• Working from Home-Ish

by Chris Hayes June 24, 2020

Before COVID-19, we were all thinking about it-- do I really need to go in today? Can't I just knock this out from home? What if I'm more focused when I'm remote? As companies switched from snail mail to email, then landlines to VoIP, and desktops to laptops, it's always seemed pretty easy to go totally remote, and then we found out just how ready we were.

Suddenly the workforce made a quick pivot to a safe-at-home situation, but as restrictions ease up, we're starting to see people ditch the couch for the cubicle… Though not completely. During this transitional time and beyond, we can expect to see a much more flexible workforce that isn't quite beholden to either the office or the home office.

So you've done the totally deskbound thing and now you've done the totally homebound-- how do you shake it up and make a healthy mix of the two?

Pencil In your Onsite Days

Relying on routines was the name-of-the-game during the total quaran-times and we've gotta keep up that energy while we make our way back to the office. With the approval of your higher ups, plan out your anticipated time both in and out of the building and, if you're doing any split days, account for potential travel time that could get in the way of other tasks.

As the return to work begins, think about the restrictions your workplace will face-- can you even have face-to-face meetings and, if not, would it be better to take those virtual meetings from home rather than your desk? Likewise, as onsite groupings become more common, can they be condensed into certain days instead of others? Throw a notice on your calendar to let the rest of the org know where you'll be and when; it's a nice common courtesy.

What Goes Where?

Workdays aren't just a simple tango with our computers. Stacks of files, scribble-happy notepads, the classic array of office supplies, and tech peripherals are all necessary for a well-working workplace, and when you're between desks, some things become more important than the others.

One of Each
The smallest things are the easiest to duplicate between workspaces, so there's no question when it comes to maintaining two pen cups or post-it note pads. It gets a little hairier when you start to look at peripherals and slightly more expensive must-haves for your workday. For example, taking a small wireless mouse from place-to-place isn't so much of a hassle, but is it worth buying a new keyboard to use exclusively at home? Maybe.

The bigger the add-on, the more complicated the choices-- how much do you miss your two monitors when you're away from the office? Is it worth buying your own at-home set to plug into on your work-from-home workdays? If the expense is worth it, invest in it. Especially if it improves your efficiency and adds any ergonomic benefit to stave off aches and pains from long hours at the computer.

To and Fro
For those smaller items and those carry-anywhere supplies, how can you optimize your end-of-day routine to quickly pack up and carry home your sets of stuff? We're back to that wireless mouse-- sure, it's a pain to carry a full-size keyboard everywhere, but can your mouse make a backpack journey on the daily? That's up to you.

"It's an In-Office Day"
I have a bone to pick with printers. Even the best-in-class machines are bulky, finicky, and downright expensive, but sometimes you just have to have that printed document in front of you for a quick edit or a sign-and-scan signature. When you need to spend some quality time with the copier or print a metric ton of pages, it might be better to keep those veritable appliances at the office and structure your onsite days around their use.

An Equally-Efficient Office

Wide open workspace, sufficient storage, and a chair that's ripe for perfect posture-- some things aren't up for debate when it comes to a productive office area. If you haven't set yourself up for success during quarantine, it's time to reevaluate your maybe-still-makeshift setup. Especially if you'll be splitting your hours between your company's home office and your own in-home office, it isn't too late to upgrade your working area.

Take a moment to reflect on what made your workdays, well… work. How did you interact with your workstation? It's often difficult or near impossible to replicate the same setup from the comforts of home, so think about what your ride-or-die amenities are and what you could possibly do without.

Space is at a premium at home and finding pieces that do double-duty is key. Storage that can keep your office supplies tidy while adding a little style to the space? Perfect. A desktop that can pull out or expand as you need it while folding up when the day is done (think about extending keyboard trays, nesting tables, file pedestals on wheels) can add real estate when the time is right while still keeping the "home" in "home office" at the forefront.

Tech Safety… But Make it Fashionable

Before COVID-19, I had a pretty bad habit of leaving my laptop docked on my desk, taking it home when a snow day looked imminent or I knew I had some business to wrap up after hours. My travel accessories reflected that lifestyle, but a much more ambulatory career necessitates a much more conscious set of tech protection.

Get ready for the road with a laptop bag that's well-padded and able to absorb shock from any bumps or drops and make sure it has all the room you need to bring back any of the aforementioned "to and fro" supplies, such as important files, tech peripherals, or even that favorite pen that you can't stand to leave at the office. Look for backpacks and bags that have built-in sleeves and amenities that are the right size for your computer in order to prevent needless jostling while you're on the move.

Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes

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