Working from home or from another remote location is becoming more and more common. In a report by Global Workplace Analytics, around 3.3 million people work remotely on a part time basis. Since 2005, remote working has increased almost 80%. In 2015, there seem to be even more opportunities for employees to work from home at least one day per week. Yet, as much as people may want to work from home, it leaves one important question: How do you set up your remote workspace?
Clearly it can’t be effective to simply work on the couch with the TV on in the background. In this post, we are going to discuss some of the things that you need to know to set up your remote workspace in a way that will help keep you focused and productive.
If you have designated office space in your home, that’s great. You’re already well on your way to setting up your workspace. If you have an extra room that you can use as a designated workspace, then that’s the area that you should use. If you don’t have a room that you can use for an office, don’t worry. You can choose an area that’s part of any room that you want to use. The idea behind setting up designated space, regardless of if it is an entire room or even just a portion of your living room, is that you have an area that is designated just for work. Be careful about the room that you choose if you will just be using part of a room. Choosing your bedroom isn’t the best decision because it changes the entire tone of the room. You could end up with problems with your sleep pattern.
Set up Your Desk with Ergonomics in Mind
Nothing is more frustrating than being physically uncomfortable at work. It’s even worse when you work from home and you feel absolutely miserable. Your neck and back hurt. Your wrists and hands hurt from banging on the keyboard all day. When you set up your desk, computer, and other remote work necessities, do so with ergonomics in mind. Make sure that the height of your chair is appropriate and will allow you to sit at your desk without discomfort. Make sure that your monitor is at the right level for your eyes to minimize neck strain. Double check that your keyboard is in the right spot to lessen the risk of repetitive stress injuries to your hands and wrists. It’s all about safety, and when you work out of the office the responsibility of office safety falls on you.
Choose a good chair for your workspace. Sometimes, we do have to just work with what we have. If you can’t afford to get a good computer chair or office chair now, make sure that you start saving for one. It will help your back, neck, and your overall comfort.
Here is a great and straightforward video, which will walk you through how to set up your work desk so you can sit comfortably:
Have Access to the Necessary Programs and Equipment
If you will be working remotely as a full time or part time employee for a company, ask the company if they will provide you with copies of the necessary programs that you will need to complete your tasks. Some employers will even provide you with the computer and other hardware needed. If you are self-employed, it is usually not the responsibility of your client to provide those programs nor a computer to you. Know what you need, and clarify who will provide what, prior to engaging in a remote work arrangement.
Make sure that your computer and other equipment will be appropriate for what you need to do. If you use a lot of powerful programs, you will need a computer that has a lot of memory and a big hard drive. Find someone local that can take care of your IT issues. This will help you minimize your downtime and also help stimulate your local economy.
Also, make sure that you have programs that will enable you to meet with your team and collaborate with them on any project. Communication is the key to a successful project, and your success here will depend upon a good selection and good use of remote collaboration tools.
There are many online communication and collaboration tools out there today that will make working remotely with others almost as good (or even better) than face-to-face work. Take Mikogo for example: rather than emailing project files back and forth, two remote workers can meet online and address their issues instantly. This creates clear communication that email cannot achieve, while removing the need to travel and work side-by-side. For further recommendations on online collaboration tools, here is an article on our top 5 tools for remote teams that we personally use at Mikogo.
You will find many communications tools for a variety of different remote work needs. When selecting such software, here are a few things to consider just to get you started:
- How often will you use it?
- If you didn’t use such a tool, what would be the alternative? In other words, how much time will this tool save you?
- Does it meet your needs?
- Does it meet the needs of others who you will collaborate with? For example, will it work for PC, Mac and Linux users?
- Do you find it intuitive and easy to use?
For more information on how businesses can get the most out of such software, see our interview document titled, “The Future of Collaboration Software“. You’ll find interviews with the directors and managers of 15 collaboration software companies, including one interview question that covered: “How can businesses utilize online collaboration software to its greatest potential?”
Your Setup Should Be What Works Best for You
You may or may not know other people who work remotely, at least part of the time. If or when you meet up with others, you will likely see their home office setup. The one thing that you should remember is that your setup should be what works best for you regardless of how amazing you might think someone else’s setup is. Someone may have a designated room that they can use as an office and that might work well for them. However, if you are using part of your dining room or living room that might be because you need to be where young children can have access to you during the day. Someone may use part of their bedroom, and that may work for them. Yet, if you have in-home meetings with others regarding work, having your office as part of your bedroom will detract from your meeting. It would make your colleague or client feel awkward! Think about what’s best for you and cater to your needs.
Have a Backup Plan
Having the ability to work from just about anywhere is a nice option. It is important that you have a backup plan. Electricity outages happen. Hard drives stop working. Printers jam. Internet providers aren’t always failsafe; sometimes, the Internet goes down. You must have a plan in place that will help you get your projects taken care of with minimal disruption. Creating your backup plan before something happens will save you a lot of stress. Your backup plan could be as simple as working from your public library if your Internet goes down (which, by the way, will happen if your electricity goes out). If working from home full-time is not for you, then your backup plan could be hot-desking at a local co-working office space. It could be having two computers in the home. It could be using a cloud hard drive to back-up your files. Your backup plan will turn what would have been a total disaster into nothing more than a momentary (although slightly annoying) glitch.
So, what are your thoughts and tips on setting up a remote workspace? Do you work in a designated home office or do you work in the center of the family action? What is your best remote workspace tip?