This was co-written with Mike Drumm, franchise attorney and founder of Drumm Law. Mike has been running a virtual company with many employees for 10 years, I have for 8. We wanted to raise our voices and see if we could help those of you that find yourself in a novel situation.
We are facing a serious situation. There is a plethora of information out there about how to stay safe, what to do in case of exposure, and how businesses should react to this pandemic. What seemed to be missing, however, was the "how" for folks who don't work from home on a daily basis.
Novel coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. We really, really don't like these words. Why? Let us count the reasons - at least our own top 3 immediate ones - before unveiling our 10 tips on how to set up a home office!
- My mother is undergoing serious medical treatment right now. By right now, I mean as I am writing this on Friday the 13th. I am waiting to hear the outcome of her most recent surgery.
- My fiancée is (again, as I am writing) at the dentist getting some work done. It was questionable if they were going to cancel this appointment because of a shortage of medical supplies.
- My business partner is in Toronto. I am in Dallas. We had a 3-day, in-person working session planned for this weekend. It would have been our first face-to-face in months, and also his first time meeting our newest client, who is about to become a franchisor. He canceled because of a myriad of concerns, including trip delays, unknown reaction when he returns to Canada, and, most important, the fact that he has family members in the "high risk" category. Frankly, the risk wasn't worth the benefit of face-to-face, so we are doing this weekend's work remotely.
- School for my three kids (10, 8, and 6) has been shut down for at least three weeks. That means Dad trying to get work done with a full house (see below for tips on that!).
- Three industry conferences were cancelled just in the past 24 hours, with more to come.
- Sports have been cancelled. Let me repeat: No Sports! All sporting events in the near future have been cancelled indefinitely.
We two are at an advantage to many, however, in that although we may not be immune to the virus (okay, no "may" about that), we are inoculated against the laundry list of issues that come from switching suddenly to a home office. Michael Peterson has been running a company with a completely remote team since 2017, and Mike Drumm has been running a completely remote law firm since 2010. In a conversation we had on Friday, we realized that many people currently affected by this pandemic don't have the remote experience we do - and that we might have something extremely timely to offer to the many office-dwellers who suddenly have become part of the remote workforce. So, here are our top 10 tips on what to do if you are suddenly, unexpectedly, a remote worker.
- Get out of your bedroom We have both observed that friends and family who occasionally work from home end up propped up in bed with their lap desk, relaxing and working in their pajamas. This might work for you if you are working from home for one or two days. If, however, you are sentenced to 2 to 4 weeks or more of home-based work, get out of the bedroom and off the couch now and get dressed. It doesn't have to be a formal work outfit, just no pajamas.
- Set up a workstation. Hopefully you have a desk at home. If so, declutter it, set up a monitor (or two), a keyboard and mouse, and make it a workstation. If you don't have a desk, look around for something that can fill in. An unused kitchen table, outdoor camping table, anything you can set up as a dedicated work space. Still no luck? As of Friday, there were 3 desks for under $50 that, at least in Dallas, one could get from Amazon, delivered by Sunday. Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and others all offer same or next day delivery now. Seriously, get a desk. And an office chair. You'll be all in for under $100 or $200 if you have to buy them both online - and maybe you can talk your employer into covering it.
- Setup a work area. The most important part of the work area is a door that closes, a physical barrier that is where you go to "work." Here is what we would suggest, in order of preference, for your work area:
- A home office. If you already have one, clean it out, air it out, and you're good to go.
- A spare bedroom. Rearrange some furniture. Make sure you can fit your desk and chair and still get in and out comfortably. Stack the bed against the wall if needed. Remember, this is short-term.
- A section of the garage Rearrange some furniture. Make sure you can fit your desk and chair and still get in and out comfortably. Stack the bed against the wall if needed. Remember, this is short-term.