Working from home

12 August 2014

We have a flexible working policy at work. That means that, so long as it’s fine with your team and you’re around for our daily Happy Hour at midday, then all’s good with your preferred working pattern. In that vein, some people work from home one day a week, me included.

It’s quite straightforward to work from home as effectively as working from the office, but it needs a little planning and dispelling of myths. I’ll cover the planning first.

Logistics and equipment

  • Be prepared: I usually work from home on a Monday so on a Friday evening as I leave the office I need to already be thinking about Monday to make sure I’ve got everything with me that I’ll need. That’s generally just my laptop (which I take home anyway), but occasionally it’s the odd scribble, too.
  • Kit: A bit of outlay up-front to ensure a comfortable environment is key. I use my work laptop, so that’s covered but other things I needed to purchase were:
    • The monitor: I’ve become attached to having a monitor alongside my laptop screen, so this was essential for me. I plumped for a Dell U2412M; a decent price for the size.
    • A comfortable office chair: Sitting at a dining room table chair may be comfortable for the duration of a meal, but it gets pretty uncomfortable if you spend all day at it. As someone who’s had the odd back problem in the past I know how important it is to get this right, and went for a home office chair from the ever-reliable John Lewis (other retailers are available, but why would you?)
    • Speakers: We play music in the office and, in order to feel part of the team when many miles away, I usually stream the same playlist. So a pair of speakers was an essential item on my list.
  • Set-up: much like my desk in the office, I’ve positioned my desk at home to be looking out of the window. Lots of natural light, and the windows to cool me down on hot summer days.
  • Spares
    • There’s nothing worse than getting home only to find you’ve left a crucial bit of kit in the office. To minimise what I lug around, I don’t take my laptop charger home, but use the one from my home laptop. As it’s an older MacBook Pro I need to use a converter. These little blighters are perfectly sized for getting lost so, after a near-miss, I’ve now got a disaster recovery plan in place involving a spare one stashed in a drawer. I’d be very unhappy to have to go into the office just for a charger!
    • A backup Internet connection: until now I’ve made do by tethering my phone in case of emergency but will probably invest in something like a MiFi soon.

Working with people

I spend a lot of my time working with other people. We use Skype a lot for chat messages, so no change there by working remotely, but I also rely on it for calls when I’m out of the office. When I call people I always have video on; it makes things feel much more personal. It does mean that I can’t sit working in my pyjamas, mind. I’ve not tried it yet, but quite like the look of Perch for making me feel part of the office even when I’m at home. It’s similar to the approach people took with Avistar video calls at my old work, where they had a video link on all day long to colleagues around the globe.

One of the hardest challenges is dispelling myths. Working from home only works if you can do everything you do in the office. I’ve had people say to me on more than one occasion “Oh, you’re working from home on Monday so we can sort that on Tuesday”, to which my response is always “No, we’ll be fine to cover it on Monday”. Not to mention the odd slip-up of “You’re off tomorrow”, which I swiftly reply with “No, I’m working from home”!

There are very occasionally things that are easier to do around a whiteboard, so it makes sense to do them when everyone’s in the same room, but that’s easily planned. WhosOff keeps track of not only holidays but also days we work from home. That way everyone knows each other’s movements.

What do you find helps you when working remotely? Come tell me over a pint at tomorrow’s #MetaBeerTalks.

Picture credit: Diana Parkhouse

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