This week my employer, like many others, asked everyone to work from home. That’s not a huge change for because I’ve been lucky enough to work from home for the past four years. I discovered long ago I accomplish more in less time by working from home and avoid painful parts of the day like a long commute. That said, many office workers are new to the idea of working at home for more than a day or two.
When I tell people I’ve worked at home for years, they say things like “How do you stay focused?”, “I’d never get any work done,” and “Isn’t it lonely?” These are all challenges homeworkers face, but you can easily overcome them.
Connect With the Right Tools
A consistent daily routine your best friend. I start my day at the same time around 09.00 after the kids leave the house for school. I finish around 17.30, at the same time as other team members both remote and office-based. I try to leave work behind at the end of the day rather than checking email on my phone at dinner or while watching Netflix, that night.
Occasionally, I’ve taken a longer lunch break or time off in the afternoon and promised myself that I’d catch up on work that evening. I almost always regretted that decision as it felt like work dragged on for hours longer than necessary.
Working productively from home also means connecting with colleagues through video calls and instant messaging software. A few years, I spent nearly five minutes dialling in and out of various remote calls and looking for access codes. These days, you can set up and log into a group call with a single click. If you’re planning on taking lots of calls at home, invest (or ask your company for) a good microphone.
Beware, the Heavy Breather
Wireless mics and devices with a mute button are both handy. Use the latter if you spend more time listening than talking on a call. Heavy-breathing and the sound of someone eating are distracting and surprisingly common.
Turning on video is a good way of feeling connected to your team. Taking a call in your pyjamas sitting up in bed is never a good idea-no. Consider your background too. Delivering a presentation with a pile of dirty washing in the background is less than ideal. If you’re lucky enough to have a home office, use it. If not, consider adjusting your web-camera and seating arrangements so the background is a wall or some other bland visual.
The company where I worked relies on remote working software like Microsoft Teams. Zoom is another reliable option that I rely on for interviews. Both enable users to blur their backgrounds.
Kids and even dogs cats and babies have all popped up in the background on various conference calls I’ve dialled into or presented at over the years. If you can work in a quiet space away from family life, great. Don’t worry, most people understand when personal life presents itself on a call. They’re either in the same boat or know someone who is. Rather than feeling embarrassed, unexpected interruptions can help people relate to you more.
I consider working from home a perk of the job. I get more done and skip a painful commute at the start and end of the day. That said, if you’re new to working from home and find it a struggle, give it time. Working from home is a skill that you can easily develop. The rewards might surprise you.