Monthly Archives: October 2016

Try These Approaches When You Choose to Work From Home

Yesterday, I brought my daughter into my office for a visit. She loves to see where Mummy works, likes sitting at my desk, twirling round in my chair, and playing with my tiny abacus—pretty much exactly what Mummy does in a day, to be honest.

But as we left—at 10 AM—she said “Mummy, are all the men and ladies who work here going home now, too?”

I said no, that everyone else would be there for the whole day, “until teatime.” And in her very three-year old way, she was wide-eyed with bemusement, spreading her hands and asking, “But whhhhhhy?”

And as I opened my mouth to answer, I realized; I don’t really know why we all have to sit in offices up and down the country from breakfast time to tea time, five days a week. And so I said the only thing I could think of: “I don’t know, darling. Those are the rules.”

And since then it has been on my mind.

Now, I should say at this point, I’m lucky enough to work at an organization that allows me some flexibility. I work from home regularly, usually one day a week, and I make it a split day; I work from around 8 AM to 3 PM then collect the kids, do the whole bath-bed-story routine, and then do a bit more work once the house has settled into peace once again.

And, I have to say, it counts for a lot. To work somewhere that I can incorporate into my family life, instead of letting my family life suffer for my work, is something I’m really grateful for. And it makes me a better, more motivated employee, more likely to stick around for years to come, rather than plying my trade elsewhere.

My working week? I make it work for me. I’ve changed “the rules.” And here are a few tips on how you can do the same.

 

1. Ask!

It’s pretty obvious—and I apologize if you don’t need this level of hand-holding—but if you don’t ask, you don’t get, as my Gran used to say. You might work for an organization that’s considering offering more flexibility but isn’t sure how interested the workforce might be, or the higher-ups may never have considered it at all. If you merely ask, you can be the forerunner, the one who proves the benefits of being flexible. And then your colleagues will bow down to you forever more.

(For more on how to ask the right way, check out Elizabeth Lowman’s tips.)

 

2. Get Your Fact On

That said, although loads of organizations now offer flexible working, companies like Yahoo have even banned all home working, saying it has become a barrier to collaboration, team effectiveness, and fostering a company culture. That’s probably what you’re going to be up against against, so make sure your reasoning lays out the benefits in a way that your manager can’t refuse.

For instance, does your boss know that, according to londonlovesbusiness.com, 47% of workers try to appear more visible when working from home by sending more email and making more calls than they would in the office? If you’re in a creative role, you might want to mention that 38% of workers feel more creative when they’re able to work more flexibly. Home workers also call in sick less often; they can be less stressed and tired, as they don’t have to commute any farther than the kitchen, and they may feel able to work from home on a day where they couldn’t face bringing their cold into the office.

Use all of these facts to your advantage.

 

3. Prove It

If the numbers aren’t making your case, try this: When you are struggling to complete a large piece of work or desperate for some peace so that you can concentrate on finishing an important report, get out of the office. Settle down wherever you feel most productive—at home, in the local café, it’s up to you—shut down your email, and focus on nothing but the task ahead.

Once you complete it in record time, it’ll be cast iron proof that you can get more quality work done when you’re not at your desk surrounded by ringing phones, grumpy colleagues, and those people who say “Oh, are you eating lunch? I’ll just ask you one quick question then.”

An Office Less Environment

Getting ahead at any company requires a certain amount of strategy . But a company that operates virtually—with no offices, no cubicles, and no in-person meetings? That’s a different game entirely.

As the leader of a global professional services firm that operates in a completely virtual manner, I have dozens of people working without a traditional office environment. Some work from home , others are always on the road, and some prefer the local coffee shop (or bar). But regardless of where they work, there are some things that distinguish the best digital workers from the rest.

If you’re looking to impress in your virtual workplace, follow these five steps to success.

 

Step 1: Be Available

The most important thing you must do to succeed in this environment is to be available. Since you’re not sitting down the hall from your boss or teammates, you need to keep online communication open. If your co-workers have a hard time reaching you when they need to, it slows down their progress—and the company’s.

Does that mean you’re destined for a life chained to your desk? Not necessarily. I really don’t care where you work: If you can be productive bagging rays by the pool or are able to effectively perform your duties on top of a mountain, that’s great—as long as I can reach you. But just as you wouldn’t slip out of a physical office in the middle of the afternoon without telling anyone, you shouldn’t mysteriously go MIA from the web. If you need to be offline during normal business hours, let your boss, subordinates, or anyone else who may need you know that you’ll be unavailable and when you’ll be back.

 

Step 2: Be Productive

Once you’ve got the availability down, it’s time to get to work. And I mean, really get to work. Since your boss can’t see that you’re putting in time every day, you don’t get much credit for effort. As a virtual worker, you can only prove you’re working hard by producing results.

Sounds simple, but where I see employees trip up is when they’re struggling with an assignment or when something’s more difficult than it appears. If that’s the case, say something to your manager. He’ll still be able to tell you’re working hard if you ask for help, but if you prolong the task and don’t get it done in a reasonable amount of time, he might just think that you’re taking advantage of the flexibility of working remotely.

 

Step 3: Set Boundaries

This may seem counterintuitive as a way to impress, but the virtual employees I respect most are the ones who get their work done—but who also establish work-life boundaries . Without an office to leave at the end of the day, it can be easier for your work life to seep into the rest of your life. I, for one, am a huge workaholic , and have no problem reaching out to my employees at odd hours of the night. I can easily fill my employees’ free time with work—but I will also respect whatever boundaries they establish as long as they continue to turn in good work.

It’s unlikely that your boss wants to interrupt your exercise time, your family time, your dog-walking time, or your reality TV time (and if she does, you have bigger issues to deal with). So be clear with her (and yourself!) about what your work-life boundaries are. As long as you’re getting your work done, your boss shouldn’t blink when you tell her, “Not right now—I am watching The Bachelor .” You’ll be a happier employee, and your work will show it.

 

Step 4: Manage Your Career

Doing your job well may win you kudos, but it will not ensure that you continue to grow as a professional. After all, working virtually can lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” situation where your steady contributions are taken for granted and no one is pushing you to greater heights.

So, in order to advance your career, you have to be proactive about seeking out more challenging assignments and plotting a development course for yourself. Work hard to find new areas in which you could contribute or high-level projects you could take on, and don’t be shy about sharing with your boss and co-workers what your goals are within the company. If you don’t, you won’t advance.

Tips for Working From Home

Ask people what they think remote workers do all day, and many will say they picture us running personal errands and watching re-runs of our favorite shows.

And while it’s frustrating that people out there think this, it’s downright terrifying to think that some bosses feel the same way.

As a remote worker , it isn’t always easy to show that you’re productive and invested in your job, but it’s up to you to prove it to your boss—even if you are sitting on your couch instead of in a cubicle. If you think your boss may be questioning how you spend your work-from-home hours, here are some strategies to prove your productivity.

 

1. Be Reliable and Responsive

In an office, your boss can see, plain and clear, that you’re working away at your desk all day. But when you’re at home, you can send the same message by being responsive and available online.

This means, be hyper-aware of your phone, email, and instant messages all throughout the day, and when you receive a request from your boss, respond as soon as possible. You don’t have to drop everything and tackle his or her request right away, but do respond quickly with realistic timeframe of when that task will be complete. Many times a simple response—“I’ve received your email and this will be complete within the hour”—works great. Then, make sure you follow through on that deadline.

 

2. Keep Updates to a Minimum

That said, don’t go overboard on the communication front. While you may think a great way to show that you’re working is to constantly update your boss on what you’re doing and how projects are coming along—don’t do this. After all, your manager hired you to make decisions and get your work done, and if you’ve beengiven the green light to work remotely , you’re being trusted to manage your own time. Sending your boss hourly emails is unnecessary—and may even cause him or her to lose confidence in your ability to get the job done on your own.

Instead, meet with your boss periodically to ensure you have set clear expectations for your work, with hard deliverables and deadlines, and then follow through on them. Sure, occasionally updates are necessary, but in general, let the real work speak for itself.

 

3. Be Present When You Get Face Time

One of the easiest ways to impress your boss and co-workers is to be extra engaged when you do get a chance to interact with them—namely, on the phone or during video chat meetings .

While it’s tempting to multitask (check your email, respond to that IM) when you’re not in the same room with people, you’re better off focusing only on the meeting at hand. By paying attention, you’ll be able to ask questions, contribute ideas, and pick up on important bits of information—all things that help you show you’re an engaged member of the team.

Also, try to “arrive” to meetings a few minutes early, as it’ll give you the chance to talk to take part in the organic conversations that typically take place in person. This is your chance to ask what your colleagues are working on and share updates on all the work you’re doing, too.