Communication while working from home can be quite different in contrast with working from the office. This was one of the most important skills I had to learn starting out at my new company. I could not simply go over to my colleague’s desk to ask a quick question like I could when working at the office. Therefore, it was important to figure out the most efficient ways to communicate, with different people and for different purposes.
One of the main things I had to take into consideration was which channel would be the most effective and efficient to communicate, whether it be to update a colleague on my progress or to ask for help. Arranging a video call for every single piece of communication would for sure not be the best use of everyone’s time, particularly as some things can be resolved through a simple email or WhatsApp text. Thus, when you need to communicate, always think “How can I communicate this piece of information to my colleague(s) in the most efficient way possible, making the least impact on their busy schedules?”. You can do this by determining the urgency of the information. Does my colleague need to have this information right now? Or can I continue working on something else while waiting for my colleague to help resolve this issue? And how important is my task in the grander scheme of the whole operation?
Additionally, try to be clear in your communication to avoid too much time being spent on clarifying the issue you are sharing.
Whilst working from home it can be easy to forget that you are still working with others. As mentioned above, communication whilst working from home can be more of a hassle compared to working at the office besides your colleagues. Therefore, when you need some help, it may be more efficient if you try to figure things out yourself first before reaching out for help. The issue you are trying to solve is important to you, but may be less important to someone else and might be seen as a unneccesary distraction especially if your colleague is trying to catch a deadline. However, this is not to say you should never reach out for help. Being stuck, making no progress on a task could not be the best use of your time. Knowing when to reach out and to whom and when to figure things out yourself requires a delicate balance.
Do try to always remain informed on what your colleagues are working on. This is relevant when working in an office as well, but it is especially valuable when working from home. It allows you to know who to reach out to for certain issues without wasting time and effort reaching out to people who might not be involved with the issues you have in mind.
Focus and Time management
Another thing I noticed when working from home is that focus can be quite hard to maintain. This is especially true if you live with others, whether it is roommates or family. One thing that might help you get into the working mindset is to try and have a morning routine and getting changed as if you are actually going to the office. Waking up and hopping onto your desk in your pyjamas might sounds cosy but the issue with that for me is that it is too cosy and does not really get me in the working mood, which is why I try to have the above-mentioned morning routine.
Make sure your roommates or family members do not interrupt you in a meeting or when you’re working on something urgent, try to always inform them that you will be working from home that day and ask them to keep that in mind. You would not want to deal with any awkward situations where you’re in an important meeting and all of a sudden you hear the vacuum cleaner making laps around your desk.
Time management also plays a big role in keeping up your productivity when working from home. This was one of the main challenges I encountered working from home at my new company. I did not have colleagues that could keep track of my work and tell me when I needed to focus on something else. This meant I had to be able to figure out what was of more importance to get done first. One way to improve on this is to ask the person who gave you the task by when do they need it to be done? This should help you manage the order in which you need to do your work. Focus also helps with time management since if distractions keep arising, it is obvious your time will not be spent effectively unless you learn to maintain your focus and figure out where your time is best spent.
Being proactive is for sure essential to keep up your productivity while working from home. If you are finished with all your tasks and have nothing to do, you can check with your colleagues if they require help or ask your manager if there are further tasks that require your attention.
Make sure your colleagues know where you are with your tasks and find out what they are working on or if someone is free to help you out if you are swamped.
There are arguably more moving parts when working from home compared to working at the office. How so you may ask? Well, working from home you or your colleagues may encounter issues such as Wi-Fi troubles or miscommunications due to differences in the time zones. These are issues you may not otherwise encounter if everyone was working at the office. Therefore, you must be ready to adapt and work around these issues. For example, if you need to setup a meeting, make sure you pick a time that works for everyone involved when taking into consideration their time zone. You wouldn’t want to schedule a meeting for someone at 3am. In my role, I also had to make sure to specify the time zone of the meetings to clients to avoid any miscommunications. Another example, if you’re having Wi-Fi issues do not leave your colleagues hanging, make sure you inform your colleagues if they are expecting your presence at a meeting. Maybe think of setting up a hotspot using your mobile phone’s data so you can still contribute. I’ve been there myself and given how common Wi-Fi issues are, you need to be prepared.
There are more skills involved when working from home, but these were just the 5 most valuable ones I felt were worth sharing with you.
Good luck on your journey working from home!
If you are interested in reading about skills that employers look for, we like to invite you to read the Erasmus Jobs Competence booklet here.
P.S. A little spoiler, some of the skills covered in this blog are actually exactly what employers are looking for!
Tariq Talaat for Expertise in Labour Mobility
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