Remote Access: 6 Reminders for Successfully Working From Home
It’s 8:30 on a Tuesday morning and I just sent my youngest son off to school. I sit down at my desk with a hot cup of coffee and begin my day. Well, technically, I’ve already caught up on emails on my phone and responded to a few. Oh, and I had a brief conversation with a client a bit earlier. So, you could say this is when the “structured” part of my day begins.
I’ve worked from my home office for 12 years — roughly half my career — and I am part of the nearly 3 percent of American workforce who work from home at least half of the week. Before my current gig, I commuted downtown, paid to park in a garage, walked about a mile and took the elevator up to the 17th floor of the government building where my office was located. And before that, I was a reporter for a pair of community newspapers located in suburban office parks.
I give you this brief background to assure you that I know what it’s like to leave my house to work. Spoiler alert: I don’t miss the commute. I don’t miss paying for parking. And I don’t miss riding in elevators.
Gleaned from my experience, here are six tips for how to succeed at working from home as a remote employee:
- Have a dedicated workspace. As tempting as it might be to lie in bed with the laptop, when working from home, you have to set boundaries between domestic life and work. Personally, I have an office with a desk and a door that I can shut. When I’m there, it’s all about work and my family knows to respect my space.
- Be responsive. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t bother to return an email or a call. I always try to respond to co-workers and clients in a timely manner. I think it’s especially crucial for remote employees to show that they are alert and accessible. I always want people to feel as though I’m in the office right around the corner.
- Get to know the people you work with. As busy as we all are, when on the phone with clients or co-workers, it’s important to take a little time to just talk before getting down to business. It’s especially important for a remote worker, who often only knows people by their phone voices, to make good use of that time on the line together. What did you do over the weekend? How are the kids? What’s the weather like there? Asking such questions helps you learn who’s on the other end of the line. You find out what you have in common. You discover things you didn’t know. You put one another at ease and clear the way for a productive relationship.
- Get your steps in. In a normal work environment, you move around throughout the day — walking to meetings, visiting with co-workers, hiking to and from your parking spot. But when you’re working from home, it’s easy to sit in front of the computer all day. That’s why I wear a fitness tracker that prompts me to get up and take some steps every hour. Sometimes, those few steps are around the house while I’m on a conference call. Other times, I jaunt around the block to get some fresh air and clear my mind.
- Prioritize face time. When you work from home it’s not always feasible to meet clients or co-workers face-to-face, but jump at every opportunity to do so. I’ve developed strong relationships with colleagues and clients alike simply by spending time with them both in the office and in more relaxed settings, such as conferences, meals and happy hours. Without that time spent in person with your colleagues, you run the risk of becoming invisible. Escape your home office as often as possible and make yourself memorable.
- Do good work. Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s worth emphasizing nonetheless. When you deliver quality, you make your company’s leaders look like geniuses for allowing you to work from home. You also do a big favor for every person who dreams of remote employment: As a work-from-home pioneer, you help prove that this could be the future of work for everyone.
Bob Beasley has worked for 25 years as a storyteller. A former journalist, he’s now a senior vice president at FleishmanHillard, where he focuses on strategic communications counsel, media relations and writing services for clients in a variety of industries.