6 ideas to make “work from home” work

Have you ever worked from home?

If you are like the typical corporate employee then chances are high that you have heard some comments from your colleagues such as,

“Have fun during your day off!”

Or that comment from your manager: “Ah, tomorrow you “work” from home.”

Some people still have an idea that work is highly fixed to physical presence and that somehow work at home does not get done.

However, working from home has plenty of hard benefits. Not only well-known ones such as less time and CO2 spend on traffic and less office space needed etc.

Research now shows more and more work-benefits such as productivity increases even for standard tasks (read this FastCompany article for more details and the link to the Stanford study).

With all these advantages the big question is: How do we actually work best from home, especially if you work in a corporate context?

Here are 6 ideas for successful work from home (WFH) in the corporate world:

1 Plan ahead

Think in advance what the key things are that you want to achieve on your WFH day. Schedule yourself to finish the most important and maybe ‘ugliest’ task (memo? presentation?) the first thing, even before you open your email. Author Brian Tracy calls this the ‘Eat that Frog’ strategy. Not only will you feel extremely good that this task is out of the way but you also have something tangible that you can send to the rest of the world (more later).

2 Focus

I work with many corporate employees who have become dependent on their standard rhythm of work: meeting – meeting – short break – meeting – short break… Although you might still have phone/video conferences, chances are high that you will have less meetings when you WFH. Make sure you don’t fill your time by just emailing / tinkering around. Apps like e.g. FocusBooster (see here for an overview of tools) can help greatly to focus on finishing task after task. This way you leverage WFH in the best way.

3 Get moving

People often think that WFH is better for work-life balance and thus health per se. For me, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Why? At home, there is no walk from the parking space, no walk to lunch, no stroll to the coffee machine or that hurried pace to get to the ‘DaVinci’ meeting room on the 2nd floor in time. So when you WFH force yourself to move often. Get up every 45 minutes and stretch. Take a brisk walk for 10 minutes during lunch.

4 Keep people up to speed where you are

Make sure everybody is up to speed where you are. It is as simple as sending a quick update to the team/admin/manager that you are working from home today and what is the best way to reach you. This helps everybody to be fully up to speed and lets everybody look good when the question comes: “I am looking for Charles, do you know where he is?”

5 Constantly reach out

This one is important especially if you regularly work from home. At home your water cooler and your coffee machine will be your kitchen. No bumping into other colleagues here. No quick catch up on the latest news. You therefore need to ensure that you proactively and constantly reach out to other people, e.g. via phone or instant messenger. Be rigorous about this and schedule reminders e.g. in your calendar.

6 Share your output

When you have finished an important task (see point #1 and #2) make sure that you share your output with the world in writing. It is a necessary way to get noticed when you are physically away. You need to blow your own horn, especially when you regularly work from home.

Have a go

Working from home has drastically changed my productivity, both in my corporate time as well as now in my entrepreneurial work. I recommend it to everybody where possible.

One last thought for the doubters among people managers: On top of the clear benefits it seems that the train has already left the station. If you continue to think that your employees won’t work when they are at home, think again. Do you REALLY know what they are doing when they are in the office? I once heard a quote by Alec Ross that fits well: “The 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak.” So embrace WFH as a key tool for your team.

Enjoy your time working from home! And please let me know your special tips and experiences.

Lars Sudmann

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