Just a few short months ago, working from home was a luxury reserved for only the luckiest among us. One global pandemic later, and “WFH” is the norm for office workers everywhere.
While there are benefits—so long, commute!—shifting from a well-established office routine is a little bumpier than you might think at first. You likely set up your home as a place to do things like cook, watch TV, and sleep, not take conference calls and run brainstorm sessions. So we’ve pulled together a few of our favorite work-from-home hacks to help make your couch a little more office-like.
Starting your workday only to realize that, unlike the office, there isn’t a pot of coffee waiting for you, is downright disheartening. Maybe you have a programmable coffee maker, but let’s face it—you deserve something special. Get yourself a French press and a bean grinder, and start cold-brewing your coffee every night. Combine 3 parts coarsely ground coffee with 16 parts room temperature water, stir, and throw in the fridge overnight. In the morning, strain it out for the high-powered jet fuel you need to start the WFH day off right. Want to really do it up? Double or triple the amount of ground coffee for a concentrate that you can use throughout the week.
Grow a backbone
Laptops are more ideal for transforming your gait into that of a rock lobster than that of The Rock. Get ahead of it now by setting up your desk or dining room table or whatever makeshift space you use as your work-from-home office as close as possible to these ergonomic recommendations from the Mayo Clinic. If you’re living in cramped quarters and need to use your laptop exclusively on your lap, switch it up regularly. Take meetings from your couch, grab a chair for work blocks, and stretch out on the floor for a few minutes here and there.
Look your best
Your computer’s thumbtack-sized camera is good for making you look as bedraggled as you feel after several months in isolation. Do yourself a favor, and light yourself properly. If you can, work from a bright room, with natural light hitting your face. If that’s not practical, may we introduce you to the secret weapon of beauty vloggers the world over? It’s called a selfie ring, and it’s designed to compensate for the woeful lack of light absorbed by that tiny webcam. Plug it in, and your face will be bathed in light, making you the one person on that Zoom call that doesn’t look like death warmed over.
Drop the mic
If there are others at home with you, they’ll likely make noise at some point. In fact, the laws of WFH physics stipulate that any children in your home will make disruptive noises several times during your annual review. In these cases, the most important keyboard shortcut at your disposal is the one to mute your microphone at a moment’s notice. Here are the shortcuts for muting your mic on the most popular video conferencing apps:
- Zoom: Alt+A (Windows) / Command+Shift+A (Mac)
- Microsoft Teams: Control+Shift+M (Windows) / Command+Shift+M (Mac)
- Google Meet: Control+D (Windows) / Command+D (Mac)
- Webex Meetings: Control+M (Windows) / Command+M (Mac)
Blocking off time on your calendar to do heads-down work is great and all, but it won’t stop people from scheduling meetings. You do have the power to stop them, though. When creating a Google Calendar meeting, click the “Out of office” button and check “Automatically decline new and existing meetings” so no one will interfere. In Microsoft Outlook, there’s a similar option. Go to File > Options > Calendar and click Auto Accept/Decline…. Then check “Automatically accept meeting requests…” and then “Automatically decline meeting requests…” Now go enjoy your peace and quiet!
Looking for another great way to keep your work-from-home time calm? Set up a Burner number to use for work calls. No more handing out your personal number to coworkers and clients, and the Do Not Disturb feature lets you turn off notifications at the end of your workday. And that’s what you call work-life balance—the ultimate work-from-home hack.