Working From Home - Tips

remote working Mar 18, 2020

So given the current situation, many are finding themselves having to work from home for the fist time. This is a big adjustment to make, especially given the circumstances why they now are working from home. I've been working from home myself for over 6 years now, so I thought I would share some of the tips which I've found it to be a better experience for myself.

1 - Allocated Work Area

This by far to me is the most important tip which I can give. I used to find myself struggling to concentrate and get work done when working on things such as the living room couch. I then decided to buy a dedicated desk and chair for my work and this made a significant difference for myself. I found myself a lot more focused. If you can get a dedicated room which you can turn into a home office. This might not always be possible, so the next best thing is allocate a portion of a room to become your work area.

2 - Decent Equipment

Get a decent chair, you will be sitting in it all day, so you need something which will be comfortable and support you. Get a decent desk so you have a sufficient amount of room on your desk to work comfortably (so things don't become a clutter).

Also really important, get a decent monitor(s). This is the thing which you will likely be staring at all day. If you have to find yourself having to strain to view your monitor, you'll be exhausted at the end of the day, and it's not the best thing for your eyes.

Get a decent headset. You'll be thankful for it, as well as those on the call with you. Voice quality is important so you can hear others, as well them being able to hear you. Wireless headsets are also ideal, they allow you to move about while on a call.

3 - Tools

You will no doubt need some tools (primarily software) to help engage with remote working. There is a site which helps list quite a few:

Tech against Coronavirus - a list to work and learn remotely
Simple list to help you work and learn #remotely. In the times of coronavirus outbreak lots of software companies are helping teams around the world keep a certain level of normality. Stay safe!

In addition I have a list going to list all the services which are being provided to free at the moment:

Current WFH (Work From Home) Resources
List of resources to help work from home given the current situation we are in.

4 - Set Boundaries

This is another reason why it's important to have a dedicated work area. Once you have finished work for the day you can simply walk "away" from work. If you have a separate home office, you can shut the door. Even if you don't you can still ignore that space which you have as your work area. This helps with the work life balance, and the separation of work and home.

This could also include equipment, use work equipment for work and person equipment for non-work related functionality. I personally prefer 2 mobiles, my personal phone and my work mobile.

5 - Background Distractions

This is going to differ from person to person. Some people like having a TV on in the background with current news on it. I personally find it distracting. Then again I do listen to music while working. The key here is to find what works for you.

6 - Breaks

Now this is where you going to find one major benefit of working from home! Taking breaks! You can do things around the house, make your own lunch, take the dogs for a walk, help take the kids to school. It is important to take regular breaks, just as it is in an office. Sometimes you can forget this when working from home, since you are likely to be less distracted at times (I've had it before where it's suddenly 10pm).

7 - Socialize

This is an extremely important, yet difficult thing. Humans are sociable beings. It's what we designed for. So interacting with other humans is exceptionally important. It's one area I've been struggling with for the past few months. But something I'm working on. Just because you cannot meet in person, doesn't mean that you can't meet virtually. One thing I'm trying is to have a "water cooler" channel on our communication platform. This is a virtual room where people can come and go as they please, and have a general conversation. If you don't have this, engage with your team or team members. Have a general conversation about things, it could be anything, but don't just make it work focused. And if you can, use a webcam (I'm terrible at this).

8 - Dress For The Part

Again this is very much a personal thing. I personally don't really do much on this, nor do I plan to. But for some people, they find that dressing as they would if they were going into an office, really helps them. And remember, if you only plan to dress in your underwear from the middle down, don't stand up in front of the camera :)

9 - Distractions

This is going to happen, especially if you have mad dogs or kids (which I do both love to bits)! You on a call, and perhaps it's being recorded, and suddenly all hell breaks lose. Your one child is tears because the other one threw something at them. Your dogs then get all excited and start chasing one another around the house. Or you could be on national TV:

These things happen! Best you can do is remain calm, apologize and move on. And if you are going to lecture your kids, make sure your mic is muted before you do!

10 - Adjust & Experiment

Firstly, everyone is different. What may work from one person, may not work for someone else. So just because you see someone say they do it one way, doesn't necessarily mean it will work for you. There essentially is no right or wrong way, there is just simply your way. Also as important is to experiment and find what works best for you. Change things, until you are most comfortable with them. Be it where you put your work environment, to things such as how you take your breaks. I'm still changing and adapting things after over 6 years!

Conclusion

There no doubt are other tips and advice which others can provide, and which I likely missed from this list. But hopefully this is enough to get you going on your way from working from home, at least as a temporary measure.

Sean Wright

Lead Software Security Engineer and OWASP chapter leader, with special interest in web based security as well as TLS security (views are of my own and not of my current employer).

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