Working From Home? Set Yourself Up for Success
In 2016, over 43 percent of the American workforce worked from home for at least part of the work week. Whether you are working from home one afternoon a week or every day, there are a few things you can do to excel in your home office just as much - if not more - than you would at head office.
1) Eliminate In-Person and Online Distractions
Set yourself up with a designated workspace that is off-limits to people who share your space, such as family and partners, as much as possible during your work hours. Let them know that you are to be considered as being out of the home, with the exception of emergencies, during work hours. This won’t completely tamp down the distractions, but a traditional office is hardly a distraction-free zone either.
Once you’ve established boundaries offline, start looking at what you can do online to limit distractions and manage your time. Our recent post gives some recommendations for online tools you can use for time management.
2) Dress and Act Like You’re Going Into The Office
Most remote work involves Google Hangouts and other video tools where people will have to feast their eyes on your mug. You don’t have to go full corporate when dressing yourself, but fix your hair and wear decent clothes - not pajamas - just as you would if you were going into an office each morning.
Use the time you would have spent on your commute to fix yourself a healthy breakfast, get some exercise in or some kind of activity that will help you power up for your day. It will be very tempting to use it for sleep, and you probably will for the first little while, but waking up earlier will help you get a fresh start and finish your work earlier too.
3) Make Sure You Have the Tools You Need
Most companies that have remote work programs will allocate a certain amount of budget to help employees get the tools they need to succeed at home. This may mean a computer paid for by your work so you aren’t using the sticky, insecure one that the kids use for games. They may even have a budget for outfitting your home office if you spend enough time working remotely.
If there isn’t a budget for remote work tools, try to work on a device that is only used by you for business purposes, and isn’t shared with partners or family members.
The office you are in is just as much a contributor to your success as the technology you work on. Try to keep it bright with lots of variable lighting, make sure you have a window for some fresh air and a view, and try to make it the only place you do work. We tend to associate the places we work with work, so stay out of bed, off the couch, and off the kitchen table - work in your designated office space only where possible.
4) Be Transparent About Your Work
Companies who allow employees to work from home will usually want to be able to get some kind of oversight into the work their employees are doing. Make sure you follow policies by using any tools they may employ for this purpose, including shared calendars, project management tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) software. What may seem like an extra step is actually helping to justify your remote work time, so don’t skip it.
If your company is using G Suite, there is a tool called Prodoscore which monitors how much time and which tasks you accomplish in various Google Apps, including Gmail. It’s non-invasive and doesn’t require any input by you. Let your managers know about it - it’s exactly what they’re looking for.
5) Be Self-Directed, but Communicate Often
Everyone isn’t magically going to be a self-directed worker overnight, but the more you work remotely, the better you’ll get at self direction. Being self-directed means you know what your tasks are and can prioritize them. Project management tools are very helpful for this, and Asana is a free one you can use to start if your company doesn’t give you one to use. Start by creating a mini-schedule for yourself each day with your calendar, and try to finish as many items on the list as possible.
Being self-directed doesn’t mean working in isolation. When you’re working remotely, it’s important to respond to emails, phone calls and business chats as quickly as possible, but not so quickly that you’re taking yourself away from tasks you need to get done. When filling out your daily schedule, create a 15-30 minute period in both the morning and afternoon to get back to emails. This will give you the time you need to get work done without being distracted by multiple communication channels. Of course if something is a rush, you’ll need to get to it, but this will create a roadblock around your production time that only important things get through.