Telecommuting, remote work, e-commuting – regardless of what you choose to call it, working from home is now possible in many office-based jobs, thanks to 21st-century mobile telecommunications technology. In most Nordic countries, having a remote day is standard practice – nobody bats an eye if you decide to work at your kitchen table so you can let the plumber in, or if it’s more convenient to stay in than brave the rain the first thing on a Monday morning.
Large multinational companies have also embraced remote work; if the job gets done, it doesn’t matter so much where it gets done. Working from home is no longer only the reality of freelance writers, consultants or researchers – we are all increasingly more likely to get to work from home. Great, right? Yes…but in order to work successfully from home, there are a few things you should consider.
Mike Simms, a Sant Cugat-based consulting engineer, has been working from both home and a co-working office for 9 years. His number one piece of advice? “Have a proper desk.” Other advice? “Keep the kids’ stuff off your proper desk.” Now, this may seem rather obvious, but you’d be surprised to see how many remote workers are doubled over at their living room coffee table, completely neglecting their posture. In this day and age, when we spend about 8 hours a day sitting down at a desk, we can’t really do that. Which brings us to another piece of advice from Mike: “Get a decent extra monitor for your laptop and use it instead of the laptop screen. The money you don’t spend on the monitor you’ll spend getting physiotherapy on your back!” Ah, the ever-practical engineer. Thanks, Mike!
Virpi Jalonen, a Human Resources manager from Finland, the promised land of remote working, agrees with Mike: “Don’t forget the ergonomics! The kitchen table might not be at the right height and a bad working position can easily cause wrist and back problems so try to adjust the working conditions to be as good as possible.” Virpi also says that good communication is key to a successful day of working from home. “Agree with your manager in advance and inform your team that you will be working from home. Remember you are expected to participate in meetings and be just as available from home as if you were working at the office.”
“Dress as you would dress to go to the office,” says Silvia Cioaca, a Human Resources consultant from the Barcelona area. So, working in your pyjamas won’t help you get the job done, although it’s unlikely that official research has been done on the topic. If you have to attend a video conference, you probably don’t want to be seen in your pyjamas anyway. According to Silvia, it is also important to have a good office space in your home with working internet connection, and to use collaboration tools such as Skype, Hangouts or Slack that help you to communicate efficiently. She also recommends face-to-face meetings on a regular basis, for example once a week. If this isn’t possible, Silvia’s recommendation is to work from a co-working office in order to be part of a professional network.
What about things routines and time management? Virpi encourages you to plan your tasks so that you can “enjoy the flow of getting done in record time”. She also emphasises documenting your results so you can share them with your team.
Mike also has a say about routines and shares his secret to good concentration: “If the unmade beds or dirty breakfast plates are a distraction from getting down to work, then make it a pre-work routine to tidy up a little before you get started. Sometimes the sound of the washing machine helps me concentrate on my work!” According to Virpi, working from home is at best very positive and pleasant: “A big lovely cup of coffee to enjoy while working is a must for me!” So successfully working from home isn’t just about good ergonomics and looking representable in case you get a call – getting your caffeine fix is often just as necessary at home as it is at the office.
So, if you’re working from home tomorrow, put on that suit, sit up straight, and let your team know what’s going on. Get a new monitor and a proper desk and you’ll be able to make the most of working from home. Oh, and maybe even switch on your washing machine for a calming soundtrack to your working day.
nobody bats an eye (verb, idiom) : nobody shows surprise or shock
brave (verb) : endure or face something unpleasant without showing fear
doubled over (phrasal verb): bent forward, often on your knees and usually because you are in pain or laughing
ever-practical (adjective): always practical
fix (noun, colloquial): a dose of something that you are addicted to
What about you? What advice do you have for working from home?