How to set up a home office during the Corona pandemic

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“Shelter-in-place”, “social distancing”, “herd immunity”, “flattening the curve” – these are just a smattering of the phrases that are suddenly inundating our everyday speech since the coronavirus pandemic steamrolled over our daily lives.  Hearing them all the time makes the surreal become normal and uncertainty a constant. It’s at times hard to wrap our heads around this sudden disruption to our lives; a disruption that requires so many changes to our routine that we can sometimes feel like we’ve moved to a foreign country.  This is especially true if you abruptly find yourself working from home. 

But it’s not all bad news

You are not alone in this new reality. Many businesses are helping their employees follow social distancing guidelines by supporting a work-from-home arrangement.  The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimated that 71 million Americans could end up working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. And it’s not just big businesses supporting at-home employees. SMBs are too, with many finding creative solutions to support work-from-home options. Today millions of people around the world are working at home because of the pandemic, navigating this new territory like everyone else. While the transition isn’t always easy, it is doable. 

Furthermore, there are ways to make the transition easier. For example, it’s important to establish your workplace and work hours. If you don’t, your productivity will likely decline. The same goes for office equipment. Not having a well-equipped home office can cause your productivity to decline too, so after you’ve established where your home office will be, start nailing down the tech side of your home office.

Nailing down the tech side 

Once you have the green light to work from home, you can start setting up the equipment you’ll need, which is described below:

Desktop v laptop – If you plan to use your desktop PC, you’re probably already all set with display and connectivity options. PCs come with enough ports for connecting pretty much anything you’ll need. On the other hand, laptops, whether it’s your own or company-issued, generally have fewer connectivity options. However, they should have enough for a home office. Just make sure you can connect at least one high-resolution monitor, a wireless mouse, and a wireless keyboard.

Printer and scanner – If your work from home experience has thus far been limited to checking emails, you probably never needed a printer at home. Our new shelter-in-place lifestyle, however, might dictate otherwise even if your need to print isn’t high. Your best bet is to get a printer that can also scan and make copies.

Noise-canceling headphones – We might as well own it; if you’re going to work from home, you’re going to be distracted and short of getting rid of or tying down the spouse and kids (kidding), noise-canceling headphones are what you need. And not any pair of headphones or earbuds will do. Unlike regular headphones, noise-canceling headphones quiet the outside world so you can actually focus on work.

Internet speed and bandwidth – In layman terms, the bandwidth is about how much data can be downloaded or uploaded to your computer and Internet speed is about how fast that happens. If you’re working from home you will need a high bandwidth and a high Internet speed. Otherwise, the quality and efficiency of your online meetings and work will suffer.

Webcams, microphones – Businesses need to communicate, sometimes with clients, but most certainly with coworkers and managers. The best managers and remote workers will regularly communicate and collaborate, but these efforts will be more effective and ‘richer’ using video calls rather than cell phones or email. There are plenty of tools to make this possible, but for all of them, you’ll need a quality webcam and microphone. 

Antivirus – The massive shift towards working from home has exponentially increased the attack surface and hackers are taking advantage of this. The recent corona cyber malware is just one of many examples.  Many businesses will have to rethink their security, especially SMBs that have been lax about data protection. All SMBs should have a managed antivirus that provides comprehensive endpoint protection. Similarly, at-home devices should have antivirus software for privacy protection. Protection for webcams and microphones is particularly important since hackers are increasingly using them to spy on and listen in on private conversations.

Show a little love

Lastly, don’t forget to show a little love to your home office. Proper lighting, a comfortable, ergonomic desk and chair, and clean and organized work surfaces will vastly improve your work-from-home experience. Adding paintings or plants can also improve the office ambiance and offer refreshing visuals that will make your office more inviting. 

Keep calm and carry on… working from home

Even before the Covid-19 ambush, remote work was growing in the US and around the world, and with good reason. It is cost-efficient (a typical company saves about $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year) and offers flexibility, autonomy, and no commuting. The pandemic has accelerated this trend dramatically, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We just need to remember that we’re all in this together and that many businesses are going the extra mile to make things work so that we can keep calm and carry on at home.