Making working remotely workable
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.
Follow these ABCs for making remote work a success
A. Active Anchors
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:
- What are your business goals and how will they be measured?
- To what degree do you need to travel or come into the home office to be productive, effective and meet those goals?
- What can your employer expect of you regarding your accessibility and availability?
- What will be your preferred means of 2-way communication? And are these modalities aligned with the intent / importance of what you want to communicate? (In Person? Video? Phone? Email? Text? etc.?)
- What can you expect of your employer regarding tools to be productive? Access to Slack? A premier Zoom account? A formal travel budget?
- When should you have a formal discussion about the work arrangement, and what adjustments should be made? Hint – ‘soon’ and calendar it!
- To what degree does your boss need to see you in person to feel comfortable with the arrangement?
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.
B. Bold Boundary-setting
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.
>READ: SETTING BOUNDARIES IS SELF-CARE
C. Choreographed Connectedness
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:
- Have a standing meeting with your boss via Zoom video (or Skype, WebEx etc.) so that you can see one another. The calls can be weekly, bi-weekly or whatever cadence makes the most sense.
- Have at least 1 video meeting daily with your work peers, team mates, vendors, clients. (Every Sunday I look at my calendar for the week to take inventory of calls or meetings I have set up which ‘scratch the itch’ of needing and wanting to see others).
- Form an informal alliance of other local folks who work virtually and meet them in person 1x per month to exchange ideas and build a support system.
- Join a local non-work-related live group where you have to ‘show up’ and are expected to carry a load. Join an exercise class, a book club or volunteer group where you will see many of the same people on-going who expect you to be there!
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!
>READ: OFFICE NOMADS: 7 TIPS TO WORK REMOTELY>READ: DO’S AND DON’TS OF WORKING FROM HOME>READ: SECOND ACT CAREERS: WORK IS NOT A PLACE