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4 best practices for working from home

IStock_59008810_XXLARGEI’m more relaxed than I used to be. Some days you’ll find me working after midnight. Others I’m cranking out emails at 5 a.m. This year I’ve made it to all but one of my kids’ daytime events. I exercise more, too. If any of this sounds familiar, you might work from home like I do.

From a tech perspective, most professionals can do their jobs from home. But there’s far more to working from home than technology. If you work from home, are considering working from home or manage employees who work from home, I hope the following suggestions help you set up a strong work-from-home strategy.

  1. Set goals and a schedule for work. When I worked full-time in a local CPA firm, my work days were clearly defined and separate from my home life. After I started working from home, I enjoyed more time with my family. But work sometimes crept into my “down time.” To keep my sanity, I had to schedule my day and set limits. When I sit down in my workspace, I’m at work. When I leave my workspace, I’m home. My schedule looks different than when I was in the office. Because I have such a short commute, I really do have more time and flexibility than I had in the office. I go home for lunch every day. But unscheduled trips to the refrigerator are off limits.
  2. Establish boundaries for work-life balance. At the office, my default position for home-based tasks was “no.” I couldn’t let in the plumber, take the kids to the dentist, cook dinner, take care of the kids when they were sick, and the list goes on — during the work day. My wife and I discussed these things ahead of time and figured out who could do them. When I started working at home, my newfound flexibility — though wonderful — soon turned to frustration with all the errands, interruptions and additional tasks I’d taken on by default because I was “at home.” I learned that you’ve still got to negotiate these extras with the other people in your life. Otherwise, too much of a good thing can wear you out.
  3. Schedule social time. Offices are “social” places. If you’re an extrovert like I am, you need social interaction to keep your energy up. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you need networking time with other professionals to keep current. When I worked in the office, I got my social fix without trying. Now I schedule social time, which sometimes just means taking my laptop to a coffee shop. I’ve also participated in virtual happy hours. You might feel a little odd sitting in a bar by yourself chatting with your coworkers via Skype — but it works. We’ve even held a virtual baby shower.
  4. Connect to your organization’s culture. Understanding your organization’s culture is critical to your success. If most of my organization is in the office and I work from home, it’s on me to make the extra effort to stay connected. If you’re close enough, consider going into the office one or two days a week. If you’re geographically separated from your office like I am, consider visiting the office periodically. In between, pick up the phone to handle things that you would probably email in the office. Taking advantage of instant messaging and video conferencing helps, too.

Working from home can be exceptionally rewarding and challenging. When I worked in the office full time, I missed most of my kids’ daytime events. Being there is priceless. Professionally I’ve accomplished some things (such as writing articles) since I’ve been working from home that I never would have in the office. But I have to work harder to stay connected. If you work from home or are a solo practitioner, participating in AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) Small Firm Networking Groups and events, and small firm resources can help you keep up with developments in the profession and get in some social time, too.

Jason M. Deshayes CPA, CGMA – Senior Manager – Firm Services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants 

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