Due to the current global coronavirus pandemic, work-from-home (WFH) has just got a big push. Globally a large number of people have been saying goodbye to their traditional offices. Whether you’re working remotely two days in a week or full-time, it’s important to ensure that you are set up to be productive. This includes having a designated workspace with the right technology; ways of dealing with kids, pets, and other potential disruptions; and a schedule that allows for social contact. Here are strategies and tips to be successful as a remote worker.
Know the ground rules
Does your employer require a nine-to-five schedule, or is there flexibility? Are you allowed to work on public Wi-Fi? Which tech tools might you need, such as Signal for video conferencing, or Trello for project management? If you work for someone else, it’s important that your employer spells out the ground rules and ensures you have the appropriate equipment, such as a laptop, as well as network access, passcodes, and instructions for remote login, including two-factor authentication. Be sure to do trial runs and work out any problems that might impede your work. If you work for yourself, you may need many of the same tools.
Set up a functional workspace
Not everyone has a designated home office, but it’s critical to have a private, quiet space for your work. If you can, separate your work area from your personal spaces and use it just for work, not for other activities.
Get the internet speed you need
If you have kids, their FaceTiming and Xbox habits may slow your connection and download speeds. Moving as close as you can to your Wi-Fi router can help (devices that are distant tend to draw on bandwidth), or you can consider switching to Ethernet. You’ll likely need a dongle since laptops don’t have Ethernet ports these days, plus an Ethernet cable to connect your computer to your router.
If you have a barking dog or a jack-hammering worker outside your windows, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones. And if the kids are home and you’re without childcare (say, during the summer or a natural emergency), see if you and your spouse (or a neighbor in a similar situation) can take turns with care—which may mean you have to talk to your manager about working evening hours.
Use phone apps
If your job involves making calls and sending messages, use an encrypted all in one communication app like Signal. The Signal app, available on Desktop, iOS and Android, can send messages and make calls. A message sent over Signal supports end-to-end encryption. This security measure means that if someone intercepted your messages, or found them on a server somewhere, they would see gibberish, not the actual text of a conversation.
Signal is also open-source, peer-reviewed, and routinely audited, which means it’s pretty much always up to date from a security standpoint.
Signal has plenty of features. Signal includes a modern style group chat function, supports multimedia messages including GIFs, can send your location, and you can set messages to delete themselves after a set amount of time.
Signal’s group chat changes will allow administrators to add and remove people from groups without a Signal server ever being aware of that group’s members. It’s designed in partnership with Microsoft Research where an app uses “anonymous credentials” for gatekeeping user entry into a group.
Signal’s “Secure value recovery” feature lets you create a contact book of Signal users which is stored – encrypted – on Signal’s servers. This would be preserved when switching from phone to phone, meaning that you can keep your Signal contacts entirely separated from your smartphone if you wish to do so. The data stored would be encrypted too so it cannot even be seen by the operating system itself.
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