Telecommuting to work continues to be an option that sees massive gains in popularity with each passing year. It’s for good reason, too. Employers benefit from lower operating costs and higher productivity, and employees can benefit from the flexibility telecommuting affords them. Employees don’t have to waste time travelling to the office, they aren’t bothered by co-workers stopping at their desk to chat, and they’re better able to balance personal/family obligations when putting in a full days work outside of the office.
Consider the following precautionary measures employees should take to fully enjoy the benefits of telecommute work:
- Set yourself up and find an environment you can be productive in. This should be a clean space that is free from major distractions. Maybe you have a home office or desk to work from, or maybe you prefer to go to the local library or coffee shop and work from there? One location that is definitely not ideal is your bed (and even more broadly, your entire bedroom). It’s too much of a temptation to rest and the chances of getting things done there are slim to none.
- Know your expectations. It can be tough not having a supervisor around to casually ask for direction, so be sure to have a clearly defined plan ahead of time to avoid stressing out over guesswork. Make sure this includes your hours so you don’t end up putting in more time than you would if you were in the office.
- Be consistent. Telecommute on the same day(s) each week. Work in the same place when you’re away from the office (so long as you’re not traveling). It’s like muscle memory, and each of these cues remind your brain that it’s time for work, not play. If you find yourself needing more cues to get started on your work when you’re at home, try doing things as you would if you were going to the office. Consider showering when you wake up and dressing in business clothes, etc.
- Communicate regularly. Since you’re off-site and your supervisor isn’t there to observe your work, report in to let them know of your progress.
- Don’t want to miss an important meeting while you’re off-site? Ask co-workers to videoconference (via Skype, GChat, or other program) or teleconference you into the meeting.
- Find ways to motivate yourself. That can mean different things to different people, like posting inspirational quotes in your out-of-office workspace, or setting up a reward system where if you meet certain goals, you can treat yourself to a specific amount of time to complete a household chore or relax in front of the television for a quick break, etc.
- Impose limits where possible and try to make it into the office on a regular basis. In-person communication with co-workers is important and telecommuters need to remain an active part of that group to be successful.
- Use self-control and keep yourself accountable. In the office, it’s easy not to be distracted by the vast possibilities of the internet because you have someone watching you. Away from the office, you’re the only one watching and it’s much easier to waste time on social networking sites or online shopping, etc. If you find this becoming a problem, log off of these sites and close your internet browser if possible, and if that’s not enough, turn off your computer’s internet connection entirely. Do whatever works for you to focus on your business-related responsibilities.
- When your home space is also your workspace it is much harder to discern the two. This makes setting boundaries very important. Try creating something that indicates the difference between work mode and home mode. Maybe that means shutting down the computer during home mode, or literally putting a thinking cap on during work mode and taking it off during home mode. Be as creative as you’d like.
The great thing about telecommuting is all you need is a computer and reliable internet connection and you can get to work. There are many challenges that come with this unique way to work, but with careful planning and communication, telecommuting can be a dream working condition.