I recently made the leap from commuting 2.5 hours a day to a 15-second commute to my home office. Telecommuting or “going remote” can be a dream for some and a challenge for others previously acclimated to office life. Working remote may seem like an employee’s Nirvanna but it isn’t about working in shorts while wearing a dress shirt for video conference calls. Working remotely still requires the professionalism of the office while enjoying the flexibility of being at home. If you have ever thought about working remotely, below are a few tips for being a successful and engaged remote employee.
1. Find a dedicated working environment
Working at the kitchen table while the cat leaps up to look at your cereal bowl isn’t the most conducive work environment. I’m sure we’ve all been on conference calls when someone working from home has a dog barking in the background or someone’s kids make a guest appearance. If you’re going to work from home, create a distraction-free environment away from home life.
I tried to replicate the home office as close to an office environment, although I didn’t have a 50-inch monitor hanging in my work office. Before I started working remotely, I did ensure the office had some key equipment including:
- Noise-canceling headphones to filter out any home noise or coffee house distractions
- A second monitor to improve productivity
- A quality webcam for video conferencing
- A quality microphone for conference calls
- Upgrade the internet connection as video conferencing will consume a lot of bandwidth
2. Business continuity for the home office
Information technology organizations focus on disaster recovery when the computer system goes down and business teams focus on business continuity if the system or the building were to shut down. Power outages will occur and it’s important to have a backup location – a co-working space, a coffee shop or a library where you can get Internet access. I even invested in an uninterruptible power supply backup just to keep the Internet and wireless running a little longer to avoid disruption.
3. Keep a Home Dress Code
You might be tempted to just roll out of bed, hop on a conference call and manage the day in your pajamas. I recommend still dressing for the workday in business casual clothing. Web conferencing with video is a popular communication option and it helps to look professional instead of too comfortable for work. Dressing for the workday in business casual clothing also sets the mindset to focus on work and delivery. Of course, I still wear my LiquidPlanner hoodie over a collared shirt!
4. Build-in Breaks
Despite working from home, you’ll still collect meetings and more meetings on your calendar. Time quickly passes as you jump from conference call to conference call. Remember to get up and take a break!
Go out for lunch, walk the dog, or use the Pomodoro technique to introduce breaks throughout the day. Working remotely can be isolating but it doesn’t have to be if you balance enough breaks and human interaction throughout the day.
Before I started working remotely, my work from home colleagues told me the hardest part about working from home is knowing when to stop work. I laughed knowing once it hits 5:00 pm, I’d done with the day. Fast forward a few months later and my wife is asking if I’m ever coming out of the home office! Remember to build in breaks.
5. Just because you’re remote, doesn’t mean you are invisible
One concern with working remotely is knowing how to stay social, connected and visible within your organization. In the typical office setting, relationships are forged in the hallways and lunchrooms. When you are a remote employee, you need to find ways to build those connections despite working miles away.
Collaboration tools like LiquidPlanner, Skype, Slack and Google Chat all help to maintain a presence in threaded discussions and instant messages. I find video chats useful to build connections with my team members and put a real face behind the voice and text messages.
I encourage using the webcam in your meetings as it helps you stay visible within the team (hence Tip #3 on maintaining a professional dress code). Also, look for ways to present and contribute to the larger organization remotely.
Just because you are a remote employee doesn’t mean you won’t travel to headquarters! When you do visit HQ, make sure you make the most of it and seek out people you don’t always interact with and introduce yourself in person!
Remote work is growing
The popularity of remote work is growing rapidly as organizations source talent across the world instead of their local geographic area. According to Globalworkplaceanalytics.com, remote work at home positions have increased 173% since 2005 and over 4.7 million employees work from home at least half the time. As remote work increases, the need for project management tools and effective collaboration tools increases. Organizations will also need effective employees who can balance working remotely while delivering effectively for their customers.