The Work-from-Home Files

Dear DW,
I’ve switched from a full-time on-site schedule to three days a week at home, two in the office. How do I stay productive, stay connected—and make sure my colleagues don’t resent me?


Free but Uneasy

Dear Free but Uneasy,

Those are all important goals, and can be tricky to accomplish when you work at home.

To stay productive, it helps to build some structure into your days. Establish defined start and end times for your workday, and stick to them. (Use a timer to remind yourself, if need be.) That will help you stay focused during the hours you’re working. Getting dressed in a reasonably professional outfit—a sweater, not a sweatshirt, jeans rather than yoga pants—will cue you toward work, too.

Beyond that, be aware of what triggers you to go off track and have strategies to counteract those triggers. If it’s hard to stay focused when you’re alone all day, for instance, get out of your home office—for lunch with a friend or at the least for an errand that puts you in contact with others.

To stay connected, recognize that you’ll probably have to work harder at communicating with both your coworkers and your boss. You’ll want to keep your supervisor and key team members updated on the status of your projects, so that everyone stays aware of your involvement and progress, says Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual, a company staffed entirely by remote employees. And if given the choice, go for video rather than phone meetings. This way, you can better feel part of the loop and provide opportunities for the informal contact that’s so important for good working relationships.

To avoid generating resentment from your colleagues, you might volunteer to pick up part of a project from a coworker who’s overloaded. And it’s a good idea not to talk too much about how great your new schedule is. Find another work-from-home buddy to enthuse with about your morning walk or midday swim.

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