Work (And Family) At Home
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many people are now trying to navigate the world of working from home; something I had done for half of the time at various companies before joining Seeq over six years ago. I thought I knew all of the ins and outs of virtual work, but quickly realized that a completely virtual company has different challenges and benefits. Fortunately, our team has been committed since our beginning to think creatively and make everything work. Over 60 Seeq team members contributed to the following points we'd like to share with those who have found themselves in this new experience!
Setting Up a Home Office
With the right tools and some forethought, you may find that you are even more productive at home than in an office. Creating a separate workspace can go a long way towards minimizing interruptions and help delineate work time from personal time. If possible, find a place for each family member working remotely, be it for a job or for school, that will prevent them from impinging on each other while on conference calls – bonus points if they have natural light and doors that can be closed. Children young enough to require constant supervision will enjoy copying you, so set them up with their own fake (or retired) equipment lest they help themselves to yours.
Equip Yourself with a Quality Headset
If you buy only one piece of additional hardware, make it a headset. Whether you select over the ear, on the ear, or in the ear, a good quality microphone is essential. Once you have one, you’ll want to keep it muted by default – always! Noise-cancelling headsets can be helpful in
noisy environments, but understand that their algorithms work only after you have spoken. A wireless headset will allow you to roam the house if you’re not the one driving the meeting. Not only is this healthier than sitting, but you can take advantage of the time to fold laundry, unload the dishwasher, or the like. Busy hands enable listening, but idle hands can be tempted by phones, emails, and web browsing, which distract. Make sure the rest of the household knows
that when the headphones are on, you’re busy with work.
Other Helpful Equipment
Headsets aside, there are a few more pieces of equipment you will find helpful additions to your home office. While most of us use the cameras built into our laptops, some prefer external ones. If you have the budget and space for a large monitor (or two!), they can also be very useful. Be careful about cutting corners and leaving yourself with a setup that’s not ergonomic, it could leave you in pain later. Many of us love our standing desks, which can be created with boxes and books if that’s all your budget will allow. Don’t forget your lifeline to the world, it may be time to upgrade your internet, especially if there are several people in your household who rely on it for their daily work.
Developing a Schedule
Once you have your home office set up, you’ll want to give careful consideration to your schedule. Planning time with other members of your household can help make work hours on your terms. With small children in the house, it can be easier to have family time during the day when they are awake, and shift some of your work hours to the ends of the day – just make sure to allow yourself some time to wind down before bed to ensure a night of quality sleep. Knowing
the schedule in advance can help you plan snacks and activities (rotate in new toys) for children to minimize their impact on your workday. If you are like many of us and limit your children’s screen time, allow them to use it during your meetings and make it a treat – popcorn and all.
Take advantage of all the great resources for kids that are available online such as free museum tours – the Smithsonian, Natural History Museum, British Museum in London, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and National Galleries in DC all have options. Also, many libraries provide
access to eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and music.
Sharing your schedule with your spouse and children can help them understand when you can (and can’t) be interrupted. If your partner is also working from home, it’s best to create your schedules together, particularly if you have young children that you need to tag team. With luck, you’ll be able to eat lunch together – and even cook! Your discussion should include the definition of boundaries, perhaps a signal to identify when idle chit chat is not desired. If your
schedule changes significantly from your brick & mortar life, consider sharing differences with your team so they know when you are likely to be available.
Interruptions will happen, however, even during meetings. The important thing is handling them gracefully. Most internal meetings are informal enough that kids can join you. Very young children are fascinated by all the faces on the screen, which is often enough to entertain them. If you give them guidelines in advance on how to not disrupt the meeting, many children will be fascinated by some of the most boring parts of our day. In truth, it’s a unique educational opportunity that they never would have gotten in school. Needless to say, a good headset with a directional microphone is a huge advantage. In case you’re childless and thinking that you’re going to get off easy, pets have a way of finding their way into meetings too. In the end, even
your most embarrassing interruptions are most likely to generate only understanding smiles from meeting participants. If it’s a situation that can’t be managed within about 30 seconds, just politely excuse yourself from the meeting.
While there are some extra challenges in the current situation, we’re confident that most will find virtual work surprisingly convenient and productive. We hope you will find these tips and tricks useful.