Loads of us are working virtually these days, so what are our 5 tips to help you?
When I am on the phone to my mother-in-law, she sometimes asks “where are you working tomorrow Catherine?” I often answer that I am “working from home”…. “Oh,” she replies, “so a day off then?”
I can forgive an 80 year old, but her assumption taps in to a widely felt guilt by many remote workers that others don’t believe you are working hard because you are working from home.
Here are some tips that have helped me keep it together when working a lot from home.
1. Don't feel you need to prove anything to anyone but yourself.
It is easy to over justify and explain the work that you are doing if you are not being observed all day by co-workers. I found myself pressing upon others my start and end times (usually earlier and later than everyone else) along with over-replaying my to-do list completed tasks with comments of “I don’t know where the day has gone!” It can sound a bit like the lady doth protest too much.
- Working from home doesn’t mean you need to work longer to justify the lack of commute.
- If you and your boss (if you have one) knows you are delivering the results then that is okay - don’t worry about what others are thinking as they probably aren’t thinking anything.
- Enjoy putting in the hard graft and then enjoy your home and family
- Remind yourself of the interruptions, queues and so on that you suffer when in the office
- welcome the quiet time at home where you can think and plan undisturbed
2. Create a close-able work zone
When I very first started working from home, we converted the spare room in to an office. The problem was, I had to walk through this home office to get to my bedroom. It was impossible to escape work.
If you have the luxury of some dedicated office space at home then that is great as long as you can shut the door on it out of work hours so that you can separate your work and home life.
If your kitchen table is your office when you work from home then that is fine too. Consider having a cupboard though to shut your work away in to. Even a pile of papers on the corner of the table will prompt your thinking about work, even though it is 10am on a Sunday morning.
3. Set the expectations of others.
“Oh, you’re working from home…?”
Friend: “I’ll pop around for a coffee then!”
Neighbour: “Oh, can you walk my dogs for me at lunchtime?”
Mother: “Oh, you have time for a long chat then?”
Husband: “Have you not put a wash on \ vacuumed \ tidied the kitchen etc etc?”
In-laws: “Can you give me a lift to ….?”
When you explain that you are busy, you get that hurt look or tone that can make you feel guilty.
They don’t mean ill but it can be frustrating when people don’t understand that when you are working from home, you are AT work. Of course, working from home can give us the flexibility we need to run our life and achieve a better work life balance.
Rather than just saying “no, no, no” to friends and family, taking the time to explain what it means to work from home can help them to understand better and to stop making unhelpful requests.
4. Get some fresh air
Not leaving the house as you would on your commute can make you feel stir crazy sometimes. So find some opportunities to get out during the working day. You can do this in simple ways:
- Have your morning coffee outside.
- Go to a local coffee shop for your break or lunch.
- Go for a walk to think (a critical part of our job!)
- Commit to going for a walk or run during lunch or at the end of the day.
- Take a call outside - if it is not too noisy (somebody asked if I could turn the birdsong down recently on a call!)
We should feel really pleased and positive that we can achieve these simple and important things. In fact, these are normal practice if you work in an office.
Working from home allows you to gain more flexibility in your day. It should help you get work life balance improved, so indulge and make it happen!
5. Stay in touch
Working remotely can feel lonely sometimes and it is easy to feel detached from the rest of our team. Much of the interaction we have with our colleagues when we are co-located happens informally. We often miss out on this when we work remotely as we don’t naturally bump into people at the coffee machine / in the lift / at the printer etc.
We know that remote workers are more likely to communicate with colleagues over task, our work and less so socially.
Think about how you can keep the informal lines of communication open with your colleagues. This could be a good morning message, or inquiring about their lunch or the evening before…. this social conversation is how we form bonds and trust with each other. We can stay in touch in many ways using the technology we already have - IM, Team WhatsApp, email, phone, video calls etc. How about agreeing to a virtual lunch or coffee break where you get your webcams and some chat going as you munch away on your lunch.
The reality is we often have to make this happen as it doesn’t happen as easily as it does if we are co-located.
The opportunity to work remotely is wonderful for many and difficult for others. Find a way to make it work for you and embrace it as more and more of us will be working this way in the future.