I’m so glad business owners have realized it is possible for their employees to work from home. I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops for five years now – ever since I tried to find a job at a public relations agency that allowed me to work from home. Surprisingly, no agency felt comfortable with that, so I started my own.
Today, I have a team of eight women who all work from home. They’ve been working from home for years, not just because of COVID 19.
My team and I are more productive by working in an environment that caters to our unique preference – whether that be at home, a coworking space, or at a coffee shop. We don’t waste time getting ready for work (if we don’t want to) and we save time by not commuting. When I went from working in an office to working from home, I gained nearly two hours a day!
For me, the key benefit of working from home is to have a better work-life balance. That’s what I want for my team as well. To achieve this balance, and to be as productive as possible when WFH, it's important to learn how to set boundaries. Here's how…
I don’t assign set hours for my team to work. As long as the work is getting done and the client’s goals are being met, it doesn't matter to me if you’re executing at 7am or 7pm. However, I do set boundaries on when to communicate with clients and team members.
Communication with clients should be during traditional business hours. In my experience, if you give some clients an inch, they’ll try to take a mile. For example, if you email them outside business hours, they will think that’s standard and may expect you to get on a call at 9pm or be in your inbox over the weekend. For this reason, I tell my team to schedule emails to go out during business hours if they’re working outside normal business hours.
I do something similar with team members as well. While I may send an email outside business hours, they know they do not need to respond right away.
Communication is key when you’re not working face to face. While some people are more chatty than others, some are blunter and get to the point right away.
For those that are more “to the point”, emails can come off as rude when they’re not. I’ve been guilty of this many times as I’m a ‘get to the point’ kind of gal. For that reason, I tell my team to read emails from me in a Minnie Mouse voice to avoid any perceived tone.
We also use Voxer, which is an app that works like a walkie-talkie. While there is no tone in text, there is in audio, so if I’m afraid an email may come across as having a tone I didn’t intend, I will hop on Voxer or a good old-fashioned phone call.
My team and I also meet “face to face” once a month over Zoom to share wins and see how we can collaborate to help our clients. We do this over email as a team twice a week, but it’s nice to smiling faces once a month as well.
If you don’t separate home and work, they will blend together and it’ll feel like you’re always working. I’m not going to lie – this is still a bit of a struggle for me.
I don’t actually have an office at home. I work at my kitchen table, which ironically, I don’t really use much for eating.
Like many today, I also use my phone for work. A lot. Mix in the fact that being on social media is part of my job as the owner of a PR agency. For these reasons, it can feel like I’m never really clocked out.
Again, this is something I’m working on… and maybe we can do it together by checking in with our Google calendar that reminds us when we are doing tasks for work and when we are officially off the clock.
Again, I’m grateful many business owners have come around to the fact that employees don’t need a babysitter. They just need an environment that makes it possible for them to do their job to the best of their ability. For each employee, that can look different.