Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why Working Remotely is Still Working!

I'm one of those fortunate individuals that works remotely.  (from a home office aka virtual office)  I've been working remotely for 12 years now and there is never a moment that goes by that I'm not grateful for this opportunity!  Of course, some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of an office environment or weekly travel as many consultants do in our industry, but I like the peace and quiet of working from home.  Except for the occasional fed ex package delivery person or door to door salesman, there are normally no distracting interruptions. 
I have noticed over the years that family members and friends often assume that because you work from home that you are immediately available to tend to their needs or that you're always open to a social visit in the middle of a work day.  It took me quite a few years to get them to understand that working from home is the same as in an office somewhere else... since they'd never just drop by my office during the middle of the day if I were working in a corporate building somewhere, I'd truly appreciate the same courtesy at my home office.  I also made a sign for my office door that would alert my teenage children when I was on the phone so they wouldn't interrupt me unless someone was bleeding to death.  (this doesn't distract from the fact that I was able to get to know the High School secretary very well due to my multiple morning visits to drop off lunches, money, school work etc.  Something I couldn't have done had I worked in a corporate office)
For the multi-tasker, working from home is a blessing in disguise.  You can simultaneously be on a conference call, responding to emails and doing a load of laundry.  It is also a great situation for people with dogs.  Your dogs get more attention and more visits to the outdoors.  Dogs can also be a distraction however, especially if they bark at every little sound they hear.  My dogs only bark when someone comes to the door, so I put a sign on the front door when I'm working that reads: "Resident is working from home office, PLEASE DO NOT KNOCK unless absolutely necessary. Thank you."
When people find out that I work from home they always ask "How can I do what you do?"  I wish there was a good answer for that question, but unfortunately there isn't.  Not everyone has responsibilities that will translate into a home office environment.  Also, not everyone has the discipline it takes to work remotely and stay focused.  If you have a job that you could do from home, the best way to make that happen is to talk to your boss and inquire if you can work from home 1 day a week.  If you can show you are productive from a home office, eventually you may be able to work from home all the time.  I basically got lucky and found a temp position that allowed me to work remotely and I was so productive that they hired me as their first remote recruiter. 
Typically a remote worker can almost double the production of someone working in an office environment IF that office environment is like the following example:  It takes you at least 30 minutes to commute to work on a good day.  You arrive at your company building and 3 people stop you on the way to your desk to ask you personal or work related questions. You get to your desk and if you are in an open air environment aka "bullpen" you are hearing multiple other individuals talking on the phone, to each other etc.  30 minutes before your lunch time the group you normally lunch with is trying to determine where to eat, then you all drive to the restaurant, spend about an hour eating and talking, drive back from the restaurant and possibly finish up whatever conversations were going on during lunch.  If a mandatory meeting is scheduled, the on-site employees might take time to prepare for the meeting prior to the meeting, then attend the meeting and then discuss the meeting after the meeting (I call this meeting paralysis) while the remote employee will dial or log into the meeting for the duration of the meeting.  At the end of your day it may take 30 minutes or more to return home.  If you do not have the capability to work from home in any capacity then your production is over when you leave the office building, however the remote worker can break for dinner and continue working if necessary.   One major draw-back to working remotely is that in some instances out of sight means out of mind.  Your boss or co-workers tend to forget you exist and they may forget to loop you in on impromptu meetings or office announcements (such as: someone leaving the business or new hires etc).  I've also worked for companies that were new to having remote employees and they often would forget I wasn't in the same time zone or forget to remove me from office related emails like "Thursday is refrigerator clean out day, if you have food in the cafeteria fridge it will be thrown out" or "Friday there will be an Earthquake drill, please be prepared" and there have been numerous times when they would forget to use webex, or skype and I'd call into a meeting only to find out they're discussing graphs or visual items that I can't see.
Not everyone is geared to work remotely and not everyone would enjoy working remotely, but if it is something you're new to or something you'd like to do, consider the following:
  • Is 100% of what you do compatible with working from home?  (computer/internet/phone related)
  • Do you have a quiet space in your home that you can dedicate to a home office?
  • Do you have access to a reliable, fast internet provider?
  • Are you self disciplined?
  • Do you understand your work responsibilities enough to conduct them with little or no supervision?
  • Do you have small children or dogs in your home? - Are you prepared to put the children in daycare and the dog in another room if necessary?
  • Are you prepared to explain to your family / friends why they cannot distract you during work hours?
  • Are you tech savvy enough to set up the necessary tools? - Computer, web meeting software, work related software etc?
  • Will you work too much? - Are you able to give yourself a break when you need one to eat, or exercise or relax?
  • Can you stay consistent and organize your daily routine so you are able to accomplish your required production without going off on too many rabbit trails?
  • Don't be afraid to put signs on the door to alert people that you are busy and cannot be distracted.
  • Once you figure out what works best, get into a routine and stick with it.
  • Always allow yourself down time.  Having your work under your nose makes it easy to work 24-7 but that is never a good idea.
  • Don't over-extend yourself.  Just because you CAN work 24-7 if necessary doesn't mean your boss can pile on more and more work.  Particularly if you're being paid salary and not by the hours worked.
  • Think outside the box.  Be prepared for power outages or cable outages.  If you cannot access the internet at home, know the local places you can (Panera, Library etc)
  • Keep the contact information for co-workers on paper, that way if there are power outages, or your cell phone or cable has no service you will still know how to get in touch.
  • Don't frequent Facebook / Twitter unless you need them for work related responsibilities.  It is easy for your employer to track your internet activities.  Definitely don't access personal websites via your work computer, always use your personal computer for those activities. (same goes for work email, only use it for work related content)
  • During work hours log yourself out of instant message applications that are not work related so you aren't distracted by people wanting to chat with you.
  • Keep personal phones in another room or turn the ringers off.
If you are a remote worker, please comment and provide additional items I might have missed!

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3 comments:

  1. I work remotely and I find it has pros and cons. Probably more pros though! I do love that I can go to "work" by walking into my office in my house - no outfit to pick out, no make up to put on if I don't feel like it and definitely no car ride!
    The car ride is especially annoying if you live in a cold weather climate and have to deal with ice and snow in the winters.
    The down-side for me at least is I miss the interaction with other team members. I am not the type to hang out at the water cooler and discuss food - either from last night or upcoming today...but I do lke a collaborative environment.
    I think working remotely definitely saves me money. Gas for car, clothes for work and lunches out (even if occasionally).
    I have great self-discipline so the long hours are more of an issue for me than distractions.
    I also have a BFF, my Yorkie, Kodi. He knows after I get my morning coffee and say, "Okay, let's go to work", to run upstairs into the office and lays down under the desk.
    I would really miss him if I didn't work from home, so for that, for now, I am grateful every day!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Gina. I have 2 dogs that hang out and keep me company, along with my cats :)

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  2. From D.P. via email:
    I'm a big fan of your HIT blog. I worked for a [vendor] as an Ambulatory Analyst for 6 years and I've been starting to do all sorts of research into consulting and your blog has given me a ton of great information. I now feel a lot more knowledgeable and confident when talking to the recruiters. One thing I haven't seen a blog post about yet (unless I just missed it) or seen anywhere else online is the art of salary negotiation for consulting. How much wiggle room typically should I expect to have? I do know that clients in more "hip" places like [California] will probably offer slightly less than less exotic locations, but even with more interest and competition I'm still assuming that I'll have a little wiggle room. I just don't want to blindly accept the "sticker price" given to me when the time comes and not be prepared. Or should I assume that the consulting company has already done any negotiation for me (since they of course have a vested interest in how much they can get out of me)? In that vein, do I negotiate with the client or with the consulting company (or both)?
    - Thank you so much for your feedback and Great questions D.P.! Look for my response via email. I will also consider writing a blog post on this topic sometime soon.

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