Everyone wants to work from home. I know I fully appreciate the opportunity to do so. But working from home or working across the country from your co-workers and collaborators raises novel challenges. Humans are social animals with a strong need to connect, both professionally and socially. How can these connections be maintained, nurtured and expanded when the only other being sharing your office is the pet hamster?
Gina Trapani has some suggestions at the Harvard Business blog in her article entitled Master The Art of Working Remotely. The article does not focus on how to set up your office, how to get your work done or how to print and fax documents. Her focus is THE focus: how to maintain the human connections necessary for getting the job done. Trapani provides advice on how to make the most of the lines of communication available to the remote worker: email; messaging and text-based chat; on-line collaboration tools; and, voice and video chat. The idea is not simply to remind others of your existence, but to fully leverage the benefits of the various media and preserve the record in ways that are unavailable in the traditional Office Space set-up.
I would add a few additional tools to her list. Social media can bridge connections between co-workers and collaborators provided its use is targeted to a professional connection. Microblogging offers a means for one-way updates regarding status, results and whereabouts, while social sites offer fora for communicating in more general, professional terms with other, similarly-situated workers.
It all boils down to keeping the “human” in the “human interaction” with gentle reminders to others of your existence and value to the task at hand.