Working from home has become popular for both employees and employers. Employees take advantage of reduced commute times, savings on gas and other transportation costs, and an increase in work/home life balance. Employers benefit from reduced overhead costs as well as larger resource pools.
However, working from home poses its own set of challenges. The occasional day spent in your home office is one thing; setting up shop at home permanently is something completely different. Here are a few suggestions we’ve compiled to help with your work from home experience.
- Create a home office This should go without saying. Sitting on the couch with your laptop on your lap for eight hours is not going to cut it. Dedicate a room to serve as your home office and don’t use it for anything else. This is a similar concept to what experts say about the bedroom – do not make it your craft room, or your office. The bedroom is for sleeping, don’t associate it with anything else. Same applies for working at home. You need a space dedicated for work with desk, with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. You also need to…
- Get dressed! Working from home successfully is all about your mental state, and sitting at your desk in PJ’s does not put you in a working frame of mind.
- Get a work phone Using your personal land line is not very professional. And a cell phone is not going to provide the same quality as a land line. If you’re on a budget, a separate cell number for work may be your only option, but these days VOIP phones are an inexpensive alternative. If your company has a more advanced phone system, they may be able to provide a web-based phone. This option actually provides you with an extension to your company’s phone number, so customers can call you using the same phone number as the rest of the employees in your company.
- Work 9 to 5 Or whatever your company’s regular office hours are. If everyone else in your office is working 9 to 5, why wouldn’t you? The only thing working off-hours is going to do is distance yourself even further from your co-workers.
- Break, Lunch, Break Many office environments have drifted away from the traditional 10:00 to 10:15 break, 12:00 to 12:30 lunch and final 3:00 to 3:15 break. Working in an office does not have the same restrictions as working, say, on an assembly line in a factory. You have a little more flexibility with taking breaks. And let’s face it, when you grab a coffee, or walk to the bathroom you often bump into a co-worker, or drop by a co-worker’s desk and end up taking an unscheduled break. Heck, you probably have co-workers popping by your desk forcing you into break time, whether you like it or not. But when you work at home, all by yourself, the chances of being interrupted by other people is slim. Not many people can type at a computer screen for eight hours straight so you need breaks. In order to keep track of your downtime, and avoid the temptation to take advantage of the trust your employer has put in you by allowing you to work at home, set aside specific times for breaks and lunch. If a meeting overlaps, take your break immediately after the meeting.
- Web Conferencing (Webex) This is essential. Nothing can compare to sitting in front of a computer screen with your co-worker, but web conferences come close. And their use need not be restricted to meetings. If you want to review some programming code, or a document, or whatever it might be, with your co-worker and you don’t want to wait the three hours it would take them to hop on a plane and fly to your home office, simply pop open a web conference and begin collaborating.
- Teleconferencing Conference lines or, as a less expensive option, using the three-way calling option on your telephone can be of great assistance. If you work in a team, the teleconference can be a great way to facilitate group discussions that normally happen at the water cooler.
- Instant messaging (Skype) Sure, you have email, but typically email is not monitored minute-to-minute these days. Imagine, you are a developer working with a team of other developers. You are seated together in a row of cubicles. You are coding away and can’t remember the name of a class you need to modify. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but isn’t coming. Are you going to email and ask one of your coworkers? No, for a quick question like this you are going to peak into your neighbour’s cubicle and ask for some help. Instant messaging is a great way to facilitate this type of questions when you aren’t in a traditional office environment. Discuss and agree with your co-workers that instant messaging is to be kept to quick questions like this, and email reserved for more traditional threads where multiple people need to be cc’d.
- Communicate If you are an introvert, working from home might not be for you unless you can push yourself outside your comfort zone. You aren’t going to get the face time you would in the office, so you need to be proactive about staying in touch with your co-workers. This makes sure they don’t forget about you, but you also need it for your own sanity. You don’t want to end up the crazy old bearded guy, living in a secluded cabin in the woods. To avoid this, get on the phone. Make a point of calling instead of emailing on occasion. Keep a close eye on your email, and answer as quickly as you can. If your company allows for instant messaging, utilize that as well.
- Environment A rule of thumb, if you don’t do it at the office, don’t do it at home. Would you watch TV at the office? Would you bring your kid into the office because they are home from school/daycare sick? No. So don’t do it at home. And also, no – you can’t spend the day working on your laptop at Starbucks.
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