My experience with “working from home” has started with relocation to another country because of my husband’s job. My manager and I have agreed that I could continue working as my tasks are manageable from a distance and I was already taking care of the business in diffrent countries from one location. After 1,5 years in my “Home Office”, I see that we have to distinguish managing work from “distance” and managing work from “home office”. There are various lessons learnt from this valuable experience and I want to share them along this article by touching each challenge I faced with a possible solution on the topic.
Nowadays, many companies encourage their employees for working from home from time to time or on regular basis such as once a week. Compared to working in an office with a special dress code and on the top of a chair for 7-8 hours per day, this is a good opportunity to have the chance to work in a relaxed and more comfortable environment. But in case of a continious “home office” concept, a more structured environment different than home is definetely needed. This means, a special corner or a room with a comfortable chair and desk should be designated as “official office”. This way, the employee will have the needed motivation to start working every morning with the needed discipline which is definetely crucial for concentration and productivity at a high level. Even I have organized what I have recommended as “official office”, in time, I have started to get bored from my office and found myself trying to avoid going to my “official office” spot to work. This has brought me the idea of “renovation” in two ways;
- From time to time, I took any other place at home as “working spot” of the hour/day. But I avoided this to become continous changing environment in order to avoid spending time to relocation more than needed. This helped if I did this once a week.
- I have also started to literally renovate my home office. A new desk gave me very big motivation for example. Of course renovation cannot always be that expensive. Even getting a new coffee cup or a flower on your desk will help a lot.
“Start working” is an important point here, as for many who work from home, working timeslots are mixed with private life time. To start working, an employee need to finish/stop working at first place. Working hours are limited in employee contracts and in “law” in all countries. Even this shows that, everybody needs rest and time for their personal lives. There may be exceptions due to urgencies or overtime work requirements from time to time of course, but in general, “working hours” should be determined well and the employee should turn off his/her computer accordingly every end of business day and “re-start” working the next morning just like he/she goes to the office and turns on his/her computer.
Communication and interaction with counterpartners, colleagues in the company will not be like it used be face to face. There will be no small chats, coffee breaks with colleagues in the same office from different departments as well. This brings us to the point that home office employee does not have a break for “mind refreshment” during the day. In order to avoid this feeling which would deeply effect the performance of the employee, virtual communication channels can be used more often. It is like managing the business from a distance;
- Regular “business review” and/or “follow up meetings” should be held.
- Coffee breaks should be taken into account seriously and should be on regular basis during the day accompanying a small chat on the phone with a friend inside or outside of the organisation.
- Not only coffee breaks but also “lunch breaks” should be really used. Especially, in the very beginning of my home office experience, I was forgetting to have lunch very often. In the first weeks, that was great to spend more time on work but at some point, working without breaks started to decrease my productivity. At that point, I have understood that I should be seriously considering a well organized calendar including breaks. Now, my outlook calendar has a lunch timeslot as “busy” every day.
Another important and indispensible motivation point is “dress code”. Many people may tend to skip how helpfull it is to get dressed according to any activity in our lives. Imagine yourself registering to a new sports club. Would you be going there with your sports shoes, slippers or high heels? I cannot imagine a person in gym running with slippers or high heels. The same applies to work. Dressing is important and we never wear our pyjamas in the office. Actually, many companies allow casual dress code which I, personally, support. Even it is casual, when working from home, it should be different than the ones that are worn out of working hours. Whatever you are wearing during working hours while your computer is on, you need to change after you shut down your computer. This will be the border between your professional life and private life which really helps a lot with motivation of mind when it comes to working with full concentration and intensively.
Open communication with your manager is important and crutial for the business continuity in all cases. Working from home is specifically based on trust between the manager and the employee as there may be doubts about productivity from manager side and worries for being seen lazy from the employee side. Whenever there is a doubt from any side, this should be openly discussed. Of course, open communication is not a topic only for home office cases. That is why, it is always fair to think as follows: “what if I was working from office… how would that look like if I was working from office and not from home…”. Luckily, I have never been through an issue related to trust but I believe that it is because I took the needed precautions listed above in order to avoid any negative effects of working from home office, on my performance.
As a consequence, it is all about feeling in the office and not at home. I personnally believe that “office environment” is really a big motivation fact which birings a lot of value add and discipline to what we produce during the day. It is challenging to work from home and at first place personal assessment with honesty is needed for the employee, himself/herself. Accordingly, any change, update in life style and working area will help to overcome all challenges. Secondly, trust between the employee and the manager is the key for an ongoing business without any negative impacts on daily work.
Serap Gulizar Erenay
Originally published at www.linkedin.com