I have decades of experience of working from home, either full time out of the office or split between face to face and working form home. In this time I have amassed the essential list of things I do before I embark on a working from home assignment.
Understand the difference between Working in the Office and Working at Home
Technology has been a great friend here, companies now have access to software platforms that enable you to view your exact same logon screen and icons as they would appear in the office. In fact, this technology goes back decades if you were in IT support in the 1990s fixing roaming profile issues were at the top of the list. But I digress slightly.
The technology is fairly reliable these days as long as you have the initial internet connection, once connected you will indeed see (or should) all your applications and desktop icons. But there are few gotchas to be aware of.
(1) Prepare all your files and documents – The blank recent file list conundrum
When in work mode it is surprising how robotic we can all be. This tip has got me more than once and possibly highlights a bit too much multi-task working. Nonetheless. When working on documents I tend to work on the same 2-3 or 4 key documents in word and excel. This all readily is found in my recent file list on these applications. All happy days. Linked to share point repositories or that X drive folder drive that you were introduced to on induction day.
Here is the issue, you find yourself working at home and your remote log in presents a blank recent file list in all your applications, or worse presents a working from home recent file list.
Here is the tip, open a blank email and address it to yourself and put in the subject heading ‘toolkit remote learning notes’ in the office open each document you are working on, click on save as. Copy and paste the save location folder and past it into this email along with the file name of the document, and to save any taxing brain thinking, add a note of what the file is for.
(2) Prepare your Working From Home Technology
This means Laptop, laptop charger, that special keyboard you use, or indeed any external keyboard if you use it. Do not forget the mouse.
A webCam if not built into the laptop this is key, especially if you are using your pc to remote dial-in
Microphone again if not using a laptop, you will need an external Mic to plug into your PC
External monitor cable to connect your laptop to your home monitor.
That one-page email from IT looks so straightforward under the spotlights in the office. Two key things here, print the instructions out and sit there and read them. Underline the support contact number and you are good to go – Remember to put the instructions with your laptop or even better take a phone pic of the document but do check the data sharing policy your firm may have, you don’t want to be charged for spying.
(3) Prepare your backup working Calendar
This tip is your backup, let’s just assume the technology of the laptop or PC remote connection lets you down. Did you know that your mobile phone is the perfect backup for meetings anyway. Zoom or the companies remote connection service should also be accessible by traditional phone.
(4) Prepare your emergency Contact phone list
This is another tip in the event that remote connection does not quite work out. IT Support, Your Manager, team leader, etc, colleagues.
(5) Prepare your home work space
Well done, you are on the train home with all your kit. The key focus now is where you are going to be working while at home.
The main objective in building a working environment at home is that it should present a distinction between work and home. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a home office room, or spare box room or the like, but you really do need a space that when you are at you and everyone else you share the space with understands you are at work.
- Free of distraction and passing traffic especially when on a web cam meeting, though technology is quite good at burning out the background, but mics do have a tendency to pick up everything
- Noise quiet and online protocol, essential if you are sharing the work space.
(6) Prepare your mind to working from home and Don’t become a viral Employee
Do not become the next online meeting viral video. This needs to be embedded into your working mindset, between the hours of work, get into the habit that your camera is always on, until you have the lug of the mic and we cam in your hand or the laptop lid is closed you are live on air. There are many outtakes of meeting participants thinking they are on mute revealing exactly what they think of the meeting (or worse). Let’s not forget those clips where the meeting remains online and the participant chooses to check their looks in the reflection of the monitor or even get changed. Just STOP. You are at work, from the time your tech is switched on, do not say anything during that period of time that you would into if there was an open mic or someone in the room.