Anatomy of a virtual office

Now that you’re working from home 95 percent of the time, the corner of your family room may no longer meet your office needs. Instead, follow these tips to set up a virtual home office that keeps you productive—and gives off the right impression.

Splurge on an ergonomic chair and proper-sized desk. Uncomfortable office furniture can lead to back and neck discomfort, according to the University of North Carolina’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety. The Mayo Clinic recommends that your desk be high enough to leave room for your knees, thighs, and feet. Also, your chair should be adjusted so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor and your thighs are parallel to the ground.

Invest in a large monitor.
Instead of squinting at your laptop screen, consider a monitor that gives you more screen real estate. Westinghouse Electronics even offers a line of home office monitors that use their proprietary EyeRest technology, designed to reduce eye strain.

Let in natural light. Research has shown that natural light can contribute to employee well-being. If you can’t place your desk near a window, consider buying a natural light desk lamp.

Craft the right background. “Your video background is the new body language,” says Karen Tiber Leland, founder of branding company Sterling Marketing Group, with offices in New York and San Francisco. A bookshelf might give the impression that you are well read and thoughtful, while messy paperwork and a Bon Jovi poster might lead people to think of you as chaotic, unfocused, and unaware, Tiber Leland says. Place specific books that show your interests or areas of expertise, artwork reflective of your style, or flowers in a vase to communicate a sense of who you are, Tiber Leland adds.

Add some eye candy. Since you’re going to spend plenty of time in your home office, add personal touches that appeal to you, whether a plant, a vision board, or that Bon Jovi poster. Unlike the items in your background, these are objects that you don’t need to make visible on video calls.



Project Management Tools to Keep Your Remote Team on Track

Now that you’re working with your teams remotely, project management tools are more important than ever. Each takes a different approach, so here are some of the key differences to help you choose the best one for you.

Trello: Trello uses the Kanban Method, which lets you visualize every step of your process. Cards on your Trello board represent your team’s various tasks, so team members can tell at a glance which to-dos need to be done, which ones are in process, and which ones have been completed.

Basecamp: With Basecamp, everything you need for a particular project can be found in one place. That means team members will find tasks, files, schedules, and all communications in a central location, so you don’t have to search through your in-box for that critical email, and there is less need to schedule meetings to update team members on the latest developments.

Microsoft Teams: With a focus on collaboration, Microsoft Teams lets you choose between chat, conference calls, or videoconferencing to make sure you are on the same page with team members. If your office already uses Microsoft software, Teams lets you share and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files in real time.

Airtable: Part spreadsheet, part database, Airtable allows you to organize data in a way that goes beyond numbers and text. Team members can share attachments, leave comments, and collaborate in real time so everyone is always aware of new developments. When a lot of information needs to be collected across different platforms, this may be the tool to use.

Instagantt: If you’re a visual person who likes to work with charts and graphs, you might try Instagantt, which uses charts to show where you and your team members are on the road to completion. You can also see each user’s tasks and progress throughout the life of the project and initiate changes to balance the workload.

Slack: Slack gives you a space to communicate with key members of your team. You can also share files and create separate spaces called channels for everyone collaborating on a specific project. “Depending on your team size, you’ll want to make use of channels,” says Mary Lee Gannon, an executive coach based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Otherwise, the chat room can get too noisy if too many people are in the same virtual space. For example, you can section colleagues off in channels dedicated to engineering, marketing, and even watercooler gossip.


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