In today's work environment many companies allow, and even encourage, their employees to work from home. Employees that are offered this option need to make sure they keep the implied promise: They'll remain as productive in their home as they would be in the office.
In this article, we're going to provide some tips aimed at increasing the likelihood of working from home successfully. We'll talk about the equipment needed, and how to go about setting-up a home office. Finally, we're going to explain how to stay productive, and motivated, when working alone.
The ability to work from home presents some unique opportunities and challenges for employees that are telecommuting as well as those that are running a small business. There's a very short commute to work, no one is looking over your shoulder, and the starting and quitting times are pretty flexible.
But working from home also comes with its challenges. That's going to be the focus of this article. The three challenges we're going to address include:
In today's "connected" world, we'll divide the home office equipment into two broad categories: workstations and communication devices. From a workstation standpoint, the ideal set up is a laptop computer due to its portability.
If you don't do a lot of work directly on a computer, then it's possible to get away with just the laptop. But if the work involves a lot of typing, then hooking-up a full size keyboard and mouse to the laptop's USB ports is an important upgrade. These two input devices can be purchased for less than $50, and they eliminate a lot of the strain associated with the laptop's smaller keyboard and touchpad.
High-speed internet connections are also necessary for a comfortable home office setup. In many parts of the country DSL, FIOS (fiber to the home), and cable are price-competitive with dial-up connections. Overall, the benefit gained by a high-speed connection is well worth the small incremental monthly fee.
We'll touch on this topic in more depth later on, but working from home means physical isolation, so it's important to remain in communication with coworkers. In addition to a home's landline phone / speakerphone setup, carry a cell phone, feature phone, or a smartphone.
Carrying a cellular phone allows everyone to feel connected. It's possible to talk with coworkers even when not in the same physical location. Smartphones go one step further by keeping track of appointments and important incoming emails even when away from the computer. Anyone that has a telephone extension back at the main office should forward those incoming calls to the home or cell phone.
Many companies still don't allow their employees to use instant messaging (IM) systems like Lync. If the main office provides this feature, make certain to take advantage of this technology. It's a useful tool when a brief exchange of information with a colleague is needed.
To work effectively from home, an adjustment to the home's layout may be required. This includes the physical setting as well as organizational components.
Ideally, a home office should have a limited number of distractions. This includes children, neighbors, pets, as well as friends. It's simply unprofessional to have crying children or barking dogs in the background when talking to customers, clients, or coworkers. These distractions are uncomfortable for everyone involved, and should be avoided. Make sure there is a quiet, or controlled, space that can be used to conduct teleconferences without interruptions.
Although it's tempting to create a new work schedule, telecommuting should be treated like standard workdays. Maintain a set schedule, get dressed for work, and be at the home office each day on a fixed schedule of "core" hours. This is especially important when working closely with others. Even when working from home, associates should feel comfortable calling with questions during normal office work hours.
While working at home can be rewarding due to its comfort and convenience, it's not without its challenges. Ironically, the same feeling of "peace and quiet" that comes with a well thought through home office can also invoke feelings of isolation. By nature, even the most introverted individuals like to feel they are part of a larger group working towards the same goal.
We're going to finish-up this topic with some tips to help feel less secluded:
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