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Donít Tell the Boss Ė Iím More Productive

July 28, 2020

Kevin Uhlenhaker

It certainly has been an unpredictable and ever-changing year for just about all of us. While some businesses have begun to bring their teams back into the office, many have remained remote. This month’s question addresses a different side of the new normal of working in a remote environment. 


Hello Kevin, 


Your column last month addressing how businesses can adapt to the work from home paradigm was interesting, but do you have any advice for employees who want to keep working remotely long term? After the initial shock, I am really enjoying it and (don’t tell my boss) am much more productive now. 


At-home in Atlanta


 


Greetings At-home in Atlanta, 


Thanks for the question. I am happy to hear that your switch to work from home has been positive for you. I have talked with quite a few people who have found themselves in a similar situation after overcoming the jolt of the move from the office. Additionally, many people I talked with have experienced the same increased productivity at home, even with all of the distractions that can come with that arrangement. An ever-growing number of businesses have decided to continue the option to work remotely. Others have even decided to close their offices and move permanently to work from home. I think this trend will continue, and having the skills and experience to work from home successfully will become an even more valuable skill in the future.


As you make the shift to perpetually working from home, I have found a few essential items important to the success of remote workers. The first fundamental concept is your mindset. The office can allow both a clear separation between work and home, as well as a set time for work to be completed. This model can be arguably traced to factory work in the 1800s to 1900s and was adopted by many office-based workplaces. Working from home allows this model to be shifted entirely. 


Of course, you have to be available during key business hours, but you can now craft your day to meet both the workload requirements and demands of the rest of your life. The elimination of the daily commute gives you back significant chunks of time to your day. 


One person I talked with has found a great schedule starting work early in the morning, before the kids are awake, working a few hours, then stepping away to spend time with their kids. They then return in the early afternoon when their spouse returns home and work until the early evening. In the meantime, they keep an eye on urgent emails and will answer if needed. This situation is just one example, but it gives you an idea of the potential flexibility. 


Before doing this, make sure you talk to your boss to agree upon the schedule and communication response timeliness. Additionally, ensure the delivery of your items are on time and well done. One potential downside to this flexibility is that delays can be blamed on your work location. 


Next, find or carve out a space to work. The location does not have to be a dedicated room, just somewhere you can set up to work efficiently, and can communicate professionally. This place might require some creative rearrangement of your living space and agreements with the people you live with, including children and pets. 


Just because you work from home doesn’t mean the expected level of professionalism and performance is any different. What can help with this is a quality noise-canceling headset, an easy to reach mute button, and sometimes a door handle that locks. If you know you will be working from home for the long term you can select your next living space with this in mind. 


While working from home makes some things easier, it does complicate others, including communication and personal connections. Working in the same building can make it easy to engage with the people around you, as the many hallway and lunch area conversations can attest. 


But when working at home, you have to be more intentional to create these interactions. I would recommend reaching out to one or two people per day “randomly” to see how they are doing and to catch up. 


You can also schedule extra time before or after a scheduled meeting to be able to talk with others. Consider starting an online group to discuss a common topic, book, movie, etc. It does not have to be anything fancy, nor does it have to be via video, but these intentional connections should become part of your work from home skill set and habits.


Additionally, many people get their socialization at the office. It is vital to find social groups and or enjoyable activities outside of work. This goal is harder on the age of COVID, but this can take on many forms. The key to this is having some reason, beyond just the time, to stop work at the end of your workday. 


The personal life vs. work-life balance is hard in most jobs, but becomes even more complicated when working remotely. It can be hard to balance where work ends, and your personal life begins, especially when your “office” is always just a few steps away. This problem has snuck up on many people, myself included. 


There will always be one more thing to get done, another task to complete. I have found the answer to this problem is a good mixture of clear workspace, self-imposed boundaries, and someone or something to keep you accountable. Working remotely doesn’t have to mean always working. 


Overall, I believe the potential for people who embrace working from home is great and will increase as we move forward. This opportunity includes not only flexibility for your work schedule but also freedom in where your employer is based and where you choose to live. Separating where you work and where you live creates new opportunities in both your professional and personal life. 


I hope this was helpful. Good luck! 



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