Making Remote Working/WFH More Productive Tips from Your Boarding School in Texas

School Updates
A paper sign reading "Mum is in a meeting 9:30–11. Do not enter!"
Signs of the Times . . . working from home

Like so many others around the world, our Academy faculty and staff are learning how to work from home (WFH) during these days of social distancing. Luckily, we have a Director of Campus Support, Matt McNeil, who has 21 years experience with remote working/WFH. Who better to share some productivity and health tips as we all find new ways to adapt to changing times? Here are some of Matt’s tips:

Set a schedule and stick to it

Setting a daily routine for yourself is extremely important. Routine will help you get back “into the groove” of things. Getting ready for work, like you normally would, puts you in the right frame of mind. Sometimes, when working from home, I’ve done everything except put on my shoes and make the drive to commute.

Get comfortable

You can work in more comfortable clothing at home, but make sure you’re in a comfortable environment as far as temperature, lighting, and seating. Bring snacks!  

Director of Campus Support Matt McNeil working at his dining room table.
Director of Campus Support Matt McNeil working at his dining room table.

Strive for Balance

Strike a balance between alone work-time and interacting with others at home. This balance will allow you to set boundaries to do videos, calls, recordings, or type that important email. Attention to your loved ones throughout the day, on the other, may prevent a little interruption when it seems more important to focus. Try a mix of both during lower task times or on lower priority items, like making lunch while monitoring email via your phone.

 Use your phone for monitoring emails

This is a trap! It’s great to be connected, but you’re always connected.  Checking email is great on phones; however, limit composing emails on your phone unless it’s a short message – this will prevent you from sending messages that are too short/curt, poorly formatted, or contain spelling/grammatical errors.

Have a separate work spot

Try to designate a place where you work where no one bothers you when you’re in this space. This is a good guideline for a boundary, but remember that people will still want to come see you.

Minimize unnecessary traffic

Since we’re all communicating heavily in email, extraneous emails can really fill up the inbox.  Try to send emails to groups only when needed; do not “reply to all” if it’s not necessary. When sending out a mass communication, use the bcc field for recipients.  Remember, the more email you send out, the more people feel obligated to reply . . . because we’re all on email.

A dog barking or baby crying is normal at home

It is OK! When it happens – don’t worry about it too much! People may snicker a little bit because it’s cute at first.  But make sure you try to stop the dog from barking or attend to the kiddos so everyone can concentrate on the subject matter.

Place your phone or computer mic on mute

When you’re not actively speaking or engaging on video and phone conference calls hit that mute button.  Test your mute! Press the mute button and check that the mic is off by simply saying “hey can you hear me?”  It may save you some embarrassment.

Belle Howell's kitchen workspace includes a dry erase board she can broadcast using her laptop's webcam.
Belle Howell redesigned her kitchen to serve as a work space.

Take breaks

It is easy to get into work, work, work mode and not take a break. Get up and walk around, eat your lunch, take whatever breaks you need.  Remember the other loved ones in your household and see how they’re doing!

Is it time to increase your at home internet speed?

If you’re frustrated with not being able to stream Disney+ and Netflix while working, it may be time for a boost.  Asking your Internet Service Provider (ISP) about any upgrades to your bandwidth or your modem may be a smart move that doesn’t even cost you any extra per month. Having 10 Mbps (mega bits per second) at home is just okay for a single user or two.  50 Mpbs is better for two and not bad for a small family.  100 Mbps or more is doing pretty well for a small family.  200 Mbps  is a common speed from Spectrum and is a fast enough connection to do most anything you’ll need for several family members simultaneously.

A peak at Glenn Davis's home office.
A peak at Glenn Davis’s home office.

Schedule emails for a later send

This is convenient if you need to send an email, but not until after a certain time or event has happened. You can compose an email and then it will send out at the time you’ve set. If you aren’t sure how to schedule an email, look for instructions through google for your email service. In Gmail, for example, you just click on the arrow next to the blue “SEND” button, pick your preferred date and time, and his schedule!

Use your phone as a hotspot

This applies mainly when we’re not all self-isolating, but if you’re in public and want to do work, it is better to use your own personal hotspot connection than to use a free open wifi connection when working remotely.  Attaching to an unknown network can expose your computer to hackers that access that “open” network.

Tech whiz Nancy Smith using three displays to support the staff and teachers at our boarding school in Texas.
Tech whiz Nancy Smith requires three computers to support our staff and teachers!

Hope this helps you now and in the future!  Stay safe and healthy, God is with us!

By Matt McNeil, Director of Campus Support

More COVID-19 Information from Your Boarding School in Texas

Stay up to date with the latest news about San Marcos Academy’s pandemic response by visiting our COVID-19 information center. There you’ll find crucial health and safety information as well as updates on how our boarding school in Texas has been affected.