Our team at Frontier Signal has employees who work remotely with great success. Darin Hartley, our Vice President of Business Development and Solution Architecture, first wrote about “telecommuting” in a 2002 article for the Association for Talent Development.
The observations he made back then on what it is like and what it takes to be successful hold true today - you need the right tools and equipment, be able to set boundaries within your personal circle (family, friends, neighbors, etc) and work colleagues, and a strong dose of self-discipline and initiative.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many U.S. and international companies are turning to remote work arrangements as a precaution to employees and to mitigate the impact of a potential pandemic. Here we share our tips for ensuring a smooth transition to remote work:
- Set yourself up for success with these tool and equipment basics:
- Email is essential. Consider communication protocols such as replacing long email communication threads with direct messaging chat services.
- Shared calendars are only as good as the inputs. Be sure to keep your calendar updated.
- Instant direct messaging/chat services like Slack where you can set up internal channels and dedicated channels with vendors or other service providers. Integrate with shared drives, like Google drive, to be able to seamlessly link files.
- Video-conferencing services like Google Hangouts or Zoom. Consider setting up more than one service since many corporate IT departments do not allow the use of Google Hangouts. More importantly before a sales, client, vendor or any meeting with outside participants ask about their video conferencing preferences and capabilities and test it!
- A common drive to share and collaborate on files like Google Drive. Get in the habit of saving and sharing files on a shared drive.
- A dedicated laptop (we use a security FOB)
- A mobile phone for work purposes only with a personal wi-fi hotspot - it has saved me more than once.
- Mobile phone apps that improve productivity and communications. One of my most-used apps is Genius Scan that converts images to PDFs that can be emailed right from my phone.
- A set of lightweight headset or ear pods to keep the noise down.
- A printer for times when you need a hard copy.
- High-speed, reliable internet access.
- Create a dedicated workspace:
- Locate a space in your home that is quiet. Doors to shut out the noise. Windows to let in natural light but with shades that can be drawn when privacy is needed.
- Find a safe, locked space to store your work laptop and mobile phone when not in use.
- Decorate your space with what inspires you!
- Find a comfortable chair or use a standing desk.
- Establish your boundaries:
- Be upfront with your family, friends, and neighbors about working from home. It is work, my home is my office. Some conversations may be uncomfortable but you need to have them.
- Be mindful of the work/life balance because your home is your office. Establish your hours when you will online and present. Take that lunch hour. Need to run that errand, do it but let your colleagues know. Life happens whether you are working in an office or from home.
- Take the sick day. Sickness, in many forms, affects your ability to concentrate, look at a laptop or mobile device, converse or participate in a meeting. So don’t feel guilty if you need to go to the doctor or stay in bed for the day.
- Make time to connect in person.
- Schedule regular trips to the home office (if there is one) and be present for important meetings.
- Attend the holiday party or company milestone event in person.
- Attend industry conferences together.
- Consider these quirky tips:
- Avoid setting up recurring or important meetings on days or times when landscapers (or insert any personal service provider here) will be present. Mitigate the chances of nuisance noise. Nothing kills a meeting more than the sound of a leaf blower.
- Plan to use and pay for child-care, doggy day-care… it equals professionalism. Plan and anticipate.
- Find an alternate place to work if your internet goes out. Consider the home of a family member, local shared workplace or a Starbucks.
- Having a bad day? Take a break. Go take a walk outside. Eat ice cream for lunch. The whole office does not need to see it. Having privacy is priceless.
What are the benefits of working remotely?
- No commute time. Whether an hour or three hours it is time back for personal or professional needs. I reduce my carbon footprint. I am not driving my car or taking a train or bus to get to work.
- Less work/life stress and more choices in my life. I eat better! I am not eating takeout or on the run. I cook better meals at home. Commute time is repurposed to more sleep when I need it, workout time or walk with my dogs time.
- Increase in productivity. I can choose to work early in the morning and prepare better for my day - take care of those pesky items on the to-do list or go through emails while my colleagues are commuting to work. I go into the day with a clearer head. Or, if I chose I can work later in the evening to get ahead of work! Also, there are less work-related distractions. Many offices are open plan and working from home is quieter. This is important if your job requires problem-solving, time to think and write. It is just easier to concentrate at home.
Some of the downfalls to consider when working remotely is the sense of community and impromptu brainstorming that takes place in an office environment. I have found that a robust set of direct communication tools and video paired with regular visits enhances teamwork.
To top it all off, recent studies tout the increases in productivity and job satisfaction A Gallup study published in January 2020 sums it up Job Flexibility Engages Remote Workers -- Which Drives Performance.