Tips for a Successful Home Office

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Cribs: The Home Office Edition!

In the 3rd installment of my Working Remotely series, I’m tackling tips to set up a successful remote office environment.

Thoughtfully Approaching a Home Office

I’ve had a home office for years and am often asked to share my tips with others. So, here goes!

Thoughtfully setting up your home office is important for day to day operations and planning the right logistics. I believe a remote employee’s success is directly affected by the type of environment they work in for the 40+ hours every week spent working.

It’s important that a remote employee performs just as well, if not better, than their in office counterparts. Their motivation, drive and development are just some examples of areas in performance where they need to out compete others in order to grow in their career and overcome potential regional disadvantages.

What does Hugh Hefner and a Remote Office Employee Have in Common? If you said working in pajamas, you got it all wrong! The simple commonality is a home office. That’s it, that’s all.

In previous blog posts in this series, I explored Pros/Cons for a Home Office from the point of view of employers & employees and Yahoo’s Banning Home Offices.

Hopefully I’ve built the case that I believe remote offices, if they support your business model, can be great for both employees and employers.

This post will discuss my list of best practices that have been tried, tested, and true from years of being a remote manager.

My Tips for a Successful Home Office:

As mentioned in previous posts, it’s important to ensure your remote office is really just a version of a regular office – just in a different location. You want to mimic a typical office environment as much as possible. This maintains a level of consistent professionalism and company culture that keeps the company’s brand integrity.

Shower and Get Dressed – You’re not Hugh Hefner, don’t work in your pajamas! Easier said than done, I know. I have been guilty of it especially during crunch time. Nowadays though, video conferencing is becoming the norm. You don’t want your colleagues to see you in your Hello Kitty ensemble. Period.

Guard Your Time – Have a start and end time in mind and stick to it. After shutting down, put your laptop away so that you’re not tempted to check email after hours. Remember, if you reply after hours (to a non-urgent email as urgent emails are an exception of course) it becomes the expectation not the exception.

Have an Actual Office – Dedicate a portion of your home or a portion of a room as an office. You’re not in university anymore; don’t work from the couch amongst pizza boxes! Bonus if your office has a window, it’s nice to have fresh air and natural light.

Build a “To Go Office” – Have a box in your trunk with most of the things you have on your desk. This “To Go Office” has saved me many a times. Thinks like markers, highlighters, staples, and a notebook – put in what ever you use regularly! Need a hole punch while riding a ferry to an event? I have it in my trunk! Trust me it happens.

For the Moms and Dads out There – Set up Childcare – A great tip from my mentor about kids and the home office is to print out your schedule for your caregiver/partner. Highlight the times when you’ll be on conference calls or important meetings. This way, they can take the kids to the park or have them do arts and crafts or a quiet activity so that your colleagues don’t have to wade through the latest tunes from Dora The Explorer in the background of the call.

And yes, please have a care giver in place; you don’t want to be “juggling” your kid/s and a job during office hours. You are not setting yourself up for success if this is your plan. Office hours should mean it’s as if you’re not even home. Ensure that childcare is not your responsibility during your working hours.

Meet Your 2 New BFFs; the Purolator Guy & Your IT Help Desk – These 2 people make the remote office world go-round. The 2 most frustrating points of a home office – shipping issues & remote/VPN/computer woes. Don’t shoot the messenger, but rather perhaps give them a hug/virtual hug. I know you already feel frustrated; but remember, you’re nothing without these 2.

I send snacks to the IT team and make sure I say Hi when I’m in our head office. A coffee gift card with a nice note to the Puro guy goes a long way. My Puro guy and I have a system if I’m not home – I don’t know what I would do without him!

Words to live by: Trust, Commitment and Motivation

Aside from the points listed above, the biggest component for a successful home office is trust. The company, manager, and employee have to establish this from day one.

There are simply employees who have the perfect blend of drive, discipline, and motivation to get it done by themselves and will deliver their best work consistently – in or out of the office. In most cases, I believe, these remote employees can out-perform their in office counterparts as they are not swayed by in office politics and cubicle walk up distractions.

I have also seen employees who need an everyday routine of going into an office, of being physically present in order to be motivated. Recognize this in the hiring process. Help your remote hires understand the reality of a home office so they self-select into this environment.

The bottom line is, when thinking of the bottom line, remote or in office – I believe it doesn’t matter where the work is done. The dedication and willingness of an employee to do their best work and fulfill the expectations set in their role can make or break this experience. Choose well if hiring a new remote employee and guide them using these tips for success from day 1.

Have Your Say!

Are you a remote employee? Do you have “work from home myths” you want to know the real deal about? I would love to know your thoughts & feedback, comment below!

Grace Lanuza
Grace’s 10+ years in the ever-changing world of experiential marketing taught her the importance of having the right team in the right roles. Expanding her passion for people, Grace recently grew her career in the talent acquisition and employment branding space managing campus recruiting across North America for Mosaic, a top marketing agency. You can expect Grace’s unique voice to be found blogging about Gen Y hiring, motivating your team, interviewing tips and tricks, and best practices to keep remote employees engaged.

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  • Scott Cunningham

    Great article Grace! I think, in addition the points above, one of the elements of the remote office that I use most frequently is my access to cloud based file services. Be it Dropbox, Google Drive, Box etc.. These services allow me to have all of my important files with me, whereever I go.

  • Yana Marakhova

    Fantastic article Grace! I definitely went through my learning curve of how
    to work at home. One thing that I think is very important is to schedule your
    breaks and meals in your calendar. This way you won’t go an entire work day
    with no food and then wonder why you have a headache. 🙂

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