By: Audrey Adelson, MSW, WLCP
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that despite some scaling back of telework by some high profile companies, telework is likely to continue to grow. SHRM defines telework as, “the practice of working from home or other remote locations.” SHRM and many others have pointed to research that supports when “properly managed,” telecommuters are more productive than their counterparts working from the office. While providing training to managers is a key factor to successful telework, there are important lessons learned that can help employees working remotely as well.
1. Create a clutter free and well organized home work space that is free of distractions.
Try to create a space in your home that allows you to separate your work and personal boundaries. Clear your workspace of clutter; allow for plentiful natural light; and free your workspace of noise. It’s great if you can incorporate personal photos, art, décor, but try to remove things like televisions, gaming devices, children’s toys, and home projects. These lend to distraction easily.
2. Work comfortably.
Working comfortably may mean something be different to each person. Some prefer to shower and dress each day as if going to work (maybe still dressing casually), but for others it may mean wearing sweats and heading into “the office.” Comfort also relates to your work station itself and where you are set up. Do you have an office that has a door that closes off to the rest of the house or are you trying to work from a kitchen countertop? Do you have a comfortable chair and ventilation?
3. Keep to a schedule and manage your time wisely.
Yes, the ability to work from home permits some flexibility in your day to help you manage your personal, as well as work responsibilities. At the same time, a bit of routine is also helpful and can help you maintain effectiveness. Some prefer a regular start and end time to their work day, while others may hold jobs that are suitable to greater flexibility and have a strong worth ethic to be able to have a less structured routine. Using a calendar to help you set aside blocks of time for important projects and assignments is a practical way to stay focused and productive.
4. Minimize/eliminate interruptions.
Of course, many of us have a sick child or pet we have to care for from time to time while we are trying to work, but planning to formally work from home on a regular basis and manage the routine care of a child or aging adult is probably not the best idea. The likelihood of interruptions is great and causes service levels to drop and performance to become an issue. Consider where, when and how you schedule meetings being mindful of interruptions and distractions to you and to those you work with.
5. Maintain strong communication and accountability with others.
Make sure you demonstrate strong communication with those you work with – both in verbal and written communication. Maintain the same productivity levels when working from home as you have when working from the office. Your customer service levels should not be any different when telecommuting. Use your calendar and keep others informed of when you will and won’t be available and how best to reach you. This shows accessibility and accountability. If you say you are going to be available, be available.
6. Make technology your friend.
Utilize technology to allow you to work most effectively. VPN and forwarding calls ensures that you are able to do this. Learn ways to hold meetings online to allow you greater flexibility.
7. Make time in your day to take breaks.
Research shows that employees who work from home tend to work longer hours than do those in the office. It is important for telecommuters to take breaks during their work day as they would do if in the office. Take advantage of opportunities to catch up on laundry, exercise, grab a bite to eat, or take the dog for a walk.
8. Find ways to separate work and home life and practice healthy boundary control.
Boundary management is one of the greatest challenges for those who telecommute. There are many terrific books out there to help people who struggle with this today. Finding some techniques and tools to help you manage your time and set strong boundaries is vital to your success. It is also just as important to learn to set and manage expectations of others, as well as your own. Learning to manage boundaries and expectations effectively will ensure you are sticking with your values and what is most important to you.
9. Allow yourself some time to transition each day.
When working from home, we tend to forget that we still need a transition from our working self to our personal self. This is even more important for working parents and caregivers. Take a few minutes for yourself before switching gears too fast and jumping into your next busy role.
10. Remain flexible with your work arrangement.
When working from home (or any form of flexible work arrangement), it is always important to remain flexible with your arrangement. There will be things that come up both at work and in your personal time that will require you make changes from time to time. Remember, this is what working flexibly is about.