As business reopen, some are choosing to keep some employees working from home. Many business are doing this to reduce their office footprint and maintain good social distancing after seeing no loss in productivity from employees working from home. Others are doing so as a voluntary option for anyone who does not feel comfortable returning to the office at this time or perhaps ever. Obviously job role plays a part in whether or not this is an option, but for many individuals, working from home is their new normal, at least for now.
When working from home, there are many considerations to maintain your productivity, actively participate in company and third party meetings and most importantly, remaining secure. Let’s look at each area and discuss some recommendations to help you be as productive or more so than when you were working in the office.
To be productive a dedicated work space is so important. It’s hard to maintain focus sitting at the dining room or kitchen table, especially if you have young kids about. Turning a spare room into a dedicated home office if clearly the best option, provided you have the available space. If you don’t, consider a pair of noise cancelling headphones and a music subscription or a focus utility like Focus@Will to help you maintain your focus in a less than private setting.
For virtual meetings, consider a green screen, selfie light and maybe even a dedicated microphone if you don’t have a good headset to use. My personal preference is a noise cancelling headset that is certified for UC, Unified Communication. They can run double the cost of a standard Bluetooth headset, but are well worth it. The people you meet with will appreciate it very much as you won’t sounds like you are down a deep hole, muffled or tinny sounding, which distracts other people in the meeting. You can also use a dedicated external microphone and speakers. Do what feels most comfortable for you and provides the best audio experience for you and the people you are meeting with.
A green screen comes in handy to shield your home from the people you are meeting with. Microsoft Teams has a nice feature that will blur your background, which is also a good option and both Teams and Zoom, the two most populate online meeting platforms, allow you to use a custom image as a background. These work best with a green screen. You can use a green bed sheet as a makeshift green screen, though you will need at least two, or to fold it over on itself in order to block out light from behind. You can also purchase a professional green screen that hangs from your ceiling or attaches to a tripod or even the back of your chair. These will run anywhere from about $50 to several hundred depending on the quality.
If you work from home and participate in a lot of online meetings, these are typically a good investment.
With so many people working from home, security goes without saying. Home networks can be riddled with risk, especially if you have kids or elderly living with you. Those two demographic groups are less security aware, in general. For very different reasons as well. Kids have grown up with technology and tend to trust it implicitly whereas elders are highly vulnerable to hackers tricking them into doing things they should not. Whatever the case may be, the point is that the average home network has a much higher risk profile than the average work network.
Whether your company has an internal IT team or partners with an outsourced IT partner, engage with them and discuss the security risks associated with working from home. It is probably time to work with your IT resource to partially manage your home network, to separate the traffic between your work computer and the rest of your home.
This may involve having to install a modest firewall device in your home to compliment your existing WiFi router. A device like this can separate network traffic to be sure that your home users can’t see your work computer and vice versa. That’s one step. Your IT resource may also be able to do some monitoring of the work side of your home network, to watch for any risks that could compromise your work.
It’s easier than ever to work from home productive and securely. With some modest investments, you can set yourself up for prolonged success. This will be rewarding for you and beneficial for your company. A true win-win.