The work-from-home job force just took a giant leap into reality. Even before COVID-19, increasing numbers of people have been saying goodbye to their daily commutes. Thanks to ever-evolving technologies like WebEx, Adobe Connect, Slack, Zoom, and other cloud computing technologies, it's no longer necessary to be in an office full-time to be a productive member of the team. In fact, many kinds of work can be done from a home office.
Companies with work-from-anywhere policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organizational costs, according to recent research at Harvard Business School. 1 Telecommuting workers with very complex jobs who don't require a lot of collaboration or social support can perform better than their office-based counterparts, according to another study. 2 Also, in the event of a natural or other disaster, a distributed workforce is in a better position to keep operations running, even if some of the group goes offline.
For employers, working from home can boost productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organizational costs.
To work effectively from home, you'll need to make sure you have the technology you require, a separate workspace, Internet service that meets your need, a workable schedule you can stick to, and ways to connect with others.
How to Work Effectively From Home
Whether you’re working remotely one day per week (or more) or full-time—by choice or because of a health situation or weather event—it’s important to ensure that you are set up to be productive. This includes having a designated workspace with the right technology; ways of dealing with kids, pets, and other potential disruptions; and a schedule that allows for the social contact and stimulation that ordinarily comes from being in a workplace with others. Here are strategies and tips to be successful as a remote worker.
Know the ground rules
Does your employer require a nine-to-five schedule, or is there flexibility? Are you allowed to work on public Wi-Fi? Which tech tools might you need, such as Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams for group chats? If you work for someone else, it's important that your employer spells out the ground rules and ensures you have the appropriate equipment, such as a laptop, as well as network access, passcodes, and instructions for remote login, including two-factor authentication. Be sure to do trial runs and work out any problems that might impede your work.
Set up a functional workspace
Not everyone has a designated home office, but it's critical to have a private, quiet space for your work. If you can, separate your work area from your personal spaces and use it just for work, not for other activities.
Get the internet speed you need
Understanding the limitations of your home-office internet is critical to insuring you get the work done in and lower frustrating events like the inability to connect and send that critical time-sensitive data. Work with a Provisioning Team who can tell you who and what is available in your area. Use phone or mobile Knowing what type of phone services you'll need is going to be important to staying connected to your employees/employer and clients. A Cloud Service provider can provide you a phone or mobile ap that allows you to take calls form the company phone line anywhere you are in the world. Working with the right Provisioning agent will help guide you to the right solutions for your budgets. Minimize distractions If you have a barking dog consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones. And if the kids are home and you're without childcare (say, during the summer or a natural emergency), see if you and your spouse (or a neighbor in a similar situation) can take turns with care—which may mean you have to talk to your manager about working evening hours. Plan extra social interactions Some folks love the thought of working in solitude, but even the most introverted among us can start feeling a little claustrophobic after a few weeks at home. Be prepared, and try to schedule some connect-with-the-outside-world time, like a lunch date, a videochat with a friend, or an exercise class.
43% Percentage of Americans in 2016 who worked remotely at least part of the time, up from 39% in 2012, according to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report.
Stick to your work schedule
Every person who has spent time working from a home base will have to deal with a lack of understanding from people who think working from home doesn't really mean working. The burden lies upon you to set your working hours, stick to them, actually work during those hours, and refuse to let anyone else dissuade you from the idea that you're truly employed.
Unfortunately, home life has its own distractions that can burn precious daylight and put well-meaning home workers behind on important projects. In addition to the typical interruptions in the nine-to-five (vendor calls, power outages, accidents, pet or child needs), there are personal boundaries that will continue to be pushed.
Close family members have to understand that you can't help them move during the workday, or even chat on the phone for an hour. Setting limits if you have children at home can be especially tough. On the positive side, letting kids see you work hard at something you love—even at the parts you don't love—can greatly influence their future career choices and entire attitude toward work.
Be aware of workaholic tendencies
Efficiency and flexibility are two of the top 10 reasons that people want to work from home, along with shorter hours (what might you accomplish with eight straight hours of keyboard-pounding, uninterrupted by emails or daily staff meetings). But sometimes flexibility is too much of a good thing. When your office is always there, waiting, with that deadline looming over your head, it's pretty hard to just close the door and pretend you've left for the day. Many home-based workers find themselves working more hours, not fewer, logging in work time on nights and weekends, just because it's there and they can't ignore it.
It's true that many work-at-home professionals keep a five-hour day, as opposed to an eight-hour day. This does not mean, however, that they work less. Hours are often calculated as "billable hours," meaning that for every hour spent performing a task that they charge for, there are many minutes spent doing non-compensated administrative tasks.
Don't bet on saving money
Without a daily commute, mandatory lunches and the cost of office-appropriate attire, it may seem that working from home will peel some costs off your budget. But additional outlays can crop up. The expense to set up an office may include laptops, printers, internet service, cell phones, business cards, web hosting, business services, and software.
The Bottom Line
Working from home can be exciting, empowering and even profitable, provided you are realistic about the pros and cons. Whether you are a freelancer, a company part-timer, or a full-time employee who just doesn't hit the office on certain days, it's a way to escape the daily grind. But there are added responsibilities that come with freedom, not to mention planning, foresight, self-discipline, and focus. Oh, yes, and hours of uninterrupted hard work. As many home-based employees will tell you, it's not easier to work from home—it's just a different location.