U.S./International Business News

How to work from home now that your boss doesn’t want you coming in

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If your company is making you work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, here’s what you need to make that transition work.

In times of crisis, the ability to work from home often saves the day. If there’s a snowstorm or hurricane at your door, if you’re ill or you have a sick family member, or if another emergency prevents you from commuting, remote work gives you the flexibility to get things done outside the office. Given the social distancing that’s being asked of people in areas affected by the coronavirus, you might not even have a choice but to telecommute. If you’re not used to working from home, however, this can be a jarring experience — it’s hard to switch from a familiar office environment to suddenly working in the space where you sleep and relax.

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In collaboration with Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The New York Times, here’s how to get the best out of working from home, stat.

Get familiar with your company’s telecommuting tools

If you haven’t already installed your company’s preferred videoconferencing services, VPN services, and other tools that make remote work, well, work, now is the time to do so. (If your company doesn’t already have tools, Wirecutter recommends Zoom for video and TunnelBear for VPN.) This will help keep you connected to your teammates and the company resources you may need when you’re offsite. Consult your friendly I.T. department for instructions on remote access so you can connect to the company’s servers or to your office desktop computer.

Then — this is the important part — test these tools at home. When I previously managed the VPN and I.T. services for a small company, several teammates had issues the first time they connected to the servers remotely, and it sometimes took half a day just to troubleshoot the problems. It’s best to make sure everything works before it’s critical for you to connect.

Get useful gear, even if you work from home only occasionally

Even if your remote-work arrangement is only temporary, some gear is worth investing in for your comfort and productivity. Wirecutter recommends:

  • A great webcam like the Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam: To frame yourself in the best light, whether you’re videoconferencing or checking in with distant family.
  • Noise-canceling headphones like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700: To block out everyday distractions like traffic noise or your neighbor’s dog barking. They’re handy to have on airplanes, too.
  • A laptop stand like the Rain Design iLevel 2: To prevent hunching over your computer, since this causes strain on your shoulders and neck.
  • A Wi-Fi hotspot like the Verizon Inseego Jetpack MiFi 8800L: To keep you connected if your home Internet goes down. Most people can use their phone as a hotspot, but that drains the phone’s battery and can hog your phone plan’s data limits.

Ask your employer if it will reimburse you for these home-office essentials. Other expenses you should be reimbursed for include: Internet access, office supplies, and co-working fees (if you work out of a co-working space). These are items you can’t deduct on your taxes, but the company can on its taxes. If telecommuting becomes more regular for you, your employer might even spring for other essential home-office gear, such as a monitor, an external keyboard, an office chair, and a height-adjustable desk, to make working from home ergonomic.

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