The Shelter in Place from COVID-19 means more people are working at home and using video conferencing call platforms like Zoom to communicate face-to-face with their colleagues.
After 6-month of becoming a heavy user on Zoom for calls with co-workers and clients, I’ve got a few fun tips to share:
Wear a green shirt and you can use the Virtual Background feature to change the pattern. Choose from Planet Earth From Space, Blades of Grass, and the Golden Gate Bridge. (oh yeah, and also a fitting tip for today, St. Paddy’s Day!)
Decorate the wall behind your video screen with some visual interest. I have three handmade skateboards hanging on my wall, plus a picture of the family, and a small wood sculpture I made. They sometimes help break the ice with small talk.
Related… remove the clutter. Visual distractions can capture your call-mates attention when they should be paying attention to other things.
Get a good set of headphone with microphone. My company sends all new employees a Sennheiser Headset. The sound is great, and it’s so comfortable on my ears.
In August 2019 I left my job at Apple and took a new job with a totally “Distributed Company” in which all 1,000 of us employees work remotely, in 70 countries around the globe.
I love my new handmade office, but it was a big change compared to the office I left at Apple Inc. — as you might expect, a post-modern mix of glass, granite, and stainless steel. And that was just my team’s little offsite building a mile away from the magnificent circle-shaped Apple Campus that defies all definitions of “Going to The Office.
Six months in on my new work-from-home job, I’ve decided to update my Top 10 Tips for Working from Home with a few additional benefits, that only came to light in the face of this global pandemic!
A week into my new “Work From Anywhere” job @Automattic I wanted to recap all the good advice I received and put into practice for working remotely.
My Top 10 List:
10. Eat Lunch! Remembering this was harder than I thought. 9. Don’t eat too much. My friend advised 10 pushups every time I opened the fridge, so I mostly avoided it. 8. Exercise! I found time for a long bike ride (almost) every day. 7. Related, I took a mid-day dog walk and now Pepper likes me best. 6. Get out of the house. I met a group of co-workers in Alameda at a co-working space and we ate lunch at nearby Burma Superstar. Highly recommend.
5. I’m happy to have my dedicated space to work, tho, and my handmade desk (see previous post). It’s a great way to let the family know when I’m not available. 4. A dedicated space also means it’s easy to avoid and not get sucked into after-hours comms. 3. Turns out there’s lots of noise no matter where you work, so I downloaded a Mac app called Krisp that mutes loud background noises for calls. 2. Related, I decorated the wall behind my new desk with some non-distracting art to add visual interest to the background on video conference calls. 1. Wear pants! At the end of the day, I knew work was done when I got to change into shorts and a t-shirt.
I start a new job on Monday and I want to brag about my new office.
First of all, there’s the commute: I get to walk to work with a cup of coffee.
It has a fully-stocked kitchen that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offers around-the-clock pour-over and all-you-can-eat snacks.
In addition to my personal office, there’s an outdoor patio and a second-floor deck with WiFi and pleasant views of the Santa Cruz mountains to gaze at while I do my heads-down work.
I also get to bring my dog, Pepper! She hates to be alone all day and now she gets to hang with me, take occasional walks and fetch breaks, and lay around on her pillow in the company of her familial pack.
My hours are flexible, which helps when it comes to shuttling kids to and from school and sports, or just finding a few minutes to hangout with my friends and family, exercise, or enjoy my hobbies.
The motorized adjustable-height base has four presets.
But let me tell you about my favorite thing of all: my custom handmade adjustable-height computer desk. The tabletop is made from a glorious slab of California Walnut, sustainably grown and milled by a local farmer in Santa Rosa, Calif. It still has it’s original “live edge” and it’s constructed with traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery cut by hand. I can sit or stand anytime because the desk has a motor that adjusts the height with the press of a button.
Here’s the best part: I got to build my custom Walnut desk from scratch in the woodshop next door! That’s right, my new office has its own woodworking studio for employees!
For those of you who have not cut through the satire just yet, I’ll come right out with it. My new office is my home office (and that woodshop is my garage woodshop).
Next week I start work at Automattic Inc., the company behind WordPress and a handful of other software platforms and services for publishing on the open web. Automattic bills itself as a “distributed” company with no corporate headquarters. Me and my 900+ co-workers live and work in more than 70 countries from our home offices, co-working spaces, and even a few Airstream campers.
After spending the past five years commuting to and from the towering glass and steel edifice of Silicon Valley’s most famous technology headquarters, Apple Inc., I’m surprisingly ready for the change. And I’ve already started thinking about that next woodworking project.
Two halves of a single Walnut slap are fit side by side with a wavy fault line that follows the live edge of the tree.