But unless you’re a WFH veteran, remote working can quickly pose some challenges that you might never have considered.
It could be a noisy fridge that you never noticed before, WiFi connectivity that keeps cutting you off, or feeling unexpected lonely when mid-afternoon rolls around.
Many of our team here at Cisco have been working remotely for years and have picked up some tricks of the trade.
Here are five practical tips for getting the best out of working from home, to help everyone stay productive and content in the weeks ahead.
1) Set yourself up for success with the right workspace
Creating the right workspace is important to set the right tone for working from home. If you can, separate yourself from your family environment. Find a place that’s comfortable with plenty of light and desk space for the things you need.
Being close to the Wi-Fi access point will give you the best chance of a good connection. Try to pick somewhere with a clean background because people will see it on video conferences. Avoid or put away clutter that could distract other people on calls.
At the same time, don’t beat yourself up if your setup isn’t perfect. If you’re new to working from home, you might not have a polished and professional home office. On calls, be patient with both your (and your colleagues’) working environments, even if there’s a dog barking or a baby crying.
Remember that in the face of inevitable household distractions, the mute button can be a powerful ally.
2) Structure your day with breaks, and be kind to yourself
In the office, you have plenty of ways to break up the day, whether it’s pausing to chat with your colleagues as you grab a coffee or taking a walk to go pick up your lunch. Without the luxury of in-person interactions with your colleagues, the days can feel long.
It might be counterintuitive at first, but scheduling breaks is the best way to get the most out of your day. Assign a time to walk round the block and have lunch away from your desk. Or maybe even go for a run or cardio session in the garden. Exercise is a great way to clear out the mental cobwebs and re-energize your body.
Scheduling virtual coffee breaks with colleagues also helps to simulate the connection that you normally get in the office. To refresh your brain, be sure to talk about the world outside of work. Remember, right now is difficult for everyone. Only by being kind to yourself can you work productively.
3) Avoid isolation by communicating face-to-face
It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re working from home, especially during challenging times. Speaking to people regularly over a video conference is a powerful way to stay connected to your team and remind yourself that you’re not alone. That's why we're offering a free Cisco WebEx trial for individuals and small businesses.
When you’re relying on virtual meetings, don’t forget about meeting etiquette! If your home is noisy, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. Also consider using a noise-cancelling headset to keep your hands free and eliminate distractions.
Although it can feel exposing at first, switch on your camera so you get that face-to-face interaction. Turning on your camera automatically makes people more engaged because they can see reactions in real time.
If you’re relying on home broadband, you can boost your connection in a number of ways. Turn off other devices when you’re joining a video call. Use a phone to dial into the audio connection to save your bandwidth for the video picture. Also try to avoid joining meetings through VPN, to help your network traffic flow smoothly.
4) Change how you collaborate
Staying creative and collaborative can be difficult when you’re on your own all day. To stay energized, keep virtual meetings dynamic by sharing your screen and adding annotations by hand. Encourage other people on the conference to do the same.
Virtual collaboration tools can work wonders to keep you productive. Use virtual whiteboards to get everyone’s thoughts on a new idea. And have no fear – unlike a real whiteboard, every contribution will be saved for you to review later.
Remember to keep your work safe. You can share files securely on Cisco Webex Teams to work on them together. Right now, we’re also offering security tools free of charge to protect users on any device, so that you can keep collaborating with confidence.
5) Keep home and business separate
When you’re working remotely, it’s much harder to separate work life from home life. You can end up working late into the evening, picking up emails long after you would normally have “clocked out.” Establish some structure by knowing when you want to start and finish.
If you have deadlines, escalations and other intense (code for "stressful") situations, be aware of the impact your job can have on your family members. They may see or overhear you handling difficult issues and, as a result, they might internalize that stress or worry.
Over the years, I've become more conscious of my effect on other people, especially as I took on more senior positions with greater scope and responsibilities over multiple time zones. And candidly, I've not always managed this very well.
Remember what really matters right now – and try to leave work “at work.”
It’s a tough time for everyone, and we’re all having to find new ways to work in difficult circumstances. But by taking care of ourselves and staying connected, we can learn how to work from home successfully – keeping us productive and happy.
Freelancers and small businesses, sign up for your free trial of Cisco Webex. Check out how Meraki Go can work for you.