Working from HomePerhaps the most pressing question in business over the last few days has been, “Are you working this week?”  It’s a good question, with Christmas Day and New Year’s Day each occurring on a Wednesday this year, schedules are doomed to be tricky.  Unfortunately, no amount of holiday cheer changes the fact that end-of-year business tasks must get done and people need to do work.  For many, the solution is to work from home, or for those who choose to be less specific, “remotely.”

Very Funny

The good people at Slate even shared a post called “How to Fake ‘Working Remotely’ While Home for the Holidays.”  Writer Amanda Hess offers some helpful suggestions, including advice against posting too many real-time vacation style updates on social media.  One bit of guidance that I think everyone should follow is to get rid of “Sent from my iPhone” and make email coming from your mobile device look like it came from your work computer.   Everyone should do this because; a) we know you have an iPhone (or a Samsung Galaxy 4 or whatever) and we aren’t impressed, and b) using a mobile device is no longer a good excuse for bad spelling or grammar.  We appreciate Slate’s humorous treatment of the issue, but what if you really do want to work from home during the holidays and actually get something done?  Here are a few tips.

Schedule for Distractions

I’ve been working from home for more than 10 years now and have proven to myself and others that it can be every bit as productive as and generally more efficient than working in an office.  However, the holidays present special challenges even for people who work this way every day.  It can be even more difficult for the infrequent home worker.  My advice is to expect distractions (especially if you have children who are on a school break) and plan accordingly.  This may mean starting your day earlier than usual so that you can get some work done before the kiddies wake up or so that you can run to Target at 8:30 AM before the crowds arrive.  (On second thought, maybe you don’t want to go to Target.)  It may mean having a conference call after dinner while the family watches The Grinch.  The key is being flexible and keeping focused on completing the tasks at hand while remaining responsive.

Set Realistic Expectations

Even if you have a completely distraction free environment and you are dedicated to 8+ totally productive hours a day, it is likely that much of the work you do is reliant on input, help and deliverables from other people.  Therefore …. You must take their schedules, distractions and dedication during this time of year into account when you make commitments.   Slate’s musings aside, productivity for workers tends to get a bit iffy around this time of the year even if they show up in the office every day.  You don’t want your credibility damaged by unkempt promises that may be out of your control.   This kind of disappointment can hurt your supervisor’s overall attitude about remote work.  So, for heck’s sake, hedge when setting expectations.

Use Great Tools

The 2014 installment of “Working from Home” is brought to you by great technology for collaboration and communications.  The combination of reliable, high-speed Internet connections and cloud-based business applications like have changed the lives of information workers everywhere.  Additional tools, like web based phone systems and collaboration application enable seamless collaboration.  People working from home can now truly appear to colleagues and outside callers as if they were sitting right in the office.

Give Back

One last thought.    When you work from home you eliminate your commute and make your day just a little bit longer.  Why not think about how you can give back 10, 30, 90 minutes, whatever you save, by doing something extra to help a member of your team, you company or your community?  Maybe you take a minute that you couldn’t have spared otherwise to write a thank you note to your best customer or a blog about a great new process your team has implemented.  It will make you (and everyone you work with) feel even better about the idea of remote work.

Whether you are working remotely or not remotely working this holiday season, we wish you and yours all the best.

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