In a continually digital world, more people are taking part in the “work from home” movement. While there is great appeal to the work life balance of working remotely, it is not for everyone. It has its own benefits, challenges, and intricacies that are different than physically being in the office. I have been primarily working from home for the past 15 years, so I have grown to understand and embrace both the benefits and the challenges.
Working remotely offers the advantage of being able to crawl right out of bed and get straight to work, while never even having to change your slippers.. The traffic-less commute is a huge bonus. Also, you know that anything that you put in the fridge will still be there…well…unless another family member gets there first.
The life of working at home seems pretty cushy to the outside observer, but it comes with its own set of challenges. One challenge in particular is working with those that you share that home with. It is hard for children, roommates, spouses, and other co-inhabitants to be sensitive to the fact that you are home and seemingly available, when you are in fact “at work”.
My son was 5 when I started working from home. At first, he was excited to have me home all the time and naturally wanted to dedicate that time to play. Though I told him that I was working, I came up with a solution to make this new scenario make more sense and be more balanced for both of us. I gave him two notecards that were labelled “Daddy break cards”. He got to use them twice a day to have me take short breaks with him. His ability to “cash in” his notecards not only made him happy to have time with me, but he learned a little time management in the process, and I in turn had mandatory break times built into my day. Many people who work from home suffer from never getting up from their computer, and mine and my son’s system allowed me time to reset my brain so I could always be at my best.
Another challenge of being remote is that you are sometimes invisible to your colleagues that are in the office everyday.. To make up for that face time, I am intentional about contacting people via a phone call and minimizing my email usage. My goal is to contact people as often as possible to keep in touch. Keeping the phone lines of communication open helps remind them you are still there.
Everyone has different views and strategies for being successful while working at home. It may not be for everyone, but it works for me.
Here are some more tips I have learned over the years on how to be successful when working remotely:
Set a schedule
The most important thing you can do when working from home is to create a set schedule and stick to it just as you would if you were operating off a calendar or meetings at the office. When working from home it’s easy to get sucked into the trap of being too flexible and forget you are actually supposed to be working. You take a break to get something to eat and then notice you are out of something in the fridge. That leads to a trip to the grocery store to pick something up. Then because you are at the store you end up getting a lot of groceries while you are there. The point is, that you would not typically do
your grocery shopping in the middle of the day if you go into the office, so you probably wouldn’t want to do it while working from home.
I work far more hours working from home than if I worked at the office. Since home is the office, there is not a set stopping time. It is good to step away, get a break, and then come back later. Find your version of the “Daddy break cards”.
Treat it like a work day
A routine is still key to being a successful member of the work from home movement.
Take a shower. If you have others in the house, they will surely appreciate this gesture.
Get dressed. This does not mean a suit or a dress, but the act of putting on normal clothes rather than staying in your sweats or pajamas gets you ready to tackle the day from a work oriented mindset.
Set a specific place to work
Surroundings do affect how you work. Set up a specific space in your home will you will accomplish your work. It offers consistency and allows you to be more productive.
While working from home, you lose direct contact with your co-workers and managers. Make sure to check in often during the day to keep them up to date on what you are working on. Need to run an errand? Make sure to let them know before you leave where you going and when you will be back as they do not have the convenience of checking to see if you are at your desk.
Finally, get work done
The most important thing about working from home is that your productivity should not diminish. You are working, not hanging out at home.
As a Consultant at Blueprint Consulting Services, a nationwide full-service consulting firm that specialized in identifying and implementing business transformation solutions, Andy Macourek has more than 20 years of experience designing, developing, and supporting enterprise-level applications and solutions for several companies. Andy has held the entire gambit of roles in the software lifecycle: tester, support engineer, support manager, project manager, lead developer, and architect. His experience with application and solution development spans a myriad of customer areas and needs: worldwide licensing, workflow management, system monitoring, sales and marketing, technical certifications, real estate, and technical support.