I started my virtual company – Java Social Networking – about three years ago, and since then we’ve grown to 8 employees (and 1 dog) who work from homes and coffee shops around the country.Â Virtual offices pose their own set of advantages and disadvantages for both the company, employees and clients.Â As a business owner, I feel that it’s my responsibility to find ways to keep the team engaged and in daily communication with each other.Â We have regular discussions about efficiency and motivation.Â Here are a few of the tips we’ve picked up over the past few years.
Can anyone work virtually?
I’ve learned the hard way that self-motivated individuals find it much more natural to work from home.Â Certain personalities are able to pull their mind into 'work mode' while they’re spending time in their home. On the flip side, others are easily distracted and find that many obligations (grocery shopping, watching TV, cleaning the house / dishes, phone calls, picking up the kids from school, planning an upcoming trip, getting lost online) intrude on getting the work done. If you know which of these types you are, it will be easier to understand what you’ll need to do to be effective.
4 things you should do everyday to ensure consistency and focus:
- Get ready for work. One of the advantages of working from home is much more relaxed style. However, a sloppy outfit can also give you a more relaxed mindset that may have a negative impact on your productivity for the day.Â Find a solution that involves getting dressed for success (even if that’s jeans and a tshirt), and brainstorm everything you’re going to accomplish today as part of the process.
- Set regular office hours. Just because you work from home, does not mean you should do away with a consistent schedule.Â In fact, consistency is key to maintaining a successful home business. Don’t forget to figure in a lunch hour, and convince yourself to stick to it.
- Create a home office. Designate a space in your home that you consider your "work" place. Once your workday is done, separate yourself from that space.Â Design your space to motivate – photos of goals and motivators are great additions to a home office.
- Create a task list. I update my task list every morning, and I always know what I want to accomplish for the next 4 days and a separate list for everything that falls beyond that time frame.Â Every project goes on this list no matter how large or small. I find motivation from crossing items off my list, and it ensures that I get all projects completed in a reasonable time frame. For me personally, most of my work is on the computer so I prefer to keep a notebook next to my computer with a task list in clear view all day long.Â An iPad may be taking the place of my notebook very soon, but in general, keeping a task list on the same computer where I work is not the most effective solution.
Get out of the house.
Just because you work from home, that doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in the house. One of the advantages of virtual working is that you can move around – coffee shops, libraries, or visit family/friends in another city or state. Many local establishments offer wifi to patrons. Many cell phones have built-in Internet access. My iPhone has a personal hot spot which means that multiple users can use my phone as an Internet connection as long as they have the password that I set up for access.Â Don't underestimate the change of scenery. A different perspective can advance your productivity greatly, and you're bound to get a great cup of coffee in the process.
Lose the distractions.
I mentioned a few of the distractions that get in the way of productivity in home offices. For me, it would probably be general cleaning. I notice my significant other can kill a significant amount of time with sports news and gym time.Â The solution here is mindset.Â During your regular work hours (9-5 for example), you're at work.Â Although we could all spend a couple hours preparing a great dinner each night, you probably wouldn't be finding this extra time in your schedule if you were working in a brick and mortar office and fighting rush hour traffic on the way home.Â In that case, you'd be running to the grocery store after work to pick up everything you need for one of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals.
Remember, just because you're sitting in front of the computer does not mean you're working. We've all gotten lost in the black hole of YouTube a time or two. Stay focused!Â Keep that task list accessible, and use it to gauge your progress throughout each day.
I hope you found some value in the tips and resources I've set forth here.Â There's a follow-up to this article coming up on Wednesday that features job opportunities for virtual offices and tips for marketing.Â I appreciate comments, and it would be great to gather some perspective from other virtual workers on how you work most effectively.