With all the events going on globally, a large number of people are suddenly needing to do their jobs from home. Even though remote work is becoming increasingly popular, there are many people who have never worked out of their house. To ease the stress of making this transition during uncertain times, we created this list of the top five tips to help you set up a home office that works for you.
At HedgeTrade, many of us are able to work from home, while traveling or working on the go. We want to help out in any way we can during this economic upheaval and pandemic and are hoping that our experience in home offices could help others. So, let’s get started!
Tip #1 – Test out & optimize your meeting and communications applications
This is one of the most important aspects of working from home. Effective communications with your co-workers, supervisors, or clients are paramount to a seamless transition to working at home.
You will likely be using Zoom or Google Hangouts or something similar for office meetings. Before your first meeting, test it out with family members or a trusted coworker. That way, when you are working and want to appear professional, you’ll know exactly how to use these awesome work from home tools.
Important things to remember include:
Check the sound and audio quality
Go to the settings of whatever communications app you are using to test out video and audio and/or select which device you want to use (i.e. your laptop’s microphone or an alternate webcam).
Before you go into a meeting, shut off the camera and microphone
With a company-wide meeting, not everyone will get there at once. So turn off your audio and mic before clicking to join the meeting. Once you’re in the meeting space, you’ll see others popping in and the meeting leader will let people know when the meeting starts.
During the meeting, especially when there are many participants, only turn on your mic when speaking and video only when it’s been predetermined to be a video meeting. Assume it’s audio if you don’t know, but be ready for the video!
With audio, if everyone has the mic on at the same time, the audio experience may be low quality due to feedback from all the background noise. Additionally, if you’re meeting with multiple people, having a video meeting can often be a glitchy experience. If it is a video meeting, you can check the video quality and your own viewability prior to going into the meeting by simply having the camera turned on. When you join the video meeting, you can leave it on when clicking to join.
Be cognizant of your background
Be aware of your background setting during a video meeting, including what you wear – wearing stripes can create odd visual patterns to other viewers. In general, the background and your attire should be simple and pleasing to the eye with neutral and earthy colors. Also, pay attention to the lighting – if it’s a video meeting, you’ll want to show up clearly to your meeting mates. You can check how everything looks prior to having a meeting by going to the video settings of whichever meeting application you are using.
The important thing is not to wait until you have a work meeting – be ready by testing beforehand and saving yourself some stress.
Here at HedgeTrade, our team is international and we have regular video and voice meetings. Even when you’ve been working this way for a long time, there may be Internet glitches here and there. So don’t worry too much if something does go wrong, it’s not that unusual. Many times during a video conference that is experiencing Internet service issues, simply moving to voice-only is very helpful.
Tip #2 – Create a separate space for your home office
This might seem like a no brainer, but ask any freelancer or work from home aficionado – it’s easy to work everywhere – from your kitchen table to the deck out back or the living room couch. This may work for some people, but most find that having a dedicated space where work is done and nothing else, helps create important boundaries. It also minimizes distractions, such as seeing your messy kitchen or being near someone else who’s watching Netflix.
For instance, if you have family members home with you, and the chances are pretty good right now, having a dedicated space helps to communicate to them when it’s work time. Additionally, it helps you to ‘turn off work’. Having a home office can sometimes lead to never really feeling like you have any breaks. Make it so you can physically step away from your office, signaling to your body that it’s time for food or rest or whatever. Anything but work!
Tip #3 – Optimize with Feng Shui
Feng Shui is the art of spatial arrangement of the spaces we inhabit for the optimal flow of energy. It involves arranging and enhancing our surroundings so we are energetically in perfect harmony with our environment. This Chinese thought system can be applied to homes, courtyards, gardens and home offices. When setting up a home office, keep the following Feng Shui guidelines in mind:
- Try to have plenty of natural light in your workspace.
- Arrange your desk so it’s in a “power position” by having your back to a wall the furthest point from the entrance to the room. The reasoning behind this is so no one can sneak up behind you, so you feel safe and protected. Having a large backed chair, or even placing a big plant behind you can also help if you’re unable to have your back facing a wall or corner.
- Color your home office with artwork of any kind to inspire creativity. Recommended colors include soft yellow, pale orange, blue-green and white.
- Add a water feature or plant to your work area to encourage positive creative energy.
- Diffuse calming essential oils such as Lavender to create balance.
- Keep your desk clutter-free.
Tip #4 – Create an ergonomically correct workspace
When working at a company, there’s often an HR person who helps configure workspaces that meet your body’s needs. These same configurations can be done quite easily at home. Just follow these guidelines:
- Your screen should be situated so that your eyes are looking slightly down. This can be achieved by using books, for example, to raise or lower the screen. Some monitors are adjustable to make it easier.
- Your hands on the keyboard and the mouse should be at similar levels, with your upper and lower arms bent at 90 degrees. This way your wrists are relaxed and hands are free to move comfortably.
- Have your knees at a 90 degree angle as well. You can achieve the correct angle using your chair settings or by raising your feet with a small stool.
Tip #5 – Make a plan for when work ends
This is really important. Working at home can often lead to working all the time, pushing you towards burnout. It’s a different dynamic when your workplace is also your living place. Set up some solid boundaries to help mimic the comfort of having a scheduled day of work:
- Schedule your work hours, breaks, and meals, just like you would at work – if that works for you. If you thrive on a schedule, moving to an open schedule at home may cause additional stress.
- Get out of the house. This may be difficult if you are under quarantine. The next best is to open your windows to get some fresh air and spend chunks of time away from your work area.
- Limit your work time. For instance, set up a time each day when you are done with work, and stick to it.
Working from Home – Conclusion
Big transitions do take extra energy to process as you adapt to new circumstances. COVID-19 restricting people’s movement and shutting down businesses, setting up a home office may feel like a stressful situation. Be sure to practice self-care every day and above all, cut yourself slack during this transition period.
To end, don’t forget to reach out to others when you need help adjusting to home working. We are all in this together, and most people are more than willing to answer questions and help someone out when asked.
Be well and rock your new home office!