Fifteen years ago, I left my corporate job to start my first business. Leaving that role meant I was not only leaving the perceived security of working for a large company, but I was also leaving behind all of the necessities to do my job that the company provided. These things included all that you would expect to find in a corporate office including, secure high-speed internet, a phone line, printer, filing cabinets, etc.
What was an exciting moment as I went to set out on my own, was also one that left me having to set up my home office and do so in short order so I could begin getting to the business of running a business.
While working from a home office was an intentional decision I made, many of you reading this post can relate to having to establish an ideal work from home space, but the difference is, it has been forced upon you due to circumstances out of your control.
While the task of establishing a work-from-home office may seem daunting, I can assure you that it can be done with a little effort and you can be as productive as I have been for the last fifteen years. Below are a few tips that I have used and still use that will help you adjust to this new normal and give you insight into how I set-up my WFH office.
Right Size Your Phone and Internet Connection
We live in a mobile world, but leaving the results of your work to a mobile signal is a pretty big gamble. One of the best investments you or your employer can make is a reliable phone and high speed, secure internet connection.
This is not only needed to complete basic tasks like email and peer-to-peer phone calls, but with the rise of video conferencing to conduct meetings, you certainly need a connection that will not continually buffer and be unable to handle the bandwidth needed.
If you are going to do one thing to establish a professional workspace, this is where you need to begin.
Find a Place to Call Your Own
Since the time I have been working from a home office, I have moved three times. Two of those times I have had the luxury of having an office with a door and once, I was not so lucky.
If you live with family members, who are also adjusting to staying at home, having a place to call your own so you are able to work is not only a benefit to you, but to them.
If you have a spare room, use it and communicate that when the door is closed it is just like you being away at the office.
If you are not able to use a spare room, find a place that you can work and make it your own. Some ways you can do that is to have your back to the open space so you are not distracted by the movements of others in your home. Additionally, use some form of noise-cancelling headphones or do what I have done in the past, download a white noise app, put in your headphones and get working!
Having a place where you can focus, drown out the noise and get to the work at hand, will help with your productivity and focus on completing the work necessary.
Optimise Your Workspace
While it is likely that your corporate office has been designed ergonomically, your home is not. However, this does not mean you have to be less efficient simply because you are working from home.
Setting up an efficient workspace is easier than it may seem and you may have what you need already in your home. Find a comfortable chair that provides good back support and ideally is one that can be adjusted. Additionally, put your computer monitor or laptop at eye level so you are not continually looking up and down; your neck and eyes will thank you for it.
Lastly, find a table or desk that you can use for your workspace. Putting your laptop on a stack of books is not ideal and having a larger surface to work will be similar to your corporate space and enables you to spread out, which if you are like me is a benefit.
Be Willing to Adjust
Whether it's changing your office arrangement or adjusting to your work and family being in one place, the key to successfully setting up a home office is to relax and adapt. Click To Tweet
Over the years I have made quite a few adjustments to my work from home office. I have changed chairs, invested in whiteboards, changed the office flow, moved the position of my desk and my printer. I will make any necessary changes in order to be more efficient and productive.
Additionally, over the last fifteen years, my place of work has also been home to my wife and four children and like many of you are experiencing; it is an adjustment for all.
Whether it is changing your office arrangement or adjusting to your work and family now being in the same place, the best thing you can do is be adaptable. If one of your children or a spouse comes into view on a video conference, it’s OK, the call can go on. Similarly, if you find that you are more comfortable with another chair, a larger computer monitor or a picture on a different wall, make the change knowing that it may change again. The key is to relax and adapt.
Is This the New Normal?
When I first set up my work from home office I had no idea or expectation that I would be working from home these fifteen years later. As we navigate these times and begin to re-emerge to a level of normalcy in our places of work, it may not be safe to assume that our offices as we once knew them will be what we return to. Our work from home scenarios may become more normal than once ever thought, so be prepared to have your “main office” be your “home office” for the long term.
If you found this article useful, there’s lots of advice and information to help you set up working from home on topics from infrastructure to self-management. Blogs, webinars, guides – pick the medium that works for you.
Originally published Apr 21, 2020, updated May 08, 2020