So you've finally convinced your boss to let you work from home. It's taken a few months, and you've had to lobby for the change with key stakeholders and put together a presentation justifying the proposal, but you did it …and the company has signed off on the decision. Now the hard part is over and you can just wake up on Monday and begin working remotely, right?
Well, not exactly.
Working remotely, despite popular misconceptions, takes hard work, and it all starts with preparation and setting yourself up to be successful. We sometimes forget or take for granted all the resources and support we have in an office environment and can be quickly caught off guard when issues come up in our remote workspace.
I started working two days a week from home early this year and learned early on that I needed to make some adjustments to be successful. As I settled in, I realized that it would have been helpful to know all the things you need to prepare and do before beginning to work remotely.
So I made a list and reached out to friends and colleagues who also work remotely. Based on my own experience and the input from others, below are 12most massively crucial tips to help you prepare to work remotely:
It almost goes without saying, but you can't work consistently without a reliable home network and a fast Internet connection. Ensure your connection and home network are up to speed by doing a test work day from home. Note your connectivity at different times during the day and when you use different software. If your service is flaky or your bandwidth is insufficient, you may need to change broadband plans or your ISP.
Just as important as a stable home network, it's critical that you test your company's remote access software before working remotely. The key is to test not only your remote access, but every account and system you typically use in the office: email, network drives, business systems, websites, etc. Is everything working as expected? If not, can IT assist? If there are any technical limitations that can't be resolved, can you work around them effectively?
Your coworkers will quickly sour on you working remotely if you're not easily accessible by phone. If you have an office phone, call forward it to your preferred remote line. If you'll be away from your remote office frequently, ensure you always have your mobile phone and your company and customer contacts have the number. Most importantly, ensure your colleagues know which number to use to reach you at any given time.
When you work in an office, you don't sit in a different spot every day, and you should follow the same practice at home. Turn a spare room into a dedicated office with comfortable seating. Don't have the space for a home office? Then plan a regular makeshift spot, like your dining room table, where you'll be able to work without distraction for your full shift.
Smartphones and 24 hour access to email have eradicated traditional notions of work hours, but no one can work all the time and you don't want to set unrealistic expectations with your employer about when you'll be working. Depending on the nature of your work, set core office hours when you'll always be “in the office” and available, and provide this information to your colleagues and external contacts. Make sure you plan out specific times for breaks and lunch. If you support or lead global teams and need to be available during peak times in other time zones, communicate this and keep your work calendar and IM status updated.
Even if you do your best to set expectations with your colleagues, some coworkers may remain dubious or resentful about you working remotely. Prepare yourself for possible snide comments and passive aggressive behavior and try not to take the bait. Working effectively and productively from home will be the best response.
You may have everything you need to work from home, but you won't be successful if you're constantly distracted by family or housemates. Before you begin working remotely, sit down with others in your house and inform them of your schedule. Let them know that when you are working from home, just because you're in the house, it doesn't mean you're “home” or available. It may take awhile for others to adjust.
All organizations are different but most require some status and time tracking. If you already have a template to log your activity during the week that works for you and your boss, continue to use it when you work remotely. If you don't, consider developing your own status template to capture the major activity during the week. My own status template includes three main sections: a section to detail work completed in the report period, another to document any issues, and a final section listing priorities for the next period.
The spillover of social networking into business has created more tools and channels than ever before for you to stay connected with your colleagues. Besides email, you may now have instant messaging, remote meeting software, social streaming (like NewsGator or Socialcast), microblogging (like Yammer), design collaboration software, wikis, project and task management applications, and even mind map software. Before working remotely, learn everything that's supported at your company and provision any necessary accounts or software.
Being granted the opportunity to work remotely is a privilege and a sign of trust. Demonstrate your appreciation for the opportunity and belief in working remotely by aiming high. Set bold but realistic targets that will prove that you can be even more effective working from home than in the office.
Wherever you work, one thing is inevitable: you will encounter some technical issues and hiccups. Prior to working remotely, ensure you know your IT department's process for capturing and resolving technical issues. Do they have a help desk call center? Is there a web-based ticket system? Do you have someone in the department you can call for emergencies? Find out and keep this information readily available.
Of course, even the best plans for working remotely aren't foolproof. That's because there are factors beyond your control, namely Internet and power outages. As you prepare to work remotely, be sure you have a plan in place if you ever can't work remotely. Can you work for a short period using just your mobile device? Is there a place nearby with wireless? Can you work in the office for a day or as long as needed until your remote environment is available again?
About 3 million Americans will work from home full-time in 2011, and Forrester Research projects that the number will double over the next five years. Additionally, about 40% of employees work from home part-time. If you join the telecommuting workforce, I hope these recommendations prove useful to you and set you up for success.
This post was originally published on 12 Most on September 1, 2011. The original post can be found here: http://12most.com/2012/02/21/comparisons-technology-companies-to-countries/