Seven Proven Tips for Teleworkers
If you work from home you’re one among millions who have joined the tech-enabled crowd who’ve said no to traffic jams and yes to life. Most teleworkers (those who work from home or in a remote, offsite location) find this arrangement liberating and empowering.
Consider this. The 2010 US Census reported that 10% of Americans worked from home at least one day a week, while the proportion that primarily work from home has almost doubled over the past 30 years, from 2.3% in 1980 to 4.3% in 2010. At about the same, wage discounts from working at home has fallen at close to 0% from 30% in 1980. This means that telecommuters or teleworkers earn as much as those that work in a co-located office.
There are those, however, who find it difficult to adjust their work habits to the home environment. Perhaps these tips, proven effective by those who have had great success with work-from-home arrangements, will help you get a good grip on the situation.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Before you commit to working from home, look at the situation from many angles and then decide if the set-up works for you. Some of the advantages attributed to work-at-home arrangements include:
- More flexibility and control over working environment and schedule
- Increased productivity – fewer distractions; work at your own pace
- Less stress – no rush hour, office politics, cubicles, and harsh lighting
- Greater work/life balance – being closer to the people you love
There are downsides, however. Do a reality check to be certain that you don’t tend towards any of these:
- Feeling isolated – you may feel left out of or miss office socializing if you’re the type who builds strong interpersonal relationships in the workplace
- Distracted at home – chores, home deliveries, family interruptions, etc. may replace office disruptions and you might not achieve the increased productivity you thought possible with working from home
- Becoming a workaholic – without firm boundaries, you may feel like, or end up, always working
Create your work space
So you’ve finally decided that telecommuting is for you. Yippee! Working from a home office should be awesome, yes? Well, first you need to have an office. At home. Create that office and use it for only that purpose. Depending on the space available this can be a remodeled basement, a separate bedroom, or simply a space separated by a divider in your living room. The key word here is separate, so that you develop the sense that you’re actually going to work each day. When you’re in that space, you’re in work mode.
Dress the part
For the same reason that you need to have a designated work area, you will need to dress up for work. The bathrobe is for the bathroom, PJs are for the bed. While no one will send you out for inappropriate attire, wearing clothes meant to be worn for work gets you in the proper frame of mind to work. The good thing is you don’t have to dress in anything more than what you usually wear for dress down days at the office. Casual Friday workwear is ideal. It’s also a signal to children and other people in the house that you’re in business mode and will therefore need this to be respected.
Get the basics right: plan your workday
Being organized is essential for teleworking success. Without the structure of an office to prop you up, you’ll need to build the scaffolding, yourself. A simple checklist of things to do for the day is often enough for some. Others who need more motivation will go as far as to break down their days into 30-minute segments, each with a specific deliverable to accomplish. If you work on the computer for most of the day, there are scores of free software available to help you do this.
Stay social, ditch social media
Talk to someone you work with at least once a day. Loneliness is totally avoidable stress. Ann Fisher of CNN Money encourages social networking. Being able to work far from colleagues without losing touch will boost your esteem and will make you feel connected to the team and the company. When possible, plan face-to-face meetups with coworkers. This might include visiting the corporate office once a month, or a dinner date with people from work. Staying social, however, does not include social media. It has been the bane of many a home worker and the endless stream of information that’s largely irrelevant to the work that you do can prove to be the single biggest distraction that prevents you from doing what you need to do. If you can’t stay away from Facebook and Twitter, do them outside of your work hours and preferably away from your work area.
Build your weapons of anti-distraction
Yes, distraction is the biggest enemy of the teleworker. Distraction is the root of inaction which is the root of all evils that will surely follow missed deadlines. Distraction can strike anytime from any source. Children, pets, the mailman, the neighbor watering her lawn, sauce Bolognese bubbling away in the slow cooker. You’ll need to recognize your demons early and find a way to seize control of them. For some, music is a good way to help them stay in focus. This can, of course, be a distraction to others. Some let the TV (with the volume turned down low) run in the background to simulate human company. This will drive others to hopeless distraction. For most, coffee always works. The good thing is that in your home, you have greater control over distractions than you would have in an office. Make this work to your advantage.
Add spice, improvise
You don’t have to be tied to a set way of getting things done. In a co-located office, you’re expected to sit in your cubicle and pound away at the keyboard. At home, you can stand, crank up the volume on your iPod and do the Gangnam (if you’re into it) to get the creative juices running. Burst out into song. Step away from the PC and work on a real notebook while taking a stroll around the neighborhood. Or do a quick jog. The things you can do to help you get things done is multiplied a hundredfold in the freedom of your own home. It doesn’t have to be your home, even. For a change of scenery and pace, some choose to work in nearby cafes, libraries, and parks. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. When stumped, break from routine and improvise.
The bottom line: love your job and celebrate your good fortune! You are probably getting more things done than those who don’t work from home, yet don’t have the stress, aggravation, petty politics, and long commutes. What more could one ask for?
- Smithsonian: Examining Telecommuting the Scientific Way
- PMCrunch: Project Management Leadership and Telecommuting
- For Dummies: Telecommute to Save the Planet
- US Census Bureau: 2010 Census Data
Are you working from home? Share your teleworking tips with us!