How to be successful working from home
“This is it” — you tell yourself. Ready for a change of scenery, you finally work up the courage to quit your office job and start working from home. You figure that with your trusty laptop and software development skills in tow, you have everything you need to get started. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
A lot, actually. If you’re not prepared, that is.
Making the transition from a conventional job can bring about its own challenges, so it’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Though you may very well be a great developer, remote work is a whole ‘nother beast and if you don’t learn the ropes, you’re going down.
In the interest of helping you get things started on the right foot, we figured we would share some pointers. You know, for starters.
Set yourself up for success
Many people will tell you that the quality of your work — and its consistency — is only as good as the space you find yourself in. Make sure to pick a place that allows you to focus on the tasks at hand and keep distractions to a minimum. If you’re going to work directly from home, try designating a specific area to serve as your office. This can help you get into the right state of mind and prepare you for the day ahead.
Do you see yourself as the spontaneous type? This is fine just as long as it doesn’t interfere with the work that needs to be done. If sitting in a room by yourself for extended periods of time is your idea of a personal hell, ask around and see if there are any coworking spaces in your area. It will not only be a nice change of pace, but you might feel better surrounded by other people as you all tend to your own priorities.
Speaking of which — if you want to get some serious work done, you will also need the right tools for the job. With your days as a conventional office worker behind you, this also means that you can no longer depend on the companies you work with to provide them for you (although some do). Whether it is different devices for testing purposes or a computer powerful enough to handle the workload, many employers will expect you to use what you have on hand. If you don’t, be prepared to buy or borrow whatever it is you need.
Once you’ve gotten these checked off of your list, you want to make sure that you have set a schedule for yourself and that you follow it. Although the independence inherent in remote work is a nice incentive, it can also offer up a lot of temptations, so stay a step ahead and avoid it altogether by establishing a routine. Like the gift that keeps on giving, the structure you have set in place will then help keep you on track and stay productive.
Even so, Murphy might just show up uninvited one day and threaten your plans, which brings us to our next point: always have a backup.
Problems happen and you should prepare accordingly. Just in case your laptop dies, for example, you should have an additional one standing by (or the money to purchase another one if need be). On the other hand, if you live in an area prone to power outages, why not invest in a UPS or inverter to help you circumvent this inconvenience? Have you ever wondered what would happen if your Internet connection fails in the middle of a crucial meeting with clients? Well, you won’t have to worry about that if you have a mobile connection standing by, just in case.
In the end, we’re all human and we make mistakes. However, if you’re constantly finding yourself in the midst of unfavorable situations because of your failure to plan, you could be putting your job on the line. You might tell yourself that you’re saving money now, but you might be losing much more than you bargained for if you don’t make the necessary investments.
Be a good team member
While the way in which you used to interact with your coworkers will invariably change, you will still have to work as part of and answer to a team. Make sure to build an amicable relationship amongst yourselves so that it’s easier to work together and reach out to one another when in need of help. Trust me — sooner or later, you will need it.
It’s important that you’re available to your team when they need you. Make sure they have your number in case of emergencies and answer when they call. Likewise, keep an eye on your email and respond to requests in the appropriate time frame, doing everything in your power to keep people from waiting indefinitely for your response. In the spirit of staying connected, use other tools of the trade (Slack, Skype, etc.) and stay active on those platforms, especially during work hours.
For those moments when a video call is imminent, keep your webcam and a good headset on hand. Also, don’t forget to check that your Internet connection is up and running smoothly! Problems on this end could hinder communication and create further issues down the line, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Perhaps even more important than just mere availability is the issue of reliability. Your team counts on you to do your share of the work, show up on time to meetings or calls and keep regular working hours. When this is called into question, it can be very difficult to earn back their trust, if not altogether impossible.
Keeping in line with this idea, if something happens, let your team know. Be it that you have a doctor’s appointment coming up, you have fallen ill or some other issue has cropped up, it’s imperative that you communicate it on time. Any change in the usual plans should be duly noted and if you won’t be available through customary channels, provide a suitable alternative.
Strive to do your best work
When working remotely you’re being trusted to do your work, and with no one around telling you exactly what to do and when to do it, it’s up to you to follow through. If you make a mistake, for example, don’t try to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. Do the work of holding yourself accountable and being transparent with your client or employer. While you may have momentarily averted an uncomfortable conversation, you could be setting the stage for trouble down the line by failing to disclose this information.
Don’t be that person. Chances are you’re going to have a bad time.
In keeping with the theme of honesty, here’s also your friendly reminder to log only the hours which you work on any given day. You may feel cool and rebellious trying to cheat the system, but trust us when we say that the feeling won’t last. It won’t be long before you find yourself unemployed, and there’s nothing cool about that.
Look. All we’re saying is that if you’re going to take the leap, really commit to it. Do your best to contribute quality work and when you fail to deliver, own up to it and put in the effort to make it better. Not only will your team thank you for it, but you will also stand to learn a lot with the right attitude.
See? It’s not that complicated, really.
And it’s not just all seriousness, either. While honesty and responsibility are instrumental in the workplace (remote or otherwise), if you want to do well you also have to enjoy what you’re doing. After work comes play, and it’s only fair that you have some fun of your own as well.