Working from a home office sounds fun and easy but it can have its challenges, too. Especially, when you are completely new to remote work. The following work-from-home tips for beginners will show you the most essential steps you have to take if you want to (or maybe have to) work online and have no idea where to start.
How to Set Up a Home Office?
It all starts with the right set up. You will have to create an environment, where you can be productive and stay healthy.
What Technical Equipment is needed for a Home Office?
One of the first things people often worry about when it comes to remote work is technical requirements. Luckily, it is not as complicated as you might think.
This is what you need to have to be able to work from home:
1. Reliable and Fast Internet: Don’t rely on limited mobile data volumes. It won’t be enough. Just think of all the video calls you might need to do. You need an unlimited internet plan that is fast enough for smooth calls.
2. Computer: If you work as, for example, a graphic designer, you will need a more powerful computer than a content writer. If you want a laptop you can travel with, check the weight and size. Don’t assume you will have to spend a fortune on a popular and expensive brand. Get one that is suitable for your needs.
3. Monitor or Laptop Stand: Also, if you want to work from home in the long run, I recommend getting a big monitor of at least 23.8-inch. If you want to travel while working online, I recommend getting a laptop stand, e.g. the Roost laptop stand.
4. Keyboard and Mouse: If you use an additional monitor or a laptop stand, you will also need a mouse and an extra keyboard to work properly.
5. Smartphone: Some remote workers don’t need a smartphone at all for their work. Others rely a lot on it. This depends again on the type of your job and your personal preferences.
6. Earphone & Microphone: You will probably have a few meetings and calls with your employer, clients, team members, freelancers, or other people you are working with. Decent earphones and a good microphone make a big difference here.
7. Webcam: Sometimes it makes things easier and more personal to use video calls instead of normal ones. You could simply use your phone to log into video calls or conferences. Alternatively, you could use the built-in camera of your laptop or monitor. If there is none or you are looking for a better one, check out external webcam options.
What Furniture is needed for a Home Office?
If you want to work from home, you will also need a bit of a home office setting. Here are some ideas:
1. Desk: If you have space and want to spend the money, a standing desk would be amazing to avoid sitting all day. Sitting for too long is unhealthy. Some studies report that sitting can be just as dangerous for your body as smoking. If you don’t want to invest the money in a standing desk, as they can be quite expensive, you can also look for desktop riser options.
2. Chair: A comfortable and ergonomic chair is essential. There is nothing worse than sitting on an uncomfortable stiff chair all day, trying to focus on your work.
That is pretty much it. When it comes to home office furniture, you don’t need much to get your work done.
Tips for the Perfect Home Office Set Up
Although you don’t need much equipment when you want to work from home, there are a few things you need to take into consideration when setting up your home office.
1. Dedicated Workspace: Having a spare room in your apartment or house for a home office would be perfect! If you don’t have that much space, you should still try to separate your workspace from your private space – even if it’s just a little corner somewhere. Don’t work from your kitchen table!
2. Lighting: It’s best to have the window parallel to your desk. That will bring in enough light without causing glare on your screen when behind you and without being distracting when in front of you.
3. Desk Ergonomics: As mentioned before, one of the most important things you need to organize is a comfortable and ergonomic chair. Also, make sure your chair is high (or low enough) for your knees to be at a 90 degrees angle. The same goes for your elbows. When keeping your head straight, the top 1/3 of your monitor should be at eye level or slightly below.
How to Secure Data When Working from Home?
I know that this is not the most exciting topic to talk about but negligent data security can, in the worst case, result in serious legal consequences and can cause much corporate damage.
Here are the most important tips for keeping your data safe when working from home:
1. VPN Services: You may think your internet connection at home is safe. This is not true. A virtual private network (VPN) creates an encrypted tunnel between an external server and your device and directs all web traffic through this tunnel. That means nobody can see your data, tab your information or route you to phishing pages. I’ve been using NordVPN for years and love them.
2. Passwords: Don’t use the same password for every online account you have, change your passwords regularly and use strong passwords only. You can generate these using free tools like LastPass. You can also use this provider to store your passwords and change them easily.
3. Data Storage: A cloud-based option is usually better than storing your data locally because you can access your data from anywhere, you can share it with team members and, in you’re your computer gets stolen or hacked, they can’t get to your files with the access details. Use a cloud-based service, e.g. iDrive, that is compliant with industry regulations and does automated backups, too.
4. Anti-Virus Software: Install anti-virus software on your laptop and smartphone to protect you from any kind of malware, e.g. trojans, spyware, worms or rootkits. It is also important to always keep this software up to date.
5. Encrypt Information: If you send emails with confidential information, make sure you encrypt these emails. This can be access details, personal data or important attachments. The same goes for documents and files that contain confidential information.
Work-from-Home Tips for Better Communication
If you work remotely, communication is oftentimes asynchronous. Although there are still online meetings and calls, you will rely a lot more on written communication, such as email or chat. That means that responses don’t occur immediately. They don’t happen in real-time.
While this has many advantages, e.g. higher productivity or better time management, it can also be challenging if you or your team members are not used to this. Here are some tips that will help you with remote communication:
1. Clear and Structured Emails: When sending emails or messages, people can’t see your body language. That’s why it’s very important to be clear and on point with your messages. For instance, avoid stylistic choices, such as irony, use bulleted lists or numbered lists to explain something, attach an image or a screenshot to clarify things.
2. Repeat What You Understood: It’s also a good idea to summarize tasks when they are communicated via email only. If your employer or client has given you a task, repeat what you understood (”I understood that I need to do… by doing… until…”).
3. Further Inquiries: If you don’t understand an email or a message you received, don’t be shy to ask again. It doesn’t help anyone if you are doing something you are not supposed to do. So before you make assumptions, check again and ask for further explanation.
4. Phone Calls: If a topic is too complex, it’s better to call the other person and clarify in real-time. Sending 20 messages back and forth is not only time-consuming but also annoying.
5. Prevent Technical Issues in Online Meetings: To prepare an online meeting, make sure your internet works and you have enough data volume left. Test your headset (microphone and earphone) to see if everything works. Check if you need to download a program beforehand to participate in the meeting and have your laptop charger plugged in.
6. Working Hours: Depending on how closely you work with your team members, communicate your working hours and at what times you usually do your lunch break or any other longer breaks. Knowing when you are available helps them time their communication.
7. Schedule Regular Meetings: Some remote teams have a quick 10-minute call every morning to give a short update on what everyone is working on today, where issues occur and such. Others have weekly or bi-weekly online meetings. Whatever you prefer, make sure you get the chance to exchange regularly.
Work-from-Home Tips for Higher Productivity
One of the biggest issues of working from home is productivity. When you telecommute there are so many potential distractions that it can be very hard to get your job done.
Check out the following work-from-home tips to increase your productivity:
1. Create a Working Environment: I love working on my couch, too. But if I did that every day all day I wouldn’t get much done. If you are working from home, make sure to set up a proper working space. Create an environment where you can easily focus on your work without facing too many distractions.
3. Set Office-Only Times: Treat your work-from-home job with the same importance as you would treat any other office job. Once you have set your office hours, make sure that nobody disturbs you and you stick to those times.
4. Batch Work: Batch working can save you so much time and improves your performance. You focus on a specific topic that allows your brain to be highly concentrated instead of jumping from one topic to another.
5. Pomodoro Technique: This is a time management technique, which uses a timer to break down your working day into short intervals. You work in sprints of traditionally 25 minutes followed by short breaks (3-5 minutes). After four Pomodoros you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
6. Dress Professionally: Staying in your pajamas all day might be comfortable but it is not the best idea if you want to be productive. This behavior tells your brain that you are in a relax-mode which makes it harder for you to focus. Some people need to get ready in the morning and pretend they are going to the office to be able to kickstart their productivity.
7. Eliminate Distractions: Become aware of your usual distractions and don’t give them a chance. Once you know what is distracting you most, do your best to avoid it or schedule it in for a fixed time, e.g. checking social media only during the lunch break. A great tool that tracks the daily hours you spend online on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or any of that is the app Rescue Time.
8. Take Breaks: Everyone needs breaks. They enhance your productivity so much! Take a longer break for all your meals and small breaks in between to stretch your body. Once your brain had a chance to relax, you will start your next work session with even more energy.
9. Schedule Your Workweek: Being organized is incredibly important when you work from home. Sit down once a week, e.g. Sunday evening, and plan your upcoming 7 days, i.e. what appointments you have, what tasks you want to do, what deadlines there are, etc. When you check your plan every morning, you know exactly what you need to do that day and won’t forget anything.
How to Stay Healthy When Working from Home?
Having a remote job can have some significant downsides. Staying healthy is something that many people struggle with. To make sure you stay mentally and physically fit, have a look at the following tips.
Physical Health Tips for Working from Home
1. Don’t Sit All Day: The Medical Billing and Coding released an article that explains how being sedentary for 6 or more hours a day can increase the risk of death by 40%. Hence, it’s a great idea to invest money in a standing desk. This increases not only your physical but also your mental activity, as well as your ability to focus.
2. Move Your Body: Besides sitting and standing, you should also integrate regular movements into your workday. For instance, you could get up at the top of each hour and stretch targeted parts of your body. Or plan in exercises like going for a walk in the morning, a short run during lunch break or a yoga session in the afternoon.
3. Eat Healthily: Your fridge is just around the corner which makes it easy to fall into the habit of snacking on unhealthy food all day long! Avoid that by preparing fresh meals and snacks in advance and know exactly, what you are going to eat that day. Keep unhealthy food out of the house if that’s easier for you.
Mental Health Tips for Working from Home
1. Keep Social Contacts: When you work from home without any coworkers around you, you might feel lonely at some point. Make sure to get out of the house at least once a day. Don’t make the mistake of locking yourself in your apartment for days and not talking to anyone.
2. Online Lunch Sessions: A great method of socializing with coworkers: Every day or once a week you and your team members have a video conference during lunch break. This way you can enjoy lunch together and chat about private matters (work-related topics if you want to). This is almost like you are all sitting at the same table having lunch together.
3. Work From Different Places: Working from your home office every day can soon get boring and maybe even a little bit depressing. Change scenery! You could test some coworking spaces around you or work from a quiet café every once in a while. Maybe go to the library or bring a hotspot with you and work from the park.
4. Keep Your Private Life Private: I know it’s tempting to grab your laptop and work from your comfortable bed all day. But then your private space and working space become one. It’s harder for your brain to turn off and relax in the evening when you want to go to sleep because it automatically connects the location with work. So make sure you only work from your dedicated workspace and call it a day after your set finish time.
Ready to Work from Home?
I know that was a long list but I hope you have found a few work-from-home tips that will help you set up your home office if you are a beginner or improve the way you work remotely if you are already at it.
As with most things, you learn by doing. Once you have worked from home for a while, sit down, look back and see what worked well in the past few weeks (or months) and where you can improve. Hopefully, these home office tips will help you do so!