By Phil Gerard
Great! Just when we thought our employers are starting to buy into telecommuting a viral video has to destroy everything!! Right?!
When I saw this video on the weekend I could not help but feel sincere sympathy with Dr. Kelly. This is what everybody working from home fears the most. Interruptions in a very serious moment when you need all of your concentration.
Working from home, to this day, enjoys a questionable reputation. Some managers shy away from it because they cannot control if their people actually work or give in to domestic distractions. But we have come a long way in the last decade, especially with technology making it increasingly easier to work remotely. You can practically be anywhere as long as you have your laptop, smart phone and a wi-fi signal.
Working from home has great advantages. You can start your workday without losing time to and being stressed from a commute and there are less office-type of distractions such as gossiping, office politics, water cooler conversations, and Monday morning quarterbacking. And of course you save money (gas, toll fees just to name two) and your employer saves office space just to name one.
One of the (perceived) disadvantages is the lack of separation between home and work. Some people, like me love this mix, I work seven days a week but it does not feel like it to me due to the flexibility I have with my time. Others do not like this blur of work and personal life. You are always close to your office. While one can get distracted by the things going on around you or get tempted to do chores (“Should I empty the dishwasher quickly?”) one can also get tempted to go down to the home office at midnight and answer emails.
The other challenge is to maintain an air of professionalism. I have had a home office for many years and, yes, I had my shares of nightmares, especially when my kids were younger.
For me working from home is a blessing and it makes me more productive. But I find it is important to have some ground rules:
- Have office-hours. This is the time when you are available and accessible for doing business as you would be in a normal office setting.
- Have a dedicated space. While it is fun to answer after office-hour emails from the couch or write your blog on the weekend at the kitchen table, a space (during office-hours) where you can focus without interruption is key.
- Have a system that prevents interruptions. A lockable door, a sign on the door when you are on the phone or on a video call, and (if applicable) an arrangement with your partner who is watching the kids or pets to make sure they do not enter.
- Be organized and disciplined. Keep noises and interruptions down. Sure, there are some things that you cannot control but many that you can. When you have phone, conference or video calls make sure you have the volume of electronic devices turned down or off. Let others in the house know when you are on calls, especially conference calls (by the way I am the first one to admit that I still forget sometimes, I just had a video call interrupted by a call from the office landline yesterday).
- Dress appropriately during your office hours. Some people might like working in their pyjamas but for me it is important to start my day in the home-office like I do in the office (but maybe not in a suit).
- Get out! For those working in a home-office environment all the time, and not just a day or two a week, can feel isolated. Find a way to stay connected with your co-workers and/or network. Make as many all-staff meetings you can, attend networking, and other events.
Sure, working from home has its disadvantageous and challenges, but I hope that employers and the general public do not use the viral video as an example to discourage telecommuting. Yes, there are distractions at home, but there are distractions at the office too, they are just different. And hey, life happens, we are human and even when interruptions happen that does not make us less competent.