My company allows me a work from home day once a week. It’s Tuesday. I don’t have to fight the traffic for 45 minutes into Salt Lake. I can help get my kids off to school.
But, once everyone is gone and it’s just me and the phone and the computer, do I have to wear pants?
How you answer that question says a lot about your aptitude to work at home, or work remotely. While it’s important for a manager to know how to manage remote team members, it’s equally important as a remote team member to know how to work with your managers.
If you work from home, or you work at a remote office, one of the most important things to do is start your workday. I know that sounds weird. Have a time at which point you “are working now.” For me, it helps to send an email, or make a call or reach out to someone on Instant Messaging. Anything to show that I’ve started my day.
If you don’t, it’s easy to get caught up in the business of the morning. Get the kids off to school. And then, notice the kitchen needs picked up. Oh, and that stack of old newspapers still needs put in the recycle bin. And on your way out to the garage you notice the kids forgot to put the snow shovels away, that will only take a minute. Before you know it, the clock is pushing noon and you haven’t even logged in yet.
But, if you have a time that you will start work, say 8:30 AM right after the kids head to the bus, then, you can avoid the temptation to clean the garage simply because you are out there throwing away the old newspapers. (Okay, maybe not newspapers, who uses those anymore? But, you get the idea.)
Just as important as knowing when to start, is knowing when to end. At an office you get lots of clues that its time to stop. Your coworkers go home. Then, your boss goes home. Then the cleaning crew asks will it bother your if they vacuum and you realize you should have gone home a while ago.
But, if you are working remotely those clues don’t exist as much. Sure, the kids come home from school, but that’s like 3:00 in the afternoon. You’ve still got time. And it starts getting dark out, but my office doesn’t have any windows so that’s not a clue. And then the kids come and tell me it’s time for dinner.
Whatever your trigger, you need to be able to pick a time after which you give yourself permission to stop. Even if you are going to come back to your office later, stop at the end of the day.
And remember to take breaks.
Breaks at an office happen more or less spontaneously throughout the day. A coworker wanders by and asks if you watched the big game and why did Seattle choose to pass on 2 and goal with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield? You probably get up and go out to lunch. If you are hourly, you get told when to take a break. Remote workers don’t have these clues.
As a remote worker, you need to get up and stretch your legs. Get outside and walk around the block. Remember to take a lunch break. Even if it’s 10 minutes while you snack on the lasagna from last night’s dinner. The structure in your day will help you stay focused the rest of the time.
Finally, get dressed. My office has a very loose dress code. I choose to wear business casual every day. At home, I might relax that somewhat to jeans and a polo shirt. But, just getting up, showering, shaving and getting ready for the day, helps with the structure and flow of the day.
And yes, definitely wear pants.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.