Take care of this "low-hanging fruit" (easily accomplishable - office slang) and you'll be more focused and prepped in the months to come.
You may think we're a little late to the party advising our dear readers about teleworking and video conferencing six months into the pandemic, but that time period has taught us a lot about the most effective ways to continue working from home sweet home. Here is a selection of our top Do's and Don'ts.
Do establish a workspace/office space in your home. This doesn't necessarily have to be a separate room, although it does aid in physically separating the professional from personal time. A good chair, solid desk, plenty of natural light and spot for your favourite coffee mug are essential. Don't start working from the bed or the couch, as it can quickly become a routine and really affect your performance. Unless, of course, it's a boring two-hour conference without camera that doesn't require your input at any point in time...
Don't do this.
Do take breaks and get out of the office space. As important it is to have your sweet spot to work, getting out means refreshing your mind and coming back with full attention. Go for a stroll during your lunch break and after work. Speaking of lunch breaks, do try to eat away from the screen and avoid the office in general in your daily breaks.
Do give yourself some time to "green up" your office space. Experts agree that a little bit of green can really lift the spirits and decrease stress levels, creating a soothing and calming work environment.
Don't stare at your screen too much. For every 20 minutes of work, look away at a distant object for at least 20 seconds. If your office does not have much natural light, you may want to purchase a pair of glasses with blue light filter. These help calm the eyes and prevent strain.
When video conferencing, don't worry too much about the background of your office space. Some feel uncomfortable because their messy closet is open in the corner, or kids run around the kitchen. Obviously the latter is probably not great, especially in the moment when it's your time to speak, but many video call apps (such as Zoom and Skype) enable you to blur your background or pick an alternative one.
Don't forget to mute yourself when it's not your turn. Especially when there are kids in the house or you feel a cough/sneeze coming. These sounds can be distracting and throw off other conference participants.
Do take a moment to learn how to position your camera. This is not rocket science: try and have your face, shoulders and upper chest in the shot. Having a strong light behind you may affect the quality, so always try to position a lamp in a way that it is behind the camera and you're not filming directly into the light.
Do be on time, just like in real life. You may get away with sneaking into a physical meeting late, but people will be very aware of it in a video conference.
In other news, this guy attempted to fake his presence in video conferences with pre-recorded videos.
Do check with your employer whether they can support your home office lifestyle. If your house WiFI is terribly slow for work, or you need a second screen, chat with your boss about what can be done. The company might be able to help finance a quicker internet package, or provide you with unlimited cell data instead.
Regarding WiFi, if the company does not support a new package or router, you'll have to deal with what you already have. Don't place your router far away from your office, in a corner or behind thick walls. Other electronic devices can cause signal disruption, such as microwaves or home phone sets.
When following a video conference, avoid checking emails or presentations right in the middle of it. It looks quite rude to participants, and let's be honest: it is hard to multi-task. Look into the camera, have your arms crossed or resting on the table and do pay attention to your dearest colleagues.
Try and maintain office hours. Especially freelancers and independent workers will struggle with this one. Do set yourself an eight-hour period in which you can work, and after that: basta! Switch off your work phone (if you have one), leave your office behind and close the door. If your office is in your living room, then clean the desk and symbolically "leave" your work behind for the day.
There are apps available to better structure your work day and avoid distractions. Do have a look at the app store in the "organisation" category to see what's available. Some tips include Serene (avoid websites and phone distractions), StretchClock (provide relief from sitting) or TomatoTimer (time management).
Do keep an eye on your posture. Laptop users are prone to chronic pain, especially in the wrist position. Try a laptop stand, external keyboard, standing desk, or ergonomic office chair.
Don't ignore wire spaghetti. Keeping the back of your desk and floor clean and organised goes a long way. A few clamps and zip-ties are an excellent way to buddle things together.
At the end of the day, your office is your home: do take it easy and make yourself comfortable. We all work better when we're in a cosy place that we identify with.