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Lessons from 30 Years of Working Remotely

Laptop on a desk, surrounded by houseplants

Many peo­ple work from home post-pan­dem­ic, and I’m hap­py to be one of them. When I start­ed work­ing from home in 1990, though, it was high­ly unusu­al. After 30 years of work­ing remote­ly, I’ve learned that sev­er­al key fac­tors will add to your success. 

First, have a sep­a­rate space with a door that clos­es. A sep­a­rate office will lead to bet­ter focus dur­ing work­ing hours. It will also allow you to walk away from work and close the door after work. That room needs good sound­proof­ing and excel­lent lighting.

Next, pay atten­tion to ergonom­ics. You need a high-qual­i­ty chair. Some peo­ple find a footrest help­ful. If you use a lap­top com­put­er, get a stand to bring it up to the right height. An exter­nal key­board, mouse/trackpad, and mon­i­tor will sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve your sit­u­a­tion. The mon­i­tor (or mon­i­tors!) should be placed so you don’t look up or down or turn your head to see the screen. Your key­board should be at the right height for you, not at the height of most tables or desks I use a stur­dy keyboard/mouse tray mount­ed under my desk.

Third, get­ting sup­port from IT peo­ple at home is more chal­leng­ing, so you need to be more mind­ful of what you’re doing. Every­one will have tech­ni­cal prob­lems at some point. Pro­tect your data! I back up to a cloud ser­vice and use an exter­nal hard dri­ve with Time Machine.

You can only work well if you are healthy. It’s too easy to get hyper-focused on work and blur the bound­aries between work and per­son­al life when you work from home. Turn the com­put­er off at the end of the work­day and walk away. Make time for move­ment and fresh air regularly.

Final­ly, be mind­ful of stay­ing in touch with your co-work­ers. Make a lit­tle time for chat­ting. Find out how they spend their time away from work. Pay atten­tion to their moods and ask how they’re doing, just as you would if you were in an office with them. If you’re in lead­er­ship, con­sid­er mak­ing time for team-build­ing exer­cis­es or social­iz­ing to open meetings.

Pho­to by vadim kaipov on Unsplash