I’ve been working successfully from home for six years and I thought I’d share some tips since more and more people are having to isolate themselves during this pandemic.
I love working from home because it gives me complete control of my environment. I can set the temperature, lighting, and background noise to my preferences. I have access to my kitchen for lunch and snacks as well as numerous cups of tea. I’m at home to accept deliveries and am available for the children if they get sick and need to stay home from school. I have no commute in the mornings other than from my bed to my desk.
But how do I do work, you ask? Easy. Most jobs involve sitting in front of a computer and if even part of your job involves work at a computer then you can do that from home. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
I have numerous meetings throughout my week with colleagues and clients and these are done via video using Zoom. Clients can book an appointment with me using my online calendar with Acuity Scheduling. This generates a unique Zoom meeting link for everyone. All we have to do is click the link at the time of the meeting to talk. Meetings can be one-or-one or with numerous people. There’s no maximum number of people who can join. Video is optional and I tend not to use it with clients but screen sharing is essential and something I use in almost every meeting. Zoom also has a whiteboard feature and break-out-rooms for splitting larger meetings into smaller groups.
There are a lot of advantages to online meetings over in-person ones. One benefit is they’re easy to record. If someone misses the meeting they can watch the recording. Online meetings also allow for text-based discussion during the meeting using a chat window. This is a good way for participants to ask questions without interrupting the speaker. It also allows for discussions.
For document collaboration, we use Confluence and Google docs. Our whole team has access to documents for editing/viewing and blog posts on Confluence for discussions. We also use Slack for discussions. I view Slack as the office where we can chat synchronously with colleagues who are also in the office while Confluence is for asynchronous communication that allows people in multiple time zones to participate.
We also have email but it doesn’t get used that much. Slack, Confluence, and Zoom are far more useful for internal communication than email. The recordings and text-based nature of online communication also gives more permanency to these interactions, something that can be lacking from in-person discussions which can be easily forgotten if not noted down. Text-based communication also has the advantage that it’s searchable. So many times I have wanted to refresh my memory of a previous discussion and after searching Slack or Confluence have been able to re-read what was discussed.
This has been all about the tools but what about the home environment itself? Obviously, you will need a computer and internet connection as a minimum but it’s also important to have a good desk and chair. I have a sit/stand desk, a wobble chair, and a peddle cycle at my feet. The sit/stand desk allows me to change position during the day, the wobble chair prevents me from getting a sore neck, and the peddles under my desk keep me moving.
It can be tricky trying to work when there are young children at home. Many times I’ve been in a meeting and the children have come in and interrupted me. But I think after Robert Kelly’s children interrupted his BBC interview people are much more understanding. It’s less of a problem for me now that the kids are older.
You also have to make sure you get out of the house. There’s a risk with working from home that you’ll spend day after day inside and never leave or see another person. I make a point of going for a walk around the park every day and I also do the school run in the morning and afternoon.
I don’t feel at all lonely because I communicate so much with my work colleagues and clients throughout the day and they’re all wonderful people. I’m very lucky to work for such a modern, forward-looking company in a feel-good industry and before that, I worked for Automattic, pioneers of distributed work. I hope more companies make the leap and offer work-from-home opportunities.