Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10 Best Practices: Transitioning to Work at Home

10 Best Practices: Transitioning to Work at Home
Posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009 by Mark Harbeke

Here are 10 best practices from my own experience. Feel free to add to this list by sharing your own thoughts or experiences below.
To have a better chance of getting buy-in from leadership, explain how service levels will be maintained, and/or costs saved. I do 98% of my work on a computer, so I knew I could be based anywhere. I was also able to identify cost savings as a result of not needing to take public transportation to work and have that be reimbursed (a company benefit).
You can't over-communicate to your coworkers as far as when you're leaving. Make sure they have ample lead time to be able to wrap up any standing projects before you hit the road, Jack.
Whatever amount of time you think you'll need to pack up your workspace, double it. Trust me, you'll run short on time here if you make a conservative or even middle-of-the-road estimate.
Another note on packing: it's a great opportunity for spring cleaning! Which files do you really need? (How many are already stored electronically?) How much space do you envision in your home office? That will help dictate how many boxes you'll need. This is another opportunity to demonstrate a cost savings to your employer if, like me, you need to have your files shipped to you: "I thought I would need eight boxes, but I did some consolidating and I only need five."
If – again, like me – you're not merely moving your office to where you live now but are relocating to a new city, don't forget to think about how your new 'hood will affect your work environment. Arrange multiple on-site visits if possible at different times of the day so you can get a sense of anything that might be an external distraction, such as traffic or construction. On a related note, could your work activity annoy your neighbors? (Maybe you like to blast music while making sales calls. I don't know.)
Your new home office space shouldn't be an afterthought. Especially if you have a family, you need to be intentional about the workspace. Draw up a floorplan (a crude, napkin-quality one is fine) and map out the dimensions of your space.
When doing the above step, think about the work environment you've been used to and what you'd like it to be. Are you the kind of person who works best with a general din going on around you? You might not need a room all to yourself in this case. If you're worried about pets or kids disturbing you, though, and feel you need to isolate yourself to do your best work, make your own room – or at least a cordoned-off area with the help of tension rods and curtains – a priority.
High-speed Internet is an absolute must. Shop around for an ISP in your area that can provide both Business Class Internet and a static IP address. You'll need the latter to set up a virtual private network (VPN) with the help of hardware like this. (Yet another cost savings opportunity for your employer: if you think you'll use your work PC for both business and home, offer to split the monthly cost of the Internet connection with them.)
You will undoubtedly miss that person-to-person contact you had in your regular office environment. Your phone and a webcam can be vital tools to help you feel as connected as you were before. When communicating via email, be clear about project expectations and deadlines, and encourage the same from your coworkers. You'll find that minutes of staff meetings, especially those you may miss while transitioning, are as good as gold.
It is even more important when working from home to learn and put to use this time-tested business lesson: know when to say no. Make it a habit to under-promise and over-deliver.
Working from home can improve your virtual team building skills to enhance employee leadership development. From a management perspective, because it promotes work/life balance, it can be a great way of investing in your workplace.