It depends. 

If your role is suitable and your organisation supports you with good leadership and you do it well, WFH could be liberating, less expensive than commuting, greener and more productive.

Let's focus on how you can be more productive - and keep your health and sanity.

At Skillset we've always been free to work from home, so we'll add our suggestions to a selection of ideas from around the world.

The basics

  • Set aside enough space and free from distractions.
  • Make it clear to anyone who might interrupt you that you will be working.
  • Plan your hours so that you have a fixed time for work then start and finish punctually. Resist the temptation to compromise family time outside those hours. 
  • Take breaks just as you would in the office. At home, you might take time to empty the dishwasher or hang out the washing. Think of those tasks as part of your paid work because they help you to be more effective.
  • Have regular meals.  
  • Excercise regularly.

 Performance issues

You'll need to develop the skill of being 'noticed, but not often seen'. 

  • Call your team leader to negotiate clear goals, responsibilities and deadlines for your work. 
  • Check how often your team leader needs progress reports - and deliver.
  • Stay in touch with your colleagues and team leader. Write them emails in a friendly, conversational tone, even if you are feeling grumpy or frustrated. (Maintain 'The Professional You')
  • Accept that managers and team leaders worry when they can't see their people working or the results of that work. They may be in touch more often than you need. 
  • Set daily goals.
  • Dress for work. Sure, you could do it in your pajamas, but office clothes help most people think and perform in a more professional way. (I've seen a BBC newsreader turn up in a suit and bow tie to read the news - on the radio.)
  • If you are meeting on say, Zoom, Skype or Teams, check that there's nothing distracting in the background. That includes distracting books, pot plants that appear to be growing out of your head or family members in the background. (You may have missed the naked partner passing by on Facebook and the toddler appearing on BBC television asking the journalist working from home, 'Mummy can I have two biscuits?')

Staying connected

Being connected isn't just a nice thing to do.

Researchers have shown that our need to connect with other people is one of the three universal motivators - vital regardless of culture. Others have shown that loneliness is about as hazardous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and that quality relationships help us live longer more productive lives.

If we are working from home, we need to put extra effort into our relationships. If working on relationships is not something you do spontaneously, add it to your to do lists.  At least send a friendly email. Better still, Zoom or phone for a catchup. Your calls can be a mixture of work and personal stuff - whatever seems right for your relationship at work.

Face-to-face is best. If the Covid restrictions allow in your country, maybe arrange to meet colleagues for a regular coffee. In our team, anyone who is not training that day will be in the office Wednesdays where we take long coffee breaks, celebrate birthdays, review workshops and exchange ideas. It's been part of our culture for many years.

 

Working from home has challenges, but it's here to stay. Missing our colleagues has emerged as the biggest disadvantage, but WFH has its own acronym because so many people around the world have been forced into it and now more organisations and employees are seeing the benefits. It can be even more productive, saves the cost and time of commuting, helps save the planet and, medium-term, can reduce the cost of office space.

 

Both. Let's not dismiss the motivation and even brilliance having fun can produce. 

It's already in elite sports.

Coaches are sending teams out with the instruction 'Have fun'. It makes sense and it's a useful approach for anyone who leads a team.

Here's the traditional way. Years ago, I was a television reporter on the sideline of a provincial rugby game. It was half-time and I could clearly hear a coach haranging his players about their mistakes in the first half. How motivational would that be? Those players may have avoided the same mistakes, but their motivation would be to keep the coach off their backs, not the risk-taking and opportunism that leads to brilliant performances.

The 'have fun' approach only seems soft.

Most people want to improve. They are already determined. The need to be competent is one of three 'universal motivators'. Universal, because the motivators work regardless of culture.

Having fun in sports or challenging assignments comes with benefits that tap into that self-motivation. Allowing ourselves and others to have fun allows us to relax while focused on achieving more - being more creative, taking reasonable risks, staying motivated when things don't go as planned.

Fun, and everything that goes with it, beats top-down demands for performance.

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