A lot of people now have jobs where they are not required to come into an office. These people will say that they “work from home.” Most people who work from home don’t “work” while they are home. It’s not easy to do.
To “work from home” you are going to need to eliminate distractions. For many people, this takes an extraordinary amount of discipline.
First you are going to need a door that closes. If you have a spouse, children, pets, a mail person, or a UPS delivery person, you are going to be consistently interrupted. You’re going to have to make arrangements with your family so that they know when you are working. You are going to help not being interrupted.
Second, and this one isn’t easy, you are going to have to close your browser. Listen, you are not going to “work” with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, ESPN, or US Weekly open. The Internet provides too many distractions.
And then there is email. You’re going to have to close your email, too.
You are going to have to develop the discipline to isolate yourself and work.
A “Must Complete” Agenda For the Day
When you are responsible for directing your own work, you need a “must complete” agenda for each day.
You cannot be productive working from home if you are reactive. If you live in your inbox, waiting for interruptions that you can respond to, you will never be successful working from home. Instead, you need an agenda of three or four things that absolutely must get done come hell or high water.
Your “must complete” agenda cannot be made up of things that you “should do” or that would be “nice to do if I have time.” If you work from home, the items on this agenda must be completed during the time you are working. If you are not completing these tasks, then you are not actually “working” from home.
One of the challenges that people have working from home is that they are so disconnected from their employer that it is difficult to be effective.
If you work from home, you are not involved in the regular day-to-day conversations that occur in most workplaces. You don’t have the pop-up conversations that happen when you bump into your peers in the halls. You don’t capture a lot of the insights that would allow you to do your job better because you’re not there. You have to work hard to stay connected.
You have to work hard to over-communicate what you are doing, how you are doing, and where you need help. You need to arrange conversations with your peers and with people in different departments so that you can exchange ideas, get updates about what’s going on, and share updates on how you are doing.
When you can, you need to get face-to-face with the people you work with. Getting to know the people you work with personally allows you to do better work together. You know each other. You trust each other. And you have enough communication that you know how to act when you can’t communicate with each other.
Stay connected virtually. And when you can make it into an office.
It isn’t easy to “work” from home. But developing the discipline to eliminate distractions, complete the three or four “musts” on your task list each day, and working hard to communicate as if you were working at an office will make you more effective working from home.