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Part of Western Governors University

March 30, 2020

Online University Experience

Master working remotely (part 1).

Tips to help you win at working from home.

Whether working-from-home is old hat or a brand-new way to do business, during the early part of 2020, it’s become the norm for many workers nationwide. Even if it’s not your first remote-working rodeo, there are several tips and tricks to maximize outcomes while out-of-office.  

Few know that better than WGU’s faculty and staff, including program mentors and course instructors. Those folks have mastered working remotely and have advice to make you as efficient at your kitchen table as in your cubicle.  

If your current job can’t move online, but that type of work piques your interest, check out these six tips to consider when seeking work-from-home-opportunities

woman working from home, with dog

Get your space ready. 

At first, it might seem fun to cuddle up on the couch with your laptop. However, you'll soon find that system painful to your productivity — not to mention your back. It’s best to dedicate a space solely for work. A “home office” will help get your mind right and minimize distractions. 

Choose a workspace that isn’t associated with fun and relaxation — and make it your own. Feel free to decorate your space and make it comfortable. If you can, invest in a good chair or standing desk. Pick a place with plenty of natural light. Finally, keep temptations, such as the TV and video games, out of your field of view.  

As much as possible, try to make your home office resemble your work office. “Do your best to make your workstation ergonomic,” says WGU evaluator Tara King, “Put your monitor on books or get a keyboard and mouse so that your laptop can be up higher.” 

Your work area should have a strong internet connection and the tools you need to be effective, such as dual monitors, webcams, headset or speakers. See if your employer is willing to offset some of the expenses for your home office or lend you the equipment. 

Also, consider some sort of background noise to drown out the ambient sounds of home. It could be a whitenoise machine, soft music, or a podcast playing on low volume. Your best bet might be video game soundtracks, which are designed to simultaneously stimulate your senses and blend into the background of your brain

Once you’ve established your workspace, set boundaries with the other people under your roof. “Make sure your family knows to leave you alone during meetings,” says WGU evaluator Adele Darr. “Or find a quiet spot where family doesn't drop in on you.” 

Manage your time effectively. 

A day at the office often follows a familiar cadence, but setting the routine at home is almost entirely up to you. Make a schedule and stick to it. If you find that you’re most productive during nontraditional hours — for example, from 11 am to 7 pm — see if your manager allows flexible hours. Whatever your timeframe for work, begin and end on time. Just like the temptation to take a midday nap, resist the urge to put in unnecessary overtime. Your mind, body and family will thank you. 

First thing in the morning, make a to-do list and map out your day. It’s recommended to build momentum into the day with a healthy, nonwork activity, such as taking a walk, eating breakfast with your kids, and putting on work clothes. 

“Some think it will be great to work in jammies,” says WGU evaluator Terri Marvel. “I believe a worker is more engaged and productive if they are able to begin the day with their usual routine, as if they are going to work. Of course, one can wear comfort wear but having some normal routines in your life helps with stress.”  

“People should work in the way that is most productive for them,” says WGU course instructor Hope Walker. “If you work well in a suit and tie... then that is how you should dress.” 

Once your nose hits the grindstone, make it your goal to get at least one task done as soon as possible. You’ll be surprised how early wins set a tone for success and make the rest of your day easier. 

Perhaps most important, however, is avoiding distractions. Making cruising social media more difficult by logging out of all your accounts and deleting saved passwords. Better yet, use apps like StayFocused on Google Chrome to block tempting websites during work hours. If you’re using your personal laptop, you can create a separate toolbar for professional use. 

Finally, don’t let others take advantage of your remote status and avoid granting favors. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re available to do chores, like running laundry or mowing the lawn. 

Become tech savvy. 

You’re probably used to having an ace IT department or a trusted colleague to contact if you have trouble with your computer or internet connection. However, at home, help might be hard to find. Be willing to troubleshoot tech problems on your own — and, remember, YouTube is your friend. No matter what you want to do — from mastering a video conferencing platform to improving your internet connectivity — chances are there’s a video to teach you how. 

Remember: if your internet is down, you might not be able to look up troubleshooting guides online. Consider printing or writing down certain instructions in case of connection issues. 

If you are already a tech master, you can become a valuable asset to your colleagues who are still learning. “Right now, what I am offering my colleagues... is technical help with web conferences and building presentations,” says Walker. “I’ve given my assurance that I will stand with them no matter what happens, and they can call at any time.” 

Look for Part 2, coming later this week. 

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