Moving from an office based job to a virtual one, it can be a challenge. From a superficial point of view one might think it’s only sunshine and rainbows as you won’t need to be stuck in traffic jams nor see your boss every day.
Looking a bit deeper there are a few considerations to have in mind to avoid derailing on your duties, personal life or enthusiasm. No negative or positive, only a few aspects to secure your emotional state along the way and keep you motivated.
Here are some of the biggest challenges (at least in my own experience):
> What time to start?: Why should you wake up at 08:00AM if you can wake up at 09? – Discipline. set yourself a standard wake up time. Don’t let the fact you don’t need to be seen in an office make you lose the control over yourself.
> What time to end up the day? There’s no right or wrong here, you should somehow make yourself available when other people might need to contact you. By other hand you need to put a line between professional and personal life. Otherwise it can go out of control one side or the other. Set yourself a “standard” offline time. No rigidity, but a good barometer to follow. One should be responsible and professional to do his job, but also to take care of his family (what best position could you ask for, to manage your own work-life balance?)
> Friends/colleagues/social contacts: This is one of the most critical parts. In the office I was always surrounded by people bringing coffee or catching up (personal stories or bizz issues). At home, you’re by yourself. I recommend you to use as much as possible Skype or Phone to keep direct contact with peers and stakeholders (instead email, much less “social”). In order to cover the gap of not having physical colleagues you better assure your private life keeps having them and eventual increase social events or gatherings.
> Visibility at work/career: Similar as above, you have to keep yourself visible, participating in all wider meetings, town halls or gatherings of your company. Join workgroups, projects or regular events to remain on the “spotlight”. Provide input, share ideas, create discussion groups. Invite colleagues from other departments/businesses to a small chat via Skype to know them and their business. Show real interest in people and what they do.
> Less public speaking, presentations and debates: working from home might somehow limit your exposure and practice of speech, presentation and debating ideas. To keep up those skills you can join local groups such as Toastmaster, TedX events, Meetup groups. You don’t need to wait that your company does it all for you. You can step forward and look for the best alternatives to keep you sharp and growing. Surely your company would support and appreciate that willingness.
> Eroding your relations ate home: This is a tricky one. By one hand your happy to be home and surrounded by your beloved ones, by other hand the risk of spending a higher amount of time with them might actually erode a bit the relation if you don’t take care of it. You’re home, but you’re not home. To your wife/kids, sometimes you’ll be like a ghost. They’ll talk to you but you won’t listen as you’re focusing on your stuff. Set “brake times” with them. Set lunch time with them. Clearly explain that being home, doesn’t mean being all the time available.
> Sharing same space as house and office: I would strongly recommend you to have your own space. Don’t just work from the living room or kitchen as you risk to be disturbed or interrupted all the time. Having your own space, even a small end of a corridor, can help you to focus and segregate better your personal from your professional facet.
> Training/Personal development: Many companies have in house training. Moving to a virtual role can have that downside. Good thing is, this kind of trends aren’t isolated or a spin off exercise, the rest of the supportive world is moving or following the same trends. What does this mean? The amount of trainings available on line in all kind of formats (webinars, online, podcasts and so on) allow you to keep developing yourself and being an important member of your organization. There are of course other kind of trainings you can follow like seminars or off-site trainings that can be discussed or very often proposed by your employer.
> Team knowledge sharing/best practices: As per the previous point, also in this field one might think a home based folk will lose the benefits of having his team around to share experiences and best practices. Wrong. You have sufficient tools and systems to help keeping this exercise. You can use tools like Skype, Yammer, Slack, WhatsApp, SharePoint, cloud systems (and the list goes on) were you can create groups, have real time discussions, or share material to be available to all group. The principle is, as one of the big requisites for someone working from home: Initiative. Pro-activeness. Don’t wait or expect things to land on your desk/computer. Propose them, discuss them, search them.
All the rest only positive things, absolutely priceless (No wasting time in commuting, managing my time during the day and different activities – personal and professional- and to be very honest, I don’t see myself going back to an office with that 9 to 5 mindset/prison.
Remember, work is something you do, not a place you go. By the way, companies pay performance, not time spent in the office.