I’ve been working from home exclusively since I went full time with my travel agency in Oct of 2018. Prior to that I was a software developer (full time and a travel agent part time) and worked from home as much as possible. My husband has also been working from home for the last several years, so we have learned some good lessons that I’d like to share.
In order of priority, I’d put having a designated work-space and decent coffee as the two most important things. I’ve learned that it is best when you have a desk and computer in a separate area from where the rest of the family might be. When the kids were little, we had a spare bedroom in the lower level of our tri-level house that we used for an office. One day when the kids were out playing in the cul-de-sac and I was at my desk working on software, my husband came in to the office and said, “You have to stop doing that!!” I looked at him and asked, “Stop doing what??” Well, it turns out that I had developed some bad habits at my first job working with a bunch of guys as a “rocket scientist” at Lockheed Martin. I worked on software for the Telerobotic Servicer and Magellan, the Venus mapper, and you might not know this, but software developers cuss at their code when it doesn’t behave as expected – which happens quite a bit. So apparently, it was my cussing like a sailor that my husband, very rightly, objected to. 😛
Since I have been working from home for quite a while, I have learned what I need at my desk to be happy and productive.
- Reliable Internet
- Coffee (or tea)
- Comfortable chair
- Keyboard tray
- Mouse pad
- Phone holder
- Calendar (or 2 or 3 – I’m a travel agent – dates are my life!)
- Tissues/lib balm/nail file… (if I have to get up and go get these types of things, I get distracted)
- Planner (more on that later)
I have three adult children and they each have a different setup to be able to work.
My daughter is a research analyst, so she has a lot of books and papers. She also has reliable internet, a comfortable chair, a planner, notepad, pens and her glasses.
One of my sons is a musician. He used to use our office in our old house to practice his music, but since we moved, he’s been trying to find a good practice place. He lived in a house with other musicians which you’d think would be a good setup, but they all slept at different times. Then he moved to an apartment where they bribed the neighbors and he tried to practice while they were at work. Now – we’re all very excited – he has a studio!
My other son (the father of my lovely granddaughters), brought his 3 monitors home from work for use during this coronavirus pandemic. He normally works from his office-setup in the basement, but can also work outside and keep an eye on the girls while his wife is working inside.
I’ve had a home office for years, but when my husband and I both started working from home together, then coffee became an issue.
Dan likes his coffee really dark and needs a 10 cup carafe. I bought the Ninja on the right for both of us, and it just didn’t work for him so he bought the 10 Cup on the left
I know it’s odd to have 2 coffee makers, but this system really works for the two of us. We can each make the type and amount of coffee that we each want. And there’s no walking in and finding the pitcher empty. Plus, we even have our “water cooler” conversations while making our own coffee.
We also don’t like the same flavors. This Boca Java (below) is delivered to your home. It used to be based in Boca Raton, Florida but they moved to Denver. So the coffee is delivered to our house just a couple of days after it is roasted. AND one of those bags cost less than 2 Starbuck’s latte’s. (That’s at regular price for the Boca Java. They often have sales where it’ll be $5 a bag and we stock up!!)
And I make my own Latte with this frother and stainless steel pitcher:
I personally get up, make coffee and start working. I’m dealing with people in Europe a lot and so I have to get my phone calls to them done before 10 am local time. Then, recently, I’ve been able to take a break, workout, shower and eat at lunch time. Most people, including my husband, feel better if they get up and shower before working. You’ll have to figure out what works for you. When you first start working from home, you might feel like my brother, Doug:
That was actually similar to my routine when I first started working from home full-time. Then I realized that I need to take care of myself – which includes :
- Daily hygiene
- Eating right
- Staying healthy (working out, meditation, yoga, …)
- Making time for family
Making time for family is so important. My husband and I have learned to respect each other’s time, and not just barge in to the other’s office and start talking. We use texting (or instant messaging on our computers) to write about something we don’t want to forget, then follow up when we meet in the kitchen.
And talking to the rest of your family is important also. I used to call my parents on my way to or from work, but when I wasn’t doing that commute anymore, my mom started calling me, “Hey, we haven’t heard from you for a while!” And I had worked out a rotation to call my siblings and parents, but you know what they say about the road being paved with good intentions. Calling my family is something I still need to improve on.
Internet & Batteries
Even if you live in a city with good internet connection, you could still experience outages and it is not fun to lose your connection when you are in the middle of a presentation or an important phone call where you need the information in front of you. Most cell phones have a “Mobile Hotspot” and if not you could check if your cell phone provider has a package that includes a “Mobile Hotspot”. Either way, you’ll want to make sure that you have a plan that won’t cost you a fortune with data use charges!! Then once you have it available on your phone, you need to set it up and test it. (If you need help with this, your cell phone provider should be able to help you. ) Once you get it set up on your phone, you can choose it as your internet connection from your computer, so you know how it works and your computer should save it for you. Then if you’re in the middle of something and your internet goes down, you can easily switch over.
The other item that can cause issues is power. Have you been in the middle of a thunderstorm when the lights flicker? That’s not a big problem if you are using a laptop, but if you are using a desktop then your entire computer could shut down. My husband and I both have our desktop computers going through a battery that performs as a backup and surge protector, like this one:
CyberPower 650VA 8-Outlet UPS Battery Backup
This doesn’t give you a lot of time (5-10 minutes depending on what you have plugged in to it – which should include your computer and monitor) but enough time to at least save what you were working on.
Now if you’re using a laptop instead of a desktop, you want to make sure that the battery installed in it is decent and lasts more than an hour when you’re using it during your job. My husband regretted not getting a new battery for his laptop when he received a call from his mom that his dad was in the hospital (not for the virus) and he had to jump on a plane to help them out. (His dad is out of the hospital and on treatment and getting better.)
I also have 2 of these back-up drives; one for backing up my Mac and one for photos – I’m a travel agent, I travel A LOT and have a bunch of photos!
We have learned that it’s best to make sure you have backup – before you need it.
Planning & Productivity
I have also learned that having a paper planner plus a phone app for a to-do list helps me stay organized. When you go to look something up on the internet, you get a popup with a tid-bit of information that you might want to follow up on. If I have a piece of paper in front of me that has a daily timeline on it, then I can ignore that internet clicking and stay focused on my tasks.
I signed up for Momentum Planner from Productive Flourishing www.productiveflourishing.com You might recognize the name Charlie Gilkey – he is the founder of Productive Flourishing. I watched his video and was very impressed. He’s a sharp guy and my daughter even said they studied him in college.
And the app I use on my phone is called Todoist. It is one of the few apps where I have paid for the pro-version. When I think of something that I don’t want to forget, I can enter it in this app and get back to work (or sleep) without a major interruption. You can add items to projects, or add labels and assign priorities to items. And there is a browser interface for Todoist so you can organize it on your computer after you put brief notes in the app on your phone.
So every morning, I look through my list of prioritized and color-coded todo items and create a list on my paper planner of time-slots to get these items done. The planner even has a section for unexpected items (Emergent Tasks) – so you can keep track of the things that interrupt your day and maybe even plan for some of them. 🙂
Working from home ROCKS!!
I hope these lessons learned will help you also.