A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article on “Working from Home Version 2.0: 5 Things to Consider” and honestly, it was very focused on setting up a work environment that helps you to be productive. While I believe those things are important, it occurred to me after the article published that creating a good work environment is only half of the story.
We can set up the best home office ever and if we don’t use it well, then we won’t see the results. Having the right work from home skills is the second part of the equation. I’ve been working remotely for over 15 years and here are a few of the skills that I believe can help you be successful:
- Communication. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. When you work in an office environment and you see all of your co-workers, communication is easier. We can stick our head into someone’s office and give them a quick message. Or we can swap stories in the breakroom. When you work remotely, it helps to think about whether you need to convey that information. You also think about whether something is an email or a phone call. The point being, working remotely forces us to be very conscious of our written and verbal communications. We need to be effective and efficient.
- Organization. This ties somewhat into communication (#1). In an effort to be better communicators, we try to organize our thoughts. To do our work, we will need to organize papers, office supplies, computer files, schedules, etc. That doesn’t mean stuff doesn’t occasionally get lost. But if you’re accustomed to an office buddy helping you find things or a team member to keep organized, you might need to find other methods. Being disorganized can cause you to sometimes do double the work, spend double the time, or buy things you don’t really need.
- Prioritization. When we work in an office, it can be easy to understand what the priorities are. Frankly, sometimes management will just tell you “Hey – stop working on that project and help me with this.” It’s harder working remotely because no one is standing over our shoulder telling us what the shifting priorities are. And 90% of the time, that is awesome! It’s the 10% of the time when we get an email during lunch that messes up our entire afternoon plan. Get used to it and learn how to adjust.
- Time Management. Learning how to adjust priorities means learning how to manage your time. In my experience, people who work remotely fall into two types of schedules. The first is the person who sets “office hours” and then closes the door at the end of the day. The other is the person who ends up with this very blended life. They might go out to play Pokémon GO at 10a and then work on a PowerPoint at 10p. Bottom-line: both of them work hard and get things done. You’ll want to figure out which one you are. And let me add, you’ll also want your family and boss to understand (and support) which one you are.
- Self-Care. I’m not sure that self-care is a formal skill, but it probably should be – especially in these times. Occasionally, no matter how hard you try, you forget to take care of yourself. There’s this funny article from The New Yorker titled, “I Work from Home” that plays into every bad habit a person can possibly develop working from home. If you’re looking for a good laugh, be sure to check it out. The point is that when we work from home, we need to find ways to disconnect, have a fun distraction, or find a moment of stress relief. Listen to a song. Play a game. Walk around the block. Just take care of you.
I understand that I’m a bit biased when it comes to working from home. I think it’s great. But it’s taken me many years to get to this point. I’ve had to develop working from home skills so I can be productive, happy, and successful. If your organization is saying that you can work from home for the foreseeable future, think about those skills that you will need to work on and how you start training yourself to get better at them.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring Duval Street in Key West, FL16