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I'm "working from home"

By Phil Factor,

Although many successful applications have been developed at home, it isn't easy to work remotely from home for any length of time. It is a skill that takes time to acquire, not only for the people working remotely but particularly from the team-members left in the office.

The biggest hurdle is often that the expectations of other people are all wrong. Still "working from home" are you? I'm sorry to hear that: I hope that you find a proper job soon. Note the inverted commas around the "working from home". It has become a euphemism, like "gardening leave" or "wanting to spend more time with your family". I have known a couple of best-selling authors who have been considered shirkers by their neighbors for not working in an office. It just doesn't seem like real work to the wider society. Some well-meaning neighbors even give them menial jobs just to get them out and about.

Anyone who has been used to office life, with the companionship, the water-cooler, the canteen and so on, can find it hard to adapt to home-working. The silence, and the sudden end to banter with your colleagues, takes its toll. You suddenly find that it's past midday and you've failed to get dressed properly, that you're bingeing on day-time television. You catch yourself staring blankly out of the window, or trying to explain things to the cat. The stack of tasks start to build up, and in the worst cases, the body rebels at the stress and tedium and you get sick.

Of course, any drop off in your productivity will be no surprise to those in the office. They're expecting it, because you are, after all, "working from home". It's ironic really, because in many ways office life provides a far less stressful refuge for the idle. If you have a large screen, preferably several of them, no manager suspects that you are spending your day arranging the evening's social life and looking at pictures of kittens. I once supervised a team that had installed a 'boss-button' key on their keyboards that, with one keypress, hid all the social media applications behind very convincing spreadsheets. Wise to their trick, I took great amusement in clicking the button as I walked past, to reveal their cat pictures and embarrassing messages to their social groups.

In truth, if you have a properly equipped home office and a good VPN link, there is little you can't do when working remotely. If you've acquired the self-discipline to work the right hours, and use all the workgroup coordination applications such as Trello, Slack and Skype to keep in constant communication with your office team, then you can avoid many of the above pitfalls.

The serious problems often come when office-based team members start to believe that the remote workers have somehow ceased to exist, however much they are contributing. We've devised great applications for remote and home working, but we've yet to adapt team processes to successfully accommodate them.

Phil Factor.

 
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