There was a time when we were encouraged to keep our work and personal lives separate. Keep your work at work. Don’t check your email at home. Don’t bring personal matters into work. Although I agree that it’s important to find work-life balance, it’s near impossible to do so now that a lot of companies are moving towards remote work out of necessity.
Whether this is a temporary trend or becomes a more permanent policy remains to be seen. While we wait for things to shake out, we can focus on what we do have some control over. Setting up an effective home office is crucial to staying productive while working remotely. Here are a few tips I’ve learned in the past six months regarding both remote work and remote research:
1. Dedicate a quiet area in the home to set up your workspace
- The fewer possible distractions you have the more you can focus. This can be difficult if you’re sharing your space with roommates or if you have a family with kids running around. If you’re unable to find a place for the whole day, try to work out a schedule where you at least have access to a quiet area for a few hours in the day and schedule your meetings or sessions with participants at that time. Having people walking in and out of the screen or talking will be distracting to both you and the research participant.
2. Set up a nice background for your video calls
- Open up a video call on your own and check to see what others see in your background. Is it messy? Can they see people walk by in the back? Is it showing your personal items? This might be a little harder depending on the layout of your home but try to spruce up the layout of the room behind you to make it look a bit more professional (while also keeping your personality of course). Participants may take you less seriously if they can see your unfolded laundry in the back.
3. Invest in a nice desk
- Your desk is arguably the most important piece in the home office. Working from the couch or the kitchen table gets the job done, but having a nice desk can make you feel like you’re back in your office and allow you to feel more productive. If within your budget, I suggest investing in a standing desk to help with posture and to break up the monotony in the day by switching from sitting to standing, especially if you are running back-to-back user sessions all day.
4. Invest in a good chair as well
- Ok I lied, your chair is probably more important than the desk. If you’re like me and often forget to have good posture, having a comfortable chair will help negate some of the future back pain. Ideally, you shouldn’t be sitting for the whole day. Get up and walk around occasionally to help get your circulation going, but when you are sitting down make sure your “throne” isn’t the same chair you used in your college dorm.
5. Make sure you have good lighting in your work area
- This can easily be overlooked, but having good lighting can prevent eye strain as well as making you look your best on video calls. No one needs to know whether you’re wearing pants or not for the meeting, but having good front lighting will make your face appear more clearly in the video call. Your user research participants will appreciate it. 👍
6. Keep your desk clean and organized
- It’s easy to lose track and clutter your desk, so try to treat it like your work desk and keep it clean. Take the hint. If your 7yr-old says your desk is messy, your desk is probably messy. You can also look in storage options that can go on your desk or a cabinet to go under it. There’s a lot of options that are both functional and stylish.
7. Add your personal touch
- Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you can’t personalize your working area. Make it feel like yours. Add some house plants. Add some nice speakers. And if you’re not sick of your family yet, you can put up some family photos to remind yourself that teachers have it really hard and they deserve way more pay for babysitting 30 kids all day. 👩🏫
Remote work and/or remote research may or may not be here to stay, but investing in a good home office should no longer be a luxury but a necessity. View more articles related to running remote studies during COVID here. Or simply click below to subscribe to our blogs and monthly newsletters.