This was my office for the day today. One of the benefits of working from home when the weather is nice!
I’m kind of a slob, it’s true. But I do wonder if my office space is messier because I work at home?
For the short 3 years I worked in an office, I’m sure that my desk(s) were not cluttered with this much stuff. Why? Well, I had to meet with people there!
Here in the home office, its just me and the family. And let’s face it, they know I am a piler of paper, so why pretend!
I guess it’s time to clean it up.
Do you have any tips for taming the piles?
I recently read an insightful blog post by Sean Graber on HBR.org about why remote work is successful at some companies and not others. He lists three C’s for success: Communication, Collaboration, and Culture. Check it out here:
The main take-away for me was that technology was not enough to ensure success. You need process too. Many companies spend lots of budget on technology and tools, but if the workers don’t embrace them and utilize them, it’s just money down the drain.
My team has experienced this with a few file sharing / collaboration tools, which I won’t name. After all, the main reason for failure was not the tools themselves, but our lack of a strong culture to collaborate. Getting them to share documents is like pulling teeth.
The same could be said for video chat. We use the phone call and IM features all day long, but rarely does anyone turn on the video.
Bottom line: technology won’t make remote work successful by itself.
Here is a good post by Sarah Gabot on the Squiggle Blog about procrastination when working from home. If you haven’t read the Squiggle Blog, you should check it out here.
We have decided to sell our house and move to a bigger house on more land. It’s a good move for us, and I’ll be gaining a really nice office on the main level (with its own private deck!). But like many of you, we can’t own two houses, so we have to sell our existing home.
This means vacating at a moments notice. For the full-time remote worker, this is more disruptive than an office worker. Yesterday, we had a showing at the same time as a conference call that I was leading. Of course…
So, I packed up my laptop and found a quiet place with wi-fi (at my church, of all places) and was a nomad for the afternoon. What will today bring? Who knows, but I am ready to do it again today, and tomorrow, and….well let’s just hope this is short-lived because I prefer to work in the same place all day, every day.
Having the right tools for the job is always a key to productivity. Working remotely is no different. If you have the right tools, it’s much easier to get the job done quick.
Proper lighting is important. Task lighting for your desk is critical, but the rest of the office / area needs to be well-lit as well. In my case, I am interested in some style in my lighting (no boring fluorescent overheads for me) and I like to make my own when I can.
For my desk task lighting, I have a hanging light made from recycled wrappers (think litter). We bought a few of these at our local Fair Trade Store (Latitudes). I have one hanging directly over the desk. I especially like it because it is a plug-in, so it can be controlled by the light switch.
General room lighting is handled by two DIY stage lights I made from decorative accent pieces found at Homegoods. These initially were mirrored with no wiring or bulb sockets. I added the light sockets, wiring and switches, removed the mirroring, and added a wavy coating finish to the glass. Finally, I am using Daylight CFL’s for a brighter experience. What I like the most about these as a lighting source is that I have them pointed up to “bounce” the light off the ceiling.
Finally, for fun, I added a NY Giants bar light my Dad sent me a few years ago. All work and no play makes for a dull office!
Here’s a good list of definitions for telecommuting and remote working. For the record, I am a Remote Worker by this definition as there is no office for me to go to.
There are many terms used to describe workers nowadays. ‘Telecommuters’ made their way into the virtual office as early as the mid-1970s. ‘Teleworkers’ followed just over a decade later. Now we have ‘remote’ employees and ‘distributed’ teams. Is there a difference? (Admittedly, I tend to use some of these terms interchangeably.) More importantly, does it really matter? For some organizations, especially large organizations, it can be important to define how employees work if there are different requirements, policies, provisions, or benefits for these different types of work arrangements. From research and speaking with a number of organizations, here are the most commonly used terms and their definitions:
Flextime/Flexwork: Working a full or part-time schedule, but adjusting start and end times to accommodate personal needs or commitments which allow employees more choices in managing their work schedule.
Telework: Working a full or part-time schedule from a location other than an employer’s…
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Are Telecommuters at risk for Overwork?
As a telecommuter, we often cite increased productivity as one of the biggest benefits for an employer to support teleworking or remote work. To that end, many a telecommuter can find it difficult to separate work time from personal time, especially when it comes to work hours.
Take quitting time, for example. For an office worker, quitting time may be defined by specified shift times, a mass exodus from the office, waiting for the boss to leave, and even traffic conditions or transit schedules.
For the telecommuter, some of these indicators aren’t present. Sure, you may have shift coverage to account for if you’re in customer service or similar positions, but what do you do when there isn’t any clear definition of work hours?
Scott Behson of Fathers, Work, and Family wrote a good piece on a book he read relating to the cult of Overwork here. Many a telecommuter could fall into these traps because it’s so easy to just keep on working.
For me, I work with a geographically diverse workgroup. We are spread throughout North America working for a Pacific Time Zone based company. This presents some unique challenges. What times am I supposed to be available? How do I guard against working 60 hour weeks just because there is no security guard shooing me out of the building, or that I can hear my phone ringing from the kitchen?
Here are some guidelines that I like to follow:
- Discuss your individual “working hours” with your supervisor. When does s/he expect you to be available?
- Decide what time you are going to stop work for the day, and honor it. Turn off the computer, the lights, etc.
- Close the door to your office (if you have one. If you don’t, read this). Resist the urge to go back in there! A quick check of email after dinner rarely is quick, and often causes more harm in your personal life than it helps in business. A coworker of mine told me last week that while he loves his new house, his office doesn’t have a door, and he needs a door to close off his work life from his home life.
- When it is after hours and you get an email or call, pretend that you would have to get in the car and go back to the office to handle this. Would your perception of its urgency change if it was really a hassle to drop everything and address it now, versus tomorrow morning?
- Establish your boundaries. If you are working through until 5:30, don’t take that phone call at 5:45 because you hear the phone ringing while you’re fixing dinner or working out. Taking that call tells the other party that you are still working. Set your boundaries and soon your colleagues will understand when you’re available, and more importantly, when you’re not!
A number of years ago my boss was located on the West Coast. (I was East Coast) Sometime just short of 8PM ET (5PM PT) my phone rang, and it was my boss. He said, “Hey, you got a few minutes?” I said that I didn’t because I was trying to help get my kids to bed. “Why did you answer the phone then?” Good question…
Where does a separate office rank on your must-have list?
What do you look for when looking for a new home? For me, a separate room for an office is not only a must-have, but actually a deal killer. When we bought our current house 7 years ago, our priority was for a guest room. At the time, I was working in an office, so needing a home office was not even on my radar. (Turns out, we got both)
I read an article on real-estate and the author was suggesting that you shouldn’t invest money in a home office. It was no longer high on anyone’s list for resale value. The argument was that with wireless and mobile device usage on the rise, people weren’t working in a home office anymore, but rather on the couch or the dining room table.
To me, this was naïve. I guess if you work in an office, you don’t need or want one at home. But, if you’re going to be serious about getting work done at home, a separate office is necessary.
You can’t successfully work at the dining room table or on the couch long-term. In my current situation, I don’t even have to share my space with guests. My office is exclusively an office, and I can close the door anytime, including when I am not working.
Don’t underestimate the value of a dedicated office space at home. Where do you work?
Improving productivity by changing your environment
While working at home can be very rewarding, it can also be lonely and isolating. If you work at home full-time, you may not see other co-workers or clients often. How do you stay engaged with your co-workers and clients when sometimes out of sight can be out of mind? How do you keep your sanity when you spend 8-10 hours a day alone? What are some things you can do to keep your work, your mental state, and environment fresh?
Here are some guidelines that I like to follow:
- Get out of your office once in a while. This can mean making a site visit to a client or vendor, or (gasp) going to the office. I try to make a visit to my company’s headquarters annually, or alternatively attend a large company function. This is good for me and my career as it gives me the opportunity to meet people I am working with and develop some relationships I might not otherwise cultivate.
- Use video conferencing or video chat (like Skype or FaceTime) to personalize your communications. In most jobs, good relationships can improve your performance and effectiveness. It is amazing what seeing a co-worker can do for the relationship.
- Relocate your office for a day or part of a day to a coffee shop or your local public library. Especially if you don’t have to be on the phone a lot, a change of scenery can often reduce the effects of isolation many home workers can feel. This is different from visiting customers or a company office, but actually doing the same things you do everyday somewhere else.
- Re-organize or re-decorate your office space periodically. Over time, clutter and paperwork accumulates in your space. I try to de-clutter, reorganize and rearrange my space every year. It is amazing how much productivity I gain when I get myself unburied from paper, surplus equipment, and other “stuff” that seems to pile up in my home office.
- Get involved in your community. There is always some organization that needs volunteers, and with your easy commute, your availability will be in high demand. Volunteering at my church provides me with plenty of personal interactions that I don’t get during the workday after work and at lunch. Plus, I am making a difference in my community, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
- Take breaks and go for a walk or run errands. When you work in an office, you likely have breaks and go to lunch with co-workers etc. You need to do this when you work at home too.
The truth is, I don’t get out much. When I’m feeling stale or unproductive, sometimes a change of scenery can solve the problem quickly.
What is missing from this list that you find effective in changing up your scenery and improving your productivity?