This series on “Working Remotely” is inspired by “Remote,” the book by the 37Signals guys, and by my own experience working remotely for many years.
Remote workers’ office pad can be a coffee shop, library, co-working space, or some combination. But for most, it’s their home.
Here are a few best practices for setting up a productive work environment in your home. Optimal setups may vary for some, so if you work from home, please share your best tips in the comments below so we can all benefit.
Every telecommuting pundit will tell you that it’s best to have a separate room for your home office. That’s ideal, but what if you live in a tiny New York City apartment or have a home with nary a room to spare? Apply the same “separation” idea: designate a section of your home as your office space. It helps to separate work and personal spaces. Though, you should keep in mind that these days it’s more about work-life blend, so don’t stress if you can’t establish clear lines of separation.
Keep your desk clean and free from distractions. For many, clutter wrecks productivity and erodes motivation. There are some whose cognitive style may be better suited to cluttered desks, but if your desk is messy because of laziness and it’s affecting your work productivity, it’s time to declutter.
Recently, I’ve started varying my desk surfaces to break up the destructive habit of sitting too long. So, for every hour I sit at my desk, I stand for 30 minutes at the kitchen counter or place my laptop on a box on my desk. Then I switch to an hour on the couch. That 30 minutes standing for every hour of sitting improves posture and reduces nagging aches and stiffness, and the 20 to 50 more calories burned per hour when standing will result in a slimmer you by year’s end.
If that’s not enough to satisfy your fitness goals, you could go all out and get a standup desk or treadmill desk.
One Screen or Two?
Earlier today, I sent out a tweet with a link to the New York Times article, Discovering two Screens Aren’t Better Than one, then came across this post from a lawyer with another perspective: Dual Monitors and Productivity. I’ve tried both, and am firmly in the “one monitor” group. Find which works best for you.
The Right Tools
Sure, you can drive a nail in with the heel of your shoe, but it’ll take less time and effort if you use a hammer. And you’ll save your shoe to wear another day. The right tools matter. Here are a few of my favorite tools – devices and applications:
- Laptop – the nerve center. My preference is a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.
- Smartphone – landlines are so last century.
- Dropbox – for sharing and accessing documents.
- Evernote – for storing ideas and just about everything. I hear OneNote is good, too.
- Skype – keeps me connected to the mother ship and my colleagues via messages and calls.
- GoToMeeting – my GoTo app for meetings and hosting webinars.
- WordPress – this is where I write blog posts, create landing pages and website copy.
- Feedly – feeds from my favorite blogs reside here. I check this several times a day to stay informed.
- Pocket – for articles I can’t get to right away. Great app.
- Buffer – save tons of time by storing posts to share on social media channels.
- Google Apps – for email, calendar, docs and spreadsheets.
- Software – Keynote for presentations and Microsoft suite for documents, presentations and spreadhseets.
Music (or some type of white noise), the right desk chair, and good lighting, are additional essential elements. What are some of your favorite practices and ideas for setting up a productive home office?
POSTS IN THE SERIES:
Working Remotely: The Many Benefits
Traits of an Effective Telecommuter
How to Manage Work-at-Home Employees
A Productive Home Office
Communication and collaboration
Managing Time, Boundaries, and Balance
Evaluating Employee Performance
Company Culture Beyond the Office Walls
How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce
Working Remotely: Have Computer, Will Travel