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Setting Up Your Work From Home Environment

Setting Up Your Work From Home Environment
May 18, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to work from home. It has forced us to adopt to a way of working, with which we are not too accustomed. It is very much possible that this crisis, albeit temporary, will have a lasting impact on how business is conducted going forward. Suffice to say, be prepared for a world where remote work becomes more of a norm across industries and the ability to adjust with the challenges of working from home will become more of an expectation from all employees. It is time for all of us to ask ourselves how ready we are to adopt to remote work and its likely lasting circumstances.

One simple place is to ask ourselves how well equipped are we with the space and tools that we require to be effective. Here are a few tips to get you thinking and acting.

  1. How good is your WiFi?

    In my own personal experience, I am fairly well accustomed to work from home, but having the entire family in the house at the same time (including two teenaged daughters), has put a strain on my WiFi that I have previously not experienced. I am in the process of working with my provider to upgrade my bandwidth and you might want to do the same. In the meantime, however, there are a few simple steps you can try to alleviate some of the difficulties you might be experiencing.

    • First of all, if possible, try to relocate your router or workspace to an area where you can hardwire your laptop or workstation to the router. Eliminating the dependency of a wireless connection will provide an immediate and noticeable improvement in network performance.
      • If that is not possible for whatever reason, try to relocate your workspace to an area where you will have the best wireless reception.
    • Next, take a look at your router itself and try to remember how long you’ve had it. If it’s been several years, you should consider upgrading to newer model with multi-band capabilities. This allows you to segment your wireless network into different speeds and many such new routers allow you to prioritize your most important devices to be on the faster segment.
      • Whether you decide to upgrade your router or not, ensure that its software/firmware is up to date. This will ensure you are getting the best possible performance as well as the latest security protections.
    • Consider investing in a device to improve your WiFi signal. There are a number of WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders on the market which all essentially accomplish the same thing. They will take your existing router signal and rebroadcast it as an extension of your network. WiFi boosters and extenders add the additional value of amplifying the existing signal before rebroadcasting it to create a second network, whereas a repeater will simply just increase the range of your signal. There are many decent products available which will cost you less than $100, are easy to install and might make a considerable difference.
    • As mentioned earlier, consider renegotiating your ISP service plan. Many providers such as AT&T are prepared for the influx of such requests and are offering deals, relaxing caps, and taking other steps to respond to increasing bandwidth demand.
  2. Do you have the hardware you need?
    • Consider an extra monitor or two. Multiple displays will exponentially increase your multi-tasking and collaboration power.
      • Familiarize yourself with how split screens and multiple displays work on your operating system
    • Assuming that you will likely be using a laptop as your primary work machine, consider adding other peripherals to maximize your productivity like a comfortable keyboard, a good quality headset, webcam (a must if not already built into your laptop) and perhaps a mouse as well.
    • Consider adding a printer if you don’t already have one.
    • You may need to look into a USB hub depending on how many peripherals and what type you are planning to add.
  3. How presentable and quiet is your workspace?
    • If you do not have a permanent home office, find a workspace that is quiet, neat and as private as possible. Try to avoid areas like dining rooms and kitchens where your backdrop might include piled dishes and unexpected family traffic. As a last resort, you may opt for a web-conferencing feature with the ability to set up a virtual backdrop, but it is not something I would personally encourage as I feel it is best to present your environment the same way you would want to present yourself; genuine.
    • Set up your area to feel as much like an office as possible. This will help you to mentally distinguish between being at work and at home.
    • Set up your area to be well lighted, where the light will not affect your webcam or create a silhouette effect on you (avoid having the light coming from behind you).
    • Consider creating a few different placards or signs to let other family members know when you may be interrupted or when you may be in an important meeting and do not want to be disrupted. I do this regularly and my family has been very understanding and cooperative.

Know how to work better from the home environment.

Lastly, I would like to stress that these physical and technical recommendations are just a part of setting yourself up for a successful work from home experience. While these tips will mechanically improve your virtual office effectiveness, nothing is more important than your state of mind and general well-being. Having the right work from home solutions will certainly help but they are no substitute for taking breaks, stretching, exercising, eating healthy, and continuing the same grooming habits you would if you were reporting to an outside office. Try to set a positive example for the rest of your virtual team who may be struggling with remote work adjustments that you are. Above all, know that this situation will pass but in the meantime, take this as an opportunity to enhance your own abilities to adapt and overcome whatever disruptions may come down the road.