Winter is in full force, delaying flights, closing roads and converting school days into snow days. But for those of us who work in a guest room, a family room or in front of a roaring fire (even a virtual one, thanks to Netflix), it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. In good weather or bad, working from home is business as usual.
Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for anyone working in a corporate office and dealing with weather wreaking more havoc than some of the reality show housewives from (insert your favorite city here). The best option at that point is to stay home and work.
Here are six tips to help all home office virgins ease into home office mode, even if it’s only for a short time. Warning: working from home is addictive, but unlike eating chocolate and binge watching, you’re usually paid to do it.
1. Set up your office in a low-traffic area of your home.
You may think working at your kitchen table is a good option, but working in the kitchen with kids around is like trying to do surgery in the middle of Grand Central Station. Even if your kids aren’t around, you’re surrounded by more distractions than you think including the refrigerator and a list of projects your spouse has been asking you to do for years.
You don’t have to isolate yourself in the basement or attic, but consider using one of two rooms that are usually empty: your dining room or your living room. Take away the velvet ropes that surround your living room like an exhibit at the Smithsonian and make use of that space. The holidays are over so you probably won’t need to use either of those rooms again for another year.
2. Snag a comfortable chair from another part of your home.
If you’re sitting at your kitchen table in one of the made-for-eating, not made-for-working chairs in the set, within a few hours your not-made-for-extended-use chair will cause a pain in your neck or back, and make you (almost) miss working in a corporate office. Give yourself and your back a break by investing in a comfortable, adjustable chair.
3. Make sure your space is well lit.
A few years ago while I was looking for my insurance agent’s office, I walked into a computer gaming place that had no lights on, just the glow of computer screens. The place was dark, creepy, and smelled like pizza and Cheetos. Unless you’re a paid computer gamer, make sure your workspace has plenty of light and doesn’t have a cave-like feel. Ideally, your home office should have a window to bring in natural light, let in some fresh air, and allow you to see exactly what your neighbors do all day while you’re at work.
4. Keep the noise down.
When the kids are out of school and seeing how loud they can make the dog bark, silence is like an old painting: rare and priceless. Instead of threatening to ship everyone off to boarding school, create a quiet, happy place by using noise-cancelling headphones. Working in a room with a door will help, too. Although sometimes children see a closed door as an open invitation to come in. If you’re on the phone, and it’s an important call, count on it.
5. If you’re not able to connect to your computer at the office, backup everything.
Actually, even if you are able to sync your work to your office desktop, backup your home computer anyway. An external hard drive and cloud storage are both good investments considering hardware is easy to replace, while data, not so much.
6. Enjoy your time away from your corporate office.
Those of us who’ve worked from home for years don’t miss anything about working in a corporate office including co-workers, commutes, corporate politics, and mandatory office gift-giving. To us, working from home is second nature like riding a bike, answering emails, and pretending we’re not home when a neighbor drops by.
After you’ve worked from home a few times, don’t be surprised if you start making up excuses to work from home more often.