THE PEOPLE WHO WORK FROM HOME SEEM TO AGREE ON BEING
But if we have a closer look at this argument we may also find a few roadblocks to achieve these benefits for ourselves. Yes, myself included, as I am part of the virtually employed population.
Although the joys of working from home beckon us all the time and some of you just can’t wait to file their resignation, we might just need to remember that there are major challenges that we need to be faced around the thought of being virtually employed.
Part of our responsibilities to ourselves now is to challenge the odds and overcome the roadblocks so we can be more successful as how we hoped to be, having decided to leave the office and get jobs done at the comfort of our homes.
Because virtual workers and their teams are only connected through technology, they miss the casual chit-chats with their workmates. Staying at home to get the job done makes them miss the usual nods, smiles, and friendly banters amongst peers in the office during breaks and even while completing their deliverables. What makes it a bit worse is that virtual employees also do not get any clues whether the person they are working with is a little disappointed or totally dissatisfied with what’s going on around. This drives them towards the feeling of isolation, eventually keeping them from working effectively and with the expected brilliance.
Take tasks that may require constant communication among co-workers so you can work on your targets together.
Start building a trusted partnership with your managers or your clients. It reduces that feeling of isolation when virtual employees constantly talk to their immediate leads or their clients. It also makes their remote team more innovative and productive.
Working remotely can sometimes drain everything out of a person. Having to concentrate on the job and shutting yourself off the perks of interacting with people makes you feel a bit “off”. Choosing to work from home limits your chances of exchanging clever repartee and having friends around. That risk of being boxed within the comforts of “yourself” can get to your nerves. That in itself poses a big challenge for you and your fellow team members to get a little less driven towards your objectives.
Written communication may not just be as quirky as physically having a colleague around but it allows you to significantly increase your social interactions, even within different time zones.
When working with a virtual team, it is important to have a regular “catch-up” meeting. It gives you room to feel that the people you work with have something to share with everyone. You can work on placing a day in a week on your team calendar to talk about something else before discussing work.
Allow yourself to also get updated with the progress of your team’s work. Consider a reasonable regular time to ask your peers how far they have gone in terms of their deliverables, while you also update them of such. This will let all of you know how every person contributes to fulfill your objectives.
Because you barely see what’s going on in the other end of the project you are working on, you can’t help but to doubt your peers or your fellow team members. Throw in the idea that you rarely work at the same time and it takes a while before you hear back from them, it is more likely to trust your virtual colleagues a little less.
Make each other aware of your contributions to the project. There are online or cloud-based project management hubs that allow you to have a look at how far you are at in the project and how much you have contributed to complete that.
Set goals and expectations for yourself and lay it out clearly to your peers. This allows everyone to have an of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
Allow feedback to flow through freely to keep everyone aware of the brilliant job everyone is doing and how much more all of you can make things better. This also gives way to increased “moral” support amongst virtual colleagues, eventually making them trust each other more.
The differences in our traditional and cultural upbringing sometimes shows a different sign to our colleagues. What we mean to say comes off differently from someone on the other side of the world. A direct-to-the-point feedback that we mean well may sometimes mean rude and imposing to our colleague from another continent.
This poses a real risk among virtual teams. They might be unable to work closely and harmoniously to complete the project.
Look at the brighter side of things. Really, diversity makes people work more efficiently as one is aware that the other can really do a brilliant job on one leg of the project while you efficiently do your part.
A team profile also helps to make each other aware of your whereabouts, your expertise and experience, and even a few bits of personal information. By sharing cultural customs with each other, you can foster understanding and allow all of you to be more sensitive and mature.
Setting ground rules may also help keep cultural conflicts out of the picture. Align everyone’s expectations in terms of turnaround time for communications, agreed file-sharing platforms, and even guidelines on appropriate language on emails.
While working in the office allows you to build a solid team spirit, being virtually employed can sometimes make you feel that you are just an individual that works on a project like everybody else does. It’s a little difficult to feel that you are working with a team when you are in your home office.
Connect with your remote peers constantly. Allow feedback to flow and encouragement to come through every now and then.
Set a common goal for your team while you set individual targets for yourself that are directly linked to the team’s objective.
Share your knowledge and the same way you would want to learn more from your virtual colleagues.
Allow each other to become a leader at some point, especially when working on a project that requires one’s expertise.
Share a success story that helped contribute to the team’s project.
Share everything you’ve learned while working on a project you just recently wrapped up. Rewards and recognitions from team leads also encourage team spirit.
So, does working from home really work?
I would still say YES, without batting an eyelash. While these roadblocks are really pressing issues that we need to put up with when we choose to become virtual employees, let us not forget that the possibilities of overcoming them depend on how we adjust ourselves and our attitude towards the general environment.
While these challenges pose real risks that might keep us from doing the job, I would still say, and encourage everyone to become more independently productive, whether by being a virtual employee or by having to work in an office.
Like most things in life, working from home works for some of us and maybe not for others.