‘Safer at Home,’ On the Clock: Tips for Working from Home

A woman sits at a desk working on a tablet and a laptop and holding a cup of coffee.

Credit: monkeybusinessimages

As American society hunkers down to help slow the spread of COVID-19, many individuals — including CSUN employees — are working from home for extended periods, many for the first time.

This arrangement poses challenges, from the nuts and bolts of getting work done to the mental shift of personal and professional worlds colliding.

CSUN Today spoke with Kristina de la Vega, associate vice president of Human Resources, and Ranjit Philip, interim vice president for Information Technology and chief information officer, for tips on a successful transition.

“It’s important to create a balance and separation between your work and home lives,” de la Vega said. “You can take steps to ensure you’re productive toward achieving your goals, by setting a clear schedule and advising family, friends and housemates when you are and are not available.”

Employees and managers should stay in regular contact, even if remotely, de la Vega said.

Mental Considerations

While working at home, it is important to remember that people are drawn to social interactions, de la Vega said. Working from home can increase the feeling of isolation; to help minimize this, use online socialization such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as can technology such as Zoom for face-to-face meetings.

Another primary concern of turning your personal space into a professional setting is maintaining boundaries between the two.

It is important to set a clear schedule, and make sure family members or housemates know you must focus. You may need to establish a dedicated workspace, if possible — even transforming one corner of a room into an ad-hoc “office.”

Creating “clock in” and “clock out” rituals could help you transition to work mode, and then back at the end of the day. Forcing yourself to disengage from your computer at the end of your shift — by doing chores or going for a walk, for example — could help.

Practical Considerations

When working remotely, it’s important to have the tools you need to do your job. These include hardware, software and virtual assets.

Key considerations include:

  • Make sure you have all the relevant contact lists for your job.
  • Make sure you have access to all your passwords.
  • Learn how to forward your work phone.
  • Learn how to check messages remotely.
  • Work with your IT department to ensure access to files and other institutional technology resources remotely.
  • Keep your computer software up to date, as an information security precaution when working remotely.
  • Make sure your computer includes a camera and microphone for video meetings. Most do, but if not, these can be purchased separately.
  • Download software, such as the Zoom app used by CSUN, for ease of use in scheduling meetings. CSUN makes a host of software programs — including Microsoft Office — available to its employees via download.

Tips for Video Conferencing

Many meetings that once took place in person are now taking place on Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. Deborah Heisley, a professor of marketing and chair of the Department of Marketing in CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, provided some tips for successful video conferences from home.

Before a meeting, Heisley recommends you dress as if you were attending the meeting in person — this will make you feel better and more productive, too. Find a quiet space, and ask your housemates not to interrupt you. An uncluttered background is better, and try not to be backlit — avoid sitting in front of a window with your computer facing the incoming sunlight.

“It’s better to have your back against a wall than to have family and friends walking back and forth behind you,” Heisley said. “Try to have your laptop somewhat at face level. Nobody wants to see up your nostrils. Quiet your cellphone ringer before the meeting begins.”

Once the meeting begins, be sure to mute your microphone when you are not speaking, so that background noise isn’t a distraction. After the meeting, if you are going to leave a Zoom or other video conference room “open” for people to come and go on an as-needed basis, check to make sure that you mute your microphone. Otherwise, your colleagues can hear everything that is happening in your home.

Heisley also recommends that video participants turn on their video.

“If you aren’t showing your face, it’s as if you don’t want to fully participate, and people will suspect that you are actually working on something else,” she said. “Look at the other meeting participants while meeting with them, just as you would in a face-to-face meeting. Don’t work on other things while in the meeting, like checking your email or your phone, unless you are checking for meeting-related or work-related and urgent information. Don’t type on your keyboard while in the meeting unless it is meeting-related and you have your microphone off.”

CSUN employees can find more information about resources for working from home, visit CSUN IT’s “Keep Working” page.

Keep up with university updates on CSUN’s COVID-19 updates page.

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