27 Mar WORKING FROM HOME? IT’S NOT WHERE YOU ARE …
… it’s who you are, and how you do it.
We’re all figuring out, at the moment, how we can work from home most effectively. Perhaps you’ve been doing it for a while. If you observe people that do this a lot – perhaps people that travel a lot for their work – you’ll probably notice that they actually work anywhere. They take a ‘no minute is safe’ approach and can quickly start or continue a piece of work. Let’s explore how they do that and what you can do to make time working away from the office as effective as possible.
Here are 5 things to consider
Obviously, over the past 20 years, connectivity has improved dramatically. Most of us have had broadband for 15 years or more, and likely moved from physical media, through downloads, to streaming, over a similar period. If you live in developed world and have school-age kids they won’t be able to remember a time when connectivity wasn’t assumed. I bet you’ve even seen them automatically trying to pinch-to-zoom a photo in a magazine before. Being ‘disconnected’ can seem jarring for them – when they’re on a plane for example.
When you’re working you need a strong and stable connection – especially if you need access to a server in the office, or cloud services, or just the good-old Internet. This means you should:
- Have a high-speed, unlimited use broadband connection (it doesn’t matter if this is via cable, fibre or copper)
- Have a good, managed router and firewall that ensure the speed goes where it is needed and that security risks are minimised
- Have a wired connection to your workstation if you can (that’s a bit like having your own lane on the motorway: faster and more secure)
- Make sure all other devices that could easily be wired – and need high speed for streaming, say (like TVs, media/audio players etc.) are wiredas this will remove their traffic from the wireless network
- Make sure all WiFi access points are wired (or properly configured as part of a ‘mesh’ system)
- Make sure the software on your devices is all to date
- And finally, have a get-out-of-jail connection – perhaps using a wireless hotspot, or a SIM in your iPad or a secondary line connected to your router so the key things you need when working will be OK in case anything happens to your main connection
Of course SMC can help you with all of this – and look after it as your needs evolve and devices change over the years.
2. DISCONNECTED PRODUCTIVITY
This reliance on connectivity is an important part of ‘working from home’, but it isn’t everything. It is important, in fact, that you can work well – at least be able to work on what you can – when you aren’t connected.
Most good cloud storage solutions – like Dropbox, the iCloud Files app, OneDrive etc. – will let you work on documents – even collaborative documents in many cases – when you aren’t connected. So if the signal drops, or your travelling for example, you can still get on with stuff. Once you connect again you can re-sync. If some of your software requires a VPN connection (some proprietary accounts software, for example) or only works when you’re online (Slack isn’t useful when offline, for example) then do what you can. Most conference call services still provide a regular-old dial-in number if your computer or connection is down. And if there is literally no connection it might be good to mop up admin tasks, draft emails, check some documents or … take a break. Be flexible. Create a list of stuff you need to do, and put it in your diary/calendar rather than as a to-do-list : that way you’ll allocate time sensibly, and can shunt stuff around when things change.
3. GETTING YOUR ACCOUNTS IN ORDER
The reason that you can easily use cloud-based services from wherever you are, irrespective of the device you’re using, is because you sign-in – either every time you use it, or through the use of a password (or Face ID, say) embedded into an app.
You’ll save a huge amount of time in the long run if you make sure the apps are installed across your devices, and that you’re logged in to your account. When you’re working in an office there are probably a range of security barriers set-up, and a clear view of valid, authenticated users maintained. That’s what stops random visitors accessing your accounts, for example. Of course, these systems don’t generally work when you’re working from home or elsewhere, and for this reason most services now require two-factor authentication (or 2FA). This means that you might have to validate your use of a new device or new app whilst using something else (for example, entering a number texted to your phone). You’re probably used to this with your bank by now. It really does seem pesky to begin with – and it can soak up a chunk of time – but ultimately it saves time and it means that you can rely on the security (and privacy) of what you’re doing.
Once you’ve got this nailed, you’ll find that you’ll spend more time working rather than fighting the technology and that the various conferencing services work like a dream. You’ll be getting stuff done instead of shouting at the screen and pounding the table, while everyone else waits for you.
If you need a hand with any of this, the SMC service team would be happy to talk you through it.
4. GET KITTED UP
You’ve probably got everything you need at work – and you don’t want to cart everything back and forth. That’s fine, but if you find yourself working from home for days on end you can’t rely on your laptop or iPhone alone. Find yourself somewhere to work – a clear space away from the kids (if possible) and the noise (if possible) and make sure you have a clear work surface and decent chair. And great WiFi. Do not just sit in your living room in front of the TV. The following items are essential:
- A decent keyboard, and a mouse if you use one
- Great headphones, with a microphone
- A proper power supply for all your stuff so you aren’t wasting time mucking about when your batteries are fading.
It might be the right time to invest in some great noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones, that you can easily connect to an iPad, PC or phone – and switch between as you need. The Apple AirPods Pro are pretty good but the best ones we find are from Bowers & Wilkins. Great if you want to listen to music as you get on with stuff (or to isolate yourself even further, drowning out family noise).
Some people also need a proper monitor. If you’re coding, working with drawings or images, or just used to more ‘real estate’ – that means you.
5. ALL WORK MAKES JACK A DULL BOY
Take it seriously – set a routine, managing your time properly, avoid social media and stay positive. You’re actually working, remember! But … you must take some breaks. If you’re with your family, they’ll see you there zoned out and will get confused or worry – so have lunch with them. If not, make time to socialise with your colleagues (digitally, of course) as you would have done in the office. Get this right and it could change your life.