Much of the workforce has been thrust into a brave new world: working from home. Remote work comes with new hurdles, which may include reduced or more difficult access to IT support, as well as novel challenges to maintaining a schedule and productivity. We’ve consulted with some of our remote-work veterans to share a few tips and tricks remote workers can take to minimize technological disruptions and maintain their physical and mental health.
Hard tips for hardware
Reboot your desktop or laptop daily
Resetting a computer wipes away the current state of the software, including any problems that have developed, and allows it to start over from square one. It’s easier and faster to start from a clean state than identify and fix any problems that may be occurring. In fact, in some cases, it may be impossible to fix problems without beginning from that clean state.
Reboot your home router and/or cable modem weekly
Routers are like small computers: They use memory, a processor and an operating system. That means they also benefit from a fresh start every now and then. Your router can run out of memory or slow down until the system grinds to a halt. With less than 1GB of on-board memory, the average wireless router can get hung up in download requests. But a quick reboot of your router will flush away all that baggage. During a reboot, routers are pretty good at finding channels with less traffic, thereby raising their performance speeds.
Optimize your bandwidth
Be aware that your bandwidth is not unlimited, and activity on your network won’t be prioritized based on importance. Make sure your children aren’t playing online games while watching five different streaming services while you’re trying to hold a meeting on Skype with video.
Use wired connections instead of wireless whenever possible
Having a fast, stable connection allows your computer to multitask more efficiently; this is even more important when you’re relying on more applications to work simultaneously.
Staying sane in solitude
Stand up and walk around
Either in your house or around your neighborhood, don’t forget to take a 5- or 10-minute break periodically. It helps to clear your mind and reset you for the next task. In an office environment, little things like a teammate walking by or a water bottle needing refilling, often prompt you to do this. With those cues missing at home, it can be easy to forget.
Keep in touch
While conserving bandwidth is important, some tasks are much more efficiently handled by speaking directly with others and truly socializing, if not in person than at least through visual contact. When meeting through video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Zoom, turn on your web cam to be as fully engaged as possible.
It’s easy to fall into a trap of digital-only communications when first working from home, so keep in mind the importance of talking to other people, and not just your family members and pets. Loneliness, disconnection and isolation are common problems in remote work life, especially for extroverts. Even if you’re highly introverted and don’t like socializing, give a few interactive experiences a try so that you’re familiar with them if you ever decide you want them.
Conclusively end your day
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of your workday. It might be a sign off on Skype or Teams, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. virtual yoga class. Something as simple as shutting down your computer and turning on a favorite podcast will do. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
Though many of us may be unfamiliar with the work-from-home lifestyle, our current situation offers a glimpse into the future of work. Even after the pandemic subsides, it’s likely that many businesses will continue to function remotely in some capacity. As employees and managers, we can use this trial run to gather insight into what works, what doesn’t, and how we can better prepare ourselves and our workforces for future success in any situation.
Jeff Shumway, Chief Information Officer of Insight Enterprises, has made a career of serving and protecting. Shumway began his career at the Phoenix Police Department, working with civilian developers and programmers on the computer terminals that go inside police cars. He later moved to the private sector, where he gained expertise in SAP enterprise resource planning implementation. He has been with Insight since 2005 and is responsible for ensuring the company’s IT systems are secure, up, performing and stable.
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