We live in an era where telecommute and ‘work from home’ is wielding to form a new workforce. Initially, there were some qualms about supervision and on-site support. A long drawn pondering over the downside of this arrangement has finally given way to a level playing field, which works at both the employer and employee. The benefits are countless. It begins with lower real estate costs, avoiding time and energy lost in traffic with higher productivity and more options to work. Apart from these benefits, few emerging jobs that rooted for telecommute, have contributed for it to surf up in the main stream.
In CiteHR, we have many employers, such as Vinod, who have been offering jobs to be delivered from home through his post on Work from home . There were members such as Neha, discussing the process on how to implement telecommute for the employees of her organization, in her post Implementing ‘work from home’ process . Jack Niles, first coined the words Telecommute and telework, in 1973. The leading factors to telecommute are the benefits which entail for both the employers and employees. This is further pushed away from the existing nature of few jobs, which are easily being integrated with different tasks that may not require the employee’s presence. The offsite support had begun with Finance, remote IT and logistic support, gradually moved into research based roles and finally included the strategic employees, who work in senior roles and may require extensive travel. They may have switched to office hoteling, where they can book a cabin or a workstation when they need to attend office. Here is a recent post by a member who seeks techniques to remain more productive while working from home. How to manage productivity while working from home process.
Lets consider the common challenges, that we face in telecommute. There are solutions shared here which would work for a select group of telecommuters. The solution would depend on the nature of the job. The sales and business development roles may not be able avoid using mobile phones during their work time. Whereas, researchers, creative writers, content developer and analysts may find it to be easy to focus on the work by dividing it into different compartments.
- Managing the transition – At work there are numerous attributes that we have all become accustomed to. We don’t realize that we have subconsciously identified them as drivers for being productive. Hence, suddenly when, the office environment along with being physically present, is suddenly gone, we may face a void. The constant buzz in large open office spaces gets changed into the confinement of our rooms. The relentless clamour around us, coupled with interruptions have settled deep into our adaptability, where we may even feel sleepy if we don’t find it around. An employee had once shared that she used to feel as if her brain would get switched on, when she used to prepare for work. For some, driving to work acts as a trigger, that gets them into the productive mode. There are many more such undeclared triggers, which would not be there any more. Emotionally prepare yourself, for these in isolation.
- Identify the triggers – The initial thrill of working at home quickly merges into the stages of survival. The challenge to identify what makes you productive, begins. Not everyone will find themselves productive at a stretch of 8.5 hours at home. There are high energy cycles and low. Focus on the top priority work during the high cycles. Try and align it to the environment around you. You may work and support a family at the same time. Hence, strike a balance with high traffic and greater focused time zones.
- Work space – Work stations are designed ergonomically to allow one to work for long hours. When you switch to work from home, identify the space that you are most comfortable with. You may not invest in an elaborate home office, yet ergonomically designed furniture at your home should support the purpose. Identify the room that remains least disturbed. Maintaining a paperless workspace works best for me. I keep my laptop on throughout the day, hence, if I need to write something, I save it on sky drive. This has solved the problem of managing printers and scanners. I can email and transfer documents much faster now. I even found keeping cell phone on silent mode immensely productive. This allows me to take a call when I am on a break. Everyone may not have that option. Keeping the work phone separate is the best measure. It’s very tempting to use the land line phone at home. However, that would add to distractions in the long run. If you are working for an internet based job, keep more than one connection. This can be balanced with one unlimited plan and the other one with pay as you use. Choose different service providers, so that when the server is down for one, the other one works for you.
- Dashboards – A measure of your work throughout the day with time and metrics would keep you focused. You may set targets at the beginning of the day. Divide your time to manage different stages, including, focusing, developing, calibrating and finally delivering them. Please do keep a slack period to avoid any spill over.
- Work time – Declare the time of work to everyone at home. Identify the time when you would not be available, so that someone else is there to fill in for you. During those ‘no distraction’ periods avoid every temptation to respond to any call for help. Arrange for a support during the work time, in case you really need someone to be around. Remember you are nearby, hence you can focus. You may not be able to work at a stretch. To sum up, plan breaks to balance the two.
- Productivity technique – Few techniques that work for me, is to create a visual picture of what I want to see by the end of the day. During the day, revisiting it when I begin to lose focus prevents from sapping my energies. I take short tasks during the daytime where the disturbances would be highest, to ensure completion. Whereas during the quiet phases, I focus on what takes a longer time to finish. Cell phones are meant strictly for the break sessions. This allows me to choose which message or call I would want to revert to and in which order. The time duration which is allocated may not be as long as it seems on the dashboard. Mentally choosing shorter but focused durations are a lot more productive.
- Managing break times – The coffee breaks at the office, may not have always been productive. However, it used to be a rejuvenator before we would get back to work. Create similar breaks at home. A short break with some feel good activities such as taking a walk around the house or garden if you have one, at least moving to a veranda or a window adds on to a feeling of freshness. Identify the activities during the break time that sap your energies, avoid them by every means. It can be switching on the TV for a while or even talking to someone else on a completely different topic. Identify the tasks that require special focus and plan to finish it right, when you are back from the break. This would ensure you return early and start working with the same zest.
- Communicate openly– Remember that you can no longer see your team. If there are any questions, ask them at the outset. Use every mode of communication, including email, Skype and social networks to remain connected to the employees. This would avoid the isolation, professionally.
The work culture has emerged into many layers since industrialization. This would aggravate each time there are newer industries and evolving jobs. When the president of Boston Bank first shifted his work to his home in Somerville from Massachusetts in 1877, it was called smart working at that time! As said by Kathy King, “Telecommuting isn’t brain surgery. It’s very easy to implement, but it’s breaking down the barriers.”
Tell us how you have been productive while working from home. We are listening.