13 Tips, Tricks and Must-Haves when working from home: Designers, Engineers and Professionals

Hey Everybody,

Welcome back to the blog, since today is Friday the 13th and with all of the news and concern surrounding Coronavirus, I wanted to take some time to share 13 of the best tips and must-haves for Designers, engineers and professionals in general that are either new to working remotely/from home or perhaps have been required to due to the recent Coronaviruse/Covid-19 outbreak and isolation.

While we are not currently under isolation here in BC, Canada, over the years I have spent a considerable amount of time working remotely both from home and on projects that required extensive remote work/collaboration and have accumulated a pretty good list of some of my go-to’s, must-haves and overall tips for getting the most out of working from home and help you avoid some of the frustrations and hic-ups along the way.

1. Take your work hardware/supplies home with you:

I hope this one is obvious to all or at least most of you but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget your work laptop at the office, or more likely, forget the hardcopy drawings, markups, notes or files that you will certainly need on your desk back at the office. This also applies to many of us who work with large workstation PCs due to the large files and hardware needy datasets we deal with every day, take home the entire PC, monitors, keyoard etc.. assuming your work is OK with it, which they should be if they want anyone to actually get anything done, simply pack it up and setup at home.
2. Good Coffee:

Once again this one should be obvious, but make sure you’re stocked up on not only your usual day to day necessities when it comes to food, snacks, and household supplies, but also stock up on the less obvious ones. Especially for those of us who have become spoiled when it comes to work provided perks like coffee, snacks, water, etc.. it can be a lifesaver and it’s looking like this could be a long haul so coffee could be at a premium.
3. Create a separate space for work:

If you’re new to working from home it will be very tempting to just plunk down on the couch, chair or even in bed when you finally wake up and start the day. From my experience and for your own sanity and productivity, set up a separate space in your home for work, this could be a spare bedroom, den, home office or even in the basement. You just need somewhere that when you go there you know it’s time to work and if you’ve got kids at home like myself, you’ll certainly thank me later.
4. Remove distractions:

Similar to the previous tip, remove as many distractions as you can from not only your workspace but also from your home/work schedule. It can be easy to get sucked into trying to multitask with chores, kids, cleaning etc. while trying to work and it just never seems to work out. You will save more time by separating tasks into individual goals/priorities and times throughout the day. But This can also be a benefit since now that you’re working from home you will likely have a lot more time in the day as well as the flexibility of working earlier or later in the day or possibly even work half your day early and half later, taking the prime, middle of the day to play with kids, run errands or relax.
5. Music/podcasts:

It can be really tough to adjust to a quiet, lonely home-life, especially if you’re home alone and used to the constant hustle & bustle of an office. Whether it’s the companionship and conversations at the office or just the drone of phonecalls and co-workers you’ve come to enjoy, the adjustment to a completely quiet/still home office is jarring. I like to keep a playlist of music running in the background or on headphones when working at home and find it can help fill that missing office feel a bit, podcasts/audiobooks are another great option.

A few of my favorite must-listen podcasts include:
Joe Rogan Experience
Reply All
99% Invisible

to name just a few.
6. Video conferencing software:

Whether you’re working from home for a large company or simply contracting/freelancing, you will inevitably need to schedule a “face to face” meeting, screen sharing, or work collaboratively on projects.
Many of these will be familiar to you, but some of my favorites for meetings include:
Google Hangouts
Microsoft Teams

Many companies will already be using one of these but it will become increasingly more important and vital for project work, coordination and even socialization during a time that may feel isolating and lonely.

7. Server or cloud access:

This one is tougher to setup on short notice or on the fly, but be sure to check with your IT department on the ins and outs of how you’ll be accessing your files while working remotely. If you a freelancer/contract worker then it will be even more important to figure out your process and methods for file sharing, access, and more importantly backup.

Many companies will have the ability for you to remote/vpn into the company servers for quick and easy access to your project folders and data. just be aware that these services can be slow and will likely be even slower in a situation like this where many more employees than usual are using them.

If you don’t have previously setup cloud file/server access, consider quickly setting up a readily available cloud storage service for the sort term storage and sharing of your files.

I use Google Drive and Dropbox for a second backup of my files and for quick access/transfer when remote.

8. VPNs especially if you are really remote!

Using a VPN is a good idea in general, they allow you to browse the web, access files and protect your data when connected. They do this by routing your traffic through their own servers in pre determined locations. This can also be helpful if you happen to be located in a different country/location and are having difficulty access data or sites due to location restrictions. The most common case of this is when trying to watch Netflix from another country and being unable to watch the same shows as back home, but this can also affect your ability to get data from your work servers, websites that you need to use or even just watching training videos on youtube.

So, whether you stayed in Mexico on vacation for this isolation period and need to get some work or Youtubing done or perhaps you were stranded in Europe and need to access some US servers, VPNs could be an instant must-have.

10. Be sure to confirm network software licenses

I’ve run into this one more than once and it can be easily overlooked. If your company uses network licenses for the software you use and need to work from home, be sure to confirm with them or test it out at home to make sure everything is working remotely before you run into a deadline or panic when you suddenly can’t access an AutoCAD license.

11. Plan meetings and work around your own schedule

We might as well take advantage of the situation and in my mind that means flexibility. Being able to work remotely has a ton of great perks, one of which is the flexibility to get your work done when most convenient for you. If you have kids like myself, then early mornings and evenings tend to work best for working and provide the least distractions. On the flip side, this means that the prime mid-day playing time with the kids is now free to enjoy! Take advantage of this flexibility by scheduling required meetings, collaborations etc, at times that will allow you to work when you want.


12. Remember to take breaks

Another perk of working remotely is the ability to take breaks whenever you need them, it can be surprisingly easy to loose track of time when working from home and before you know it you’ve been sitting for 6 hours straight.  Set a time to remind you to stretch, go for a walk, do a quick workout etc, it really can be easy to not go outside all day but fresh air and exercise is a necessity!
I’ve used and like these break timers I mentioned in my article (4 Tips to Staying organized and productive) which is also a good read for those who are working remotely and need a hand staying productive/organized!

Browser based: Tomato Timer: https://tomato-timer.com/

Downloadable App: http://monkeymatt.com/bigstretch/

13. Pants and non-pjs are now optional

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but why not take advantage of the fact that pants are no longer required and we can literally work in our pajamas as much as we want.
That’s all for today, I hope these tips/tricks will be able to help you all in this new and developing situation, stay safe and good luck to all!


As always, thank you so much for reading and watching, I am super excited to be back and posting regularly on the blog and hope you all will follow along.

Cheers and happy drafting!

Just in case you haven’t checked them out yet, I have AutoCAD templates/title blocks available for download here: http://cadintentions.com/title-blocks-downloadable/ so let me know if you take a look and what you think!

And lastly, if you are interested in Civil 3D, don’t forget to check out intro/crash course to Civil 3d Here: Learn Civil 3D: Check out the Civil 3D Crash Course

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Brandon is a Civil Designer, Aspiring Blogger/Creator, Husband, Father to two Amazing Kids and Tech Aficionado from a small town in Canada. He has been obsessed with design and technology since he can remember and working as a Civil Designer for nearly as long. Brandon’s blog and Youtube channel, CADIntentions.com has been his outlet and excuse for keeping up with new tech and trends in the CAD design world for the last 10 years growing to more than 60,000 subscribers and over 15,000,000 views, while also being the source of many great friendships and unique opportunities. If you would like to Sponsor CAD Intentions or Work together in some way, Please visit my About Page and send me an email: http://cadintentions.com/about-me/