Social Distancing and the Remote Worker
You can not turn on the TV or Radio or Podcast to know that our lives are changing due to Covid-19. The old adage that it’s better to be safe than sorry has blanketed our lives. The new term “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” is picking up new believers everyday. Okay, life is strange and a bit scary. What are we going to do about it?
The workforce is changing to a more tech-savvy bunch who want to be less tethered to a traditional work environment anyway, so let’s take advantage of the scary times to move forward with working remotely. Some want the freedom to work from the local donut shop in the morning, the local coffee shop in the afternoon, and the home office in between. Though these desires can prove impossible for many businesses because their communication network will not allow remote workers to remain as efficient as needed, Metropark has built a powerful communication platform that makes working from anywhere a breeze for any business. Especially, those interested in Social Distancing.
If your business can adopt a social distancing policy and allow some of your employees to work remotely, there are some things to consider. Working remote from the office in a home office provides many benefits including the obvious fuel/commuter savings and the flexibility of setting your own schedule. However, some home offices don’t get off the ground properly, so being successful in a home office requires creating an office space that promotes efficiency in a non-traditional work environment. Consider the following tips to get started creating a professional work space to maximize your personal productivity and provide greater revenue for your business:
Make a List of Your Critical Home Office Needs
Before claiming a corner in one of your rooms and calling it an office, make a detailed list of your most basic needs for your home office. This is called your ‘Critical Needs’ list. It should include items you must have for your office — a desk, computer, fax, telephone, etc. Metropark can make this very simple for you since many of your work tools can be unified into your browser along with your mobile or deskphone. Consider the space needed. If you are a graphic artist, for example, you may need both a small desk for your computer and a larger table or work space for your artwork. If you are a consultant, you may need additional space for several locking, fireproof file cabinets. When making your list of critical needs, it is important to think about all the ways in which you plan to use the space.
Choose a Dedicated Area for Your Home Office Space
Once you have made your critical needs list, you have a better idea of how much space you will need for your home office and you can choose a dedicated area for office space. Ideally, the office should be in a quiet area with some level of privacy. This is especially important if you share the house with a spouse, children, or even a roommate…don’t forget your barking dogs or nosey cats. With that in mind, a spare room with a door may be best because it can help filter noise from the rest of the house. Alternatively, many of your meetings can be done with Metropark’s Boomea video meetings, but if you will be meeting with clients in your home office, it may be more efficient to choose a room near the front entrance of the house.
Get Creative: Balance Workspace and Storage Requirements
Often, a home office has a limited amount of space and can feel cramped even with only a chair and desk. Maintaining a professional office space is dependent upon good organization — that means planning a space that has plenty of room for storage (files, supplies, etc) and ample area to spread out and work. You may have to get creative. For example, consider building your own desk that uses file cabinets as the base with a wood or laminate countertop. You may also have to store files in another room. Keep in mind: the general rule of thumb is that any files or supplies that you use frequently should be easily accessible — the goal is to create an organized office space that meets all of your basic needs.
Brighten Your Home Office with Proper Lighting
If possible, choose a space for your office that allows plenty of natural light. This provides a good foundation for a bright working space that can then be enhanced with more direct lighting. If your office lets in little or no outside lighting, the access lighting becomes even more important. Start by providing general, overhead lights that fill most of the work area. Next, consider adding task lighting, or desk lamps and floor lamps that can give concentrated lighting to your work area. Finally, regardless of the type of lighting available, make sure that your computer screen is positioned so that it prevents a glare from occurring. The object is to create balanced lighting that minimizes eye strain.
Use a Business Phone for Your Home Business
One of the many benefits of working from home is having reduced overhead. However, the initial savings from sharing a phone line with your home and business can ultimately cost you. A home phone is less professional and may allow clients to question the legitimacy of the business. A common pitfall of using a home phone for business is having the same voicemail message from both family/friends and business — it can confuse customers. Likewise, when sharing a phone, you risk having a child or other family member answer a business call, giving an unprofessional impression. It is best to use a VoIP business line, something easily attainable with Metropark Voice Exchange. With MPVEX, the home office phone line is now a direct link to your customers from the business phone system. If you need to talk or transfer calls to another person in your business, it’s now extremely easy — especially if they are on their MPVEX Nimbus Softphone traveling down the road. Additionally, if your business requires faxing, make sure you don’t have a highly priced second phone/fax line. MPVEX Faxboxes will be the obvious winner in your home.
Invest in the Right Home Office Equipment
Getting started using the right equipment in your home office is essential and phones are not the only must-have piece of equipment. Invest your money in sound purchases — a good desk with proper work space, a comfortable chair that can provide back support, computers with efficient memory and performance, a fast Internet connection, and any other specialized equipment, tools or software that is key for performance in your area of expertise.
Separate the Professional from the Personal
When working from home, it is important to keep your personal life from spilling over into your business life (and vice versa). If you are just starting out and building your business from your home office on up, setting up a business bank account is the first step in helping you avoid mixing personal and business expenses. If you are setting up a home office in addition to your ‘brick and mortar’ office, you are probably already keeping records separate. To further reduce confusion, try to store personal checks, records, and even mail in a room separate from your office. Fully segmenting these two parts of your life may also help at tax time. Tax deductions related to home offices are increasingly scrutinized and in terms of meeting IRS definitions of a home office, the more you can prove that the office is a separate and dedicated area, the better. As social distancing becomes a more normal way of conducting daily business, keeping personal and business things separated will become a very natural experience.
Utilize Formal Processes and Procedures in Your Home Office
Your business may already have a formal employee handbook or a published list of office rules but determining a formal system of operations for your home office is very useful. This includes everything from standardizing record-keeping and paying invoices, to logging time with customers and mileage for business trips. Keeping a few formal procedures in place for standard business functions will ensure your office stays organized and that information is available where and when you need it most.
These procedures can also be very useful with non-businesspeople living in your same space. They will need to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not appropriate to interrupt your business time.
Establish Office Hours
Flexibility is a key benefit of working from home. Yet, you’re still required to put in your time. Setting a typical schedule for working in your office will help you stay focused. Perhaps even more important, keeping standard office hours (for the most part) helps your clients know when you are available and can be reached. After all, you may do much of your creative work during non-traditional business hours, but your clients are likely keeping a more traditional schedule and may need access to you within that time frame. Setting office hours can also help minimize distractions and unannounced calls or drop-in visits from well-meaning friends and family.
Keep Time: Hang a Clock in Your Home Office
Once your office hours are set, don’t forget to hang a clock on a wall or place one on your desk – anywhere it is clearly visible. While this may seem laughable (or obvious), the truth is that when working from home, it is easy to forget about time. Before you know it, you have worked a 14-hour day for the third day in a row. Even though your work is at home, there still comes a time when you have it to call it a day and shut your office door.
Benefits of a Remote or Home Office
More Work, Commute Less
Scale Up or Down Quickly
Deduction of Home Costs on Income Taxes
Flexibility of Working Hours
Reduction in Overhead Costs
Freedom to Test Business Ideas