Ideas for Turning a Room Into an At-Home Office

The COVID-19 pandemic turned many professionals into remote workers. Use these tips to create a functional home office. 

The COVID-19 pandemic turned a lot of professionals into remote workers, and it looks like many of us are going to stay that way for a while. Some companies are discovering that a remote workforce is more productive and cost effective, and lots of employees are discovering that working from home isn’t so bad. 

If your work from home situation is starting to look like it might be more permanent than it initially seemed, then it’s time to stop working at the kitchen table. You need a home office. Ideally, you have a spare room you can dedicate to your work, but if not, an attic, basement or even a large closet can be converted into a perfectly suitable home office. Here are some tips to turn whatever room you have available into a home office.

Use as Much, or as Little, Space as You Have

A spare bedroom is the best location for a home office — it’s out of the way, has a door you can close, should have several outlets and probably has windows for natural light. It might even have a ceiling fan and a closet for extra storage. If you’re using your spare bedroom as a guest bedroom, you don’t have to sacrifice that — your spare room can be a home office most of the time and a guest bedroom as needed. If the room is small, install a Murphy bed and use a floating console desk, rather than a clunky piece of furniture.

An attic or basement can also work, particularly if you need a larger space for more than one person to work from home. But you don’t need a whole spare bedroom or a spacious attic to create a private, dedicated home office space. Many large closets can accommodate slim-profile desks or floating desks, with floating shelves above for storage. When you’re done with work for the day, simply shut the door. 

Don’t Sacrifice Ergonomics

One of the most common tips for working from home is that you shouldn’t ignore ergonomics. When choosing a space for a home office, make sure you have room for a properly sized desk (at least 29 inches tall), and a comfortable, adjustable-height office chair, preferably one with casters, adjustable armrests and an adjustable seat pan tilt. If you splurge on one item in your home office, it should be the chair — you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it, after all. A chair without the proper support could cause pain and repetitive stress injuries.

Of course, sitting all the time isn’t good for you, either. A standing desk is a good option, and they’re available at a range of price points. A desk that easily converts from sitting to standing offers the best of both worlds.

Consider Who Will Be Using the Space — And How

Are you the only person who will be working from home, or do you have a spouse who also needs a home office? You might choose a desk large enough to accommodate two people, although you’ll need a room with double the space — like an attic or finished basement, or even a garage

Consider how much time you’ll be spending in your home office, too. Do you work long hours? If so, you’ll want a larger desk and a more comfortable chair, then.

Shed Some Light on the Situation

Indirect light is important in any office setting. Natural light is best, if you have a space that offers it, but you should use curtains or blinds to diffuse it and arrange your desk so that natural light sources don’t cause a glare on your screen. Install an overhead light fixture or add lamps that aren’t directly in your line of sight or right behind you to provide any additional light you might need.

Adjust Your Internet Speed

If you’re going to be working from home, you need to make sure that your internet is fast and reliable. Obviously, there will most likely be an additional cost to increase your internet speed. If that’s the case, it’s worth checking with your employer to see if they will cover the difference or the entirety of the charge. And while you might think your current bandwidth can do the job, remember that if you have multiple people working from home and children doing schoolwork, your normal internet speed probably won’t hold up.  

Install More Outlets

No matter what space you choose for your new home office, you’re probably going to need more electrical outlets. You might also need a hardwired Ethernet connection and other data cabling for your equipment. Take the time now to install the outlets and data cabling infrastructure your new home office needs, so your work hours can pass smoothly and with minimal interruptions.

Working from home definitely has its perks. For one thing, you can’t beat the commute! With a home warranty plan from American Home Shield®, you can protect the systems that make it possible for you to work from home. Try adding electronics coverage to your warranty to protect an unlimited number of eligible electronics, including your laptop, printer, scanner and other devices you might need in your home office.

Home Maintenance Projects New Homeowners Might Not Know About

Content Provided By: American Home Shield

Being a new homeowner is exciting. It can also be stressful with new tasks to take care of. Here is a list of maintenance projects to keep up with.

window-sealing.jpg

Performing regular home maintenance is a huge part of homeownership. It might not be fun — at least, it might not always be fun — but it’s necessary if you want to protect your investment and keep your home in good shape.

The problem for new homeowners is that there are just so many maintenance tasks to keep track of. Even the most detailed home maintenance checklist is bound to leave some off, and with advances in technology and individual differences between homes, your well-meaning older relatives may not even be aware of every single maintenance chore homeowners need to do these days. 

Besides, some home maintenance chores are easier to remember than others. Everyone knows that you need to clean your gutters a couple of times a year, but when was the last time you cleaned your window weep holes, repaired your weather sealing or lubed up your garage door springs? Here are the house maintenance chores that new homeowners not only overlook, but don’t even know about. 

Clean Window Weep Holes

Weep holes are a row of tiny, tiny holes on the outside bottom of your window frame. They’re there to, well, weep. What does that mean? While new windows with tight seals should keep water out entirely, weep holes are there to allow any water that does get inside the window frame to drain properly. But these holes are tiny, and debris can easily build up in them, so it’s important to clean them every six months or so. You can use a pin or paper clip to pick the debris out. To make sure they’re clear, spray water onto your window and check to make sure it leaks out. If it doesn’t, it means one of two things: the weep holes are still clogged, or they’re currently redundant due to a watertight seal around your windows.

Flush the Water Heater

Are you hearing any mysterious banging sounds from your water heater? If so, it’s time to flush it — and fast.

The water in your water heater tank contains minerals that can settle out of the water and build up in the bottom of the tank. If not flushed regularly, these deposits can cause the tank to deteriorate much faster than it otherwise would have. Failing to flush your water heater can shorten its life drastically, which is bad news since replacing a water heater can be hundreds of dollars or more. Flush your water heater once a year and replace the anode rod every five years.

Check and Repair Weather Sealing

A little peeling caulk around a window frame isn’t that big of a deal, is it? On the contrary, poor weather sealing around windows and doors creates drafts, which can lead to increased energy costs, and bad caulk around windows could let water seep into your walls and damage the structure of your home. If you don’t keep an eye on your weather sealing, you could end up with extensive structural damage to the walls and floors of your home.

Check for damage to caulk or rubber seals around your windows twice a year. Repair damaged caulk or rubber sealing, and if you see damage, check for water damage to the wood of your window frames and repair that, too, if you find any.

Clean Your Chimney

If you use a fireplace for heat or ambiance, you need to get your chimney cleaned yearly to remove creosote that could cause fires. Even if you don’t have a working fireplace, you should still get the chimney cleaned regularly. Birds or other animals could get inside of it, build nests, access your house, or die in there and stink up the place. If you’re not planning to use your fireplace, you should have the chimney capped.

Vacuum Your Refrigerator Condenser Coils

Your refrigerator uses condenser coils to remove heat from the inside of the unit, but if they’re covered with dust, pet hair and other debris, they can’t do their job as efficiently. That’s why you should pull your fridge out from the wall and vacuum the condenser coils or wipe them off with a clean dust cloth every few months. Doing so could extend the life of one of your most expensive and necessary appliances — because if the condenser coils go out, the cost of a repair is going to be so high that it’ll make more sense to just buy a new fridge. 

When you’re a new homeowner, it’s hard to keep track of all the house maintenance chores you need to perform throughout the year. A home maintenance checklist is a great tool to help you keep your home in shape. Stay tuned to the blog to get advice on home repairs, maintenance, and improvements.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Pool Safe All Summer

Content Provided By: American Home Shield

With summer already here, your pool will probably get more use. Keeping everyone safe while they cool have and have fun in your pool should be made a priority. Use these tips to make your pool safer this summer.

Nothing says summer like splashing around in the pool. But while a backyard pool can be the source of many wonderful family memories, it can also pose a hazard to your children or any children who live nearby. That’s why pool safety is so important.

As a responsible homeowner, you should take steps to keep kids away from your pool when you’re not there to supervise their swimming session. Follow these tips to help keep your pool safe all season long – you can never be too careful when it comes to kids around water.

1. Put Up a Fence Around Your Pool Area

If you have young children at home, you need to be extra cautious to keep them safe from the drowning hazard a pool can present. You should supervise your kids at all times, especially when they’re in and around the pool area. Putting up an isolation fence is a great way to keep your kids from getting into the pool or hot tub behind your back.

A good isolation fence is at least four feet high and surrounds both the pool and the spa, if you have one. It shouldn’t have any protrusions that make it easy for kids to climb over, nor should it have any gaps or openings that kids can squeeze through. Gates should have child-safe latches that are high enough that kids can’t reach them. The gap under the bottom of the fence should be less than four inches high.

Even if you don’t have kids at home, an isolation fence around your pool and hot tub can save the life of someone else’s child. In many jurisdictions, pools are considered an attractive nuisance because neighborhood kids often succumb to the temptation to break into them for some unsanctioned swimming. Fencing in your pool area can protect neighborhood children and may protect you from legal liability.

2. Install Pool Alarms

A fence is a great idea, but lots of kids are little geniuses when it comes to getting around barriers. Locks, child-safe latches and alarms can all help alert you if your little one gets through any of the doors, gates or windows that lead to the pool area. Every such access point, including pet doors if they are large enough for a child, should be equipped with locks and alarms. You should hear a warning every time a gate, door or window that leads to the pool area opens. A sonar or floating alarm that alerts you when someone or something enters the water is also a good idea.

If your home forms one side of the barrier around your pool area, make sure the windows, doors, gates and locks are not only alarmed, but also self-closing and self-latching. Alarms should reset automatically after someone passes through. Check your pool alarms every month to make sure they’re working properly.

Girls in pool with pool safety floats

3. Keep Up with Pool Repairs

Missing or broken drain covers in your pool or hot tub can present a drowning hazard because young children can get sucked down or trapped in them. Install anti-entrapment drain covers in your pool and spa. If you do DIY pool maintenance, part of your routine should include checking these drain covers to make sure they’re present and in good working order. If you’re having your pool serviced, ask about updating your drains with anti-entrapment covers. Take advantage of your home warranty pool and spa coverage to help keep your pumps and pump components in good working order.

Your pool or spa should have two drains for every pump, because that way, suction from the drains will be less powerful, even if one drain gets blocked. Equip single-drain pools and spas with safety vacuum-release systems, which automatically stop suction if the drain gets blocked.

Finally, exercise good pool safety when preparing your children to swim – tie long hair back or put it under a bathing cap, avoid loose-fitting suits or those with dangling ties and tell your kids not to play near the pool drains.

4. Cover Your Pool When You’re Not Using It

If at all possible, you should cover your pool with a rigid safety cover when you’re not using it. A motorized cover is best for this because you should cover your pool any time you’re not using it, even during pool season. If you use a cover, make sure it fits snugly over the entire pool surface and that children or pets can’t get underneath or trapped in it. If you’re using an inflatable pool, empty it after each use – kids can drown in as little as an inch of water, and you’ll want to use fresh water for each swimming session, anyway.

5. Be Prepared for the Worst

While you might not want to think about your child drowning in your backyard pool, you should be prepared to call 911 if something goes wrong. Keep a phone nearby when you’re using the pool so you can call for help if you need it. Learning CPR can be lifesaving, because the most important thing you can do to save your child’s life if he or she starts to drown is remove him or her from the water and start performing CPR immediately. Familiarize yourself with the signs of drowning – it may not be as obvious as you’d think. And keep a life preserver and a shepherd’s hook near the pool so you can quickly rescue a drowning child or pet.

There’s no reason why you and your family shouldn’t enjoy long summer afternoons in and around the pool, but pool safety should be a top priority when you do so. Moreover, don’t let a broken pool ruin your summer. Have a plan and be prepared for unexpected breakdowns with a pool and spa pump warranty plan from American Home Shield®. 

6 Inspiring Ways Our Community Stays United While Social Distancing

Sewing masks for COVID-19 front lineConsidering most of us never heard the phrase “social distancing” before mid-March, it’s incredible that the principle so quickly altered life. While people in our community kept physical distance from each other in efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19, they continued connecting in creative, inspiring ways — proving that “coming together” isn’t just about getting together in person.

Sunshine Kids for Seniors Project:

Dozens of kids answered the city’s call to create artwork or write letters for seniors in our community. Rather than mail the originals, the kids (and their parents) were encouraged to scan and email photos of the creations, which city officials then printed out in full color and delivered to appreciative seniors.

Beatrice ‘Cruise Night’:

Just like Friday nights of years past, residents of Beatrice came out to “cruise” around town in their cars while waving to friends and calling out hellos.

Living Room Learning:

More than 200 students from around Nebraska and other states participated in biweekly livestream video sessions led by 4-H educators. Each meeting offered fun, educational activities using supplies most families were likely to have on hand.

Park Bingo:

With parks and trails still “open for business,” Lincoln Parks & Recreation created a fun bingo game that families could use while spending time in the great outdoors. You could check off the box for “wave to a new friend” to feel connected while maintaining 6 ft. of space.

Great Lincoln Easter Egg Hunt:

Thousands of people from around our community participated in the inaugural “Great Lincoln Easter Egg Hunt,” which challenged them to decorate paper eggs to display on the windows or doors of their home and then drive or walk around to spot more eggs.

Masks and caps for healthcare professionals:

Members of the Lincoln Quilters Guild — along with many other people from our community — answered the call to provide more masks and scrub caps for healthcare professionals.

Essential ‘Field Trips’ in Lincoln

Essential Lincoln 'Field Trips'Do you remember just how special it was to take field trips during school? An excuse to break out from behind the desk, change up the regular routine and learn something exciting was well worth a bumpy trip on the school bus. But, even better news for adults: You can now skip the school bus and chaperone yourself on some wonderfully educational field trips around Lincoln!

Anyone who has a lifelong sense of curiosity and a love for learning will find plenty to do here in Nebraska’s Capital City. Here are a few subjects to brush up on…

Ace a Test on Local Government at the Nebraska State Capitol:

Residents of Lincoln may see the unique capitol building on a daily basis, but it certainly deserves more than a passing glance. Open daily with tours available on the hour, you can learn about Nebraska’s unique unicameral legislature, the history of the building and more.

Pay the Governor a Home Visit:

Strategically located nearby the capitol building to allow a quick commute for Gov. Pete Ricketts is the historic Governor’s Mansion. Sitting on an entire city block, the imposing residence in a “Modified Georgian Revival” style was rebuilt in 1957. (There were two previous governor’s mansions that didn’t stand the test of time.) Tours are available from 1-4 on Thursdays with reservations recommended.

Get a Lesson on Aerodynamics at the Museum of American Speed:

With 135,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Museum of American Speed offers plenty to learn about the history of automotive racing. Founded by “Speedy” Bill Smith and maintained by his four sons, it has a way of making a car enthusiast out of anyone. Tours are available at 1 p.m. on weekdays.

Buff up on Culture at the Sheldon Art Museum:

With regularly changing exhibits, there is almost always something new to see and learn at the Sheldon Art Museum. This January, new exhibits on “Small Abstractions,” “Sheldon Treasures” and “Person of Interest” are moving into place. Tours are available on a daily basis with requests recommended at least two weeks in advance.

Study Science Trivia at Morrill Hall:

With the world’s largest articulated mammoth, the University of Nebraska State Museum makes quite an impression on visitors of all ages. With fascinating permanent and temporary exhibits as well as a planetarium, you can make a full day of a visit. The museum is self-guided with plenty of information available to inform your tour.

New Restaurants to Try in Lincoln

New Restaurants to Try in Lincoln 2019

Let’s just admit it: It’s easy to get into a rut during the winter. Because it takes extra effort to bundle up, clean off the car and navigate the roads, many of us just stick to nearby restaurants we know or rack up a big food delivery bill.

Consider this your pep talk! Even if it’s harder to get yourself out the door during the winter, it’s worth it to shake up the routine. And with a handful of exciting, delicious new food options in town, your stomach will thank you, too.

Cactus Modern Mexican & Cantina: 5500 S. 56th St., Ste. 1

The latest venture from the folks behind the ever-popular Venue Restaurant & Lounge, Cactus Modern Mexican & Cantina serves up locally sourced, fusion-inspired dishes. How often do you see crab and cream cheese taquitos or chorizo salmon on the menu? Of course, you can also get the classic burritos, fajitas and guacamole!

Seyo Thai: 501 W. A St.

After years of successfully operating an Asian market, the owners of Seyo Thai have ventured into restaurant ownership—and with high marks from critics and locals alike. With an array of reasonably priced, made-to-order dishes, including the classics of spring rolls, pad Thai and more, it’s an excellent way to expand your palate.

Tavern 180: 8600 S. 30th St.

A hit in Omaha and across the border in Ankeny, Iowa, the Tavern 180 “gastropub” opened in March with premier options like Wagyu beef sliders, center cut choice filet mignon and hand-cut Canadian salmon. Plan for multiple courses—especially since the drink menu is extensive and the desserts are basically irresistible.

Rutabagas Comfort Food: 230 N. 12th St.

A comfort food restaurant during the winter? This may become your new go-to—especially because the vegan and gluten-free options are about as guilt-free as comfort food can get. After establishing a loyal fan base through a delivery service, the Rutabagas restaurant opened in September 2019 to offer favorites like the Ruta-Bangin’ Nachos and a vegan take on bacon mac ‘n’ cheese.

Napoli’s: 5571 S. 48th St.

Owned and operated by Chef Besim Shala, who was trained in Europe, Napoli’s recently opened in Lincoln after finding success with the first location in Grand Island. The authentic Italian fare on the extensive menu is made from scratch and includes both old favorites like fettuccine alfredo and some more original options like damabianka.

How To Give Back During The Holiday Season

Giving Back during HolidaysIn the words of Winston Churchill, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

As we pause this month and express our thankfulness, it should also be an opportunity to think about how we can spread the joy within our community. From volunteering to supporting local organizations that do great deeds, there truly are ways for everyone to pay it forward.

Thanksgiving food distribution for the Center for People in Need:

As a community-based nonprofit, the Center for People in Need works throughout the year to provide resources to lift people out of poverty. For Thanksgiving, they host a special food delivery (between Nov. 23-25 this year) and are in need of volunteers. Apply ahead of time to help.

Meal and gift donations for the Friendship Home:

With support, shelter and advocacy services for domestic violence victims and their children, the Friendship Home is an important part of our community. During the holiday season, they welcome meal and gift donations.

Thanksgiving day meal service at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach:

With daily meals for anyone who walks through their doors, Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach serves a wonderful role in Lincoln. With so many meals, they always welcome new volunteers and donations—but especially as they provide a warm Thanksgiving meal. Apply now to help serve.

Gift wrapping volunteers for the Boys & Girls Club:

Throughout the year, the Boys & Girls Club offers safe spaces, educational programs and positive mentorship to children and teens. For the holiday season, they welcome donations and volunteers to help wrap gifts.

These are just a few of the many wonderful organizations that are improving the lives of people in the region. For more information or to discover other ways to get involved—now and throughout the year—you can search greatnonprofits.org to find organizations that match your interests.

Halloween Activities For Rain, Shine, Sleet, or Snow!

Late October in Nebraska: It’s anyone’s guess as to whether we’ll have 80+ degree weather or snowfall. But you can celebrate the spookiest of seasons no matter what tricks Mother Nature has up her sleeve thanks to a number of family-friendly options in the region.

Roca Berry/Scary Farm:

If you’ve been waiting all year for fall and want to make the very most of this month, Roca Berry Farm is a must-do in the area thanks to the pumpkin patch, corn maze, duck races, hayrack ride and much more. But 5:30 p.m. is when it turns truly spooky as Roca Berry transforms into Roca Scary Farm! Although the nighttime experience isn’t suitable for young kids, it’s a great date night activity. (The couple that gets scared together, stays together, right?)

Monster Dash:

Looking for another reason to visit Roca Berry Farm? The annual Monster Dash 5K and 1-mile Fun Run to benefit the Child Advocacy Center is on Saturday, October 19. Aerodynamic costumes are more than encouraged: There are awards for best adult, child and team getups.

Boo at the Zoo:

There’s no need to wait until Halloween to debut your costumes! Held during the days leading up to October 31, Boo at the Zoo features approximately 40 trick-or-treating booths—and entrance is free for season pass holders. Not a pass holder? You can feel good knowing your visit benefits the animals at the zoo.

Lil’ Monsters Halloween:

For some free, climate-controlled trick-or-treating, head on over to Gateway Mall between 6-8 p.m. on Halloween night. There are dozens of vendors, good lighting and plenty of treats to go around!

Trunk or Treat:

If your neighborhood’s Halloween spirit is lacking, take your little ghouls and ghosts to the SouthPointe Pavilions between 6-8 p.m. on Halloween night for trunk-or-treating. That means there is less walking necessary to reap the sweet rewards of a full basket of candy!

Five Lincoln Destinations for Your Summer Bucket List

Women on Donut Floatie in Pool

There is just something about the energy in the air during the month of May. After a long (very long) season of hibernation, it’s rejuvenating to get outside and explore the city again.

With schools wrapping up their semesters and the unofficial kick-off to summer just weeks away, it’s a great opportunity to rediscover what makes Lincoln so wonderful during the summer—and get acquainted with several exciting newcomers to the business scene.

Grab your pool pass: Although the Lincoln Public Pools don’t open until May 25, you can beat the rush—and jump straight to lounging poolside—at that time by getting your season pass online now. Children’s swimming and diving leagues launch their seasons in June, so don’t get caught belly-flopping on registration.

Test out a unique ice cream experience: With one summer of serving out rolled ice cream in the books, Freezing is ready to satisfy even more sweet teeth this year. Following the popularity of their Omaha sister store, the downtown location makes for a perfect mid-day treat. Not to mention the rolled, Thai-style ice cream is sure to be unlike anything even the most passionate ice cream aficionado has tried before.

Smoothies to feel good about: Long before their planned spring open date, Clean Juice has been generating positive buzz on the Lincoln health scene. As the only 100% USDA Certified Organic juice bar in the United States, the new store offers feel-good smoothie bowls, delicious juices and wholesome snacks.

Take a walk around a quieter campus: Now that the commencement ceremony at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has happened, we can expect all of the city to quiet down for a few months—and that is especially true on the campus. But, for locals looking to stroll, this makes for a perfect time to enjoy all that the University grounds have to offer.

Buy tickets for Pinewood Bowl’s first summer event: A clear sign that summer is on the horizon, the first event of the 2019 season at Pinewood Bowl is a performance by the Avett Brothers on Friday, May 17. With a devoted following of fans, you better grabs your tickets now before the show sells out!

Four Family-Friendly Places to Visit This Week

Yellow FlowersThere was a good moment when we never thought we would be able to shed our winter coats and toss those ice scrapers under the backseat. Yet here we are: spring in Nebraska, where the days are long, warm and buzzing with energy.
Strange as it might still seem after a long winter of hibernation, it’s time to get back out there and explore all this wonderful region has to offer. Whether you are looking forward to family adventures that don’t involve 15 layers of clothing on each child or are scouting locations for a date in the fresh air, add these local gems to your springtime bucket list.

Pioneers Park Nature Center:

Pair of BisonIf you haven’t yet visited this nearly 700-acre park with everything ranging from prairie landscapes to wetlands to woodlands—don’t wait another weekend. Located just 15 minutes from downtown, Pioneers Park feels a world away from the city thanks to miles of hiking trails and sanctuary spaces for bison and elk.

Lincoln Children’s Zoo:

Monkeys at ZooThe fun that is the Lincoln Children’s Zoo is no big secret, but there really is something special about visiting in the spring. Besides of the possibility of meeting a new baby, there is always the guarantee of ohh-ing over the 350+ animals that populate the zoo. As a bonus, that number is ever-growing with the additions of giraffes, tigers and spider monkeys.

Sunken Gardens:

Red FlowersIf it’s spring, that means it’s time to visit Lincoln’s renowned Sunken Gardens. Featuring 31,000 plants on an annual basis, the warm weather calls forth a truly remarkable burst of life and color. If you think seeing it once is enough, think again: This year’s theme at the Sunken Gardens is “Sun Salutations,” which means you can expect an exciting new arrangement of red, orange and yellow blooms.

Indian Cave State Park:

Hiking on a TrailFeeling up for a bit of a road trip? Pack a picnic and load up the car for a day at Indian Cave State Park, about an hour and a half from Lincoln. With more than 3,000 rocky, scenic acres bordering the Missouri River—not to mention its namesake large sandstone cave—this makes from a fun destination whether you are hiking, biking, viewing wildlife or looking to get on the river.

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