A couple months ago, I began a new job that is 100% working from home. All interactions within the company and with external clients occur using video conferencing technology. When considering the job offer, my main concern was I didn’t think I would enjoy working at home. I remembered times during previous jobs when I would work from home and found that I was distracted easily and would get frustrated that my family interrupted me frequently to help them. I’m also a fairly social person and thought I would be lonely. Working from home is now one of the best things about my job and I’m surprised it was a pretty easy transition after working in a traditional office environment for more than 25 years.
There are several factors that are important to make working from home successful. Technology that allows for smooth interactions is a must and you must be comfortable working with it and be flexible when it’s doesn’t work. I’ve had cases where my computer, camera or audio stopped working in the middle of a meeting. You need to quickly figure out how to fix it or move to another option. It’s important that team members respect working from home. At my office, everyone works from home so that’s easy. However, it can be a challenge to be the only person calling into a meeting. Or, having co-workers think you don’t work as hard as they do because they don’t see you in the office. Intentional communication and updates are even more important than in an office where a lot of information is shared around the water cooler.
As people have asked me about my new job, I realize there are myths about working from home.
Myth #1: You don’t work as hard because no one is watching you
People seem to think that since I don’t have a boss who can see me during the day that I must not need to work very hard. This isn’t true since I have clear expectations from my employer and clients. I still have challenging deadlines and my work needs to be completed — and on time. I find I get much more accomplished since I find it easier to focus and spend less time on office chit-chat. I’ve found that when people are physically in a meeting, the meeting will take the entire scheduled time even if the topic finished early because people like to talk. On teleconferences, this doesn’t seem to be the case. People tend to be ready to end the meeting as soon as the objective is met.
How to make it work: Having clear expectations and measurable work will make sure you can work hard and not have a boss feeling like they don’t know what you are doing.
Myth #2: You’ll work in front of the TV, laying on the couch in your pajamas
When I had a traditional office job, I would work some evenings on my laptop sitting on the couch in the same room as my family. I think it can be easy to assume that’s how people who work at home full time operate. To be successful, it’s really important to have a dedicated work space where you can focus and be away from distractions. You train yourself (and your family) to know that when you’re in this office space, it’s time to work.
How to make it work: Dedicate an office space at home and focus on work while there.
Myth #3: You’ll have no separation between work life and home life
People worry that I must not be able to turn off work. I admit, it’s a risk. It’s really easy slip back into the office at day’s end to continue working. It’s also easy to work on home related things while in your office or let yourself be constantly interrupted since you are home.
How to make it work: Set expectations about doing home related things while you’re working. And the number one piece of advice here: use the door to your office. Close the door when you work to avoid distractions and also close it when you’re done to mentally separate from work.
Myth #4: You have to be an introvert for it to work
This is the myth I really believed. I kept saying, “I think I’m too social to work from home.” First, I am surprised how much video conferencing with co-workers and clients feels like normal office interaction. Second, I intentionally make time during the day to be around other people. Everyday, I have something scheduled outside work from workout classes and running groups to meeting a group for coffee each week and scheduling breakfasts with people.
How to make it work: Schedule your time to force you to be around people outside your home.
Myth #5: You’ll have total flexibility and work only when you want
While there is lots of flexibility — — yes, I’ve enjoyed being at home when home repairs or deliveries happen — a set schedule is important. Let’s face it, if we only worked when we wanted, not much would get done. Your company should have expectations about being available for meetings and clients. I’m surprised the amount of flexibility I have when I am careful to schedule my time. I find it easier to work in appointments during the day, take a walk with my wife, go for a run or spend some time with a new grandchild when I build my schedule to fit in the important things.
How to make it work: Set a schedule that works for you and company expectations then build in some flexibility.
Technology and company attitudes are continuing to progress making working from home a viable option for more workers. With the right kind of job, company support, home work environment and an attitude to figure out how to make it work, it can be a rewarding experience for the worker and the employee.