Work From Home – How to Make it Real

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From your organization’s standpoint it makes sense. There is a lower requirement to build, lease and or maintain facilities, lower energy costs plus a longer work day. The community also the benefits by reducing urban transit, highway, parking and infrastructure costs. In short it’s “green”.

It does raise the question: “If working from home is so great why isn’t everyone doing it?” In fact, in some situations, it is not that great. In any customer facing occupations working from home is obviously out, unless it is customer support where it doesn’t matter where you answer the phone. However, even then, there are some domestic things one needs to iron out and self discipline involved in working from home properly. Things like poor bandwidth, barking dogs, crying kids, microwaves buzzing, dishes rattling, TVs in the background can all be deal breakers if not managed properly.

And then there is the office dynamic, socialization, communication, team building perspective. I recently had a long conversation with an executive that forbid working from home. He had been burned by a couple of individuals that took advantage of him by not delivering on promises made to work from home. Can’t say I blame him that much for being pissed, but is it all about the employees? Does the organization and management need to change tactics, policies and procedures?

Some face to face contact does seem to be necessary in most situations. Most work from home workers tend to be senior knowledge workers, analysts, consultants, technical support and sales people who have a proven track record. The trend of senior employees does, however, seem to be changing over the past few years as organizations learn how to manage remote workers.

So what does it take to work from home successfully? I have a few ideas and I’d love to hear from others on this as well, so feel free to comment.

Home Infrastructure: You need to have a sound proof office where you can shut the door. You need reliable high speed internet access, a great desk, ergonomic chairs, mobile phone, good land line (preferably a dedicated phone line) phone, VPN access to your organization’s network (essential and a pain), computers(if using Windows get good virus protection sw and keep it up to date), professional printer and scanner.
Domestic Discipline: You need to carve out hours where you and everyone else in the house knows you are working. If you have kids, get day care of some sort for those times. If you have dogs keep the office door closed when on the phone. Answer your phone professionally.
Connect: Make a point to reach out from time to time to people you work with either my phone, email, texting, etc. just to keep relationships alive. Since you are not walking by their office or cube everyday they might tend to forget you exist.

Attend all the meetings: Be proactive and let people know you will need a conference number to attend meetings. Also set up all of your conference software well in advance of your meetings. Apps like Webex can sometimes be tricky to install because of computer security, browser settings and Java versions.
Get hip with the technology: Working from home is primarily enabled by technology. If you cannot operate the technology you won’t survive at home. However the good news is there is some great technology out there that can really help. Two that I rely on are Skype and GoToMeeting. The latter is a little pricey but worth it. Nothing hurts you as bad as a failed presentation because you used a cheapie service.
Manage it: Keep in mind all of this costs money. The commute money you save will be eaten up by your home office and a cut off phone, internet access, GotoMeeting account can be a disaster when you least expect it.
I’d like to explore technologies to enhance the work from home experience at some point. Does anyone have any tips, experiences or hints?

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