Tips and Tools for Working from Home
NCFP is thinking of all of you at this difficult time. We hope you and your family are well. Like many of you, NCFP has closed its offices and staff has now settled into a routine of working and communicating remotely. For most of us, this is a new adjustment; however, this is not my first stint as a remote employee. In my previous job, I worked for a family foundation based in California from my home on the east coast. During that time, I developed some guidance for a positive remote working experience. Here are some of my favorite tips for working effectively from home.
Work From Home Tips
1) Shower and get dressed every day!
2) Make physical space to do your work.
For me, it was important this space had a door and was distinct—so I could literally close the door on work. At night, put the laptop away so work “ends.” Try to stick to your standard working hours to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
3) Communicate with your housemates and co-workers.
It’s important when my husband works from home that he is going to work and tells my toddler too. I tell my husband when I have video chats and share my calendar. At the office, I put a sign on my door when I am running a program or in a video meeting. Working across coasts, I often had calls that might be a bit outside of typical working hours, so communication is key.
Tell your co-workers what works for you. If you prefer to have them text before calling, let them know. Use your calendar to show when you might be taking a break! Or if you have kids at home, let them know you will be online at nap time or breaks (and tell them when nap time is).
4) Create an “office environment.”
If you’re used to working in an office environment, silence can be difficult. You might find that some background noise or music helps you work.
5) Take breaks.
This is even more important than when you’re at an office. Take the time to eat your lunch. A deliberate break away (or two… or three!) from your desk is important to recharge.
6) Video chat helps!
If possible, ask your boss if you can do video chat for your check ins. I will share some of my favorite tools below.
Cover your webcam when it isn’t in use. With all this video chatting you might be doing, grab a post-it note or a more official webcam cover so you can make sure to be offline. It also helps make sure you don’t accidentally leave video chat on.
7) Make time for fun.
Don’t forget to incorporate some fun! I have held a group, country-wide pizza party and had pizza delivered to everyone at the same time. Perhaps pizza delivery is a tall order, but eating lunch together is a great way to socially reconnect with colleagues. NCFP just celebrated our CEO’s birthday with a “bring your own drink” celebration via Zoom.
Favorite Tools and Programs
Many of the following tools have become ubiquitous over the past few weeks, but I’m sharing them here for that small percentage of you that have not discovered them yet! Also included are a few of my other favorite (and less well-known!) tools.
For video chat, one option is Skype, which will require downloading a program if it is not already on your computer. Skype is usually best for 1-on-1 calls.
For group calls, I’ve had good experiences with both Google Hangouts and Zoom. With Google Hangouts, you can send someone a hyperlink to join. If you’re having a larger meeting, it may be worth using a tool like Zoom, which lets you mute people for background noise, hold breakout groups, and have others call in by phone or app. There is a lot of flexibility, which can be helpful. Zoom has free accounts for up to 45 minute meetings, and paid accounts for longer meetings with additional attendees.
TinyScanner is an app I use on my phone in place of a physical scanner. It takes pictures and converts them to PDFs. By getting creative, you won’t need all the fancy tools you had in your office.
Headphones are handy and can help reduce noise. If you have headphones with a mic, you can type or take notes more easily as you type.
If you’re planning to have many people edit a document at once, a simple and free tool is Google Docs, which allows for easy and instant collaboration by a big group. While you can’t do track changes like a Word document, you can set it so everyone can input suggestions, and you can see edits being made in real time.
Back up your work! In the short-term, you may not have full and continuous access to your company’s server. Consult with your IT department or your boss, but it might be a perfect time to use a home computer back-up service or a free Dropbox account to sync and back up a folder.
If you’re running a virtual retreat, consider using Noteapp or Padlet. Either of these tools will allow you to write ideas on “post-it” notes on a shared virtual screen that can help capture ideas from attendees and facilitate the conversation.
You don’t need fancy tools to replicate an office set up. I used to have my laptop on top of a big law book, with a second monitor, and an inexpensive keyboard/mouse setup that allowed me to double screen. This might not work as well if you’re running after your child at home (trust me on this one), but spend time considering what pieces to need to replicate your space.
Good luck working from home! During this time, it may be a big change, so be kind to yourself and listen to your body, your colleagues, and your family to know what they need. Don’t forget to communicate with your co-workers and colleagues about your needs, too. During this time, everyone will likely be understanding, but they need to be aware of what is going on.
As always, please reach out to Team NCFP to let us know how we can best support you. And if you have a technology tool or practice that you have found particularly helpful, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share with others!