I started working from home more than 15 years ago. Working from home is how I work – it might not be in an office building with open planning, quiet rooms, or massage chairs, but my home office stands up to the campuses across the world where I have colleagues.

When I go into the office, it’s a tap into Webex Teams and my first stop is the management office – a team space with my manager and his staff.  Once I check that space, I take a detour from my kitchen into the cloud collaboration team space to see how my team is doing and what’s been happening around the sun. My team is dispersed across the UK, Netherlands, Spain, the US (east and west coasts), India, and Australia. With my coffee in hand, I check the operations space to see if there are any issues that need addressing. And then, I settle into my chair, skim my calendar, and wake my Cisco Webex DX80 for the meetings ahead.

For me, Webex Teams is where I work, and it alleviates some of the stress involved with losing the nuanced social cues that you’d likely see in an office (closed doors, deep looks of concentration, laughter, rushing down a corridor for a late call). When I’m heads down on financial planning, I set my Webex Teams status to ‘heads down,’ or ‘do not disturb.’ If I’m taking a breath or getting out of my office for a bit of exercise, I set my status to ‘away’, letting my colleagues know I’m not in my usual setting.

Status and presence also work in reverse. It’s hard to mentally calculate which colleagues are available at what time in respect to my own time zone sometimes. Having presence helps me be mindful of their family time, sleep time, and out of office hours. ‘Sharing’ is another great one which automatically indicates when someone is presenting in a meeting or sharing their desktop screen in an impromptu chat. When that icon appears, I can be mindful of not sending GIFs and emojis to my colleagues and vice versa.

We crave social contact. It’s part of being a member of society. We like to share, tell stories, and feel we’re part of a community. Working remotely can sometimes detract from feeling relevant in an office/work community. When having a conversation, I always have my video switched on, leveraging Webex Teams with my DX80. It’s really the next best thing to being in-person. Seeing a smile can brighten the day, catching up with my colleagues feels good, and noticing something is off lets me know to reach out to help if I can.

Over the years, I’ve gotten into the practice of having ‘virtual coffees’ with people who I want to know beyond the work.  I schedule time on their calendar, ask them to grab a coffee while I do the same, and we connect as if we’re walking to a café. It’s helped me to know some of our leaders as well who would have been harder to know otherwise.  I remember going to a Women of Impact conference and listening to some of our senior leaders in the company speak.  There were some that so moved me that I wanted to connect with them to further the conversation.  So, when I got back home, I looked for availability on their calendar, and scheduled virtual coffee sessions.  The concept took some by surprise and they agreed.  Getting on their calendars for virtual 20- to 30-minute coffee sessions was easier than asking them to go out for coffee 😊.  I have gotten to know a couple of folks this way and when I meet them in person at events such as Cisco Live, I already have a connection.

I schedule meetings with my colleagues within Webex Teams without having to switch over to my calendar and many of my productivity tools are integrated with Webex Teams – I can send/share documents from OneDrive or SharePoint Online and even set the privacy controls of that document. You can learn more about Webex Teams integrations here.

Leveraging my virtual office (Webex Teams) allows me to be part of the global office community regardless of where I am working from. It’s the simple things, letting my colleagues know where I am and what I’m doing, that brings them a little closer to my home office and mine closer to theirs.

Do you have any working from home stories?