How to Equip Your Home Office with the Essentials

With coronavirus cases continuing to rise, at least some employees should expect to continue working remotely for the long haul. Maybe you’re one of them.

If you’d originally planned on working from home temporarily, you may need to reassess your situation now. A temporary home office setup may not cut it long-term. It’s a good idea to reappraise your situation and your needs, so you can make yourself comfortable and stay productive for the long haul. 

Here are some essentials to consider when creating a professional workspace from home:

Space

If you lack space, you may need to invest a little time, money, and effort to create a viable home office. See if you can gain extra space by eliminating clutter. Do you have a fair-sized storage room? Think about clearing it out and converting it into an office. (If you can, add a window for fresh air and visual appeal.) 

As you declutter, separate what you want to keep from stuff you can give away or throw out. You can always rent a storage unit for the items you don’t regularly use but want to keep for the future.

If your home has a guest room, see whether it can double as your office. You can swap out a conventional bed for a sofa bed to make room for office furniture and equipment. Or does your home have a garage? How about converting part of it into an office? 

With a little ingenuity, you’re bound to find the quiet, private workspace you need for working remotely.

Furniture and Hardware

Next, you’ll need to furnish your workspace, starting with the right desk. If you’ll be using a desktop computer, you’ll probably want a conventional desk with room for your PC, monitor, keyboard, and other essential office components. You’ll also want an ergonomic chair so you can work comfortably for hours at a time.

You may prefer to work from a laptop stand, a table, or even a convertible standing desk. Any of these can give you greater stability and variety when working at home. 

Depending on your job, you might need a printer/scanner, paper shredder, or a compact filing cabinet to hold hard copies of reports or legal documents. To organize promotional items, consider installing shelves or bins.

Accessories

If you’re going to work from home long-term, you also may want to invest in extra accessories that can make your job easier and more productive. 

Noise-canceling headphones can improve your concentration, especially if you’ve got kids in the home. An extra monitor enables you to chat with colleagues and work on your laptop at the same time. A power strip/surge protector not only protects your equipment but also gives you extra outlets to power your other gadgets. 

By doing a little research online, you can discover all kinds of peripherals that can enhance and simplify your job. Don’t forget to stock up on pens, pencils, paper, and other office supply basics you may need.  

Technology

Technology will be central to your remote work, so make sure you have the software you need. Video conferencing apps like Zoom and GoToMeeting facilitate virtual communications, enabling you to collaborate with co-workers on team projects. Dropbox and Google Drive allow you to share business files safely and securely.

Keep in mind, though, that working remotely puts your system at greater risk of security leaks and digital threats than when you worked from your company’s office. Installing a virtual private network (VPN) on your network can help keep your business communications private and secure. Cybersecurity software can protect you against viruses, malware, and data breaches.

If you’re unfamiliar with some of the latest technology, online classes and video tutorials can help you learn the skills you need to succeed in working from home.

Internet Connectivity

This technology will be of little use without stable, reliable internet access. If family members are sharing your internet service, it may not meet your needs when it comes to working remotely. Consider investing in a new router and upgrading to high-speed internet or Wi-Fi to enhance connectivity.    

Infrastructure

When you work from home, problems with your home’s infrastructure can easily interfere with your job. A glitch in your air conditioning can make working conditions unbearable. Electrical problems can bring your work (and everything else) to a standstill. If even your fridge goes out, that creates a headache that takes time and energy to relieve.

By protecting your systems and appliances with a home warranty, you can prepare yourself for any household eventuality. If your home is prone to AC, electrical, or plumbing problems, a home warranty can be a smart investment to ease infrastructure hassles.   

Financial Security

If you’re stressed about finances, you’ll have a hard time focusing on your job. You’ll also find it difficult to purchase the equipment you need to equip and stock a home office.    

So shore up your finances with a budget that cuts back on nonessential spending. Put aside funds from every paycheck into an emergency fund. Pay off some credit card debt to give you a cushion for borrowing later. 

These steps can give you some sense of financial security for the future. By getting your finances in order, you’ll be better able to set up an effective remote-work environment and work in peace.

If you’re going to be spending a lot of time working from home, it just makes sense to spend some time planning how to do it right. Take your own needs into account, and the needs of your employer and your family, too. Shoot for performance, efficiency, and comfort. Think about what you have to work with, and make it work for you — so you can work most effectively for yourself and your company.

Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide

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How to Make the Move Back into the Workplace

Unless you’re an essential worker, your work life has probably changed drastically in recent months. Whether you’ve been laid off, fired, are on furlough, or are working at home, it’s likely that the way you earn your living has at least been altered, if not brought to a screeching halt. 

Now, with many cities either starting to reopen or planning to do so soon, you may be gearing up to return to the workplace. But because things have changed so much, you might be anxious or even reluctant to go back. 

If you’re facing the prospect of returning to the office and you’re not sure what to expect, here’s a list of ideas to help you make a seamless transition. 

Re-establish Relationships

One of the best things you can do to help ease your way back is to re-establish your relationships. If you’ve been removed from your normal work setting for an extended period, you may need to touch base with co-workers to find out what they’re up to. Chances are, they share your concerns about returning to work, and they may have helpful ideas for the weeks ahead.

Creating and maintaining positive work relationships a great way to make your workday more pleasant, and it also can ease your transition back into a traditional work setting. By inviting your co-workers to lunch, giving them a call, or making any other kind gesture, you’ll be able to rebuild these relationships quickly. 

You also may have lost touch with your clients. If you have, be sure to reach out via phone or email. You can even send them special discount codes, branded gifts, or other reminders that you and your company value them. 

Discuss Safety Precautions

To reduce anxiety about returning to work, take time out to discuss safety precautions with your co-workers and managers. 

First of all, find out how personal protective equipment (PPE) is being handled. Regardless of your line of business, your employer is responsible for providing safety supplies such as face masks, soap, and hand sanitizer. You may also consider asking how often the office is being cleaned, and how frequently the bathrooms are being sanitized. 

Your employer might want to consult guidelines established by the porta-potty industry for restroom-to-staff ratios and cleaning/sanitizing schedules. These companies know what they’re doing since their bread and butter depend on the distribution of restroom traffic and maximizing cleanliness for large crowds. Tapping into that knowledge could help your company keep everyone safe in the long run. 

Be Prepared for Unexpected Changes

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things can change drastically and instantaneously. So consider that your desk location, job duties, company rules, and other familiar aspects of your job may have been altered in your absence.

Some changes will have been made for safety reasons; others may have come in response to financial challenges your company is facing. The best thing you can do is become more flexible, and be prepared to face these changes head-on. 

Return to the workplace with a positive attitude and an understanding that things now may be weird or awkward, but you’ll get used to them in the long run. And who knows? Shifting job duties may open up a new career path you hadn’t considered.

Secure Your Home

As you move back into the workplace, you’ll want to protect your household and related finances. In the current environment, it’s easy to worry about money and unexpected expenses, and it makes sense to plan for the worst. 

Take some time to assess your mortgage or rental agreement, your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, and your utility bills. Having a handle on these aspects of your financial life can help you devise a budget that fits your current situation.

Also consider looking into a home warranty (which differs from homeowners’ insurance). With this coverage, you can rest assured that major repairs, such as those to your HVAC or electrical system and major appliances, are covered. This can reduce your financial anxiety and make it easier to focus on work. 

Update Your Skill Set

Lastly, you definitely want to take the time to update your skill set. No matter what industry or sector you work in, you should always take every opportunity to polish up your skills as much as possible. Not only will this make you a more valued employee, but it can also put you in a better position to compete with others returning to a deeply competitive job market. 

Consider learning a new language, training to gain new technical skills, learning to drive heavy equipment like a stick-shift vehicle or forklift, or anything else that might make you a more valuable employee. As you acquire more skills, your confidence will grow, and so will your ability to climb the corporate ladder.

No matter how you feel about returning to the workplace, you should be prepared to deal with a work setting that’s much different than the one you remember. By heeding these tips, you’ll be well on your way to returning to your position, however it looks now, without anxiety and fear. 

By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com

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