I've been asked quite a bit the last couple of weeks to write articles, provide tips and share what has worked for me. So here we go!
For the first time, many folks are now having to work from home. They've never done it, aren't set up for it but want to make sure it is a productive experience.
What if you've never worked from home before, or not on a full-time basis? It can be an unsettling and frustrating experience to start. But, the good news is, all it takes is the right mindset and some organization to keep you on track and your workflow producing.
My Work at Home Journey
What is happening today, in my view, maybe something that permanently changes how we all do business moving forward. And I'm surprised it took a virus to make it happen. So let me share with you why I believe this to be the case.
I have worked out of my home office for almost two decades now. However, I had my own offices for several years in the beginning. This was primarily due to the Internet and Web being so new that meeting with me in person and having a physical location helped instill trust.
In 1995, I opened my little “Internet Studio” in the downtown district where I lived at the time. I even had a little training studio on how to use the Internet. Folks could meet with me to get websites and use my computers to access the Internet.
After that, I rented a professional office suite in a complex with other small businesses. Next, I used a virtual office where staff did everything (answer phones, make appointments, etc.), and I just showed up to meet with clients.
After several years and becoming established, I realized that a physical address/location was just an unnecessary expense. So I went completely virtual and never looked back.
The next step was to move off the grid. From the hustle and bustle of Chicago to rural Mississippi to regain a quality of life that had been lost. Thank you, technology!
Going Virtual Makes Sense
Virtual work environments will become more commonplace. As a result, businesses will discover they are more cost-effective (with the right employees). And being that type of employee will enhance your career opportunities.
Employees will discover the added benefit of a better quality of life (no commute time, traffic, expensive wardrobes) and seek out virtual opportunities. Win-win.
We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.Jennifer Christie, Head of Human Resources @ Twitter
When you work at home, you lose those social connections you enjoy when “going to work.” Whether it be the folks you know at the coffee shop on the way to work or your coworkers, schedule a couple 30 minutes slots a week to reconnect with those you miss either by phone or video (Apple's Facetime, Zoom, Skype).
Working from Home = Discipline & Mindset
Your ability to succeed at working remotely will be proportionate to your level of discipline. It will also reflect on you as an employee (or contractor), your work ethic, and that you can be trusted to get the job done.
Most incorrectly surmise that working from home means you can stay in your PJs, get up in the morning when you feel like it, watch TV, and more or less work less. While some can make that approach work, most who are successful do not.
While working at home is certainly a more flexible environment, you will have work that needs to get done and responsibilities to meet. Yes, I may take a break, run an errand or walk my pup. But all in all, I put in a solid workday—plan on doing the same.
If you want to succeed at working from home, creating and sticking to a daily schedule can make your virtual work arrangement one that benefits you (and your employer).
My daily schedule work-at-home schedule.
- I get up at sunrise every day. Shower, get dressed, and presentable for my daily videocons. Yet, I am in my home office before my posted hours. I'm not in PJs or on the couch.
- My lunch is generally 10-20 minutes somewhere between 12p-1p. Lunch is usually me grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge and a piece of cheese (or two) that I take back to my home office, where I keep working away.
- My husband works crazy hours. Because of that, he gets home late. This means I generally pull myself away from this computer around 6p. So solid 8-10 hour days are the norm.
- At the end of the day, I power down my computer until the next morning. After that, I am “off of work”! No emails on my phone. No business texts. That's called boundaries.
Take a break if you need one. Walk around the yard, go outside, sit on your porch or patio for 15 minutes, and just take in your surroundings. Breaks allow you to refresh and clear your head.
I love what I do, and I work at it all day. Being raised with a solid work ethic made working from home something that came easy for me. This is where your discipline will make or break your work-at-home experience.
Working at Home for Newbies
For those new to working at home, go into it assuming you will put in a full 8 hour day. You are going to want to create a regular schedule that works for you as I have. And then stick to it.
Your employer most likely will have guidelines and requirements, including check-ins and productivity goals that they'll advise you of. Then, do not hesitate to ask for the tools, software, or resources you discover you need to meet those goals.
Similarly, your employer may be new at this virtual thing, too, and your constructive input will be critical to making this transition work for everyone. Both sides have to be flexible until processes and procedures solidify as the dust settles.
Know that your employer will expect that you will be accomplishing just as much, if not more, than when you went into the office. Working from home does not mean less work.
Managing Business Work Email at Home
Usually, your work email is on your work PC, you leave the office, and you won't check it until you are back in the office again in the morning. Now that you are working from home, you'll want to set up your work account to use it from your home device.
- To avoid mixing personal and work emails on the same PC, use a separate email program for your work email. I use PostBox. It keeps me uber-organized.
- Set up folders so that you can keep your various remote tasks organized. PostBox allows you to color-code your emails to prioritize at a glance.
- Respond to emails as promptly and professionally as possible. This will reflect that you are available and working even though you are not on-site.
- Working off-site does not mean you are available 24/7 (unless that is the agreement). Set boundaries for yourself as well as with those who are at home with you.
Have a discussion with others at home and set some guidelines about your workspace and interruptions. Of course, there will be frustrating moments while you work out the kinks — that's to be expected. But, be flexible and patient until you figure out a system that works for everyone.
Increased Email Volume
You may likely be emailing more than you ever have before. If for no other reason that you are not in person with those, you normally would communicate within the office.
This means your email communication skills are really going to be even more critical to clarity in your communications. Including avoiding any unnecessary misunderstandings. Here are the basics to start.
Consider acquiring a copy of my Business Email and Technology Etiquette eBook. Become the epitome of professional business communications at a time when it will be essential to your job performance.
If you do not have a designated home office, create a little corner in your home that you dedicate just to spending your work time. Sitting on the couch with your laptop and TV on is not conducive to efficiency and productivity.
Consequently, you will want to eliminate any distractions that can lead to you not paying attention or making errors. This means letting those who may also home know that you are working and appreciate not being disturbed while you are in that space.
By keeping a schedule, setting goals, and designating your “space,” you set yourself up for success. Then be flexible as you determine what will work best for you and your employer.
Being you do not have to commute or have in-office distractions, you will probably discover that you are more productive than ever.
At your service,