A Practical Guide for New Work-at-Homers

Since 2007, I’ve been working from home. I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to make working remotely work. If you’ve ever worked from home, you know it’s nothing like working in an office. To help you survive and maybe even thrive in this “new normal,” here are some of my most practical (and real) tips.

If you’ve ever worked from home, you know it’s nothing like working in an office.

  • If you have dogs, close your curtains or blinds before a conference call. If you don’t, you can guarantee that is the exact moment when something or someone will go by your window and launch a barking fit from your most precious canine.

  • Make a Do Not Disturb sign for your door. Post it when you need some privacy for a call or to actually get some work done. When that doesn’t work (and it won’t), create a new sign for your door that says, “Do not disturb and I really mean it!!!” It still may not work, but you’ve made your point.

  • Get a good chair with an armrest. The dining room chair or the folding chair from the closet will be fine for a few hours. Any longer and you’re asking for sore shoulders, backside, and legs. Don’t be afraid to spend more than a few dollars for a good chair if you are going to be spending more than a few hours on it. And be careful with adjustable chairs. Eventually, they lose their ‘adjustability.’ On one teleconference, my chair slowly started to lower while I was talking. Nothing like sinking out of the video frame when you’re trying to look smart.

  • Make sure your family knows when you are doing a video conference and hang the “Do not disturb and I really mean it” sign. Then, shut the door and remind them not to come in for any reason and then lock the door. I once did all of these things and forgot to lock the door. Moments later, my colleagues on the video conference said, “Beverly, it looks like there is a stick floating behind your head with a note attached.” There was. It was my husband asking if I wanted some lunch. Nice gesture, wrong time. Clearly, my sign did not work—but his did. I asked for a sandwich.

  • Be prepared to be on video at any time. And, if you are not willing to do so, take a sticky note right now to cover the camera on your computer. I’ve been caught more than once with no make-up and messy hair when dialing in to a call and not realizing I was going live. There’s nothing like seeing yourself looking down at a computer when you are not ready for it. I’m still traumatized.

  • Talk with your lawn guy about when not to mow the grass. For that matter, be sure to coordinate all work on or in the house around your work schedule. You can’t make a lawn mower quieter and it’s not professional to ask your colleagues to shout.

  • Remind your family and friends that, “Yes, I am working. I may be working from home, but I am working. Sorry, I can’t take you to the store. No, I can’t watch your kids.” People will ask. They don’t understand and some may even get irritated when you say no. For those folks, I’m happy to share my hourly rate.

Best advice? Have a sense of humor. Working from home is nothing like working in an office. There will be distractions. The good news is that many are doing it, so we can laugh together. And with that in mind, share your funniest working from home tip or story with me. I’d love to know I’m not alone!

Originally posted on LinkedIn.