7 Ways to Stay Engaged When Working From Home

I think we can all agree that working remotely, often called telecommuting, is becoming more common every day, especially in the world of acquisitions and start-ups. Companies have realized that a happy employee is more productive, more useful, and often, they become higher performers. To create this happiness, while maintaining high efficiency, employers have allowed their employees to work from home. When this happens, you need some specific ways to stay engaged.

As an employee who works from home, I have realized that there a plethora of possibilities to grow as a person and employee.

I am neither self-motivated freak worker or an extremely organized person. However, I have learned to excel at my position while working from home.

1. Understand the RULES and expectations from home office

When my boss hired me and said that my office would be in my home, I had many questions run through my head. I needed to create a set of rules for myself so that I would personally measure the success of my work habits each day and week. I am a night owl, which means that I sometimes work until 2 o’clock in the morning. When that happens, I tend to sleep in until almost noon. That doesn’t necessarily work the greatest when the main office employees come into work at 8:00 AM and they need to talk to me directly to accomplish their goals. I needed to figure out what their expectations were going to be and plan accordingly. Another consideration I had was how I was going to successfully work from the local cafe and even the white sands that all too often call my name. I needed to have a candid conversation with my boss, who happens to be the owner of the company, on what his guidelines would be for me as a telecommuter.

Here are some questions that I think that you might want to ask…

  • How would I manage my hotspot to continue to meet the companies expectations when I’m away from my home?
  • Will there be reports that you must submit that require a particular set of software
  • Will we have regular 1:1 meetings?
  • How will you communicate with corporate?
  • Will there be regular reviews?

2. Stop the madness – Work with no play is not beneficial

I have made this mistake too many times in my life, especially when I start working for a new company. I wake up in the morning, jump out of bed, and nearly run to my computer to get the day started. Instead, it is important for me to stop and smell the coffee. My productivity will increase when I do this. In fact, it has been said that if I have cinnamon flavored coffee, the scent alone is known for creating a sense of alertness, which can help to improve focus.

Along with waking up with some intentional transition time, I need to make sure that I avoid work, when at all possible, during my scheduled lunch time. Too many of us will eat that sandwich while sitting next to our laptop to get the extra 20 minutes of reading that all-to-crucial report that was sent to us. An alternative would be to take my lunch to the local park, enjoy the scenery, and enjoy every bite. Maybe I could even grab an ice cream cone on my walk back to the home office.

Finally, I need to take my work to different locations. Don’t just create an office in your home and sit in it for countless hours. Move to the dining room table, the swing on the back porch, or, like my situation, you can head to the beach and work while listening to the ocean waves.

3. Plan ahead, Put it on the calendar, Break it down into little chunks

The most efficient way for me to deal with projects and assignments is to document. Some people call this their to do list, task list, or even 6-list (the six most important things that I need to get done). No matter how tiny the job, I make sure that it gets added my list. Planning this detailed list of tasks makes it easy for my manager to track my success.

The best process that I have come up with is to lean into the tools provided on the app called Align Us. They have indeed figured it out. You start with a project that you are trying to complete. From the project, you create any number of tasks that need to be done to finalize that work. One by one, you check them off. These tasks keep me organized and allow the team to see what I’m working on too, which keeps everyone engaged with the projects that I’m fortunate to be involved with. Additionally, one of my co-workers can assign me tasks, or even entire projects. The software is fantastic, and it has helped me to stay engaged.

Here is a list of things that Align Us offers with their tasks:

  • Assign tasks to users
  • Change task states
  • Set priority
  • Keep track by setting start and end dates
  • Upload documents related to your task
  • View the task activity log

4. Find ONE internal communication method besides email

According to the Radicati Group, Inc, “In 2015, the number of business emails sent and received per user per day totals 122 emails per day.” Emails are coming from every angle, often caught behind hundreds of other “important” emails from family, friends, and clients.

A very popular trend for intracompany communication is to reserve email for external company communication only. Instead, companies are moving toward a chat type communication alternative. These conversations allow colleagues to keep working on their current task, but still offer a quick response to the message. It moves your intracompany communication to the front of the line, like a Fast Pass at Disney World.

At Align Us, the programmers created a system called Conversations or a Discussion Board. A discussion board is a stream of messages. With easy privacy settings and a streamlined interface, a discussion board lets people connect on any they topic they wish. The beauty of this type of communication on Align Us, I can make the window small, large, or even open the discussion in its own tab. More than that, I can include images, videos, and add people to the conversation when I want more than 1:1.

5. Make sure you get real face-time with your manager(s). Out of sight, out of mind?!

One of my former managers at a start-up forgot to pay me one week. I texted him: “Hey, did we forget payroll this week?” He laughed it off and said, “Out of sight out of mind!” I had been working for that company for three months as the only sales representative in the business! I was the ONLY person bringing in sales. How could they forget about me? One month later, I decided to start coming into the office on a regular basis.

There are a significant amount of studies that suggest that regular, planned one-on-one connections with your manager can make or break your growth as an employee. There is an assumption that all staff are treated equally, whether remote or in-house, but that is not always the case. We need to make sure you know what’s happening in the company. Keep involved with any meetings that you can. One of the ways that I have personally stayed engaged with the in-house employees, even though I’m over 1,000 miles away, is to connect via video conferencing. It has been crucial for us as a small company to keep connected and move our efforts forward. Additionally, we record many of these meetings so that we can refer to them and allow those people that missed the event to catch up on the discussion.

6. Record the conference calls and take great notes

Recording our conference calls, especially the video conference calls, was a crucial decision for our company. By recording them, we have given ourselves the opportunity to refer to them and to allow those people that missed the event to catch up on the discussion. Additionally, we usually have one person that is taking notes of the meeting by using our Meeting Notes.

Here is how we did this in the past…

  • We would have an hour long meeting
  • A lot of ideas would be generated
  • Conversations would move in six directions
  • Tasks would be randomly handed out throughout the meeting
  • Nothing officially accomplished at the end

We did away with that. We wanted to create a situation where every meeting mattered and where we would know exactly what we were going to do upon exiting the conference call, sit down, or video chat.

That is why we use Meetings in our Social Intranet of Align Us. Set goals for the meeting, invite the most important people and add it to the calendar. The meeting manager keeps all our necessary information and documents in one place so we can have the most efficient meeting possible. In the end, we have great notes, specific tasks, and we move forward as an organization.

At the very end of this list above is a section called Feedback (see picture below). This section of the meeting is crucial because it allows people to see if the meeting is beneficial or not. I have a buddy who is a Principal at a big school. He has meetings with his staff almost every week. He loves this feature because he often leaves a meeting not knowing if it was effective or not.

7. Don’t get caught with your pants down 

It was back a few years; our company had just been acquired. It was an exciting time and we were excited to have our first combined company-wide meeting. More than 100 people joined the conference call. Most were sitting in the air conditioned conference room located on the main campus. A huge screen was set up that displayed over 20 employees connected via a Zoom Conference System. This system, unlike many like it, had a default video setting that was set to automatically turn on EVERY attendee’s camera as soon as they were connected.

When the head of the company officially started the meeting, we were completely in shock with what came next. One of the more seasoned representatives, who worked from home, turned on his phone to connect via Zoom and didn’t realize that he was proudly projecting himself in front of dozens and dozens of colleagues. He was standing in full view, from the waist up, combing his hair. He was not wearing a shirt and appeared in front of the mirror similar to that as John Travolta in Staying Alive. The entire company stared at the happy fella comb his hair and most were laughing hysterically. I think that I was one of the exceptions to this because I had dreamt that this might happen to me sometime. I got on the phone as quick as I could to let him know the situation. I said, “Hey buddy, the entire company is watching you comb your hair.” He was a bit confused, so I clarified, “we can all see you through your webcam.” I’m guessing that he was oblivious that he even had a webcam connected…he was a “seasoned” rep. I said, “Please go put a shirt on!” Right then, he turned to walk out… all I could hope for was that he was wearing pants! “Pants! Please be wearing PANTS!” He did…

The moral of the story is to make sure you wake up, eat a good breakfast, take a shower, and GET DRESSED, just as if you were going into the office. You will feel better about your day and you will significantly improve your work engagement.

Let’s hear about how you stay connected with your home office!

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To learn more about how you can implement a social intranet at your business, check out one of the leaders, Align Us. That is a company that has put all of the tools needed by a modern team in one simple app.