Working From Home – You Can Make It Work
When it comes to modern technology and forward thinking, Biglaw is not at the very forefront like companies such as Google, Apple or Amazon are, but progress is being made. At most firms, I think the concept of “facetime” is still important. And I agree that being present in the office is valuable.
There is nothing like looking at a coworker and knowing exactly what he or she is thinking because you two have worked together for so long. You can also read stress levels and gauge understanding when giving out assignments or projects. Some people have tell-tale faces that make it easy to see if they understand or if they are totally lost and need something to be explained in another way. None of this can be accomplished when you are not in the same room. Even video conference doesn’t have quite the same effect.
That being said, most companies, Biglaw firms included, offer employees the technology and the ability to work from home at least occasionally. If your job offers this, I would definitely take advantage of it, so long as you do not abuse it. It is a privilege to skip your commute and get to stay home and not have to face your coworkers once in a while, so remember that.
Below I’ve listed out my top seven tips for working from home. This is meant to be for the occasional working from home day, not for someone whose job title is that of a remote worker, although I suppose permanent remote workers can take advantage of these tips too. Read on for some help on perfecting the art that is successfully working from home
1.Make It Easy For Your Coworkers.
If your co-workers are anything like mine were or like I was, they are probably going to wish they were working from home, too. Or they will have the preconceived notion in their minds that anyone who is working from home is going to be less available and less productive than if they were in the office.
You should do everything in your power to make it as seamless for your co-workers as possible so that these thoughts do not enter their mind when it comes to you and your day at home.
This means investing in (if your company does not provide any) and learning how to competently use all relevant technology. You should have a printer, office phone, high-speed internet and email access, a video conference line if applicable, etc. Basically, whatever you use in the office, you should have at home so that you can complete your tasks in the same efficient manner
2. Communicate Way In Advance.
Tell your coworkers way ahead of time (where possible) that you will be working from home. The day before you plan to be at home, remind them of this early in the day and again as you are leaving for the evening.
You might feel like you are being annoying by constantly reminding them, and they might even act like you are annoying them, but nothing is more annoying that a coworker who, surprise!, is working from home when you had no idea that was his plan.
Of course, if you have an emergency come up, you cannot plan a working from home day ahead of time. But when you are expected in the office and decide at the last minute to work from home, but simply don’t bother to tell anyone until that day that you won’t be around, expect more than a few co-workers to be less than thrilled.
3. Wake Up Early.
Make sure you are up early to set up your workspace way ahead of time. Log on to the system, do a test call from your work phone to your cell phone and vice versa, open up your relevant documents, and generally make sure everything you are going to need that day is available to you and is working correctly.
If you are usually at the office at 9am, try to get started at 8am. Once you are confident that everything is ready to go, enjoy your little bit of bonus time. Since you don’t have to commute, you might have time to make yourself breakfast, have some coffee, sit around in your PJs, watch a morning show you never get to see, anything you want. Then, when it’s time to start the day, turn all those off and get going on your work day. Which brings me to my next tip…
4. Create a Distraction-Free Zone.
Get rid of your distractions, which are different for every one of us. You know what they are for you – is it a Bravo Real Housewives marathon? Don’t just turn off the TV – unplug it. You can’t be on a conference call and give 100percent when you have Bravo on mute in the background. Trust me, I’ve tried it before.
Do you find yourself constantly sneaking into the kitchen to cook breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon snack, pre-dinner snack, and so on? Close the kitchen door and only allow yourself to eat when you would normally eat at work – during lunchtime and a few to-go snacks. When working from home it’s impossible to eliminate all distractions but do your very best to limit them.
5. Meal Prep.
Along with creating a distraction-free zone, you should plan your meals the night before your working from home day. This way you will not be tempted to waste time in the kitchen making meal after meal.
Both your boss and your waistline will thank you if you stick to a normal amount of time spent in the kitchen when you are at home. If you never cook or simply have no food at home, plan out your delivery as well. Decide on your meal swiftly, order out once during the day, and enjoy.
6. Clearly Block Out Your Calendar.
One of the main reasons for occasionally working from home is to have time to run an errand, go to an appointment, or be around for a furniture delivery or two. Everyone knows this is why people take these days and it is totally fine to have (short) periods of your day where you are not available.
However, if you are going to be away from your computer, email and phone for two hours because, for example, you need to leave for a doctor’s appointment, make sure your coworkers know this. No, they do not have to know where you are going, but they need to know that for those two hours you are not going to be responsive.
The easiest way to do this is to simply block off the time in your calendar. Remember to give yourself a little buffer of time since appointments always tend to take longer than expected. If you are back early, great. Like most things in life, when it comes to your availability when working from home, it’s always better to under promise and over deliver.
7. Dress In What Works for You.
Many people advise that even if you work from home, you should still get dressed in your work clothes. Or at least put on some real pants. As you could probably guess based on my post about Dressing for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have, I am not a proponent of this at all. Maybe if you work from home all of the time and need to mentally make the switch from “lounge-mode” to “work-mode”, this advice makes sense.
But if you are only taking a day here or there to work from home, it is a special treat to get to work in your sweatpants. Take advantage of this and wear whatever makes you the most comfortable. If that is your business clothes, go for it. But I suspect for most of you, it will be your old college sweats. Just be aware if your company is fond of video conferencing, in which case you better be in business casual (at least on top!).
The Perfect Working From Home Day
My goal when working from home was always to feel accomplished, both professionally and personally, because of all of the work I was able to get done and the personal errands or tasks I was able to complete in between. It was an even better day if the day left me feeling refreshed and just generally more relaxed after having skipped my commute.
What is your idea of an ideal working from home day? If you have any additional tips to share, please do so in the comments!