My first experience in working from home was in the 1990's, when I was a contract worker for Intuit. After a total of ten years working for home in the corporate environment, I returned to the office space. But I returned to working from home eight years ago and now run my own business from my home.
Back in the day, I was known as a telecommuter. Today, telecommuting has evolved into a rapidly growing number of virtual and remote businesses, and remote workers are a significant part of the corporate workforce.
Here are my top tips on making your work at home experience a success.
1. Find a comfortable workspace. Whether your space is an extra room in your house, a converted garage or some other space, be sure to make it as comfortable as possible and free of outside distractions.
2. Separate work from home. If you have small children, you may need to arrange for day care. If you have animals, be sure they are in areas where they will not be “distractions”. Keep your work maintained in its own space, and don't let your work flow to other areas of the home, thus causing distractions for others.
3. Gain agreement from your family. Let your spouse or partner as well as children or others that live with you know what to expect. Although you will be at home, your full attention during your work schedule is with work, not with them. Having frank conversations with your family will help them adjust their awareness of the boundaries you need to work successfully from home.
4. Be a self-organizer and self-manager. This tip does not apply to keeping your work space neat, but to how you prioritize the work you do. When working from home, it is important to create a similar routine as if you were "at work." This could be a simple as how you start your day. For example, create a routine where you take care of the dog and kids first and then have a set transition to work-time.
Also, prioritize what needs to be done. The need to set priorities becomes more apparent when you work at home and have both work and home projects fighting in your mind in addition to normal daily home and work routines.
5. Avoid feelings of isolation. Keep all channels of communication open. Emails, chats and video meetings should all be used to to remain "present" with your team members. Scheduling daily or weekly virtual team meetings keeps your team connected. If you are a solo remote business owner, scheduling consistent virtual networking meetings or in person lunches will keep you connected with peers.
6. Include self-care as part of your daily schedule. Keeping your personal health is as high of a priority and is as important as your business and financial health. That mind and body cohesion or work/life balance that we all talk about matters!
Schedule your exercise time, be it at home or outside, just be sure that it is part of your life. Take mind reset breaks during your workday to release stress. If you had a 90-minute coaching session or client call, take a 5- or 10-minute break doing something fun. Breathe and take a note of your overall feelings. I call this a 5-minute vacation that we need twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon or make it thrice if you need it. Just engage in something that frees your mind of ‘work”. Do something to mark the end of the day – listen to some music, take a walk go outside. Once your “work” time restarts, your energy will reset if you practice good self-care.
7. Above all, remain flexible. Although you may have already found a system that works perfectly or may still be trying to evolve your system, being flexible is a key factor in success. We need to be able to respond well to emergencies that come our way (for example, outages, server issues, Zoom trainings, changes in client priorities, moving tax deadlines, personal issues). Allow yourself leeway and alternative plans for emergencies and unanticipated events. But then resume your routine once the emergency has waned.
Be positively receptive to change, as well. Working at home is all about having a less rigid, yet more receptive mindset. With chaos and change, amazing opportunities appear!
Why is it good to have a remote team of employees?
- Increased productivity. Many companies such as NASA, American Express and Hewlett-Packard that have tested this model since its advent have found productivity to increase, in general. Interference by ‘socializing’ is limited; therefore, the work quality also increases. If there is a need for an employee to work extra hours, they can do so with less stress.
- Reduce turnover. Because of higher employee satisfaction, it is rare that work at home employees quit their jobs. (This is also a positive direction for Intuit in reducing various types of shortages, as well.) If we must move, for some reason, we can keep our jobs, therefore greatly decreasing training costs for new people.
- Decreased absenteeism. Employees can work at home despite such conditions as bad weather (in general), illness, furniture delivery and other “home related issues” that would normally take us away from the office.
- Many of the above points are good for ALL stakeholders involved with your employer. A happier employee is something that is noticed by all and more likely becomes a loyal employee.