Bev Hutney is CEO of The Stelter Company and teaches at the MBA level on strategic management of change.
I’ve never worked from home for more than two or three consecutive days. So when coronavirus shutdowns went viral last week and The Stelter Company sent employees home to work, I quickly imagined my future: Afternoons on the couch watching the final season of “Schitt’s Creek” with one hand holding a muted iphone to my ear and the other sunk into a box of Nut-Thins. #workingfromhome
Luckily, I have colleagues who’ve got this mastered. My first call was to Kit Lancaster who is good at pretty much everything. I use her ideas liberally here, along with the advice of startup founders, new-economy gigsters and productive hermits who are all delighted to share their best tips with you:
1. Know your Internet Sitch.
Test your Internet speed. Does it match what you’re paying for? If not, try restarting your router, or contact your Internet service provider for support. Do you have reliable wifi, or should you plan to connect your computer by ethernet cable? If you have less than 5 mbps download speed, consider alternatives. Unbelievably, we learned that one of our employees had download speeds less than 1 mpbs (She’s currently parked outside Starbucks, logged into their free wifi.)
2. Designate a space for work.
Ideally, claim a room with a closing door. Create clear lines between work and home. You don’t want a pile of unfolded laundry distracting you from work during the day, and you don’t want a pile of papers distracting you from relaxing at night. If you plan to sit, consider your chair choice. (Hint: your couch probably isn’t the most ergonomic option.)
3. Get dressed.
Keep your routine as normal as possible: Get up, get coffee, get dressed. Staying in PJs all day is a one-way ticket to meh-ville. Our resident fashionista and Graphic Design Team Leader Marlena Estes has a brilliant write-up on how to create your own WFH style. Bonus tip: The Cladwell app can recommend and track your outfits.
4. Ignore the doorbell.
Set working hours and decide if and when people can contact you outside of work. Consider designating “office hours” for specific times when you’re available for ad hoc conversations. Make sure family and friends know when you’re in work mode and then maintain that boundary.
5. Embrace productivity tools.
Team Chat: Slack is the current choice of all the cool kids (including our digital team), featuring free team chat and file-sharing with Google Docs and Dropbox. Because we have multiple software chat options at our workplace, we encourage people to standardize on one tool for critical information.
Video conferencing: A running favorite, Zoom, is simple to use and has fun features like virtual backgrounds to cover up views of your messy house. Google Hangouts offers free and business versions or there’s always the stalwart GoToMeeting.
Shared File Storage: Stelter employees work daily with donor mailing lists, which carry major security requirements, as well as huge inDesign files. Our primary storage tool is Dropbox, which has built-in security controls and syncs well.
These first five tips cover the basics of setting up a virtual office. In my next post, we’ll explore the five clever ways our employees and others bring an extra layer of joy and professionalism to the experience of working from home. Stay tuned!