More and more people are working from home now and socially distancing themselves. I’ve been doing this for a while now and thought that this would be a great time to share my thoughts and experiences.
When I started at Nintex, in the Melbourne office as a developer, I knew I had found an awesome company to work for. There were so many smart and creative people and that’s exactly who you want to be surrounded by, so that you can grow as a person and grow your career.
10 months into the role, my situation changed, and I had to move to the US. Nintex and I discussed the situation and we agreed to try the “work remote” scenario. No one else at Nintex worked remote at the time, so this was venturing into uncharted waters. 12 years later and I am still a remote employee. Over this period, I have seen people come and go, and for some of those that work remote, it doesn’t always work. How have I done it for this long? These are a few suggestions I have, to make sure your working from home experience is successful. This is far from an exhaustive list. It’s different for everyone.
Here we go….
You have a job to do. Regardless of whether you are in the office, on a business trip, or working from home, you are getting paid to do a job. Don’t forget that. I think this is an obvious one, but when you don’t work from home often, you can easily think of it as a day off. It’s not.
Try to reach out to colleagues. This is probably the hardest thing for people to do, especially at the beginning. When you work from home, you can easily get caught up in projects or day-to-day work and forget that there are a lot of other people in the company. Make an effort to talk to people, either via chat, phone or other medium, so that people know you are there and being productive. It’s very easy for people to forget that you’re around, since you aren’t in the office.
Make yourself presentable and visible. Continuing from the above point, with better internet services these days, you’ll probably be on more virtual meetings. Turn the camera on. Don’t be afraid to show yourself and to see others. A lot of people need and enjoy the social aspect of working. Some even crave it. With software like Zoom and Teams, you can blur your background or have a virtual background, if you need to hide some of the stuff behind you. Of course, in order to do this, I do recommend you brush/comb your hair and put something respectable on, since you will be seen, sometimes by the executives at work.
Workspace. Dedicate an area for your work. Ideally, you have a separate room, like an office. Right now, with businesses closing their offices and their staff having to work from home, not everyone has the luxury of having a dedicate office at home. In this case, find a comfortable place. You’ll be doing this for many hours of the day, so comfort is crucial, otherwise you’ll hate what you do.
Housemates, spouses, family. Sit down and have a chat, and explain to them what you do, what you will be doing when working from home and what you’ll need from them. As you start to work from home during this time, your family or housemates will probably not be used to it. It’s going to be tough at the beginning. It was tough for me too. But it gets better over time, as you all figure out your groove. Don’t expect your partners, kids, housemates and pets, to understand that you need to focus on what you’re doing, or that you need quiet when you are on meetings. They haven’t spent any time with you in the office. All they know, is that you are home, so you’re available to do things, right? You can fix things around the house. You can cook. You can play. Don’t get upset. It’ll take a little time, but communication is key.
Christmas and Halloween shirts can be worn year-round. If you don’t have meetings, any celebration shirts are fair game. Since you’re not the only one working from home, you probably have a spouse or roommate who is doing the same, and maybe you have kids and their schools are closed, adding a little more cheer is best for everyone. But, go back to “Make yourself presentable and visible”. If you have meetings, fix yourself up.
Working more hours. Do I work more hours than I would if I came into the office? Probably. Ok, that should just be a flat out, YES. That’s more self-inflicted, but also related to working in a global company. I would recommend that you keep an eye on that. I have always thought that any job you do, you should do to the best of your ability. I think it’s important to think that way, but not at the detriment of your personal life. Find that happy medium, that work-life balance.
Breaks. Take breaks throughout the day. It’s important to not be stuck at the computer all day. It’s not healthy. Do your best to take a lunch. I’m guilty of working through lunch often. Again, that falls on to the fact that I have a team who is spread out across the Americas, colleagues, partners and customers all around the world and yeah….I’m a bit of a workaholic and enjoy what I do. Sometimes I work through lunch. Other times, I’m having lunch at 10am or 3pm. One of my favorite breaks, is to get away from the computer, go outside and play with my grandson or my dog. It does wonders as you let your brain relax.
Kids, pets, family members in the background. We’ve all seen some of the videos online, where a politician is being interviewed via a video call from their home, and their kids run into the room in the background. Here’s what I have found. No one cares. That’s even more relevant right now, where a lot more people are working from home. Everyone understands that not everyone has a dedicated office at home. You’ll do your best to have uninterrupted calls, but if there is an interruption, so what?? The other day, I was on a video call with 5 people from our senior leadership team. Everyone had their cameras on, and halfway through, my grandson came into my office and was fascinated with all the faces on the screen. Everyone smiled and said hi. He stood and watched for a little bit, and then he went off to continue playing. It’s not the end of the world.
Prioritizing. Being away from the office, means people will be reaching out to you more via chat and email. Practice understanding the priorities of all those requests. Use OneNote, your calendar, a notepad. Whatever is easiest for you, to make sure that you respond to everything in a timely manner and nothing falls through the cracks.
Extended breaks. I have known people in the past that when they had work-from-home days, that would be their “I get to do my errands”-day. Most of the day, they were out and away from their desk. Now if you have something that needs to be done during the day, I get it. We all have that from time to time and running errands is completely understandable. I caution you on misusing the work-from-home privileges. Especially at a time like this, when we are seeing businesses close. People distancing themselves from one another. People are being laid off. This is not the time to think that working from home is a vacation. In fact, it’s never the time to think that working from home is a vacation.
Learning. Hopefully the social distancing and working from home isn't affect your normal day job too much. But if you do see any luls in workload, take this opportunity to learn and grow. Make yourself even more valuable to the business. Don't be afraid to speak up and let management know about any ideas you might have on how the business can be streamlined or even if you have ideas to make your products or services better. There are a lot of companies out there, that are opening up their training at the moment and making it free or super cheap. This a great time to learn new things and make yourself invaluable.
Final Thoughts. One of the things that my father taught me at a young age, when he was working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, is that you don’t have to work. You get to work. There are a lot of people out there who can’t work or are having trouble finding work. What he meant by “you don’t have to work”, is that … no one is forcing you to work. You can just live on the street if you want to. But if you do have a job, it doesn’t matter what that job is, do it to the best of your ability. There are people that count on you. Whether those people are your family, or other people you work with. If you work well, everyone succeeds. If you do a bad job, it affects everyone. There’s a butterfly effect in the company you work at. You don’t do your job well, which means you’re outputting less. That means the next person who expects that work to be done, won’t be able to successfully do their job. Which means the next person and the next.
These are scary time for a lot of people. Let’s all do our small part, to make sure that we act professionally, we do our best, we work hard, and make sure that we help everyone around us.