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A Workplace@Home

Stay connected with the office to make working from home less of a challenge and more of an advantage.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: October 31, 2010

Where is Raj? I have not seen him in office for the last three days," thundered an irritated team leader at a consulting firm on a Friday. He did not quite stop brooding when he was told that Raj had availed of the option to "work from home" for a few days. And understandably so, as Raj had flouted the basic principles of working from home.

"It's a typical syndrome. Out of sight is out of mind and that is just not acceptable when you are working from home," says Prashant Bhatnagar, Director, Hiring, at Sapient India. While refusing to divulge the number of Sapient employees who work from home, he says: "We have a lot of people on our rolls who spend at least 25 to 50 per cent of their time working from home." The company allows its employees to work from home in special cases, such as women rejoining work after maternity leave.

HR experts suggest that when working from home, one should be a lot more proactive and communicate more regularly with one's team than when one is in office. This is because in office it is easier for the team members to walk up to you if they have a query, which is not possible when you work from home. So the first requirement of working from home is to get in place multiple modes of communication: laptop, communicator, smart phone and infrastructure for conference calls.

You should also have the discipline to work to a routine. This will help you set goals and achieve them in preset time frames. So, adhere to the work timings that you normally follow in office.

Take, for instance, Sapient's Bhatnagar who partially works from home now. Because of the long - 50 km - commute between his home in Noida and office in Gurgaon, he had to readjust his work schedule to avoid getting caught in the rush hour traffic.

Bhatnagar now reaches office at 8 a.m. and leaves at 4 p.m. He then works for 4-5 hours at home. He has a dedicated room with the necessary infrastructure of an office. And, of course, he locks the dog out. "You definitely need an environment that gives you privacy," Bhatnagar says.

When working from home, do not isolate yourself from your team in office. Send regular e-mails to your boss on your work progress and call your colleagues to stay abreast of the happenings in office, including any training opportunities that might come up. When working mostly from home, do visit your office from time to time just to maintain a sense of cohesion.

Working from home can actually improve your performance provided you stay disciplined, say HR managers. Being disciplined also means making sure that you do not work beyond the hours just because you are working from home.

7 steps to work smart

1. Get the infrastructure at home to stay connected with your office. Be easily accessible

2. Be disciplined and stick to a routine when you're working from home

3. Start and stop work at a fixed time and take mini breaks as you do at office

4. Send e-mails to your boss daily on your work progress

5. Do not stop networking. Stay connected to what is happening in the office

6. Have a dedicated room at home for work to avoid distractions

7. Do not work beyond the normal working hours just because you are working from home

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