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Working remotely is a great option, but it can have an impact on one’s career. How can Indian women work from home effectively and move up the ladder too?
If there is one industry in which women have found ample opportunity to grow, it is IT. Indian women today find themselves shaping careers across different paths within IT; project management, technology architecture, sales, relationship management, human resources, delivery assurance and quality audits, software development/testing and consulting.
With the prospect of a fulfilling and enriching career, comes a highly competitive environment, long working hours and frequent “onsite” travel. These characteristics of the industry are challenging for female employees.
How many times have you hesitated to say yes when asked to travel onsite at short notice? Hasn’t a fleeting thought crossed your mind each time you called home to say you would be late?
These questions are forever etching lines on every working woman’s forehead as they strive to bring in work-life balance without losing focus on career growth. As intimidating as it might seem, the good news is that there is someone out there watching over us and trying to make things a tad better. To aid women in addressing these issues, many IT organizations today have introduced an employee friendly policy – “Working from home”, “Working remotely” or “telecommuting”.
Extremely useful, the policy allows employees to do their work sitting at home or from any other location as long as they are connected to the office network and align with the deadlines. This in turn gives the employee an option to focus more on their personal obligations thus allowing the professional and personal scales to balance perfectly. As the concept becomes popular, more and more organisations have begun adopting it within their work environment. While many have rules in place on how the policy can be availed (limited number of “work from home” days, constraint on how many such days can be availed at a time etc.), some companies do give a free rein. What more could we ask for, right?
As employees increasingly opt for this, a few questions do creep in. Would working remotely translate into “out of sight, out of mind”? Will I lose out on opportunities just because I am not “around”? Is my growth in the organization going to be impeded by this move? The answer to all of these questions is Yes and No. Yes, it can hamper growth aspects and make you feel left out, but not if you take the right measures to make things work.
Sometime back, due to personal constraints I opted to work from home. Initially, it made me feel ecstatic. I was able to get a lot of household chores done and focus on my family. But after a few weeks, the excitement started wearing off. The absence of the usual interactions with my managers, colleagues and reportees began affecting me. Conference calls and one to one phone chats could not make up for the brainstorming sessions and troubleshooting we did over a cup of coffee. Gradually, I realized I was out of date with news and information at work. I began to feel left out.
This is a phase most women who opt for working remotely go through. While the pitfalls are obvious, there are ways by which working from home can be made productive without impacting career prospects.
Pro-actively visit office every once in a while to maintain an in-person rapport with the team. Ensure the visits are timed in such a way that you can meet most stakeholders relevant to your work. Follow up on the visit with calls to ensure the meetings/discussions carry on and do not fizzle out.
In addition to regular work, get involved in organizational initiatives such as recruitments and conducting online/virtual trainings. This will help hone your organisational skills, increase your visibility and address the organisation-level KRAs that you might have.
To increase interactions with the team, initiate or get involved in team level initiatives such as new solutions, proof-of-concept development, competency building, team building exercises etc.
The absence of proximity to the team can affect communication and delay the handover of deliverables. An effective way to guarantee the team stays on its toes and delivers as per deadlines, is to actively follow up and let the team know that you have complete control over the task at hand.
Professional interactions will surely see an upswing with these measures. However, the personal connect with the team that usually comes over coffee breaks and lunch stays amiss. A way to address that is to have offline meetings with team members, probably over a movie or just a cup of tea.
Probably the most effective method to ensure high productivity and value is to create an “office” at home. It could be something as simple as setting aside a table and chair. Having a dedicated space to work gives a professional outlook and helps drive in the attitude required. Sometimes, dressing more formally rather than being in casual home wear can work wonders as well.
More often than not, while working remotely, the thin line that divides working hours from personal time tends to fade away as well. The mandatory swipe out from office is no longer the trigger to get out of work mode and switch over to personal time. This can prove to be a bottleneck that can be countered with a well-planned schedule and a well-thought-out To-Do list to begin your day with. Once the list is completed, a conscious effort needs to be put in to “swipe out” virtually from your office.
While these tips can do wonders to substantiate your decision to work remotely, the efforts can only materialise if you have the determination to make it happen. Knowing how to demarcate professional and personal time at home, and consistently working on these points are the key to success.
*Photo credit: edgeplot (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Seeta Bodke is a Business Consultant and Senior Manager from the IT sector. After spending
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