In my new series of short videos, Self-Isolation Tips for the Lone Wolf, I share what I’ve learned from a few years working from home while living by myself. If covid-19 has forced you into this situation you’ll be confronted by a number of new challenges – not all of them professional.
Episode 2 – Routines
Episode 1 – Your new working environment
Hi there, it’s Piccia Neri here, one of the Cloudways Mavericks. I’m a UX and UI expert. And you may have seen me also in my Facebook group, Design for Geeks. But today, I am here to talk to you about something a bit different, because we’re living in special and extraordinary times.
Many of us actually, in fact, probably all of us, are now forced to be cooped up at home. And we’ve gone from having a bustling social and working life outside the home, to being enforced to be at home. Now, I feel, it’s a whole different set of challenges and difficult circumstances to adapt to for some of us. Some of us have the big challenge of being in a confined space with lots of other people that don’t normally spend that much time together. When it’s kids, it’s quite difficult, I’m sure, but on the other side of the coin is those of us who are lone wolves. And we live on our own.
And suddenly, we’re in the same space just by ourselves all day long.
Now, I’m in a good position to give advice about this because I’ve been working from home by myself for the past four years. Even though of course, normally I have a great social life here and I do a lot of outdoors sports. Well, I can’t do that right now. But at least I found myself already perfectly equipped, in terms of technical and all sorts of types of setup.
So I’m going to give you just quick tips about how to set yourself up. There’s going to be a whole series, so look out for it. It’s “Self-isolation survival tips for the lone wolf”.
Your new working environment
Now first of all, let’s talk about your new working world. Your physical environment, however small or—you know, you may be very lucky and live in a really big place. But even if this place is very small, make sure that you set up a comfortable working area. I’m extremely lucky because I’ve got a small, dedicated room. But if you don’t have that, then set up an area that you like, first of all, and that very importantly, it’s easy to hide when you’re not working.
Because one of the pitfalls of working from home is that you’re always in working mode. I’ll give you further tips about that on how to avoid that kind of burnout. But the first one is to make sure that your physical environment is set up in such a way that you can hide your computer, or whatever it is that you use to work. It needs to be easily separated from the rest. And it may be that you cover it, you close your laptop and you cover it with a throw. It could be something as simple as that.
Make sure, also, that you like the area, that it’s somewhat comfortable, that you actually want to go to it, and keep it tidy. I’ll talk about that separately, but I’m sure that you’ll notice that when you work from home, your home gets dirty and messy so, so quickly.
Make sure that the area where you work is separate, and it’s easy for you to tidy it up and hide it.
If you can, don’t set up in your bedroom, because your bedroom should be your sacred space where there’s no work allowed. Make sure that it’s easy for you to get in an off-work mode. If you have an upright screen or a set of shelves, maybe you could use that. I don’t know, it depends on how much space you’ve got.
Sound and vision
The technical setup is also important because you will have lots of video meetings. If you are lucky enough to be in a paid job see if you can persuade your employer to invest in a microphone. Don’t worry so much about the video—if you don’t have a good camera, it doesn’t matter so much. The way you sound is way more important. And if you don’t have an employer, then I would recommend that you invest in that because you’re going to have lots of social video meetings as well. It’s going to make everybody’s experience much, much better.
The microphone that I use is called iRig Mic HD, and it’s actually a handheld microphone. So I think it was conceived for artists, singers and people like that. And I’m definitely not one of them, but it’s very good quality for a really low price point. It sells at around €59 at the moment. So I think that’s a really good price. I’ve had it for years, and it works fantastically well. It’s plugged in via USB, and it actually excludes the noise from outside really brilliantly.
There’s another thing that you can do that has two services: it both improves your sound and it helps with your setup as well. My background right now is books and I’m fine with that. And I’m also so used by now, I do so many lives, so many videos that I’m completely used to sharing my personal private space with the world. You may not be used to that. It may be new to you and you may not want to show your co-workers, or your clients or your boss where you live and what it looks like.
In that case, set up a simple screen.
If your back is against the wall then just cover it with a sheet—a sheet is absolutely fine. And that has the double advantage of actually also improving your sound because it absorbs the sound, the fabric will absorb the sound. In fact, I should be doing that because this room is a little bit echoey and those of you who used to play in a band, will know that also egg containers are brilliant to absorb sound. And actually, I’m gonna have to start doing that. It will remind me of the glory days of when we were all being really crap musicians and singers.
The sheet will also help with you not feeling that it’s an invasion of your privacy because I’m used to it, but you may not be.
Another great investment is an extra monitor if you don’t have one already. Actually I have Dell monitors. I’m a Mac person, but Dell monitors are cheap and have very, very good quality. So I think that’s something else. If you had a bigger monitor in your office or at work, and you work from a laptop, I find it hard to work without my big second monitor.
Look out for more of my tips for lone wolves
So this is all for now. First thing is to set up your workspace in a nice way. If you do one of the things that I suggested, make sure that you can separate it and tidy it up quickly so that when you’re off work, you’re off work. And that is it.
I’ll be back very soon with more self isolation survival tips for the lone wolf. So stay tuned for that. And, above all, stay safe. Stay home.
I’ll see you soon. Thank you.
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Piccia has been a practicing designer for over two decades, working with global brands and cultural institutions. She runs her own global UX and design consultancy agency, Design for Geeks, and offers workshops and courses. She is also known for her talks at international conferences like WordCamps.