Organizations have continued to explore the advantages of offering telecommuting opportunities, both part-time and full-time, to employees. For businesses, the opportunity to recruit talent from around the world for short-term and permanent roles, presents a competitive advantage, particularly if the required talent pool is not available locally.
The advantages for businesses who incorporate “work-from-home” policies do not end there. In fact, many independent case studies and research reports have indicated that employees who work from home are more productive. Part of the findings point to work-from-home advantages that support a healthy balance and the flexibility that professionals need to enjoy a fulfilling career, while balancing the needs of family or personal life.
From an economic perspective, allowing part of your workforce to telecommute offers tremendous savings on business space, equipment and other expenses. For the employee, it is an opportunity to cultivate a quiet, calm environment that is conducive to focus and performance during the workday, without the distractions and disruptions of a crowded office environment.
While working from home appeals to virtually every professional, it takes a particular set of soft skills and organizational abilities to be able to engage remotely, and maintain productivity. Not everyone is suited to working from home, and it can be more challenging for both the employer and the employee, if expectations are both sides are not being met.
There are four essential skills that professionals require to be able to transition from an office environment, to a work-from-home arrangement, and for employees, this list can help you determine if it is a good fit for you.
- Designated Workspace
Even if you primarily work from a laptop, creating a designated office space when working from home is critical. Creating a boundary between your home life and off-hours and your work day is important for focus, as well as keeping confidential or important materials organized.
- Technology and Hardware
Reliable internet service is naturally a must, as is a good quality computer, and a printer and scanner combination. Sharepoint® is one of the world’s most popular content management systems, with secure encryption of confidential information, and it is easily accessible for staff via the cloud. Depending on the nature of your business role, a separate office phone may need to be installed, but for most people, extension lines can be forwarded to personal smartphones, or virtual voicemail boxes.
- Self-Direction and Focus
This is one of the hardest, and most critical soft skills that professionals need to develop when they are transitioning to a work-from-home position. Developing a routine is key, and it the most successful schedules are identical to what would be observed if you were still working in the office. Get up, have breakfast, take the dog for a walk, sit down, check your email… and begin your day. Schedule regular breaks for yourself, including a full lunch break at the same time of day where possible, so that colleagues can anticipate your availability. Diligence to avoid letting your home environment, visitors, pets or other disturbance disrupt your productivity is harder than it sounds, but can evolve efficiently with time and practice.
- Strong Communication Skills
Employees who work from home report feelings of disillusionment and disconnection from the team, if they do not apply solid daily communication habits to their workflow. After awhile, the novelty of working from home does wear off, and you can begin to miss short breaks with colleagues, lunches or talk around the coffee pot. Many experts and employers require once-a-week in-office meetings to offset any fractures in team involvement, or regular video teleconferencing, to keep connections with managers and colleagues healthy, and personable.
Are you an employer or an employee who advocates for work-from-home opportunities? Share your professional insights with us, and leave a comment.