As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the U.S., state and local governments locked down all but essential operations. In response, many businesses shifted their workers’ status to remote operations. Employees had to make the switch abruptly — and for many, this created major challenges.
Over the next several months, hundreds of thousands began to embrace the remote work model. In late May, Gallup reported that almost 7 in 10 employees were still working remotely either all or part of the time, and a mere 1 in 4 wanted to move back to the office once restrictions were relaxed. Many companies are looking to permanently integrate remote-work options into their operations for the long haul — especially since it’s proving to be a good cost-saving measure.
Whether you’re shifting to a more permanent work-from-home situation or trying to get your own business back on track, it’s probably becoming clear now that working with a laptop on the couch just won’t cut it for the long term. Now’s the time for business professionals to reassess their home workspaces. Here are five essential elements to consider for your quarantine home office.
1. Designated workspace
Working full-time from home is difficult if you don’t have a permanent setup: You can’t be a wandering nomad in your home if you want to maintain any semblance of productivity. Many construction contractors are back at work now, so if you need to do renovations so you can set up a long-term workspace, consider getting some estimates, renting a dumpster, and going for it. Even if you don’t need to renovate, you probably have some clutter to clear out. Even a small bin makes it easy!
2. Smart working area
Once you’ve established your space, you’ll need the right furniture and equipment. If you don’t already have an office setup, now’s the time to think about assembling one. Some furniture you might need:
- A desk or table that accommodates your equipment and documents
- An ergonomically correct chair so you don’t sustain stationary injuries while working
- A filing cabinet with a lock so you can organize and securely store paperwork, records, or tax documents
- Shelving or bins to hold items you need to keep within reach but not in your immediate workspace, including printer paper, promotional items, and other business necessities
On a budget? If you don’t want to invest in new furniture, many thrift stores are open now, and you can pick up a decent desk or table there at a fraction of the price of a new one.
A functioning office needs its technology to be in good working order. To ensure your productivity isn’t disrupted, perform a thorough technology health check.
- Make sure your laptop is in working order and its OS isn’t outdated.
- Ensure that your Wi-Fi connection is strong and reliable. Replace routers and any other hardware as needed.
- Make certain a reliable virtual private network (VPN) is accessible.
- Download any necessary apps on your mobile phone if you use it for work.
- Confirm that all productivity and communication apps you need are downloaded and updated.
- Be sure your software has the latest updates and patches.
- Check to see whether the peripherals you need are properly hooked up and networked.
- Examine your supplies to see whether you have enough working chargers, USB cables, and flash drives.
- Consider using the cloud to store records securely and avoid data losses.
If you need extra privacy in a noisy home, you can invest in noise-canceling headphones to help filter out the rest of your household clamor when you’re on important conference calls — or during times you simply don’t want to be distracted.
4. Home infrastructure
When your home life shares physical space with your professional life, it’s important to have everything in good working order. Power outages, plumbing problems, and HVAC interruptions are hard to deal with at any time, but when these issues surface while you’re trying to work, they can keep you from finishing projects and meeting deadlines. (Just imagine how much worse this global nightmare would be without electricity!)
A home warranty can shield you from the financial problems that major breakdowns and help you to get appliances and systems fixed more quickly. This summer, so far, has been a scorcher. Be sure you won’t go in the hole — or off the job — if your A/C goes kaput.
5. A door
Every great office needs a door — so you can leave through it! Once you have your home office set up, it’s important to remember this: Getting out of the office (even if it’s in your house) is just as important as working in it. In other words, it’s important to maintain a good work-life balance and keep an eye on your mental health. It doesn’t hurt to keep a stress ball near your workstation to work off a little nervous energy.
Be sure to take breaks during your workday and make time for lunch. During these breaks and when you’re off the clock, be sure to relax. Although many businesses are closed, you can still go for a walk, a run, or a bike ride.
Making a long-term or permanent transition to a home office can be challenging, but if you stay organized and work toward a structured setup, you can create all the conditions needed for success.
By Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide