How-To Guide: Working From Home

By Alan Lepofsky

Formerly an industry analyst, Quip VP of Collaboration Alan Lepofsky has advised companies on the future of work for nearly a decade. He has worked from home for 20 years.

It’s encouraging to see organizations expand their support for remote work, providing employees with the flexibility and trust to work in a way that benefits them, their families, and business. But in planning and implementing a remote work strategy, business leaders need to consider important cultural changes that will impact their workforce on the individual, team and leadership levels.

On your own

When people first start working remotely, they are often awestruck by the extrinsic benefits: Think about all that time saved by not commuting, not to mention the comfort and convenience of using your own washroom and kitchen! Soon those advantages fade, and the intrinsic advantages such as increased productivity and reduced stress begin to surface. But remote work is very different than being in an office. It can be a challenge to focus due to a variety of distractions: the door ringing, the temptation of the television, or interruptions from a family member or pet (though we do love our animal work-from-home pals).

It’s important for home workers to set boundaries and establish rules while “at work.” That includes creating a routine and having the discipline to follow it. For example, if you have a room dedicated as a home office, put a sign on the door indicating when you can not be disturbed. Build in times to step away from your desk, such as making sure to have lunch. Similarly, make sure to step out during the day for a short walk or perhaps a trip to a local store, because the isolation can be just as challenging as distractions. Working at home has a different pace and rhythm than being in an office, so don’t be afraid to experiment to find the right pattern that works for you.

What makes a team

We often take for granted the camaraderie that occurs when people are together. With colleagues no longer working physically side-by-side, the team dynamic can change. When physical meeting rooms are replaced with online alternatives, it’s important to use video to maintain a close connection with your colleagues — nonverbal cues are critical to building a rapport and understanding each other. At the start of calls, spend a few minutes asking questions and making small talk before getting down to business. Establish chat rooms where people can discuss topics they are interested in, places they can share stories and pictures, or a way to openly share recognition and rewards. Most importantly, don’t forget to be patient, and be kind. Working from home is not for everyone, so it’s vital that remote teams establish ways to recreate a feeling of closeness.

Leading the way

One of the greatest challenges for companies in the shift to remote culture is establishing trust. It’s vital that managers adjust the ways they inspire their teams, and how they measure and recognize their work. Employees look up to their leaders, so they want to feel connected. Executives need to lead by example, and be active in social tools such as chat channels and community groups. They need to openly and frequently share successes as well as challenges. Most of all, they need to be transparent about the way achievements are measured. With a remote workforce, it’s important to focus more on what is accomplished, and less on when or where work gets done.

Whether your organization is ramping up your support for remote work or implementing it for first time, I encourage you to go into this optimistically but also pragmatically. For many people a dramatic change can be difficult, but I’ve seen the benefits outweigh the challenges time and time again. Remember not everyone works the same way, so have patience and offer support to those in need. The communication and collaboration tools available today offer incredible functionality, empowering people to do their best work anytime, anywhere.

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