’re having trouble staying focused on tasks, you can download a timer app. Set the timer for intervals, and don’t stop working until the timer goes off. Reward yourself with a five-minute break, then start the next interval. You’ll be amazed at how much work you can get done working on a timer and committing to the process.
The other part of time management is managing your appointments. When you’re in the office, you may not need to pay close attention to your calendar as team members may remind you about calls or meetings. When you’re working remotely from home, your digital calendar is your best friend. Many email applications like Outlook allow you to book appointments on a digital calendar. The application will send you reminders before the meeting, so you never forget. You can change the time and frequency of the reminders to your personal preference.
Use Online Communication Tools
Working remotely from home doesn’t mean you can’t communicate just as effectively as you do in the office. Platforms like Slack and Microsoft teams create a sense of community among team members allowing you to stay in touch in real-time throughout the workday. You can create multiple channels within the platforms for different project discussions to keep things organised. You can even use emojis and gifs to lighten the mood and add some humour to your exchanges.
Slack is one of the most widely used tools by remote teams in and outside the office. Many companies use Slack as their “virtual office,” allowing employees to get instant feedback and connect with colleagues, both one-on-one and in groups. One feature that Slack users enjoy is the ability to install apps that automatically report on business activity, like new email subscribers and product reviews.
For companies that use Office 365, Microsoft Teams is a great online communication tool for remote teams. When you enable Microsoft Teams on Office 365, you and your company get access to a streamlined communication interface. The chat function allows for threaded conversations, which are great for storing brainstorming sessions, conference calls, and other meetings into one, easy to find place. The platform also allows you to integrate other Office 365 applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, so you no longer have to go back and forth between apps.
Take Advantage of Video Conferencing Software
Sometimes a phone call just doesn’t cut it. When you can’t meet face to face in person, the next best thing is a video conference. Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting are the most popular video conferencing tools for the work-at-home crowd today. The nonverbal cues we get when seeing a person’s face can tell us a lot, especially during an important meeting. Seeing your team members or clients can also help reduce the feeling of isolation that remote work can sometimes bring.
Zoom is probably the most popular video conferencing platform among remote workers and people wanting to connect with friends and family. The platform can support virtual meetings with up to 500 people. Businesses use Zoom for meetings, webinars, and chat. It works seamlessly across all operating systems, including PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. It even integrates with popular applications like Slack.
Webex is the other big player in the video conferencing arena. Webex is more popular among mid-sized companies and enterprises, while Zoom dominates the small business market. They both have comparable features, benefits, however, if you’re on a budget, Webex Meetings cost significantly less per month, but you get fewer participants in each room. So organisations that need online meetings across all departments may benefit from choosing Zoom.
Develop a Routine
You have all the tools, the proper workstation, but none of it matters without a commitment to a routine. Working from home doesn’t work without a routine. Just like at the office, if you want to maximise productivity, you need to plan out your day. Without a plan in place, you’ll find that completing tasks and remaining focused to be a big challenge. It’s not your fault – it’s just how our brain works.
The secret to productivity is not having to think about what you need to be doing. When you plan out everything you’re supposed to do for the day, your brain can relax. The subconscious mind is always working, even when we don’t want it to. It’s often pulling us in the wrong direction to complete a task that’s not a priority. It just doesn’t know how to organise all the data, that’s why making a plan and sticking to it is a must.
Your routine should consist of going to bed and waking up the same time every day. Ideally, you’ll even do this on the weekends. Schedule your breaks and lunch at the same time throughout the day as well. Don’t skip your breaks or lunch. They’re there to refresh your body and mind. If you can, schedule your tasks for at least one week at a time so you can have a clear snapshot of the week ahead. Staying on target helps you build momentum and calms your stress levels because you know you’re getting things done.
Remove or Reduce Distractions
The last tip for thriving in a remote work environment is removing or reducing distractions. This starts by defining expectations for yourself and anyone else in the house when you’re working. Make sure you’re family understands that when you’re working, you’re working and are not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. You can check-in during your breaks and have lunch together, but when you’re working you can’t be interrupted to answer trivial questions.
The mind is always looking for distraction, and there is no greater temptation for distraction than the internet. If you’re working remotely, you have endless opportunities to browse your favourite websites and watch your favourite YouTube videos. If you’re overwhelmed by temptation, you can use website blocker apps that will not allow you to look at Facebook or YouTube during a defined time period. You can also track how much time you’re on a particular website to get data on how much time you’re wasting on any site. Sometimes seeing the data is enough to wake you up to reality and get you focused on what’s important.
Working remotely from home is pretty great when you do it right. It’s all about having the right systems in place and a good plan. When you consider just the time saved from getting ready for work and commuting, it can give days back to employees each year.
If your workforce is working remotely from home, they still will need IT support from time to time.
Silver Industries can provide IT support to any remote working employee anywhere in the country. We manage, monitor, and support your business technology for a simple monthly rate. Minimise your risk, reduce stress, and focus on mission-critical tasks.