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Social distancing is one way experts are recommending to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is essentially a conscious, methodical effort to reduce close contact between individuals and groups of people. Many of us are doing this voluntarily, however in many cases the government and employers are imposing mandatory work from home policies to keep their staff, partners and vendors safe.
A home office is often a dream scenario for many individuals who lose countless hours sitting in traffic during their commute or have less than optimal work environment. However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. A remote work environment is not always an optimal situation for everyone’s productivity. If you are considering teleworking or your employer is issuing a mandatory work from policy, there are a number of important things to consider to create an optimized home work environment that will allow you to remain focused and productive when working from home.
While there are unique challenges related to the type of work you do, and the regulations your employer imposes – the core challenges for most home office environments remain the same. Working from home requires discipline and following strict “home office” guidelines should help you maximize your efficiency and productivity.
This is a challenge sometimes overlooked – both by the employee and the employer. If you are working from home unexpectedly, you may not be aware of the cybersecurity risk imposed by working in a different environment. These risks come primarily through insecure file sharing, and downloading programs to perform tasks such as video conferencing.
First, check if your remote work instructions have information on the approved tools to use. Zoom is a popular free video conferencing tool used by many global organizations. Slack is another well known communication tool that may already be implemented for internal communication. You can safely connect to Slack and other similar tools through your home internet. Please be aware that some employers have programs that cannot be accessed through an unauthorized IP address or while not on site.
The most important thing is to make sure you’re using the tools that are approved by your organization and that you’re keeping your software up to date on your own computer. Lots of successful attacks could have been prevented by keeping your operating system and software up to date. Finally, make sure you’re taking regular precautions to keep your data protected by renewing passwords, keeping your passwords secret, and ensuring that you’re following the guidelines set out by your IT department.
Some simple rules of thumb:
Your workspace will require all the tools you have in the office and even a few more. The additional tools will include a high quality headset with noise-cancelling microphone (not your laptop internal microphone and speakers) and video conferencing tools (Zoom is a good example). A dedicated work phone is also a good idea, and possibly even a softphone that can be installed on your workstation. It’s also very important to make sure you know how to use these tools properly. While you are setting up your programs and accessories, make sure you are testing the audio and video quality, rather waiting until you are on a live call.
At minimum, you will typically consider the following items:
The mental connection we make between our work and our office makes us more productive; and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost or diminished when working from home. It is critical that you set a schedule, and stick to it as consistently as possible. There will be many distractions, however having clear guidelines for when you start your day and when “clock out” and letting your family or housemates know this, will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and keep the distractions to a minimum. According to a recent study on efficient telecommuting work schedules, the key to crafting the perfect schedule is to plan out your workday. You must strive to efficiently manage your time and work day to accomplish the tasks you set out to do.
One of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else’s schedule or needs. When you do, be sure to make that time up to yourself, because when you work from home, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and life. Hitting the pause button throughout the work day can help to boost productivity.
We recommend tracking your time so you have a clear view of how much you are working (or not working), and what your “normal” workday looks like. Tools like Chrometa, an automated and intelligent timekeeping system, can be useful.
“It’s not going to take anything from your effectiveness,” said Julie Morgenstern, an organization and productivity consultant and author of “Organizing from the Inside Out.” “Stepping away for breaks are part of productivity; they actually make you smarter and give you perspective and answers.”
Working at home provides a lot of flexibility. This can lead to heightened performance and creativity. Not all work needs to be confined to a home office. Deep thinking, planning and online housekeeping tasks may all be done in different areas of your home. Make sure you don’t work in every area of your home, some areas should only be associated with rest and relaxation. Otherwise over time you may find it difficult to unwind.
Setting expectations at home can be difficult as well. While you are moving throughout your home, your family may see you as available, compared to if you are working in an office. Setting “working” availability vs “off” availability with your family at the beginning will allow you to work uninterrupted and truly step away when off. Recently we saw a hilarious video of political science professor Robert Kelly’s toddler daughter who walked into a BBC News conversation.
Setting boundaries can be difficult, especially with younger children who have a harder time occupying themselves. If you start losing the boundaries of where your work life and your family life are, it can lead to a lot of stress for your family.
As companies have begun to encourage remote work prior to the current pandemic, more parents have started to work remotely, trying to be productive or logging into meetings from home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23 percent of workers did some of their work at home on an average day of working in 2017.
Your internet speed will be instrumental in how much and how efficiently you can accomplish from home. If most of your work is done online, you need a reliable, high speed internet connection to avoid lost work and frustrating download speeds. If you’re not certain how fast your internet is, consider using a free speed test app to test the speed. There are several test services out there: you can try speedtest.net, or SpeedOf.me to name a few.
You should repeat the test at different times of the day, because Internet infrastructure experiences peak hours. The results will be shown as two numbers: a Download and an Upload speed, expressed in Mbps (Megabit per second).
The path from your home to a destination on the Internet is composed of several links. Usually, the weakest link it’s the last mile (the line that reaches your home). If your connection speed is too low, you may need to upgrade it. If you can’t upgrade your line, try another technology, for example a hotspot using a 4G/5G mobile connection.
Video conferencing tools such as Zoom are great for holding regular meetings without having to gather in an office space. You can video conference and share a common computer screen from anywhere as long as you have a strong internet connection. Without a strong connection, the audio and video will buffer and break up during the call, which creates an annoying static type connection. If the connection is choppy, consider turning off other connections or streaming applications to free up bandwidth for your meeting.
In an office environment, there are lots of distractions. They come from meetings, water cooler chatter, email, phone calls and lunch, but we recognize that our coworkers often pose the greatest threat to keeping us from getting some real, heads-down work done. We learn to consciously ignore or schedule these interruptions. At home there are also lots of distractions and unfortunately you can only limit some of them easily. It’s important to set boundaries and rules for people in your office at home as well as rules and boundaries for internal chat communication and work conversation over instant messaging such as Slack, which can be equally disruptive if not properly managed.
Being “on call” for questions takes your attention away from the task at hand. If part of your routine is to have meetings with your team, clients, etc., make sure that you try to schedule everything to take place within the same time block. That way, you don’t have to stop and start what you are doing to go from one meeting to another.
Checking your email is a necessity when you’re working from home, especially if it’s your organization’s main method of communication. However, constantly clicking on that email tab can be time consuming, and disrupt workflow.
Instead, close your email, turn off all phone notifications, and check your messages and social networks only at designated times throughout the day. Even if you check every 30 minutes, you’ll still manage to work uninterrupted in regular intervals.
Finally, don’t forget to hydrate, stand up and move around
It sounds simple, but when you’re in front of the computer or isolated in an office in the basement for the whole day, you tend to take fewer breaks – and few breaks equal less movement. Getting up periodically to refill water, moving around to stretch or just take a short walk will help you keep your body happy, reduce fatigue and help you maintain your overall health.
We Offer Remote Work Transition Support
Do you know of an organization or team that needs support in transitioning to remote work? We offer remote work solutions and can support the efforts of your team, provide insight into new processes and answer questions to help you transition quickly and easily.
Analytic Design (AD) and Mosaic Data Services (MDS) have formally joined forces to create a new brand called Analytic Design powered by Mosaic Data Services (ADMDS).
This new strategic alliance blends the amazing web development & website analytics expertise of Analytic Design with the outstanding web hosting and high-powered infrastructure services of Mosaic Data Services to bring a very powerful Design, Build, Measure, Maintain approach (Web Design, Web Development, Web Analytics and Web Hosting) to our customers. ADMDS will actively provide all of its combined customers with a variety of new products and services, wonderful new visibility into their websites, new ROI opportunities, new maintenance and performance enhancements and much, much more!
1. Ergonomic Desk
There are a variety of desks to choose from depending on your budget and use. Do you like to stand and stretch throughout the day? We recommend a desk that will allow you to easily convert it from a sitting to a standing configuration.
2. Ergonomic Chair
Get yourself a proper work chair! It will be the best money you spend since you will likely be spending a lot of time in it. You cannot spend too much on a good work chair.
3. Proper Lighting
A well-lit workspace can brighten the room, and have a positive impact on your mood.
4. High quality laptop (mobile, mobile, mobile)
Laptops allow you to work from anywhere, at any time. If you’re a freelancer or setting up your office for personal use, you could add a desktop computer to your home office setup, but having mobility is very important.
5. Multiple Computer Monitors (two or even three!)
Adding another monitor, or even two will increase productivity. Most laptops and desktops connect easily to a second monitor, although you may need an adapter.
6. Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
Complete your desk setup with a keyboard (even if you have a laptop) and mouse. Wireless options will help you to rid your desk of unnecessary chords and clutter.
7. Office Supplies
While we live in the digital age, a notebook and pen can help us jot down notes, organize our thoughts, and prepare us for our workday.
8. High-speed Internet
High-speed internet is a must..if you can get Business class Internet service with static IPs, its even better! When you’re video conferencing with your colleagues while your kids are gaming or streaming television in the other room, you will need enough bandwidth and a stable internet connection to insure that your meetings are uninterrupted with buffering and poor connection quality.
9. Surge Protectors
Between your lighting and technology setup, you probably have a lot of wires and plugs to deal with. Use a proper battery backup / surge protector to save your devices from voltage spikes and sudden power outages.
10. High quality headset with integrated microphone
Don’t use your computer mic and speakers. If you are not using a headset we recommend the GoMic from Samson. You have a lot of headset options. If you don’t want to use something simple, like the set that may have come with your last phone purchase, Amazon has a good noise canceling options as well.
We have seen websites of all shapes and sizes, from brilliant to completely dysfunctional. Your site may live solidly in the middle of the bell curve in this regard, however that doesn’t mean your site couldn’t stand to benefit from some amount of modernization. Just like all other technology, the technology of websites is constantly evolving and changing. Often times, elements of a site which were highly effective when a site was built lose their effectiveness over time; and depending on the nature of your business, you may not even realize how significantly even a small issue can affect your business.
While it may be difficult to fully comprehend and validate the decision to move forward and modernize, it is important to keep in mind that time flies as it relates to technology and user expectations fly right along with it. Your website is a 24-hour, 7-day a week representation of your organization online. It needs to properly showcase your brand, your message and your mission. It should drive results, rather than hinder your efforts.