working from home, and leading teams remotely for many years. Here are
some of the things I've learned during that time. I hope you can find
some benefit from it...
1. Start your day off right. Get up, have
breakfast, take a shower, put on something other than pajamas, etc. –
you get the idea. Remember, how you treat yourself on the outside
reflects what you are thinking on the inside. Be good to yourself and it
will show in your communications. Remember, when you work from home you
only have your voice and tone, so everything you say and do will be
scrutinized. 2. Create a dedicated work space with a door you can
shut. You need a place where you do work that you can leave at the end
of the day. To work from home successfully, you need to maintain a
strong mental focus on what you do. You don’t want to have your work
everywhere around your house, and you definitely want a door you can
shut when needed. It’s also a good idea to conduct a home audit to
assess those often overlooked projects that need to be done in your home
3. Buy a headset with a good mute function. You
want the headset so you can still have both hands-free while on the
phone. A good mute function (i.e. it works, and others cannot tell when
you switch mute on) will be an asset for you. It’s critical that your
co-workers do not hear other noises in the background. That can disrupt
important meetings and build resentment that you are at home.
Use a cordless phone. It’s hard to sit in the same spot in your house
all day. Also, people who work from home generally work more (i.e.
during times when others are commuting, etc.), so you need to be able to
get up, stretch, do some things around the house, etc. A cordless
phone, including a headset with a good mute function, is key.
Use two monitors with your computer. There are studies and articles that
show adding a second monitor will boost your productivity 20-30%. It’s
totally true. A second monitor is critical to anyone who wants to work
6. Leverage a web cam. One of the things you can do to
regain physical presence in your communications is use a web cam. A web
cam plus an instant messaging tool allow others to see you and for you
to see them. This is critical in building rapport and communication with
others. I highly recommend at least your team (if you manage one) and
the person you report to have web cams.
7. Partner with your Team
Leader (i.e. who you report to, some people use the term “boss”). The
person you report to is a critical component in your work from home
success. You should meet with this person once per week via phone to
review what you have accomplished in the previous week, and what you
plan to accomplish next week. It’s also critical that you make yourself
available to this person whenever necessary. If they are going to trust
you to work from home, you have to be transparent and accessible to
8. Develop key relationships with your team. You need eyes
and ears in the office because you don’t have them. If you have
effective work relationships with team members, work with them to
support you while you are remote. Calling team members just to check in
(i.e. without a specific need) is a helpful way to do this.
Master your phone system and conferencing tools. Phone conversations,
conference calls, and voice mails are three critical tools in your work
from home toolbox. All three of these tools allow you to inject tone
into your communications, something that is lacking in email and IM.
Each of these scenarios is an opportunity to create memorable
communication experiences with the people you work with. Most phone
systems have additional, rarely used features (like scheduling voice
mails) that you can leverage to your advantage. Be sure to check the Dot
Connector 10 Tips to Improve Your Voicemails for other ideas to help
10. Master your instant messaging (IM) program. IM is a
useful tool for communicating with folks quickly and orchestrating
events in the office. Need someone to jump into a conference room to
join a meeting? Use IM to coordinate that. Knowing the full capabilities
of your IM program can help you leverage it effectively. Be careful,
however, not to use acronyms and abbreviated words too frequently. Not
everyone will know what you are saying, and when you work from home, you
need to be a clear communicator, not a confusing one.
your email program. Email will be a lifeblood of your work at home
expereince. However, it’s important to remember that if you “match the
medium to the message” (i.e. email is not appropriate for every message)
in your communications, there will be times to use email and times not
to use it. Check out the Dot Connector Email Management Series to get
control of your email.
12. Leverage a screen sharing program.
There are several tools that let you share your screen with people in
the office, and vice-versa. This is a crucial technique for
participating in meetings, as you can follow the presentation slides on
your screen or present your slides just like you were in the room. These
tools also help you train others on how to use other tools, websites,
etc. and vice-versa.
13. Go back to the office regularly. It’s up
to you to define how frequently you need to revisit the office. Some
folks go back twice a year, some every quarter, and some even go back
monthly. It all depends on your unique situation. However, it’s critical
that you do have face-to-face time with people you work with.
Be memorable when you are in the office. Be animated in discussions and
meetings, walk around the room in key meetings, and volunteer to give
presentations to large groups. The key is to create experiences and
situations where the people you work with will remember you when you are
not there. Also, by doing this you create visuals in people’s minds
that can augment your lack of presence in your communications when you
work from home.
15. Go out to lunch. You need to leave the house.
Going out to lunch is a great way to take a break, interact with other
people, and refresh your mind for the afternoon. It is great to save
money on lunch by eating at home, but forcing yourself to go out will
help freshen your perspective.
16. Drive conversations. You have
to tell your story, or someone will tell it for you. It’s critical that
when you work from home, you make your point in discussions and
meetings. People will forget that you are on the phone. They will talk
over you and sometimes not hear what you say (especially if you are on
speakerphone in a conference room full of people). Therefore, it’s
critical that you are assertive in your speaking and focus on getting at
least one major point/idea in each discussion.
17. Match the
timezone of your co-workers and Clients. To make the transition to work
from home easier, it’s important to match time timezone of your
co-workers and Clients. For example, if they are primarily in the
Eastern time zone, work and take breaks similar to business hours for
18. Stay organized. Staying organized is another
key to successfully working from home. If you get too disorganized your
productivity can drop exponentially, since you don’t have co-worker
interactions to help change your attitude and boost your focus. Keeping
accurate to-do lists and a strong mental focus can help you stay focused
19. Send hand-written cards to people. Not only
is this a great thing to do in general, but for people who work from
home it’s a critical tool. This is another way to make up for your lack
of presence in the office and make yourself memorable to your co-workers
and Clients. When you work from home, it can be easy to slip into
“doing mode” and forget the intangible communication tools you would use
if you were in the office: asking how people are doing before you “talk
business,” saying thank you when someone does something for you, and
reaching out to people just to see how they are.
20. Match your
sense of urgency to your co-workers and Clients. It’s very easy to be
“over urgent” when working from home. Issues sometimes seem bigger than
they are. Sometimes it seems you are getting inundated with co-worker
communications. Your workload can seem insurmountable. When you get
these feelings, it’s time to get organized, re-prioritize your work,
take a break, and have a discussion with someone in the office to get a
sense of the “vibe” there.