cyBARR Chats Episode 3: The Optimal Remote Office Setup

By May 29, 2020Videos
In this episode, we hear from Hannah Kenney, senior consultant, who has mastered the at-home office setup for optimal productivity. Hannah shares some of the tools and tips she uses to stay on task at home.


Michelle Smith: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. And welcome to cyBARR Chats. A video series, featuring BARR specialists covering a range of topics from cybersecurity, best practices to remote working tips.

I’m Michelle Smith, director of marketing here at BARR. And today I’m speaking with Hannah Kenny, Hannah is a senior consultant here and she is our internal go-to expert on all things remote office setup. So, Hannah, I’m going to dive in with our hard-hitting questions. The first being, how do you set up your space for optimal productivity?

Hannah Kenney: [00:00:34] This is a great one to start with because it’s really broad. And there are so many bases you can cover when you’re talking about your workspace. So the big one, like the important one, is like your physical space and your equipment, right?

This includes things like keyboard, headset or headphones, monitors. If you have like a mouse that you use, things like that. So, for me personally, my equipment choices are super, super important. I make sure I always have a mouse that I use because it allows me to navigate to things quicker. I have my dual monitors, technically I have three right now, which is an absolute dream.

So I love those. And for the most part, your equipment should be things that save you time on the things that you don’t have to think about. Right. If I have a mouse that allows me to navigate to things quicker, that’s saving me time that I could be working on other tasks to do it. So that’s one part.

There’s also apps for productivity. So when I think about equipment to make me productive, I don’t just think about like physical things I have. There are also apps that I use. So an important one that everyone uses would be a calendar BARR uses Google calendar. a task organizer is really important. I have a tasks app that just, you know, brings me through all the things I have going on in the day. And then any other shortcomings do you think you have? So for me personally, I find at the end of the week, I don’t even remember like what I spent my time doing. I struggled to remember, you know, how long did certain tasks take me?

Because I’m so focused in the moment. So I have an app that has a little timer on it and it keeps track of exactly how much time I’m spending on things. So there’re apps and the last one would be your physical space in terms of just like decor. So this is one that I love. It’s my favorite part of setting up an office for myself.

And it’s highly personable to everybody. So lots of people like, you know, muted things, things that help them focus for me. I like bright colors, lots of plants. I like to have based that I go into and it just feels like a breath of fresh air. So again, it’s highly personal too. Each individual person. And for me, I know what I like and what will keep me happy and things that keep me happy, keep me productive.

Michelle Smith: [00:02:54] Love it. So speaking of equipment, what is your one home office equipment piece that you could not live without?

Hannah Kenney: [00:03:03] So might have to be dual monitors far and away. Dual monitors are so important to me that I actually have a portable monitor and I bring that with me whenever I go on site. whenever we’re doing client work, because I mean, there are just no words.

I feel like I move so slowly if I don’t have multiple screens. And whenever I am at home, I use that portable monitor as a third monitor. So they’re actually really inexpensive a lot of the time. you don’t have to charge it up or anything, but one that I use plugs directly into my computer and I can bring it, you know, in an airport.

I can use it whenever I’m doing client work or at a hotel, or just makes things so much easier as you know, BARR is an entirely remote company.

Michelle Smith: [00:03:51] So when you joined the team, did you run into any issues setting up a home office?

Hannah Kenney: [00:03:57] I did. So I actually struggled when I first started because you know, when you go to a traditional office environment, you have your set workspace, you have the computer that they give you and they have the keyboard that they give you.

They set everything up for you and you just personalize it by, you know, you might bring in a few pictures of little desk, plant, things like that at BARR, for the most part, we get sent to our computer and then the sky is the limit as far as what we need to be productive. And so a lot of that has to come from us and our own research.

So. For me, it was a matter of narrowing down when every option is available to you. What do you really focus in on? So I figured out that having a dedicated workspace with all of the equipment that I need just in one place would help me personally be most productive. So that’s what I focused on first getting like a desk, getting a stationary place where I can work all by myself, self away from distractions. And that, that really helped me with my productivity working from home.

Michelle Smith: [00:05:01] What is your philosophy on staying in one in your home versus finding different rooms, different locations within your home to work?

Hannah Kenney: [00:05:11] So I am definitely pro moving around personally, I am someone who, you know, when you know yourself, you know what your limits are. For me, I get distracted by my dog. I get distracted by background noise. If I have someone walking across the street that distracts me. So personally, I use my stationary desks. I find that it keeps me focused.

That said, you know, if you’re someone who doesn’t get distracted as much, you can work anywhere. Right. Absolutely. Do whatever works for you. And I know that personally, if I have specific tasks that are more, you know, cookie-cutter, things that don’t require like intense focus, I’ll go and work on them, like at the table while I’m drinking my coffee or I’ll even watch TV on the couch in the background while I’m working on things. At BARR, we don’t have a ton of things like that, I’d be like, I’m like honed in most of the time, but anytime not, it’s almost like a mini vacation to be able to go work anywhere in your house.

Michelle Smith: [00:06:15] Yeah. You kind of get a different perspective. Change of scenery. I know it kind of refreshes me, like recharges me so that I can go back to my desk and feel like I’m back I’m ready to work on the hard stuff.

So speaking of distractions, you have a dog, you have different noises that happen throughout the home. How do you, is that your main way of staying focused is having your, your space, your office space. So you know that this is where you can zone in, or do you have other tips for managing distractions?

Hannah Kenney: [00:06:44] Right. For me, I find that having a dedicated space. for me, this is just my room. This is my office, and this is where I get my work done. for me, it’s super important that said that’s not true usually for everyone, especially in times like these where people are starting to work from home more and more.

So I would suggest, for the most part, getting the people or the distractions on board with what your plan is. A good example of this, so my husband knows that if my door is closed, that’s no distractions time. That’s, Hannah’s working on something. No quick pop-ins to say, Hey, do you want a coffee or something like that?

It’s just my time to work. And my dog, luckily follows that rule too. If I close the door, she’s not allowed to come in and distract me. She doesn’t know. So it’s not too big of a help. But this can also extend to things like, you know, like my example earlier, if people walking past your house distracts you, close the curtains, you know, take time to figure out what are your distractions and how can I work with those, with the tools that I have, to make yourself, you know, stay on task.

Michelle Smith: [00:07:59] I love that kind of household communication with other members of your family. If the door’s closed, no distractions. I find it totally vital. It is super helpful. Doors are great. They are. So a lot of people switching to remote work, find it challenging to work breaks into the day. So what, what are some tips you have to make sure that you’re getting the healthy breaks you need?

Hannah Kenney: [00:08:29] Breaks are really hard and they’re also super important. I find that when people first start working from home or when they’re just even considering working at home, they’re thinking about all the distractions that they’ll have all the times that they’re, you know, getting up and not actually sitting down and working.

And then I find once people actually get into the groove of working at home, it almost becomes like a nonstop thing. Like you’re always willing to be at your desk and working, you find yourself focused on things, and there are no distractions to get you like up and around. So personally for me, like I said, I use a timer app. So it keeps track of exactly how much time I’m spending on things. 

And I try to at least once an hour get up, I do things like, if I’m starting to feel like a lull in the middle of the day, I’ll go get myself like a sparkling water instead of a normal water. I also find that something that’s increasingly important is to limit your app activity to force you to give breaks. So for example, I find that sometimes people who work from home will have the urge to like keep working on into the evening. I make sure that my apps are set so that I don’t get notifications after a certain time at night. And it forces me to take a step away, basically take all the tools you have optimized them as much as you can and make sure that you are making decisions that work with what works for you.

Michelle Smith: [00:09:48] Fantastic idea on the app settings. I’m so guilty of that, of working too late and said, that’s I hadn’t even thought of utilizing that.

Hannah Kenney: [00:09:57] Exactly. And I also, I find that, you know, during the day, even if there’s a lot of Slack activity going on, we use Slack Slack as our messaging service. If there’s a lot of activity going on in my life really need to focus on something I’ll just close out Slack completely for 30 minutes, you know, it’s not like we’re doctors here. It’s not going to be the end of the world. If someone can’t reach us for 15 minutes or however long, and it allows you to focus in on what we need to get done, or just take a step away. That’s what you need.

Michelle Smith: [00:10:27] Absolutely. Well, Hannah, thank you so much for these amazing tips and for your expertise. We will see everyone next time on cyBARR Chats. Have a great day.