In the office, your presence is usually obvious: you walk into the office; you say “good morning”, people see you at your desk, taking a break, or engaging in coffee machine chatter.
Working at home it’s not so simple. How do your colleagues know that you’re working? And how do you know that they know? Feeling paranoid yet?
In my last post on home working, I mentioned using IM tools to stay in touch informally. So, when I’m not in the office, I make sure I IM my team members and colleagues, check how their day is going, ask how they’re getting on with that project, and offer help if they need it.
I share my outlook calendar with my team, my boss, and my boss’s boss. I make sure it’s not only up-to-date, but that the status reflects what I’m doing: “tentative” if I’m working on a project but something could be juggled, “busy” if it’s a real-life meeting or conference call, or “out of office” if I expect to be completely unreachable.
I also change my IM presence to reflect my actual status as closely as possible – there are software combinations that will take care of this for you (Google calendar and hangouts, Microsoft Outlook and Lync are examples). I also use custom messages for my presence when I can – “back in an hour” or “try my mobile”.
Why do I pay so much attention to the finer details of my presence status on something as trivial as instant messaging software? The answer is trust. Getting the best from home working really requires something of a culture change (for many of us, at least) and making sure that we’re open and honest about where we are and what we’re doing can be a major factor in promoting this.