A few years back, the company I was working for was acquired by another company located in a different state. With this change (and we all know there is a lot of change during an acquisition), my colleagues and I packed up our cubicles and set up shop on our dining room tables, in spare bedrooms, and even in local coffee shops. Overnight we became part of the millions of work-from-home Americans.
This growing trend is evident by the large number of business articles touting the flexibility as a major selling point for recruitment, providing productivity analysis of work-from-home vs. traditional 9-5ers, and anticipating trends for the future of telecommuting and what this means for businesses, families, and career paths.
Much to the surprise of my friends and family, I was not excited about the change to a work from home position. As an off the charts extrovert who believes that iron sharpens iron, working from home seemed as appealing as taking a vow of silence, or babysitting a group of sick toddlers, or repeating the 2016 election cycle.
However, over the past year I have come to appreciate the benefits.
Here are 5 tips to work-from-home success:
- Stand up! When you work from home it is so easy to sit all day. During the first few months I found myself puttering the few short steps of my apartment from my bed to desk to kitchen table to couch. When you work from home you must be more intentional to keep your body active. Get a stand-up desk, or adopt a dog that you can walk during lunch, or join a virtual gym like Daily Burn. Don’t let yourself become a desk potato.
- Master phone and video conferencing. Most of my meetings are on conference calls, and very few are video conferences. Recently I was hosting a video conference and accidentally turned on my computer camera instead of sharing my screen. Unfortunately, I was still in my pajamas– not the professional image I want to portray. If you’re going to work from home, it is vital that you master these platforms.
- Pick a time zone, any time zone. I live in a different time zone than the bulk of my colleagues. Because of this, I begin my work day at 7:30 local time to keep the same hours they do. At first it was difficult to stop working around 4 p.m. because it seemed too early to log off. Also, I often found myself returning to my desk in the evening to check off some more tasks while the inbox is quiet. Just because your office is in your home shouldn’t mean that you are always at work! Set time boundaries and stick to them.
- Write friendly internal emails. Miscommunications can happen anytime and are even more likely when using a medium like email. Because the majority of my interactions with co-workers are through email, I blur the lines of professional communication a bit to err on the side of too friendly. I sprinkle in smiley faces and exclamation points to add context to the copy. Also, I write as clearly and concisely as possible. My goal is successful communication, not impressing people with my vocabulary or correct use of a semi-colon.
- Be grateful for the benefits. Working from home is an adjustment, but the flexibility cannot be matched. The plumber says he’ll be by sometime on Thursday? No problem! Dentist only has an opening at 10 am? See you there! Car in the shop for a week? Not an issue. If done correctly, working from home can facilitate both an efficient work environment and the healthiest work-life balance.