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How Working from Home Can Work Against You
Posted on January 24th 2013
Collaboration is the buzz word these days and with the advent of tools allowing it, world has become smaller. People now do not have to be co-located to work together. Everything is getting virtual.
Organizations are now doing everything to cut costs and allowing work-force to work from home (WFH) is a brilliant phenomenon. Although some studies suggest that working from may translate into longer hours but if done effectively, it allows employees to be more productive and less stressed. As in my case :-)
Employees do the same job but do not need to come to work. Teams are now globally distributed but work seamlessly. Organizations are saving costs and people are become productive.
IBM allows several categories of employees to work from home. For many others, it's flexible, with managers taking the call. "Work /life balance touches morale, productivity and retention. Current lifestyles have resulted in higher stress levels and we take a positive view towards creating a conducive environment to help people integrate work and life," says Chandrasekhar Sripada, head HR, IBM India.
World is Awesome! But wait a minute – is everything really awesome?
According to BusinessWeek, a recent survey concluded that 50 percent of the workers said their bosses are reluctant to have their employees work from home. How can someone possible to focus on work with this plethora of distractions? Is it even possible to work efficiently?
Apparently, it is. A study by Stanford University found that workers are actually more productive when working from home. According to the study, people had higher work satisfaction when working from home, and their performance increased over 12 percent during a nine month experiment. Source
With this new freedom, comes a new set of responsibilities, which can make or break your impression and career too. Employees, who work from home, need to be extra careful about perception-management now than ever before. When people do not see you at work every day, they form their opinions based on nothing and that can be detrimental. Sometimes it is perceived that employees, who work from home, do not work at all.
In my last role, I faced a similar challenge and there was no way at the end of the year for me to change the impression my manager had. It resulted in a not-so-good appraisal for me.
So what can you do to ensure, WFH, doesn’t work against you? I am listing few steps/actions which every WFH employee should consider:
- Use your instant messenger wisely: When your manager and team need to contact you, they will use IM to connect with you. Your delayed response will tell people that you have logged in but may be out somewhere. Put ‘away’ when not in front of the system and ‘available’ when you are. Incorrect status message will allow people to form opinions. Do respond to IM as soon as possible. Remember, IM is the first contact point for virtual teams and you do not want people to ping you and wait forever.
- Be available on phone: Ensure your manager and team knows your work time schedules and your availability. Your phone should be in your reach at all times. There is nothing more irritating that not able to reach a WFH employee. If you see a missed call, respond actively. Remember, your salary comes from your work no matter where you work from. By not answering calls, you letting people know that you were not near your home-office and may be watching a cricket match on TV.
- Respond to emails, in time: As a WFH employee, your response time to emails should not go awry. If it was a conventional (co-located office) set up, people would see you and comfort that the response is on its way. But when they do not see you, they need to get answers quickly. And who likes unread emails in their mailboxes, anyway. Late replies tell people that you are not looking at your inbox and may be busy on Facebook.
- Join meetings on time: Joining meeting late is a cardinal sin and more so for a WFH employee. You are sitting on your desk (at home) so there is no way you should be late. Communicate if your last meeting is running over. Join late also shows that you are not managing your time well.
- Ensure you are visible: Have a nice, well-lit and professional photo on your profile and use the same for your LinkedIn (or any other professional account) account. Since people do not see you, they would love to have a face to associate with your name. Have your designation mentioned clearly. If you have a different functional reporting chain, mention that too.
All these points majorly focus on two key factors and those are ‘communication’ and ‘approachability’. If there is any lag in either or both, your image will get a beating. Also consider downloading this Best Practices for Working on the Go pdf from GotoMeetings.