Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned While Working from Home

Thanks to the ever-evolving digital technologies, including high-speed Internet access, cloud storage, teleconferencing apps, and others, we have avoided the onerous commute through heavy traffic to work. But as appealing as working from home is, it wouldn’t bring many benefits if you don’t know how to do it effectively.

If the nature of your job is complex, you will still need to collaborate constantly and use the right equipment. Here are a few things I’ve learned while working from home.

How to work from home effectively?

How to work from home
Work from home

I found it essential to set myself up to be a more productive remote worker. In a home office, sometimes I need to deal with kids and other potential distractions. I need to set up personal rules to remain motivated.

Specify ground rules

A major benefit of working from home is flexibility, but it’s important to know the ground rules set by employers and clients. Due to data security concerns, employers may not allow you to work using public Wi-Fi. Two-factor authentication is a basic requirement if confidential data are shared between co-workers. Instead of working out any issue that impedes my work, I usually do trial runs when learning to use a new app or equipment.

Maintain a schedule

Even the most conscientious may begin to slack off without a schedule. There’s no one who supervises me at home and a schedule provides a solid structure for the day. I noticeably feel more motivated and I know what to achieve each day. I can start the day as I would if I worked in the office. I get up early and get properly dressed. Distractions are easier to manage and I can set up a schedule that ensures the best work rhythm. As long as the schedule is realistic, I can stick to it and finish the assigned tasks by the end of the day.

Stay connected

Prolonged isolation may lead to weakened motivation and productivity. My work-from-home routine doesn’t require daily face-time or teleconference, so I need to put an effort to stay connected regularly. Make a point to schedule online coffee breaks with your work peers at least twice a day. It’s a good way to have casual conversations through a teleconferencing platform and tighten relationships among team members. If you seek advancement in your career, it is important to maintain contact with far-flung co-workers and managers.

Take breaks

Although working from home is convenient, working flat out will be exhausting. It’s vital for my productivity to take regular breaks throughout the day. After being focused on a task for one hour, I need about a 10-minute of the restorative break to recuperate and replenish mental energy. Staring out the window while sipping a warm lemon tea can be surprisingly relaxing during a busy day.

How to set up your workspace?

Because it accommodates my primary occupation, my home office space deserves more than a simple chair and metal desk. Productivity and comfort are my top priorities when setting up a workspace.

Choose a good location

Because you spend eight hours or more in the home office area, it shouldn’t be a cramped windowless closet that lacks natural light and fresh air flow. It should allow free movement and you should also consider traffic flow. A spacious room allows you to perform well during the thick of activity. If possible, your workspace should also be tucked away in a quieter part of your home. If clients stop by, be sure to have ample seating for them.

Focus on functionality and comfort

When arranging storage, shelves, and desk in my workspace, I want them to serve me, instead of the other way around. I plan a typical workflow and things that I need during my daily activities. Functionality is my top priority, but I also want the home office furniture to aesthetically complement other parts of my home. Instead of becoming another soulless cubicle, your home office should have a soft, warm design. I prefer pieces that enhance the comfy vibe of my workspace, like a decorative wastebasket and a colorful mug for a pen holder. Colorful curtains can be used to hide utilitarian bookshelves, especially if they are made from a similar material. If you want an added element of motivation, have inspirational prints with favorite quotes on the wall.

Choose the right color

Instead of choosing that boring office beige, you should find a color that motivates you. I find cheery and bright colors like lime green or yellow-orange motivating. But if you prefer a calming shade, seafoam blue or botanical green can help you stay focused.

Add an interesting outdoor view

My desk is positioned where it’s easy to stare at something outside. Natural light is a perfect addition to my workspace and when I glance up from the monitor, it’s a great way to keep my mind and eyes relaxed. At a certain time of the day, my workspace will be flooded by calming natural light.

Organize vertically

My home office isn’t particularly spacious and vertical arrangements work best for optimizing the available space. It’s imperative for any workspace to use space efficiently. If you have taller walls, it is a good idea to hang floating shelves, as long as they are easily within arm’s reach. A rattan basket works best for accommodating a pile of documents, notes, and mail. To keep the desk cleaner, I designate a drawer for any to-do paper.

Optimize equipment layout

Those tangled cords are not only unsightly but can also be potentially troublesome. If you accidentally yank a power cable, you may lose important data or get disconnected from an important online meeting. Be sure to position your computer and electronic devices near the wall outlets to keep cords organized. You can keep cords tidier with tubing or winders.

What equipment to prepare?

home office
Home office

If you are preparing to work from home, you should know what equipment to invest in. A barebone home office could be equipped with only a laptop, Wi-Fi router, desk, and chair. But if you want to maximize your productivity, here are other equipment to prepare:

Computer

A laptop is preferable if you are a mobile remote worker who frequently travels or meets clients. I prefer a desktop PC for home office use, due to its affordability, customizability, and better performance. Despite its limited mobility, a desktop PC is easy to upgrade and offers better performance for a lower cost. Even so, you may invest in a small $120 Chromebook with an 11-inch display if you need to work outside occasionally.

Monitor

You should use at least a 21-inch display to have ample screen space to edit spreadsheets, videos, and documents. If you have a spacious desk, consider adding a second or third monitor. If you multitask and regularly track communication with co-working during group calls, it’s easy to switch focus on your primary tasks with multiple monitors.

Multi-function printer

With a multi-function printer, I can keep things functional and organized. Instead of buying a printer and scanner separately, you should choose a multi-function printer, which has a built-in scanner. This means, a multi-function printer can also work as a photocopier, even if it’s not connected to a PC. You simply need to put a document in the scanner and quickly print a copy by pressing a button.

Wi-Fi router

Often, your home office doesn’t get proper Wi-Fi-connected, if it’s located in the attic or a corner of your home. You may need another Wi-Fi router as an extension of your wireless home network. If you often participate in teleconferencing sessions or share large-sized files, a fast Internet connection is essential. Be sure to pick a reliable Internet Service Provider (ISP) with minimum downtime.

Audio system

Depending on your situation, you may choose a headset or desktop speaker. I find it more convenient to work with a speaker because it’s not necessary to wear a headset all the time. A decent microphone is sensitive enough to pick up my voice when placed next to the monitor. But if your home is noisy with kids running around, it’s preferable to get a noise-canceling headset.

Full-HD webcam

If you have an adequate Internet connection, you should use a webcam with at least 1080p (Full-HD) resolution for clearer video streaming. I also use a small LED desk lamp to provide additional lighting. This is useful when you occasionally present projects or provide online learning. During your spare time, a good-quality webcam makes it easy to make a vlog to discuss relevant topics in your industry.

WFH vs WFO: Pros and Cons

More and more employers are giving an option to work from home. This helps businesses to reduce operational costs and keep their workplaces organized. But with every decision made, you need to deal with advantages and drawbacks.

Working From Home (WFH)

After considering my situation and priorities, I decided to continue working from home. What started as a requirement during a pandemic, is now a new lifestyle that millions have embraced comfortably.

Pros:

  • Save time – Having no commute is an obvious advantage I immediately felt when started working at home. I could spend more time with family and friends, as well as engage in social activities. During the busy days before the pandemic, I lost two hours of my time on average each day commuting in heavy traffic.
  • Comfort – There’s no place like home and I always have the best comfort at home. I can do anything in my workplace, without worrying about what co-workers will think. Some offices don’t even allow their employees to work with a cup of coffee on their desks. Comfort is a strong motivational factor and often, I don’t mind working for a few extra hours during weekends.
  • Cost savings – Reduced costs are a direct financial boon from WFH arrangements. The differences between eating at home and eating out are significant and will add up over time. You may save a few thousand dollars each year through savings on fuel and food costs.
  • Flexibility – When offices were closed en-masse, employees faced the new reality of how to remain productive while working from home. As long as you can finish assigned daily tasks, it’s not necessary to work eight hours a day.

Cons:

  • Lack of work structure – For many people, having a work structure imposed on them is a desirable way to stay productive. The structure is utterly lacking in a home office environment, which may cause delays and chaos. But with a sensible schedule, I find it easier to keep things well-structured.
  • Feel disconnected – Although you can interact easily through online means, you may still feel disconnected socially from your co-workers. Loneliness can be demotivating and it may affect teamwork as well.
  • Overworked – Due to a lack of structure and scheduling, many remote workers find themselves overworked. Based on studies, many people work for long hours at home, even during weekends. Due to the blurry line between personal life and work, people may continue working through the night. Heavy burden and poor scheduling may end up affecting your mental health.

Work from office (WFO)

Many companies are planning to bring their employees back to the office as our society is embracing the constant presence of COVID-19. As they return to office is inevitable, you need to consider these pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Easier time management – At work, you see what others are doing and how to get things done. You won’t slack off when others are busy doing their tasks. There’s a defined schedule at work and obligations are easily enforceable by the employers.
  • Better networking opportunities – Creativity and productivity thrive in the collaborative ecosystem and there’s power in numbers. Online communication will never replace direct, verbal interactions. It’s very difficult to build your social network when you barely meet anyone in person. When you return to work, it restores your ability to have meaningful interactions with others.
  • Better productivity – While remote workers can remain productive through motivation and self-discipline, overall high productivity by the workforce can be better assured when they work in the same area.

Cons:

  • Inflexible work routine – If timing shifts ever so slightly in the office, it may disrupt the carefully planned workflow and cause delays. There may no longer be coffee breaks, which allows you to relax your tired eyes and muscles. A rigid schedule is a major deterrent to people who have used to work conveniently from home.
  • Time-consuming commute – The grind of commuting can be mentally and physically tiring, even before employees arrive at their offices. Due to long-distance and heavy traffic, many employees are forced to go to work very early, which sacrifices their valuable time for family, sports, and hobbies.
  • Vulnerability to mental issues – Continuous demands at work can be exacerbated by office politics and drama. Many companies seek to improve office hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but put less emphasis on the importance of mental health.