Working from home isn't for everyone. If you can't get enough of workplace drama, office politics, or water cooler gossip, for instance, working from home could leave you feeling unfulfilled and out of the loop. But seriously, we know that certain personality types do better when given the structure of an on-site 9 to 5 job, whereas others thrive in a home office environment.
I recently wrote about 10 Great Habits for Working From Home. But not everyone has the personality traits required to do it productively, even if they have good habits. Following are the seven traits you need to productively and successfully work from home.
This is perhaps the single most important trait employees need to thrive in a home office environment. Working alone has its perks, but external motivation isn't one of them.
I find many successful at-home workers have an entrepreneurial spirit (this holds true for business owners as well as employees and contract workers): They're always coming up with new ideas, they thrive with minimal direction, and they happily take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions.
2. Good communication skills
Good communication skills are useful regardless of the work environment, but for at-home workers they're an absolute necessity. Since most of your communication will be conducted via phone or email, being able to express yourself clearly and succinctly is critical.
Given the lack of nonverbal cues when communicating virtually, being able to convey your intended message is sometimes trickier than you think; for instance, communicating frustration is easy when you're standing next to someone, but expressing it by email (without sidetracking the conversation or being misunderstood) can be difficult.
When you work at home, the buck stops with you. There will be many times when you're faced with a problem or issue and need to solve it without input or advice from colleagues.
Are you able to independently identify the root of a problem? Do you have great research skills? Are you a critical thinker? Do you feel confident handling the occasional crisis on your own? These are important traits when you work independently.
At-home workers don't have the luxury of an IT department. When your computer crashes or you need to set up a live videoconference, it's all on you.
Are you able to troubleshoot computer, network, or email issues? Are you comfortable with tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, Join.me, and Dropbox? Do you panic when technology doesn't work the way it should, or can you keep a level head and deal with the situation? An at-home worker needs to have at least a basic understanding of the tools and software used to communicate within the company and with clients.
To see how I recommend increasing productivity and improving communication, see my article 15 Instant Productivity Hacks You Need to Know.
5. Ability to self-evaluate
One of the biggest drawbacks to working from home is the lack of external feedback. Unless you work with above-average communicators (see No. 2), chances are you don't get a lot of feedback on your work, positive or negative.
For this reason, being able to independently evaluate your work and personal strengths and weaknesses is important. Do you assume your work is optimal unless told otherwise? Do you rely on feedback and critiques from those around you? Or are you able to look at your work with a critical eye? Are you always looking for ways to be more productive, more efficient, and just generally better at your job?
You may have heard that introverts do best when working from home, while extroverts do best when working in an office. This isn't always the case. In fact, an argument can be made for the opposite: Extroverts may be better able to stay visible within an organization when working remotely, while introverts may find themselves getting overlooked when it comes to new opportunities or potential promotions.
The key isn't personality type; rather, it's the ability to do one's best work when alone. This can be true of introverts and extroverts alike.
Do you find yourself getting annoyed by co-workers who distract you from your work? Do you find you can power through emails and projects in no time when working independently? Or do you work best collaboratively, or with the buzz of office life happening around you? These are key considerations when deciding whether to work from home.
Finally, in order to thrive, at-home workers must have a high degree of confidence in their skills and knowledge. There will be many times when you need to make decisions independent of any feedback, and you'll need to accept the consequences of your decisions.
You'll also need to feel comfortable giving opinions and feedback without always knowing what those around you are going to say. In an office environment, you'll often have a general feel for the moods or views of your colleagues. In a home office environment, you may find yourself voicing a unique--and sometimes unpopular--opinion.
Can you handle the potential criticisms that come with this? Are you confident enough in yourself and your skills that some negative feedback won't crush you? Are you naturally drawn to leadership roles, or at least to roles that require you to take responsibility for your tasks and outcomes?
Working from home can be a slog at times, but let's face it: Those of us who do it are lucky. Having the freedom to work when and where you want--so long as you get the job done--is a luxury many people only dream of.
What traits do you feel are most important for working at home? What traits would you add to this list?