New career stage? New company? New role? Chances are you will work (or continue to work) remotely (aka Telecommuting) in the next decade. Following a few A/B/Cs of working remotely will allow you to both succeed and capture all the benefits including no commute, working when you are most productive, and flexibility in your work week.
I have worked for 30+ years for Fortune 50 companies in cubicles and in corner offices. I have worked at appliance manufacturing plants and in Wall Street towers. I have had offices with closed doors, as well as worked in an open floor plan environment. Then, I worked remotely for 13+ years and have learned how to make it work. Guess what? I’m never going back! (Viva independence! Viva lifestyle flexibility! Viva no wasted time in the car!) I simply love owning my own time. I want to share how you can make telecommuting work for you….
First, let’s look at the trends:
52% of employees around the world work from home at least once per week. (Owl Labs)
3.9 million Americans reported working from home sometimes or working remotely full-time in 2018. (FlexJobs)
“Telecommuting, one of many forms of work-life flexibility, should no longer be viewed as a nice-to-have, optional perk mostly used by working moms. These common stereotypes don’t match reality — allowing employees to work remotely is a core business strategy today… We need to de-parent, de-gender, and de-age the perception of the flexible worker.” — Cali Williams Yost, CEO and Founder of Flex+Strategy Group and Work+Life Fit
Make no mistake ~ while working from home may mean working in a casual environment you must still maintain formal work ties, goal setting processes, accountability structures, etc. in order for remote work to work.
Pro-actively determine and discuss with your employer (which might be you if you are a solopreneur!) all the details, definitions and expectations each of you are anchored on vis a vis the Telecommuting arrangement.
Here is a starter list:
Remember, your traditional casual in-office touch points / drop-in discussions will no longer be available. You need to think in advance about the items that may trip up the remote work arrangement ~ solving for items before they surface.
Because managers, team members and peers don’t see you day-to-day, they can lose sight of your workload. One unintended consequence of working remotely is that there is a tendency to over-work and over-commit in order to prove you are ‘all in’.
I vividly remember one summer of ‘overwhelm.’ My kids were at sleep-away camp and I had a vision of completing my committed work and then basking in “reflection / me time” during the week which was sorely lacking while kids were home. What happened? My employer knew I had some additional flex hours available and sent more work my way. Instead of working with my boss on revised deadlines and priorities to get the work done in a reasonable time horizon, I simply accepted it and worked harder! What was the net? I found myself working very late on several days not having left the house, being angry at my work, frustrated with myself, and demotivated. This was MY self-imposed problem as I did not set down and communicate my boundaries and expectations in real time.
Working from home makes it is easy to fall into the trap of never being ‘off.’ There is always something to do and you do not have the ‘built-in trigger that the work day is ending’ derived from going to and from the office while commuting. You need to put this trigger in place! (ex. 7 pm and the computer is turned off; 2-hour media free time through dinner time and beyond; Sundays 100% blocked from any work activity).
The key point – you must be intentional setting and disciplined following these boundaries for fear that your work and personal lives become too intertwined.
Working from home can be lonely. It is ‘on you’ to make sure this does not happen. Here are a few ways to avoid isolation:
Working from home…. Liberating or lonely? Successful or stress-inducing? Energizing or enervating? Follow the A/B/Cs around making working remotely do-able to set yourself up for success!