As millions of employees across America prepare to rapidly transition to remote working, it’s imperative that they’re armed with the resources to create a safe and productive working environment to continue to operate at full capacity. If you’re new to telecommuting or working remotely for an extended period of time, it will be an adjustment. We know it may be daunting if you’re used to the structure, camaraderie, focus, and resources of your office. Our dedicated team at net2phone will be available to you, and your team as a resource to ensure the adjustment to working from home is as seamless as possible. From preparing your communications to remote productivity tips, we’ve created this guide to help you prepare an effective work from home setup.
Dedicate a Space to be Your Workstation
Invest in a dedicated work space, ideally in a location where you won’t get too distracted by personal chores or entertainment. While it may be tempting to work from the comfort of your couch or bed, defining a specific space for yourself that you can comfortably spend hours at a day will help define your work structure.
If available, set up your workstation in a room with a door, even if it requires reconfiguring the space. A separate room, however small, allows you to separate your work and personal tasks, and signals to other people that you should not be interrupted while the door is closed. If there are no additional rooms available to you, set up a desk in an area that does not typically have much family or roommate traffic and that is not located in your bedroom, as spending too much time in your bedroom can impact your sleep schedule. As best you can, try to set up your workstation in a way that mirrors the layout of your office space, down to specific details like where you tend to place your coffee mug on your office desk. The more you can simulate your work experience at home, the better for preserving a routine and maintaining productivity levels.
Set up your workstation ergonomically
Workplace ergonomics have been proven to increase productivity and reduce physical strain. When working from any location, it is best to stick to the 90 degree rule. When typing on a keyboard, position your arms close to your body and keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle. When sitting at a desk, your knees should be bent at a 90 degree angle, with your feet planted on the ground and sitting straight up. Other ergonomic tips include:
Work at eye level: Make sure your monitor or monitors are at eye level or slightly below. You should not crane your neck up or have to crouch down to easily see your monitor.
Place your monitor at a comfortable viewing distance: Your eyes should be 20 to 40 inches from your screen. You shouldn’t have to squint or move your head forward or back to read and work. To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, look away from your desktop at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (located approximately 20 feet away) for 20 seconds.
Set adequate lighting: It might be time to move closer to a window for natural light or buy a desk or floor lamp that illuminates your space well.
Internet Quality & Speeds
A quality internet connection is critical for remote work. As home networks are rarely optimized for business traffic, your ability to effortlessly make calls, transfer files and participate in quality videoconferencing may be affected. Now is a perfect time to evaluate your internet provider and connection. If you’re unsure if your internet connection is robust enough to support a quality work from home setup, call your provider to explore if it is worth upgrading your broadband or WiFi gear.
To improve your internet speeds, try setting up your workstation as close to your WiFi router as possible and reduce downloading and streaming applications like Netflix, Apple Music, etc. Wiring your laptop or desktop computer into your router with an ethernet cable will also provide a better connection.
Prepare Your Phone System
Businesses are built off communications, and while email and instant messaging platforms are important tools, they aren’t always the most effective means of communicating with your team, prospects, or clients. Traditional landlines offer limited flexibility in terms of forwarding calls. If your organization is operating off an analog system, consider sharing your personal cell phone number with your teammates and clients.
VoIP is a technology that delivers voice communications through your internet connection. In bypassing traditional phone lines, your organization has significantly more flexibility. With a VoIP solution, you simply plug your physical device into anywhere that has a quality internet connection and you’re up and running within minutes.
If you’re a net2phone client, there are three options available to you when you work remotely:
- Desk phone: Simply unplug your phone from your desk and take it with you. When home, plug your desk phone into an ethernet outlet.
- Mobile app: The net2phone app allows you to work from anywhere at any time. Make and receive calls and text messages from your business phone number! Quickly access your business voicemails and dial extension to extension just as you would in the office. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.
- Softphone functionality: Make and receive calls right from your computer. The intuitive user panel and web-based calling system allows you to listen to your voicemail, transfer calls and hold conference calls right within your net2phone Portal.
As more and more people rely on their internet to stay connected to their business, we’ve seen a significant rise in online traffic, and in turn, increased online chat communications. Both the net2phone mobile app and softphone pair with our online chat widget so that all of your communications will remain in a centralized platform, allowing your team to communicate with important contacts through your website.
Alleviate Distracting Online Apps
If you’re working from a personal computer, you’re bound to have your go-to websites and social media platforms bookmarked for easy access. To counteract your social networks’ ease of use during work hours, remove them from your browser shortcuts and log out of the accounts. If you still find yourself subconsciously clicking those application icons, consider working in ‘Private’ or ‘Incognito’ modes so the login credentials don’t automatically populate. It’s a guarantee that you won’t be tempted into taking too many social breaks during the day!
Communicate Goals and Expectations
A complete environmental disruption coupled with the lack of in-person managerial support can result in a loss of direction for employees. Remember that you and your team are all in this together, and that uniting together, whether in-person or remotely, will boost productivity across all levels.
Create SMART goals: Goals are part of every aspect of business and provide a sense of direction, motivation, a clear focus, and clarify importance. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Therefore, a SMART goal incorporates all of these criteria to help focus your efforts and increase the chances of achieving that goal. Whether it be to make 30 phone calls in a day, finish and edit a document by Tuesday, or schedule 15 virtual meetings, if you set out a specific objective, you will be more likely to meet it within your chosen timeframe.
Update your calendar: When working from home, your colleagues don’t get the physical visibility of seeing how busy you are as when you’re running in and out of meeting rooms in the office. To avoid team members and clients scheduling multiple meetings within the same time frame, make sure you update your calendar frequently and sync your calendar with your team members.
Frequent team check-Ins: Schedule half hour meetings with your team periodically. This will help increase transparency, keep you accountable, and give you all a sense of comradery while you work remotely. Share the goals that you have created for yourself and update your team on your progress.
Collaborate online: Fortunately, we are well into a golden age of SaaS-based platforms that seamlessly enable remote group collaboration. If you work in a team-focused environment, you may already have standardized on one of the online suites. The two most popular options for business collaboration software are G Suite from Google and Microsoft 365. Both include file sharing functionality, spreadsheets and presentation apps, meeting and group-discussion software as well as other included programs. net2phone’s VoIP solution integrates with Microsoft Teams so that you can experience world-class phone and communication services directly inside of your existing Microsoft Teams application.
With the sudden imposition of remote work, coupled with the potential for partners, housemates, parents, or children to also stay home during this time, you need to be able to set boundaries to remain productive. Consider how to best structure your schedule to mentally be in a ‘working mode’ during your office hours. Think about managing interruptions, how to work cohesively with your family and housemates, and how to optimize your day to stay engaged.
If you’re a parent and have a partner that is also working remotely, coordinate your schedules so that one parent is responsible for watching your child/children within a given time frame. Split your day in half and schedule all of your remote meetings, phone calls, or priority tasks within those given hours while your partner looks after your children. Switch responsibilities for the remaining working hours and work in shifts. The level of attention and focus that you need to properly attend to your child will of course depend on the age and abilities of that child, but you may be able to work on your less rigorous tasks during that time.
Especially when you’re new to working remotely, creating barriers between you and other people within your home is key. Make your expectations known:
Have a conversation: Discuss how you plan to schedule your work days with roommates and family members. Outlining your needs and priorities will help them understand the boundaries you are setting for yourself.
Set strict working hours: Having a routine timeframe of when you are working vs. when you are off the clock will make it easier for the people around you to know when they should interact with you.
Share your schedule: Loud noises and disruptions are nearly unavoidable if you’re sharing your living space with roommates or family members. Share a copy of your schedule in advance or post your schedule on the door of your office space to indicate when you have important meetings and need the home to be as quiet as possible.
Stick to a Schedule
This is a hard time and it may remain difficult for a while. It’s important to your long-term well-being that you treat your current work from home situation as similarly as possible to going into the office. While crawling out of bed 5 minutes before logging in and working 8 hours in the comfort of your pajamas may sound idyllic, this level of comfort can have you feeling sluggish and ultimately impact your productivity. When working from home, do all the things you normally would to prepare for your office role: set an alarm, grab a shower and eat breakfast at least half an hour before clocking in.
Pacing is key across all this, starting with how you manage your day and how you briefly stop working. Take regular breaks, step outside frequently for fresh air, and set a boundary between work and non-work, especially if you regain time by losing a commute. You may be under the impression that working from home establishes a better work-life balance, but be careful with that assumption. It is easy to get caught up in a task and completely lose track of time. Set an alarm 5 minutes before your work day is ending as a reminder to wrap up!