As the workplace continues to compete for the best talent, organizations need to consider how they think about where their employees do their work. Though there’s an increasing number of employees who want and need to work at home, organizations must define when it makes sense for both the organization and the employee. Sometimes, employees lack the skills and discipline to be effective in a remote environment. Sometimes, the organization’s business approach or use of highly sensitive information may not lend itself to be outside the building’s four walls. And sometimes, it comes down to this: getting the work done correctly and on time.
As someone who has had a home office for the past dozen years, I have learned some things that work well and other things that should be avoided to ensure effectiveness when working remotely.
If you’re thinking about working from home and need to first get permission, ask yourself two questions:
1. Does working at home make sense for the work I do, the culture of the company and my impact in my job? Just because you want to work from home doesn’t mean it makes sense for the job you have or the way work is done in your organization. Making it all about you is a great way to have your boss say no.
However, if you can assess how working remotely aligns to the work you do, and you can show how it could improve your output while still fitting within the organization’s beliefs and work approach, it’s worth asking about. Showing that you have thought about working remotely from the organization’s perspective is the way to lead in this discussion.
2. Do I have what it takes to be successful in a limited supervision and remote environment? Before you say yes (because you really want to work remotely), be realistic. Are you organized? Can you create a space at home where you can be focused, thoughtful and able to deliver what your role or job expects or requires from you? Can you create a workday in your personal space that does not have you distracted by friends, neighbors, family, pets or other things so that you can be successful with your expectations? Do you need interaction and contact with your peers on an ad hoc or frequent basis to brainstorm, solve or deal with workplace issues? Do you need resources that are best supplied in a centralized workplace environment? What is your real motivation for working remotely? Answer these questions honestly to give you a full reality-check image of what working from home could really be like for you.
Spend some time with these questions and be sure that your reasons for remote work accommodate both your company and the way for you to deliver your best work.
Now, consider the other side of the story: you already work remotely, but you need to improve your output.
Consider the following things to improve your effectiveness:
- Assess whether you have the talents and skills to do the job well. Most remote employees with poor performance are employees who are hired into roles that don’t align to their abilities. If you need specific talents to be effective in the role and do not have them, you will likely struggle to perform. If you are missing some skills that would improve your performance, reach out to your manager and have a plan to develop the skills. If you are misaligned in your job, either you can’t do the work well, or are just not that interested in doing it well. The outcome is the same – average performance. Focus on alignment; does your remote job fit you? If not, start to locate opportunities in the organization that better align to your core talents and strengths.
- Look at your remote workspace and make it a successful workspace. Consider your remote space your “office.” What do you need to have in it to facilitate your effectiveness? What gets in your way that you need to modify or eliminate? It is up to you to create a space conducive to your performance success.
- Assess your personal organization and self-discipline. If you are not organized, get some guidance in activity management or spatial organization. If you are not self-disciplined, develop a reward schedule that defines your performance expectations and the reward you give yourself the more you comply with your expectations. For example, you may create an expectation that when your office door is closed, you are in work mode. Your focus is on your work and not on other things. When the door is open, you are available to the house, snacking and other things. The door becomes your tool to improve your self-discipline. Or, consider engaging a coach or mentor to help develop your personal organization skills and self-discipline habits. Get them to the level they need to be to ensure your success.
The goal is for you to be as effective, efficient and extraordinary working remotely as if you were working locally. That means you have to be in a job that aligns to your abilities and skills, and that you have the organization, focus and self-discipline to work by yourself. Remote work is not for everyone. Assess whether it works for your organization and works for you.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Don’t Panic (until it’s time to panic)