Smirking From Home
Written by Jason Marchant
The remote office and the problems you never knew you had.
Working from home (WFH) is great. You get to wear slippers to meetings. You can stick the dishwasher on while still smashing out the best work of your career. You can be home for the nanosecond the parcel courier waits at your door. What’s not to like?
At Dauntless, we’re big fans of flexible working. It suits our business, our love of family, and allows us the adaptability to work at speed for our lovely clients. But the WFH idyll is not all no trousers and questionable personal hygiene. There are some challenges, challenges that I didn’t expect.
I’ve been a part-time homeworker on and off for many years; working one or two days out of the office to help look after my kids, when they were still little. But now I’m doing it full time, so what have I learned?
Meetings take planning
Telcos, video conferences, Skype, Hangouts, calls; whatever you call them, jumping on a digital ‘face-to-face’ is what powers remote working. Modern devices are up to the task of making that connection, but you can make it better.
- Lighting – Try and avoid being backlit, such as having a window behind you; this is a business catch-up not a Cold War interrogation. Warm natural light is ideal, so face the outside world (or a light source) for the best impression.
- Angle – Laptops are for your lap, right? Not unless ‘double chin and a pinhead’ is the look you are going for. Put the laptop on a table and push it slightly away from you so you’re not looking down on it. This distance also discourages you from resting your chin on your hand and looking bored senseless by your boss’s sparkling repartee.
- Audio – Get a better microphone. Seriously, the laptop ones aren’t great. Headphones with a mic are a start, particularly if it’s noisy where you are. And don’t underestimate the joy of muting yourself when not speaking; no one wants to hear your washing machine reaching Mach 6.
- Foreground and background – I don’t want to get all Hyacinth Bucket/Monica Geller about this, but pay attention to your surroundings. This is particularly important if you’re chatting with clients. Make sure your drying underwear is out of shot, and your 11am beer cans are safely in the recycling.
Your dining room furniture isn’t your friend
Buy a better chair or vary where you park your butt. Your back and neck will thank you.
In our cloud-based world, an internet connection is essential. It’s essential for work, and ironically it also powers most of the distractions from it. So when the interwebz go down in the office, everyone moans, throws things at the IT Support person, and nicks off for an early lunch. At home, it’s different.
It’s your problem. You are the one who can’t work. You are the one who can’t attend that online meeting. You are the one who can’t finish that report. You. You. You. You. Beyond phoning your provider – “press 5 to be kept on hold for 45 minutes…” – there’s little you can do to get reconnected. However, a back-up plan is a good start.
- Let people know you’re offline through your phone, they should cut you some slack
- Have some offline work to be getting on with, so you’re productive
- Find a panic room to go to. The local coffee shop, library or friend’s house may have working wi-fi, so head there and get back in the game
I love not having to commute anymore. The extra sleep, the absence of crowded transport; bliss. But my step counter isn’t nearly as happy. Even if you drive to work, it’s amazing how far you walk during an office day. Back and forth to meetings, to the loo on the second floor, to the local sandwich shop. It all adds up. So at home, it’s important to get off your backside. Go to the local shops, do Yoga in your bedroom, take the dog out. Even a little effort will stop your body and mind from atrophying.
Ditch the 9-to-5
If your company is willing, mould your working day around your actual day. If you have to do the school run twice a day, do it, and make the time up in the evening. If you have colleagues in a different timezone, maybe start work early to connect with them and switch off mid-afternoon to balance things out.
One danger facing the homeworker is the assumption that you’re always ‘in the office’, so you’re always available. If you can, choose a finish time for the day and when it arrives, disconnect and return to your life, friends and family. Just because it’s easy to connect to work, doesn’t mean you should do it 24/7. Your personal life will benefit, as will your professional one.
Apart from the excellent work, the thing that drew me to Dauntless was the people, and the thing that drew me to the people was the banter. The chat, the humour, the silliness, the steaming infusion of laughter and brilliance that saw us through crunch-time after crunch-time. You don’t get nearly as much of that when you’re remote working. So make plans to meet up. Brainstorm at each other’s houses, go for beers and karaoke one evening, or run an online meeting a bit longer just to chat. Keep those connections alive. They’re important.
It works for us
Our Dauntless Crew are technology and creative experts, so being creative via a tech medium comes naturally to us. We’re Digital Transformation superheroes, so using digital solutions to empower our people is second nature. We can help you too. Dauntless turns business obstacles into opportunities, giving you an open road, so you can put your foot down and succeed. Sound good? Get in touch.
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