Recent economic developments around the world have inspired many businesses to assess or reassess the value of a work from home (WFH) employment strategy. Managed well, remote work can bring advantages to team productivity and worker satisfaction. People who have enjoyed years of remote work opportunities are helping those new to the idea, offering advice based on their own transitions to telecommuting as both employees and managers. There are, of course, challenges associated with working from home. In addition to logistical considerations, there are practical strategies that a person accustomed to office work can learn from telecommuting veterans.
The foundation of any individual’s productive capacity is self-respect. Tips to keep “personal you” in a healthy relationship with “home worker you” include:
Set a schedule. To stay ahead, try to do a bit of work as soon as you get out of bed. Don’t be afraid to spread out your tasks into the evening if that is what helps you achieve your goals, but set a specific time for each day after which you consider yourself to be off the clock.
Create a dedicated workspace. Settle on one or two places where you will separate your work and leisure. Getting away from home can help to minimize the stress of confinement and thereby maximize productivity, so an extra workspace option (e.g., a coffee shop) might be just as valuable as a carefully considered home office.
Select the appropriate tools. An employer might be willing to provide appropriate equipment, or they might insist upon a standard tech stack for all team members to use on their own devices. Music players and white noise from televisions playing in the background can also help to make a home office feel less lonesome.
Get dressed each day. Climb out of the pajamas and into the same attire that you would wear to the office. Shoes are optional unless you’re headed to your secondary remote office.
Collaborate more than ever. There are many people facing similar challenges, with no opportunity for the seemingly idle office chat that nevertheless contributes to mutual assistance and brainstorming. Don’t be afraid to reach out by email, phone or social media to ask the kinds of questions that might be more necessary from a distance.
Set boundaries with others at home. You might need to close a door or two to maintain adequate distance between yourself and pets or children. You might also need to negotiate with others working from home for equitable access to resources.
Take frequent breaks. When you’re on your own, it’s easier to become absorbed and burn out before the end of the workday. Set timebox alarms if you must.
Make time for professional development. A different mode of working requires a different method of working. Technical skills, especially those related to information management and collaboration, are essential for telecommuters.
Equal in importance to maintaining self-respect for the sake of personal productivity is maximizing team productivity through professional respect among co-workers. Often, it is easier to be sympathetic to a colleague’s needs when they are nearby and you can read their body language. Working from home introduces virtual associations by way of cell phones and the internet, so consider the following suggestions for being an e-team player:
Try to keep online meetings and phone calls for the afternoon or early evening, as some remote workers prefer to ease their way into the day and others are in completely different time zones.
Until the day is over, log in to only the social media you need for interaction with co-workers.
During videoconferences, look into the camera instead of searching for on-screen eyes.
Listen instead of bantering, because context is more difficult to interpret through a technological medium.
Unless it’s urgent or you’re dealing with a customer, opt to send an email instead of calling someone directly.
Managing Remote Workers
The information highway is experiencing traffic congestion all day long. Still, keeping teams focused and motivated needn’t be any more difficult from a remote location than it is from across the room. Try these tips:
Managers can provide “any time” access and, if an employee desires, daily proactive check-ins to provide reassurance during times of transitional trepidation. Encouragement and assistance are key management tactics while professionals acclimate to working from home.
Establish a robust infrastructure for information management and collaboration or upgrade the one already in place. Automate as many processes as possible.
Keep everyone up to speed on memos and similar internal developments, so those outside the office won’t feel outside the loop. Plan after-hours online activities for boosting team morale.
Be flexible about work hours. Make sure that the equipment each remote worker uses has secure access to the company network. Offer extra opportunities for IT-related training.