I am working as a Business Analyst in a large local telecommunications company. The company has completely changed its way of working, and I am required to work from home four days a week, and only one day a week at the office.
I have never worked remotely before. I am concerned about being far away from the action, all the fantastic informal conversations and learning that happens around the lunch room, water cooler and in the hallways. I am worried about being left out of the team and ignored as I am about having the self-discipline to work independently.
How will I be able to continue to ensure that my performance is successful and be recognized for my efforts? How will I be able to help out my co-workers? I will miss the interaction and fun. Do you have any suggestions on how to leverage this new way of working?
Signed: Fear of the Virtual Office (FVO)
There is a dazzling array of research on the impact, benefits and challenges of the virtual or remote office. Regardless of the pros and cons, the experts in Harvard Business Review’s’ latest piece by Johns and Gratton (2012) about virtual work, project that within a few years, more than 1.3 billion people will work virtually through electronic connections from sites of their choosing. You are ahead of the game and it is important to understand that this transformation is happening every day! It’s called “telecommuting” or “telework”. You are not alone in this new model of working. With mobile technology and global teamwork, employees can work anywhere, any time without missing out on opportunities for career progress and development within their companies.
According to Johns and Gratton, the virtual working world drives collaboration and tailors employment arrangements to the needs of the individual. They point at TELUS as a successful example of this. When working remotely, their employees can connect virtually with their team members across Canada. The workers come together around a purpose rather than a function or a department. When they do meet at the office, employees meet in shared spaces and have a chance to learn from each other, regardless of their function.
Here are some tips on how to work remotely or from home, while ensuring that your productivity and performance are measuring up to your supervisor’s and company’s requirements:
1. Setting up your workplace:
Make sure you have the latest and greatest in technology. Ensure that your equipment (computer, Internet phone, printer, etc) are separate and NOT SHARED by your family. I am sure your work will cover all these expenses so it is worth your while to keep the invoices and bills for these services separate as well. Further, an article on Microsoft.com stresses a remote employee (telecommuter) can have a much easier time focusing on work if he or she creates a private, dedicated space for a home office that is free from distractions and has easy access to everything needed for the job.
As Saudia Satar, Team Lead Recruitment at ING Direct Canada states, always ensure that no matter where you are working from, the business equips you with the right tools. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I guarantee that if your employer has introduced this new lifestyle of working, they will have the answers you are looking for. It may be an adjustment at first but it does require good discipline on your part. Consider it a compliment that your manager has the trust and confidence in you to work from home. Remember that if you are comfortable in the environment you are working in, your productivity increases, so make sure you create a healthy and productive work environment at home.
2. Communicating with your team and manager:
This is one of the biggest challenges of the virtual office. You will need to work harder to keep in touch with your colleagues. The water cooler days are few and far between as is the informal learning and social interactions. But new technologies help bridge this gap.
According to Satar, make sure that you are accessible at all times by phone, Webcast, instant chat application like MS Messenger, email, text, or through your company’s proprietary communication technology. Use a headset, consider call forwarding to your home or cell phone so that you receive calls wherever you are working. Schedule the time you are at work for things you know will be more challenging to do from home (e.g. meetings).
Furthermore, Satar stresses the need to ensure that you are involved in committees, community service activities recognized by your employer, and that you participate in all the required meetings either at the office or remotely. Being accessible at all times is important. Share your calendar with your team so they are aware of what your day looks like. Transparency is always helpful when working remotely.
3. Maintaining a work-life balance
It’s important to not sacrifice a healthy work life balance. Working remotely is just one example of how ING Direct try to do this, explains Satar, who sees this type of workplace as a positive experience. She recommends that when working from home, you should structure your day as you would in an office environment. Schedule in your breaks, lunch, fun activities after work and engage in efforts for your health and well-being (go to the gym, do yoga, meditate, etc). Do not stop living your life and get addicted to the computer. It’s critical that you have good time management skills in order to meet the deadlines, remain accountable and engaged with your team and employer even though you are not in an office.
Make working from home a positive experience.