Many of us are working from home for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic—with mixed levels of success. As someone who has worked remotely for the past seven years through my solo public relations consultancy, I have learned through trial and error how to work optimally from a home office.
Here are five tips to help you successfully settle into your home office routine.
1. Designate a work area.
Create a designated space that becomes your home office. It can be a spare bedroom, corner of the basement, even your laundry room. Just pick somewhere removed from the main action of your household so that when you go there, you are at work—and your family knows it, too. Ideally, your space will have a door. Give your family a do-not-disturb code: If the door is shut, do not proceed—or a scarf on the doorknob means you're on a call.
2. Assemble the right tools—including a good chair.
Once you've picked your spot, outfit it with key office items—a desk or table for your laptop or PC, task lighting, and other helpful tools: pens, notepad, paperclips, et cetera. Keep headphones or earbuds nearby for conference calls, along with phone and device chargers. Bring in a home printer if you have one. Most important is a good chair. This can't be overstated! I used a wooden schoolhouse chair initially because it looked cute in my office, but my back suffered. Get a true office chair with height, arm and lumbar adjustment. You don't need to spend a fortune, and you can order it for delivery to your home.
3. Keep to a schedule.
Working from home can be liberating because you can work when you want. You can even play with your kids during the day and work at night after they go to bed! Over time though, you'll find it easier to be productive if you can keep to a consistent schedule. Arrive "at the office" around the same time each day to give you continuity. Build in a few breaks with your family—and let them know when so they can leave you alone until then. And take lunch in a different room from your office space, which will break up the day and give you time with the rest of your household. Finally, decide when your day will end and stick to it. Since you don't drive home from the office in the evening, you need to symbolically end your day—close the office door, log out of work email, et cetera.
4. Prep and update your technology.
You don't have to be an IT expert to have technology at your fingertips. By now, probably all of us have participated in a Zoom meeting or virtual happy hour. Keep that and other conferencing apps updated with the latest versions so when you're invited to a meeting, you're ready to go. Check your computer's audio and video quality so it's optimal for your next meeting, including adjusting your laptop to the right height (I put books under mine) for a video conference call—avoid that under-the-chin angle!
5. Give yourself grace.
This is a hard time at so many levels. Working from home, especially under these conditions when others in your household are around and want your attention, won't be as productive or optimal as it was at your company office. And most likely, your colleagues and boss know that because they are in the same predicament. Do your best, knowing it won't be a perfect work environment, and then let it go. And treasure what this flexibility gives you—less time in the car and more time with loved ones or to yourself.
Kim Skeltis, APR, owns Blue Blaze Public Relations, a West Michigan-based PR consultancy. Before COVID-19, you could find Kim enjoying a local restaurant or craft brewery, or exploring the lakeshore. She still doesn't miss a chance to hike a trail at an area park. Contact her at [email protected], linkedin.com/in/kimskeltis or @kskeltis.
Photo courtesy of Kim Skeltis.