So what happens when "work at home" replaces "work from office"?

While distributed teams come across multiple challenges, these are not uncommon in teams that work together. At CrowdsourceAfrica It’s not about the physical distance between team members – it’s about the psychological distances. Making the team work well together is simply a matter of bridging the psychological distance.

These four simple guidelines have driven CrowdSourceAfrica to achieve impressive team collaboration all over Africa for teams who are embracing the working from home culture. 

Keep communication open

Whether it’s through chat platforms like HipChat, Skype, linkedin,Sqwiggle or Kato keeping the lines of communication open is one of the most important elements of a successful remote team.  If Jerry leaves for a coffee run and Michelle decides to take a gym break but nobody communicates with each other, the team falls apart and the work culture quickly becomes sour. Also, make it part of your team routine to tell everyone when you’re starting your work day and when you’re leaving for the day. Let each other know what everyone is up to, from personal breaks to work-related breakthroughs.  Accountability and a unified presence will solidify the team and bridge both the physical and psychological distance between team members. 

Establish check points and milestones

It’s easy to feel adrift when you’re working from the comfort of your home, sans supervision and possibly surrounded by unlimited distractions.  Keep your remote team on track by establishing mini milestones and collaborative checkpoints throughout the day. This creates points of convergence between CrowdsourceAfrica and the independent Work from home agent. What the daily morning huddle can do for teams sharing the same office space, the daily video call can do for your remote team. 

Share the workload, literally

No doubt that in a shared office space, team members can combine thought processes and work together easier. collaboration is not impossible in a distributed team – if anything, it can become even stronger than in a team that shares the workspace.  Using a shared team task management tool where team members can log their tasks, projects and challenges throughout the day can bring back the same spirit of collaboration in the digital workspace (with better organization, nicer fonts, and endless space).  Centralizing this information and making it easy to share with each other is the key ingredient to making your web-based working space useful.

Adapting to the Human dynamics of self motivation working from home

People feel valued and motivated when they are simultaneously respected and trusted. The keyword is people: we often get too focused on workplace roles such as manager, associate, intern, CEO that we forget our team is made up of people with their own passions, interests, and lifestyles. Respect the individuals so that they can respect the workplace. This is a critical mutual relationship to foster. You shouldn’t just encourage healthy breaks and personal development activities among your team members. You should actively nurture and cultivate a spirit of wellbeing.  Our team members are grateful and motivated to put in more discretionary effort when they see that their workplace cares about them as individuals.  Happy, healthy team members make for happier and healthier teams. It all sounds simple right? Communicate, check in, share, and rejuvenate – all in a days’ work. As always, discovering your team’s own quirks is a learning curve best traveled by trial and error. Stay focused on building a digital workspace that maximizes trust, happiness, and team productivity, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

Basic Orientation on How to Successfully Work From Home

When you think about working from home, what pops into your mind? Do you think of freedom, not having a boss, being able to work whenever you want? Have people told you it's easy?

If so, get ready to have some of your preconceptions challenged. Sure, once you get going, you might be able to hang out on the beach with your computer, but for most people, working from home requires even more discipline than a regular job. When you have a job, you generally have to show up at specified times and perform assigned duties. Regardless of the complexity of the job, someone else is usually telling you what to do and when to do it. When you work from home, it's up to you to get the work done. It takes a certain amount of discipline and self- motivation to actually sit and work from your home. You can become easily distracted by everything from the TV to barking dogs to children clamoring for attention. Many people think it but that’s often not the case when they actually start doing it.

Qualities required for a Work at Home Career

Before you think about ditching your job, take a look at the following list. How many of these qualities or personality traits do you possess?

  • Self-motivation and self-discipline
  • Persistence
  • Patience
  • Ability to work independently
  • Organization
  • Skill Set

Now, let's go over each of the above qualities so you can see why each it means in terms of your potential work at home career.

A lot of people think working from home isn't a "real job" – in fact, be prepared some lack of understanding from friends or family, at least initially. But make no mistake. Working from home is VERY real.

Don't let anyone tell you that you are not really working or that your work from home job is not “real." Your job is every bit as real as that of your friends in the "brick and mortar" world. The truth is that I have worked harder and longer from home than I did when I worked outside the house. Working from home requires qualities that may not be needed in a "real" job. Read on to see if you have what it takes.

1) Self-Motivation and Self-Discipline

These two qualities are arguably the most important, and you'll need them right from the start. It takes motivation to search for work on an ongoing basis.

Not everyone has the discipline and self-motivation needed to work from home. And that's fine! Some people work best in a more when to do it, and for how long.

If you're one of those people, it's important to recognize that you may not thrive in the self- driven world of telecommuting. If you have small children, it can certainly be a challenge to organize your time. Without self-motivation and self-discipline, it can be virtually impossible!

When you work at home, you and you alone are responsible for organizing your schedule and sticking to it. Take a look at whether you're easily distracted. Can you sit down to work without jumping up to do a load of laundry, watch TV, chat with your friends on the phone, or play with your kids? Sure, you can take breaks, but you have to be able to focus and get the work done.

2) Persistence

Persistence is just as essential as self-motivation and self-discipline. Competition for work at home jobs can be fierce, and you'll need to keep plugging away. You'll probably get rejected (or not hear anything back at all) more often than you get the gig. That's all part of the process. And when you nail down a gig that's not the end of it, most work from home jobs aren't full-time, nor are they secure. Seasoned home workers often talk about not putting all their eggs in one basket, in other words, not relying on any one gig. So think about the fact that looking for work will be an ongoing part of your life.

3) Patience

Patience ties in with persistence. You'll apply for jobs and may not get a response for weeks, sometimes even months. Or you may be told you have an assignment and then have to wait while the company or client works out the details.

Many companies that hire are fairly new (less than five years old), and you have to be patient with the kinks they may have in their system. With the number of people they hire, sometimes their taskforce gets overwhelmed and issues such as pay, scheduling, and system issues may not be as streamlined as in a company that has been around for a while.

4) Ability to Work Independently

You won't have a supervisor looking over your shoulder, so you'll have to be able to complete tasks and meet deadlines on your own. Are you starting to notice that many of these qualities are closely related? Being able to work independently isn't possible without self-motivation and self- discipline.

Another aspect of independence is the ability and motivation to search for jobs on your own and do the required research. I see people on work from home forums who expect others to hand them the work on a silver platter. They'll come into a forum without checking out any of the job leads on their own and ask where they can find a job, even when the forum is filled with potential job listings.

If you're going to be successful at this, you have to take the initiative and check things out for yourself. You can't rely on other people's research. Do thorough research on the company you're interested in working for. Read about the company's policies, the duties required for the job, any equipment you might need to have, etc.

Once you've completed your research, decide for yourself if the company is a good fit for you. You're the only one who knows your circumstances. A job that's perfect for someone else may be completely wrong for you.

When you do get a job, in most cases you will be provided training and assistance, but be prepared to figure out some things on your own. If you do have questions, please ask the company and not another co-worker. And DO ask when you have a question. That's much better than making assumptions and possibly making a mistake that could have easily been averted.

5) Organization

This can be tough for some people. When you're working at home, it can be easy to get distracted by your kids, by phone calls, by a million other things. Can you organize and prioritize your work and home life?
That's one aspect of organization. The other is the organizational skills you'll need to keep track of your jobs and to do the assignments.
Note: I've often hired people to work for me. Based on our initial communications (and often from observing people's forum behaviors), I can tell whether they're disciplined, whether they're quick learners, and whether they're able to communicate effectively. If you're looking for work, think of everything you do online as part of the job interview.

Working from home can be a great way to avoid the rat race (and yes, you CAN work in your pajamas!), but never forget that it IS work.

6) Skill Set

Once you've determined that you have the qualities needed to pursue a work at home career, you need to look at the skills you bring to bear.

There's a wide variety of available jobs and many of them require specific skills, such as customer service, technical support, medical transcription, or coding. Before you apply for a particular job, make sure you have the skills needed for that job.

There are a few required skills that most work from home jobs have in common (as with the qualities, I'll list the skills and then go over them in detail):

  • Research Capabilities
  • Computer Literacy
  • Ability to Follow Instructions

1) Research Capabilities

If you consistently ask questions that could be easily researched, you may be categorized as lazy and lacking in initiative. And be aware that companies and potential clients often keep an eye on job forums, so the impression you make is important. In many cases, you can get the information you need through a simple CSA search.

As you start your search on normal search engines, you'll find that there are a lot of scams in the online world. So you'll need to sign up with work at home communities like CrowdSource Africa that protect users by providing legitimate jobs and have daily job listing.

Don’t assume a job is a scam just because everything's not neatly organized. It may be growing pains. On the other hand, you need to look for certain warning signs. If a company continually pays late, or if you can't get responses in a timely manner, cut your losses and move on. NEVER work for free.

2) Computer Literacy

I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who don't have even basic computer skills, but somehow think they can work from home. If you don't have these basic skills, make sure you acquire them before you look for a work from home job. Otherwise, you're just wasting your time and that of any company where you apply.

Here are a few of the essential computer tasks you should be able to accomplish:

  • Know what a browser is and be able to open your browser.
  • Know how to save files into your My Documents folder (and of course know what a folder is and how to create new ones).
  • Open software programs like Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Be familiar with your anti-virus software and know how to keep it updated so that your computer remains free of spyware and viruses.
  • Know how to save documents.
  • Know how to add attachments to email messages, as well as how to open attachments.

This is just a short list, and some jobs may require more specific computer skills. If you're rusty, brush up on your computer skills before you look for work, or perhaps take a class. An employer will train you on the specific skills you need for the job, but they won't be willing to teach you how to save a Word document (just one example of a very basic skill).

Since most of your communications will be through email, you need to be comfortable with your email program. Additionally, even if a job doesn't revolve around typing or writing, you should be able to type at least 30 wpm.

3) Ability to Follow Instructions

If you can't follow instructions, why should a company hire you? Because you're working remotely and without supervision, you need to be a quick learner and be able to easily understand and follow precise instructions.

Part of following instructions is paying close attention to what a potential employer asks for in an ad. You won't have the opportunity for an in-person interview, so all the employer has to go on is your online interactions.

So, for example, if a company states in an ad not to attach your resume, DO NOT ATTACH THE RESUME. If you do, it tells the company that you didn't read the instructions and that you don't follow directions. They'll figure that if you can't follow instructions in a simple job ad, you probably won't read the training manual or take the job seriously.

Have you embraced a working from home culture? Share your experiences with
us in the comment section below.

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