As we come together to slow the spread of Covid-19, many people are working from home for the first time in their careers. Working from home can be a great way to concentrate, block out the noise and get your best work done. However, it's really easy to get distracted or fall into habits that make work/life balance challenging. Skipping lunch because you're too focused on spreadsheets can be just as hard to avoid as staying in your pyjamas all day.
To help keep you safe and connected to your friends at work, we'd like to share some tips we use when we work remotely. Here's a quick TunnelBear guide to working from home.
Stick to a regular work schedule at home
It's easy to think that working from home is like a day off. You don't have to leave the house. All your favourite things are there. You can sleep in late. You don't even need to change or get out of bed, really. The truth is, a lot of people have trouble working without a clear schedule. It might sound fun for a day or two, but when you feel like you aren't at work, it can be hard to get any work done.
Get up and stretch your legs regularly
Sticking to a schedule helps make your day feel more like a proper workday. Getting up at your usual time, getting dressed and ready for work helps put you in the mindset to get things done. It's important to stick to that schedule throughout the day too. Working through lunch and not taking breaks is an easy trap to fall into. Get up and stretch your legs regularly so you're not hovering over your keyboard all day.
Create a dedicated work area at home
We can't stress this enough. Create a space where you can work, and keep it as far away from the rest of your stuff as you can. Having a dedicated workspace not only helps put you in work mode, but it also means you can distance yourself from work at the end of the day.
Just like sticking to a regular schedule, having a dedicated space separates your work life from your home life, and that's a hard thing to do when they're under the same roof. If you have a spare room you can use, that's perfect. If you live in a smaller space, think about using your kitchen table or counter for work, and leave the living room and bedroom for when you're done for the day.
Stay in touch with coworkers
Staying in touch with your friends at work can help keep working from home social and fun. There are a tonne of free communication tools out there to choose from. If you have sensitive information to send to teammates, an encrypted messaging app like Signal or Telegram is a good idea.
If you just want to catch up and have a virtual hangout, Zoom is becoming more popular by the day (we think it's because of the virtual background feature). The video quality is excellent, and it's free to sign up, but there is a 40 minute limit on the call. That shouldn't be an issue for casual calls, but if you're using it for larger meetings, you might want to look into a paid account.
If you have regular video calls, make a space with good lighting, and no distractions behind you
One quick tip, if you have regular video calls, make a space that has good lighting, no distracting things on the walls, and isn't in front of a window. A clean setting helps everyone on the call stay focused on you, not your dirty laundry hamper.
How to secure your home connection to work
You're all set up. You've got your morning coffee, your desk is set up just the way you like, you've caught up with your favourite subreddit, and it's time to get some work done. There's just one problem, your home network. Even if your home network is protected by a password, or only allows specific devices to connect, your data can travel through thousands of kilometres of unknown networking infrastructure to get to work.
Using TunnelBear is a great way to help keep your online activity safe. By encrypting your internet connection, you're stopping anyone that shares, or monitors your network, like your ISP, from seeing what sites you’re visiting or logging your online habits. Since launching TunnelBear for Teams, we’ve learned that advanced research, medical and legal staff are just some of the industries that have started using VPN more frequently.
How to share your encrypted work files
For an extra layer of security, you can protect your shared work files before you send them with an encrypted locker, like Firefox Send. Firefox Send is a great option that allows you to send files up to 1GB for free.
Semaphor, from SpiderOak, is an encrypted messaging app, but it will also let you send files to contacts. Semaphor is currently free to use and is a "zero-knowledge" service, so they don't know what you're sending, or who you're sending it to.
OnionShare is another option to send files of any size for free, if your coworkers are familiar with Tor. It takes a little bit of setup, and you can only access the files through Tor Browser. Still, if security is your primary concern, OnionShare will help keep your data safe.
For the foreseeable future, working from home will help protect you, your coworkers and the people in your community. While working from home takes a bit of adjustment, once you've done it for a bit, you'll see why nearly 81% of people that responded to a recent OwlLabs survey said they would prefer working at home, at least some of the time.
We hope these tips help make working from home more comfortable and enjoyable. Just remember, take breaks, keep in touch with people, go outside and stretch your legs regularly, and above all else, stay safe.