Been There, Done That: Tips For Working From Home And Building A Virtual Office From A Startup

You know he's at work because he's wearing a hat./Public Domain

Quartz, the new business site from the Atlantic, hasn't been around long but seems to have the virtual office figured out. They suggest "an array of different tools that replicate the various ways you would communicate in the office." At TreeHugger we have been doing this for years, so I feel qualified to give this startup a bit of a critique.

1. Use email as little as possible.

We’ve come to rely on email as the dumping ground for every communication. But email can’t easily distinguish co-workers from friends, strangers or people who want to sell you investments in Africa.

Dead on. Earlier this week we had a minor disaster when one editor expected an email and the rest of us don't touch it for internal communications.

2. Have regular and punctual meetings.

Yes. And as to the point "Make sure that everyone starts the meeting bang on time—even a delay of two or three minutes can be irritating for people waiting on the line," YES YES YES. Subjecting everyone to music on hold do aggravating.

3. Use both audio and video for your meetings.

No. We tried it, the video is a distraction, forces everyone to pretend to be in every second of the meeting, while having audio only lets you multi-task when appropriate. Big time-waster; you are in a meeting, not a game of Hollywood Squares.

4 & 5 Use chat and group chat

Absolutely vital. We have skype chats open all day, our "virtual water coolers" on different topics. We live in them. (I wonder if the Quartz team have read Lane Wallace's Atlantic article from 2009 defending the real office, which I critique here)

6. Share documents. 7. Share links and ideas.

We use Google Drive, but most things we just toss into the Skype water cooler.

8. If working from home is going to become more permanent, get an office phone number.

Why? Who talks on the phone anymore? I do have a Skype number, but it is a waste of money, nobody ever calls it. I call out on Skype but have not found the separate number to be useful or necessary.

9. Pretend you’re going to the office, and create a dedicated workspace as well as a routine.

Working from home might seem like the perfect opportunity to kick back and work in your pajamas, but thinking of it that way can make you less productive.

This is how you know they're newbies, that is so 2005. Changing out of your pyjamas into your sweatpants doesn't change anything. And putting yourself in a fixed location isn't necessarily the most productive place to be. With computers like the new MacBooks with the high resolution monitors, you can work anywhere. I have a standing desk but when I feel like sitting down, I just move. I wrote about it: Your Office is in Your Pants: Forget the Standing Desk and the Sitting desk, the Future is the No-desk.

10. Set boundaries.

If you have your own workroom, shut the door. If not, wear a hat. Seriously: use a hat or some other agreed item of clothing as a flag that you’re “in the office” and not to be disturbed.

You're kidding me. A hat. Tell that to my dog.

11. "Commute" to work.

It’s all too easy to let breakfast or some other distraction delay the start of your workday. So set a time when you have to be at work, and leave the house. Walk around the block once, or jog up and down the front steps ten times. Then come back in. Now be at work.

How about no. How about the fact that when you are in this business you are pretty much always working, when you are reading the newspaper at breakfast or reading a book in the evening. Perhaps if you have just left the real 9 to 5 office world for the virtual one then your life is compartmentalized that way. Our tech editor is in San Francisco and starts work at 4:30 in the morning to be on Eastern Time; I start at 6:00 to get a newsletter out. (Don't read the TreeHugger newsletter? Sign up here.) We are not going outside in the dark so that we can pretend that our home is suddenly an office.

The virtual office is different than the real office in one very important way: It never closes. It's you that has to figure out how to turn off and on, and it may not be after breakfast, It could be at any time of day or night.

The old phrase was: Your office is where you are. I joke that with new technology, your office is in your pants. In fact, the real answer is, your office is in your head.

Read the Quartz original here

Tags: Work