Thirteen years ago, I embarked on a new career adventure. I accepted a work from home position, involving “some travel.” At the time, I was commuting 100 miles per day, and routinely working 50-60 hour weeks. With a baby on the way, this seemed like a blessing from heaven. I mean how hard could it be?! The being home part is easy. The working part, well that’s a different story. Three more kids, four different addresses, and another job later, I can say I’ve worked through it all. Since remotely working is a real proposition for many people today, I thought I’d help build a Work From Anywhere Kit to get people started. By no means is this the most perfectly optimized system. This is geared towards the bare minimum to get things started with little-to-no budget. Here’s what’s in the figurative box (actual contents may vary):
Before anything else, you need to become absolutely ruthless with your time. All the strategizing, structuring, and the industrial-chic home office makeover goes out the window when your parents decide to just drop in for a cup of coffee. Your dog is going to bring you her leash. The sink will be full of dirty dishes. Your spouse is going to want to show you a meme. If you cave in, your day is going to spiral out of control. Yes, working from home gives you flexibility, but time away from your desk needs to be added to your schedule. Use a calendar application that is synced to your phone, block times, and create obnoxious alerts. If it helps to have multiple calendars, do so. If it helps more, have your smart speaker bark out reminders to you. Successfully working from outside of your place of business doesn’t involve procrastination. If you can’t master your time, working from home is absolutely going to be miserable for you.
Your Internet connection might be fine for your weekends and evenings. Just wait until your work depends on it. Spotty connectivity can be super irritating. It’ll only get worse if you have kids and a spouse streaming content at home. Your budget will be your guide, but it’s best to go overkill on your connection. If fiberoptic service is available, it’s probably the best option for reliability. It’s money well spent on the connection to your paycheck.
Things are different when you can’t just walk down the hall to get help. Now multiply that feeling times the size of the organization. Texting will run out of steam quickly while your inbox becomes bloated. A unified collaboration platform is critical for sharing information, compartmentalizing workgroups, and keeping a running tally on who did what, when. Think of it as a chat tool on steroids, running on all your devices as once. At my old company, we ran a global development team from something as simple as ICQ chat (I’m aging myself), but any number of collaboration tools are available for organizations of all sizes. If I had to pick one, Slack would be my first choice given its capability and price point.
Modern mobile plans have made this much easier, but who wants their cell phone blowing up all of the time? Sure your company’s phones can be redirected to your mobile number, but sometimes it’s nice to have another layer of protection. This is where a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service comes in handy. Using VOIP creates an alternative to using your cell phone exclusively to send and receive calls, while potentially being more cost-effective and reliable. While I’m now content paying through the nose for unlimited everything on my phone, I still rely on Skype and Google Voice as a backup. If you’re planning on calling leads back all day long, giving a bunch of “randoms” your cell number isn’t the way to go. VOIP technology will become a close friend.
This may be a bit harder for some organizations, but without daily, direct, communications, it can be extremely hard to keep track of performance from home. Maybe you use reports through your existing tools, like the CRM. Maybe it’s creating external metrics through Google Sheets. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than sitting by yourself, not knowing if you’re doing a good or bad job. You need to know you’re doing the right things and so does management. My remote work experience directly inspired to me to help create TaskTeacher as a means to measure both Internet sales personnel and our performance at DealerKnows. Accountability is a two-way street.
Tools for Assembly
There are some basics you’ll need in order to assemble your Work From Anywhere Kit. Don’t worry, you don’t need one of those weird IKEA hex keys. By virtue of you reading this, it’s assumed that you have a computer. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest machine. Just a laptop modern enough to run the software and services your team decides upon (you can probably get away with a Chromebook, but a basic PC might be a better bet). Wifi is a big plus, which leads me to the next thing. You’ll want is a quiet place to work. Having a place free from distraction will help increase your focus, while giving you refuge from fighting kids or the in-laws. Once your kit is built, you can take it anywhere, meaning work can be from home, a hotel, a cafe, or anywhere that’s appropriate for your needs.
Why isn’t this listed first? If the other components aren’t present, your Work From Anywhere Kit can’t be assembled properly. That said, a top-to-bottom strategy is extremely important to have in place. Expectations need to be clearly stated, documented, and able to be referenced when necessary. Specifically, responsibility needs to be clear, time constraints need to be put in place, and how success will be measured must precise. I’ll emphasize that the hours on the clock need to be clearly defined. Sometimes it requires outside help to put a plan in place. If the entire organization isn’t on the same page from day-one, everyone is in for a world of hurt.
Working from home can be isolating. Scheduling a couple of video huddles per week can become extremely valuable. Not only is this a great time to exchange feedback, cover progress, and highlight issues, but it’s a great opportunity to spend time with people who are sharing your experience. A cat materializing on camera, a kid randomly cruising through the room, or just having jacked up morning hair can add levity to nearly any Skype call. We like to joke that for many of our dealerships, our Virtual Dealer Training calls turn into therapy sessions. We isolate stumbling blocks, exchange stories, create coaching scenarios, and measure the results from week-to-week. This is the glue that holds it all together.
Working from home has a learning curve. It’ll take time to optimize your schedule. You’ll get to decide when it’s best to get showered and dressed, contrary to what hundreds of websites will tell you. You’ll probably put on ten pounds from the unlimited access to snacks since Karen can’t side-eye you from her cubicle. Your family will quickly grow to respect your schedule. You’ll be happy to hear from your coworkers. You’ll only miss family events by choice. If you don’t give up, you’ll never find yourself more productive than you’ve ever been. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “nothing worth having comes easy.”
I realize this post makes it look simple. I was thrown in headfirst only to figure it out with my teams. I don’t want anyone else subjected to that. After more than a decade of experimentation, spending thousands on different systems, and working with teams in seven countries, on three continents, it honestly can be just this easy. The whole team at DealerKnows works from home, and I love the crazy culture we’ve built together.
As we’re facing long-range, likely permanent, changes to our working conditions, I want to pay it forward. For our existing Virtual Dealer Training and consulting clients, we will help you transition your team, at any time, as part of our usual monthly retainer. For previous DealerKnows clients, we will honor our previous monthly retainer should you want to resume services*. For our TaskTeacher clients, we will reduce the cost of Virtual Dealer Training by 50%*. For any new clients that mention this post, we will reduce the Virtual Dealer Training package of your choice by $500 from our online price*. Working from home doesn’t have to be a punishment. Think of it as a gift. All you have to do is unwrap it.
*Spaces are limited. Sign-ups will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.