3 Things You Must Have to Work Remotely (And 3 You Definitely Should)

I've been working from home at least part-time now since before Node.js existed, and haven't spent more than a handful of days in an office since Hillary Clinton was grilled at the Benghazi hearings. I'm as close to a permanent, remote worker as anyone.

So, for this post, I'd like to talk about the things that I have here at home that have made my remote work a success. I've got 3 specific things you really must have to make it happen for you, too; and 3 specific suggestions that you ought to have if this is going to be permanent.

Must Haves

An Office

Lots of people who work from home work exactly the same way they would in an office--poorly. One of the quickest ways to identify these people is that they do not have an office.

My OfficeNow, my office happens to be a full on separate room in my apartment. But when I say you must, as a remote worker, have an office, what I mean is that you have to have a dedicated space that does not serve another purpose. If you can claim the dining-room table (who eats in formal dining-rooms anyway?) then that'll do. As long as you can setup, and you can let your setup stay setup, you'll be fine.

It's hard to work with the laptop in your lap. You need a place that acts as a desk, full-time, and permanently.

A Door

I know I just said that you could use the dining-room table, and most dining-rooms don't have doors. If you work from an entirely empty home, then you don't actually need a door. But if you're going to share the space with anyone else during the period of time you intend to work, then you need a way to indicate that you're not to be disturbed.

You can close the door and think.

Multiple Monitors

Multiple MonitorsI can't understand how anyone willingly subjects themselves to actually working on the laptop screen. Don't get me wrong, I bought a really nice laptop with a really nice screen, but there's just not enough room on it to keep Facebook open while also watching a YouTube video while also coding.

You probably don't need 3 (this setup is for a computer programmer, after all) but you do need at least one. And because monitors are a pain to setup and tear-down everyday, you need that permanent spot to work from that I mentioned earlier.

Nice-To-Haves

A Sit-Stand Desk & A Top-Notch Chair

In 2017, I was having some lower-back pain. It was a persistent ache, and didn't seem to be connected to my activities day-to-day. It turned out that I was getting that ache while sitting at my desk.

To solve the problem I bought a sit-stand desk (this one is from Autonomous.) It is seriously the best $500 I have ever spent. It lets me stand when I want, and sit when I want. (I even have a setting that lets me use a stepper to exercise a bit.)

If $500 is a bit too pricey for you, then at the very least go to your nearest office supply store and buy a top-notch chair for yourself.

Your back will thank you.

A Window

The big reason everybody wants the corner office is because it has natural light. (Ok, the six figure income and recognition that comes with it might have something to do with it.)

Nobody really wants to work in a cube farm or a basement. You're going to be picking your own office, so you might was well pick one that has some natural light. Not to mention, you may occasionally want to stare out it blankly.

Plus, it's supposed to help boost your productivity! This Harvard Business Reveiw article even calls it "The #1 Office Perk."

So, get a window.

A Dog

So, I am totally a dog person. I'm the kind of person who remembers your dog's name, but not yours. I will cross the street to meet a new dog. I can't think of many activities that having the dog with me doesn't improve.

So, naturally, they improve working from home. Now, hear me out. The dog provides important stuff.

Firstly, when you're working from home, you're alone. And depending on the structure of your team, that may mean spending hours and hours without speaking to another human being. The physical presence of another living thing numbs this sensation.

Secondly, a dog will interrupt you. They want to go out, or have a treat, or just get some attention. Taking the dog out everyday forces you to take a break. Breaks are hard when you're the only one who is keeping track of them. The dog helps you walk away.

And finally, the dog gives you someone to discuss an issue with. My dog, Marney, has been involved in more whiteboard solutions than most of the HR people I know. She doesn't give feedback, but she seems interested, and it helps me work out a problem.

Now, some of these things could be solved with a cat. But...why?

Summary

So in summary here are the three things you must have to work from home:

  1. An Office - A permanent place to work
  2. A Door - To keep that permanent place off-limits to other people while you work
  3. Multiple Monitors - Seriously, huge productivity plus

And here are the three things you really ought to seriously consider:

  1. A Sit-Stand Desk & A Top-Notch Chair - Your back will thank you
  2. A Window - Nobody intentionally works in a dungeon
  3. A Dog - Because it can be lonelier than you first think.

I hope that helps. If you've got any remote-work tips, let me know.


3 Ways Not To Get Phished You Can Start Doing Right Now

One of my clients has been battling it out with a group of email phishing scammers trying to trick employees into divulging PII, and because of their industry, they have a lot of PII.

The Tech Group has gotten involved: the network people are securing things further; the Sys Admins are adjusting their filters; and they've even added a banner to every email that originates outside the organization.

But, what about the rest of us? Here are three things you can do to avoid getting phished.

1. Never Email Personally Identifiable Information

Never send out an email containing any information you wouldn't normally feel comfortable shouting across a room filled with strangers. Email is inherently insecure. Do not email, under any circumstance, banking or sensitive personal information. Pick up the phone. Then it's just between you, the person you've called, and the NSA.

2. Don't Be So Damned Click Happy

Links in an email are a great convenience, but for most people, they're also dangerous. When you click a hyperlink in an email, you're not entirely sure where you are going to end up. In about 10 minutes, I can make a website that looks just like your bank and gathers your login credentials. You might not even realize that you've been phished.

Instead of clicking that link, go to your browser and type the address to your bank in. That way, at least, you're sure where you end up. This same idea applies to replying. If you get an email from someone looking for PII, call them up at the main office line for the company rather than replying. Basically, be sure you know who you're communicating with.

3. Don't Lose Your Cool

May of the most egregious phishing scams attempt to use a false sense of urgency to get you to act before you've thought through your actions. It is unlikely that your grandson and has been kidnapped by a Mexican gang. Especially if they're not in Mexico.

If you're being asked to send money on behalf of a relative, confirm with other relatives that the details make sense. Under no circumstances should you act right away. Even kidnappers understand due diligence. So, don't get pushed into acting without thinking.