“Working from home?” Time to remove the air quotes

23/2/2016 |

We think it’s time to take the “air quotes” off of “Graham’s working from home.”

Over the past decade, regular or occasional working-from-home arrangements in companies and organizations continue to grow.  And research reported by the WORKshift group tells us the practice lowers office costs, reduces stress, increases employee satisfaction, even saves the planet. Telecommuters (referred to as “work shifters”) are actually 15 to 40 percent more productive than their office-dwelling counterparts.

Out of site does not mean unproductive

You know what we’re talking about. Just because Graham isn’t in the office doesn’t mean he’s at the football game with his cell phone on vibrate.

Graham is sitting at a real desk (not a bar stool). Instead of spending an hour in traffic, he’s been working since 8 AM without interruptions, office chatter or waiting for another meeting to start. He’ll put in a day of efficient work, including an online meeting and sales calls to clients. And he’ll still have time for exercise breaks, playing with the cat, and lunch, while he does some long-range planning.

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Sound like heaven? Actually, it should sound like what “working from home” looks like—minus the air quotes. So here’s some productivity tips for making this growing practice successful for yourself, or your employees:

Working from home means you’re at a real desk

A well-organized office helps you work effectively. Set up a proper desk, chair and equipment in a dedicated area, preferable behind a door. Blending office and personal space is a bad idea. You’ll struggle with focus during the day and have difficulty leaving the office behind in off hours.

And don’t be shy about the arrangement. One smart executive took a photo of herself working in her home office. Before she left the office in the evening to prepare for her off-site work days, she stuck the photo on her door so colleagues could picture her in her corner (home) office.

Working at home means one job, not two

Never, ever think (or encourage the idea) that working at home is an excuse to do two jobs. On the days you work from home you are not looking after children; doing housework; available for long personal telephone calls or afternoon matinees. It may sound harsh, but for your own mindset as well as the education of others, set clear boundaries with friends, relatives and colleagues.

Working from home means no fluffy slippers

Don’t feed the image that working from home means pajamas and a cat sleeping on the computer. You’ll feel better if you’re dressed to meet the public and your hair is combed. And if your cat is on the computer, that’s OK, but perhaps don’t advertise the fact. When you’re on conference calls (and particularly video calls!) colleagues shouldn’t be reminded of where you are, e.g., a refrigerator door opening or the kids shouting as they arrive home from school.

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Working at home means Ninja productivity

The goal for working off site is to get more done, more effectively. Just because you’re at home, don’t abandon your office organizing, time management and productivity habits. Manage your email, keep meetings to a strict agenda, and just because the coffee is free, stay hydrated with water!

Distractions are a major challenge.  Start the day with the assumption that of course the TV is off limits and the house can stay in a state of disarray. Admittedly, some have a better time of this than others. One woman actually dropped her cordless phone in an outdoor planter because she insisted on weeding while she participated in conference calls.

It goes without saying, get your work done well and on time; and most people will forget that you’re working from home. But at the first sign of trouble, i.e., someone “can’t find you,” ask what’s really going on. Did they just not like the fact that you weren’t there in person, or was your physical presence actually required to do the job?

Working off site is here to stay. Let’s make it work, together. Assume that others working from home are also doing their productive best — that is, remove the air quotes.

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