Remote Work Life Interrupted: 4 Tips for Transitioning Into a New Home Workspace
One of the benefits of working remotely is the freedom to be a digital nomad who can get work done anywhere that has a stable wifi connection and electrical plug. This flexibility makes life planning a little less stressful in situations where you might need to pick up and go- like the career building opportunity my fiancé was offered in a completely different city. As a remote employee I have worked while traveling for short periods of time ranging from a few days to a week. With travel work I go with the flow of each day, unbothered when wifi or other flukes pop up since it is a temporary situation. With a move to a new city I knew I was changing my consistency and habits for a workspace that would call for a new routine and habits. One month into this move and I have identified some tips worth sharing with other remote workers who may be entering new spaces to do their work.
1) Let People You Live With Know What You Do
Prior to my fiancé and I moving my home work environment was quiet and controlled as we lived in a house just the two of us. Most days I had the house to myself during work hours. Through our recent move and transition we are temporarily staying with family, 2 dogs and a cat; quiet the change from what I am use to. As a remote employee it is critical to give context to whoever you live with about what you do and what you will be up on a weekly or daily basis. Prior to working remotely, it didn’t matter if I told others what I was going to do at work that day as it had no effect on them.
When working in a home with others everyone is following their own day and routine, some of which might interrupt you if you do not plan accordingly. For example, the moment someone calls to me from another room to ask something and proceeds to open the door of the room I am conducting a video meeting from to try to talk. To be fair, they have no idea when I am or am not on a video call as they do not know my schedule. To remedy this I have become more proactive in letting those I live with know when I will be on critical video meetings where I cannot be disturbed and when I am available to chat if we are home together. Additionally, setting an understanding as simple as “when the door is closed, I'm working and unavailable” goes a long way. Mixing work and home looks different from the perspective of the people you live with so any clarification and information to give them a baseline understanding helps.
2) Wifi Troubleshooting
It is inevitable when your job depends exclusively on the wifi connection of your residence that it will go out at some point. For me it recently happened the first morning I was conducting a presentation over Zoom with 100+ attendees. I was unaware that the room I was working from experiences inconsistent connectivity because of its location in the home. No one else in the house had ever needed to conduct a video presentation with so many attendees so they did not know the connection could be so difficult. As simple as it sounds, I realized after that presentation that I needed to make a habit of testing wifi in new spaces ahead of time instead of blindly trusting it will work seamlessly. Additionally, asking someone how reliable their wifi works is completely subjective to their experience and use. The more objective question is to ask for the details of the wifi package or the megabits per second (MBPS). If funds allow, be willing to offer to pay for an upgraded wifi plan or a booster if needed.
3) Workspace Set-up
Of all the aspects I have had to adjust over the last few weeks the most difficult has been not having my dedicated home office, with my desk, decorations, and a comfy chair, all organized in a way that makes sense to me. Everyone's a little different with their preference for a workspace. I tend to be someone who likes the consistency of one particular spot that I can leave my laptop and notebook sitting at. That one spot signals “work” for me, helping me disconnect when I am done for the day in order to step away.
Working in a new place means testing out a lot of new spots, especially when there is not an open area you might be able to claim as your “office”. For those of you who present over video, finding an area that provides a plain backdrop free of visual distractions might be a struggle depending on how a home is decorated. When it comes to your workspace don’t be afraid to get creative and depend on some temporary fixes like...
- A pop-up table with a plain table cloth. This simple set up can go a long way if you need to set up shop in a specific area that works better for connectivity or videos.
- TV dinner tables, which are handy, affordable and moveable desk alternatives that fit in many places around the house.
- Thrift stores for any larger furniture needs. You may even strike gold and find quality items that you can use long term.
Whatever you need, take note of what makes you feel like you have an official and effective workspace. Create a space that fulfills your needs. Bonus: Add a pop of decor if it helps- I have always found having a small plant in my space improves the ambiance.
4) Murphy's Law
That adage "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" holds some truth. It is true mostly because you will not be able to account for all the situations that can arise while you are getting set-up in a new space. For those moments when things go wrong, be patient with yourself and others. When possible, plan ahead and think of what you need, both environmentally and mentally, in order to fulfill your work. Be transparent with co-workers you interface consistently with that you are figuring out a new space and routine. Many of them can likely sympathize with the situation and they can give you some grace as things pop-up that interfere with your work. You might even find that they have some tips of their own that could assist you.
Remote Employee Life
Working from home is by far my favorite “set-up” as an employee for all the flexibility and benefits it provides me to craft a lifestyle in a way that works best for me. Every job and workspace has its downfalls, it is all just a matter of figuring out solutions as you go along. Have any tips or tricks related to working remotely? Comment below as I’d love to hear them!