I have been working from home for 12 years. I love working from home. The quiet increases my productivity and the flexibility enables me to maintain work/life balance.
While other people have to get ready and leave before they’re fully awake, I can just wander happily upstairs in my slippers with a mug of coffee. I love the commute! It just ‘works’ for me.
Plus, I have to admit that people drive me nuts. I mean, I’m not antisocial, I like you, but I’m trying to get work done here. I get to avoid water cooler chatter: really, who cares?
But there are risks: it might be hard to ‘turn it off’ at the end of the day when your computer is still there, just over there in the other room. There can be too much work/life blend. Also, some of us can get a little wacky, being here home alone all day by ourselves. It can be isolating. For example, when the mail comes I get really excited. Yes, I talk to my hamster. Some people might perceive that as weird. Whatever.
What Makes a Good Remote Worker?
A colleague recently asked me what the success factors were. You do have to adapt your office behavior because you are, well, not in an office. You have to make friends with technology that enables connecting remotely. There are no meetings at a conference table to get you away from your screen. You need to have the ability to focus, self-motivate, and stay organized. No one is going to be checking in on you, so you need to impose some discipline on yourself.
Some people also need to develop and keep to a strict schedule. (Doing this keeps me from finding myself down at the fridge every 10 minutes. Or looking for something to iron).
I believe introverts have the easiest time working from home. We don’t mind the isolation and quiet as much as would a person who gets his/her energy from a busy, social workplace.
How to Be Successful
Since I have expertise in this area, I thought I would share my revelations. If you find yourself needing to work from home or needing to get better at it, I would offer you my top 10 tips:
1. Get out of your pajamas.
Changing out of your pajamas or workout clothes makes you feel professional and polished. (Showering and makeup are optional). Try to do this before lunch.
2. Don’t just sit there.
Because you don’t have any colleagues to pull you away from your desk, you need to get up. Your blood pools to your butt and that can’t help your thinking process. Every hour, get out of your cave and go get the mail, take a short walk, take a break. Don’t forget to go to the bathroom. Try to not eat more than one meal at your desk. It’s hard to get the crumbs out of your keyboard.
3. Get your gossip on.
Set up regular meetings with your peeps – the ones who give you the dirt – just to stay in the know. This will also make you feel socially connected with your colleagues, and if you are an extrovert you will need this especially.
4. Ask to travel.
A trip every 4-6 weeks can help you plug in with the company, shake off your mental dust, brush up on your client-facing skills, give you a social boost, and plus it gets you to shower.
5. Be quick on the mute button.
While you don’t want to be the guy talking while on mute, you need to know where the mute button is and to have a quick finger for when your dog starts barking or the neighbor starts to weed whack. Everyone knows you are working from home, but no one wants to hear it. Please put down those nail clippers.
6. Be willing to take some early calls.
One of the privileges of working from home is that you have a flexible schedule. It can be a drawback too, but you need to live with it. Be available for people who are not in your timezone.
7. Remember the power of the voice.
We all know that because tone can be misread and information can be incomplete, email is one of the surest ways to misconnect. When you find yourself writing the 3rd Skype messages or email in 10 minutes, pink up the stinking phone. It’s all too easy to rely on email only. Fight your introversion. Pick up the phone!
8. Don’t multitask while talking to someone, god help you.
I have to admit this is hard for me. There are too many distractions! So I doodle, I physically turn my back to my computer, and I try to remember that multitasking is simply disrespectful to the other person. Plus, you sound like a chump if you say, ‘could you repeat that’? We all know you were on Facebook.
9. Figure out how to be collaborative.
If you are on a remote team then you will need to collaborate. Problem solving and idea generation are often most effective (and more fun) with a live group sitting in front of a whiteboard. You can post a Google doc and have others input content (anonymously, even), you can use virtual room software like HP’s, or you can have people email ideas and one person collates. You have to find out how to connect the remote group to the best benefit of each other and the company.
10. Update your boss.
Send regular updates to your boss. I promise, he/she will appreciate this. Include an overview of what you are working on, any support you need, and an assessment of your bandwidth. Your boss won’t have to reach out to you, and it will give him/her the confidence to trust you are getting stuff done. Don’t go overboard though: bi-weekly is enough.
Working from home is a privilege, allowing me a better work/life balance than I might have if I had to get up, dress up and go to an office every day. I get a lot done for my company and I feel confident that my work is of high quality because I can have long periods of focused, uninterrupted work. I am able to keep on top of my laundry and practice the piano during a 10 minute break with no one listening. For me, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
If you work from home, what else do you do to make sure you are earning your keep?