I’ve written a lot about working remotely (from 400+ ‘offices’!) and how to stay productive when you’re trying to pack as much as possible into a busy work week. My wife and I live in Brooklyn and have been working from home since NYC declared lockdown back in March, doing the two-people-working-from-home-and-yelling-into-different-video-meetings-at-the-same-time life that neither of us we were really prepared for.
It’s now July and we’ve settled into a groove that is keeping us sane and productive, along with causing us to occasionally end up in the same home uniform…
After sharing a few of these thoughts with some co-workers I thought it was good fodder for a 2020 refresh of my suggestions for working productively from home.
- Pretend like you are going into the office
I find that working from home starts with the psychology of being “at the office”. Get up at your normal time, do your normal morning routine, exercise, get showered / shaved / etc., get dressed. I know a lot of people advocate wearing shoes of some type and not going barefoot; I’ve been rocking Mahabis (I got suckered in by their IG ad) but am really enjoying how comfortable they are.
- Plan your day with anyone who will be home with you
My wife and I are both working from home right now, so we talk about our calendars every morning to understand who needs our home office for quiet meetings, when we’re going to make lunch, and generally anything noisy that would interrupt the other person. Whatever your home situation is with partners, roommates, children, or pets*, talking up front about it can be very helpful.
- Setup your station
Find a good place in your home where you can comfortably sit, join meetings, and work without having to move around during a meeting. I splurged and bought the UpLift E7 Standing Desk Converter for my home office and love it. It’s heavy and stable, and has a VESA mount to keep your monitor floating and at the right height.
- Get up and move around
It can be easy to get into back-to-back meetings when you’re working from home since there are no natural “breaks” in your day as they are when you’re in the office and have to move between rooms or buildings. I try to keep a 20min spot open 1-2 times a day so I can go and walk to Starbucks for a to-go coffee or even just a few laps around the block.
- Don’t use your laptop microphone
Your laptop mic is terrible, don’t use it. They don’t have good noise cancelling and are not really omnidirectional. Poor audio quality is one of the most negatively impactful things to your participation in a remote meeting. Instead use the headphones that comes with your cellphone or any number of wired or bluetooth headsets. If you’re looking for an inexpensive wired option, the SoundMAGIC E80C High Fidelity in-Ear Sound Isolating Earphones are a great value. I’ve worked from home a lot in the past and have the Jabra Elite 85h headphones, a more expensive option with really strong bluetooth and incredible noise cancelling.
- Smile! … and get on video!
Those who attend meetings with video hold their attention 52% longer than those their peers who meet via conference call. There is ample research that over 50% of meeting attendees multitask often during phone meetings, compared to only 4% doing the same during videoconferences! Your laptop camera is actually very good (it’s typically HD), but if you have a regular monitor at home and want a top-mounted version, the Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam is what I use as it has the best balance of widescreen and HD quality.
- Get good with muting
Typing is really, really loud and most microphones don’t block it out well. If you need to type while on a meeting make sure to hit mute! Most headsets (including the SoundMagic) have a physical button to let you quickly mute and I find that invaluable. You can also use the keyboard shortcuts in Google Meet and Zoom to do so quickly.
- Be clear about your communication expectations with your colleagues
I believe it is critical to share your communication preferences and expectations with your team now that many of us are working remotely and especially if you are bringing new team members into your organization. I’ve created a ReadMe doc that I share with all of my colleagues at Dataminr to help introduce myself, share my preferences, and start a dialog about the things important to me as a leader.
These suggestions are just that: suggestions! Remix, re-use, and re-share them. Comment back and let me know what works and doesn’t work. We’ve setup a whole Slack channel at work just to talk about working remotely and we learn from each other’s tips every day. Keep the dialog going!
* I’ve tried several times to ask our cats not to walk in front of my camera when on a call, to no avail. Also, the cat in the picture above is not my cat.