My last official on-premise, working-from-office day pre-COVID19 was 3/12/2020, so this post comes after 4+ weeks of solid WFH adjustment. Not working out of an office on a daily basis (or at all, in this case) is fairly new to me– this is the most I’ve ever “worked from home” by far. As such I thought I’d share some general feelings, tips, and revelations I’ve had with this arrangement while at the same time continuing what’s becoming a series of related posts from Ashley, Drew, and Emily.
Finding new corners of the house
Working at home full-time with a full house meant that our family outgrew the kitchen table as a workspace very quickly. Home schooling for both kids along with two adults working from home all day, every day has led to us figuring out totally new nooks and crannies throughout the house to hunker down in.
Spending WFH time in different places of the house has helped keep each workday fresh and varied. One totally unused corner in our bedroom has been transformed into an unlikely full-fledged workspace with the simple addition of a simple 30” desk and matching chair from Amazon.
This is now a quiet space where I can focus and get heads-down work done, with plenty of room for an additional monitor as well as studio audio speakers and an instrument interface for recording music outside of work hours.
Another unlikely corner of the house has seen an existing high-top table turn into a standing workstation with the addition of a perfectly-sized cardboard box. This workspace allows me to stand and look out the front window for more collaborative virtual meeting periods and creative brainstorming.
Posture Goes Beyond Ergonomics
Working in various areas of the house which may or may not have enterprise-level ergonomics means I need to pay extra attention to posture throughout the workday. A simple shoulder brace (I like the Spud Bowtie but there are many similar braces out there) keeps your shoulders back and reminds you of how you should be standing or sitting at your workstation with minimal back strain.
Varying between sitting, standing, and sitting at tables with various surface heights helps mix things up throughout the day so that you’re not stuck in any one position too long.
Spacing Out Meetings
Video conference meetings are tough to keep on time. Since everyone is apart, some casual banter and chit-chat (which is a good thing, to be clear) can mean that meetings may not get down to business for the first 5-10 minutes. Additionally people have to contribute to a video conference in a fairly serial fashion and may have connectivity issues before or during the meeting. All of this can contribute to a video call that runs over the specified time. Account for this by padding some time between meetings and spacing them out throughout the day and week.
Double Down on Heads-Down, Meaningful Work
I’ve had a few workdays where I’ve felt like the entire day was video meetings. Don’t forget that video meetings take more energy than in-person meetings. You’re trying to manage your household and daily life, deal with COVID19-related stress, work in a different environment, AND pay attention to, prepare for, and contribute to each video meeting. It’s tough! Block time out for strategic work (or heads-down tactical work depending on your role) throughout each day to make sure that you’re preserving your energy levels and not equating internal meetings to work.
WiFi Router– an Unexpected Bottleneck
I noticed a bit of Internet lag at home during the first few days of shelter-in-place. Initially I figured that it was at the ISP level, caused by the entire neighborhood WFH instead of at their respective office locations.
After trying a few locations in my home I realized that our single, beloved Google WiFi router was simply not going to cut it alone and it was the actual bottleneck (on range/attenuation vs. capacity mainly). Not only was it managing many streaming devices at once throughout the house, it was also being asked to cover totally new areas of the house as we spread out for work and school all by itself.
I ordered an additional Google WiFi router, and once it meshed in (with pretty much zero config or fuss, by the way) with the existing router the problem was solved. Reliable high speed Internet for the entire family across the entire house, all day every day. Additionally, these Google WiFi routers are easily managed from my smartphone and allow me to prioritize and pause devices throughout the house as needed. Great for getting the kids off of YouTube when needed!
When your only visual representation as a remote employee is generated by your computer’s camera, it’s important to pay attention to your lighting situation on video calls. The main thing I try to avoid is what I’m labeling the “witness protection program look” where you are 100% backlit and appear as a darkened silhouette as a result of your camera’s exposure compensation.
Adding more front lighting led me to yet another online purchase, an LED light that I could suction-cup to my laptop to provide foreground lighting. Though I was initially excited about this purchase, it turned out that staring into a bright light during video conferences has the unexpected consequence of a headache over time. It’s still a GREAT tool that I use when needed, but not a full-time lighting panacea. Instead, a window full of daylight in front of me (vs. behind me) is much easier to tolerate.
WFH is a Continuous Journey
Those are just a few of my initial thoughts/discoveries/observations regarding WFH so far. I feel like I Iearn something new about juggling work and family directly in a small space every day. Hopefully you found this post helpful and thanks for tuning in!Originally published on April 15, 2020