Telecommuting can be problematic for both employer and employee.
As I write this, I am sitting in my sweatpants and sweatshirt with my puppy, my hair a mess from not having showered. How, might you ask, is such flagrant disregard for business casual and water-cooler appropriateness allowed in my workplace? I work from home. Telecommuting, working from home, working remotely… there are many ways to describe it, and this phenomenon has taken off in recent years with the advent of the internet. However, working from home is not all fun and games – it can also pose some challenges to both the worker and manager. How do you concentrate on spreadsheets when there’s so much laundry to do? How can you ensure your employees are doing their work and not doing that laundry? If you spend part or all of your time working from home, here are some recommendations to make sure you’re at the top of your home game.
Create a workspace that’s right for you.
The specifics of a productive workspace come down to creating an environment in which you work best. Each person has different needs based on the way they work most efficiently and the specific requirements of their position.
If you concentrate best when there’s background noise, play the radio or put the TV on (Jerry Springer not recommended). If you prefer a silent environment, make sure you have a room separate from the hustle and bustle of your home, and make sure there’s a door that you can close to block out potential distractions. And whatever your noise preferences, make sure you don’t allow the line between your work duties and your home duties to become blurred. Keep all responsibilities that don’t have to do with work in another part of your home so that you can focus on your work and not get distracted.
Finally, pay attention to how your workspace makes you feel. You don’t need to limit your home office accoutrement to items used strictly for work purposes, like a desk and a chair; add a plant to your office or a piece décor that makes you feel both calm and productive. Your surroundings play a big part in how you work, so make sure you create the right environment for that purpose.
Monitor your employees.
As an employer managing workers in the field, it is incumbent upon you to make sure they are being productive; however, this can be difficult when you’re not physically present. Thankfully there are ways to ensure that your employees are fulfilling their duties without popping by their homes to check up on them. First, it’s not enough to be in contact throughout the day. Go a step further: schedule a daily minute video call with your work-from-home employees to talk through what has been accomplished and what is next on the agenda. If you would like to know even more about the specifics of their work, consider using monitoring software. This doesn’t mean installing cameras in your workers’ home offices. Check out Cynthia Boris’ suggestions on entrepreneur.com for monitoring your employees’ progress.
One of the biggest challenges I faced when I first started working from home was rather sad: loneliness! I felt that by not working with colleagues in a typical office setting, I was somehow being left out of the party. After settling my illogical fears, I made a change and forced myself to be more sociable. If you are someone who is fairly extroverted and needs social interaction to get energy, schedule small social interactions into your day. Pop to a café to have lunch instead of eating at home, and find out if any of your friends also work from home and take a virtual water cooler break with them in an online chat. Switch your workspace to keep things interesting and surround yourself with people – work from the local library, a coffee shop, or even a quiet bar (but save the alcoholic imbibing until after work hours).
Combining your home and work into one building has lots of potential advantages: you save money on travel, eliminate a time-consuming commute, and don’t have to dress in stuffy clothes every day. But maximizing your productivity while also keeping yourself balanced can be a challenge. Use the advice above to get the most out of your home office environment.