My dream, since I started working many years ago, was to be a telecommuter, before I even knew there was a term for “working from home.” I dreamed of being able to move directly from bedroom to workplace, no commutes, no rushing around in the morning, no worrying about the weather, the traffic, my outfit, well, just about everything it takes to leave the house…
Six years ago, my dream finally came true. I started working part of the week at home and the rest at the office. I loved working from home! I got so much done. Then, I took a full telecommute job – with a company in another country! I loved it and I was hooked. I have now worked for three different companies as a full telecommute employee and there are more viable job options appearing every day.
There is a lot of advice out there on how to work from home. I have compiled the following top 10 tips based on my own experience as a telecommuter .
My top 10 tips on working from home:
- Set up a real office – not the dining room table or a quiet spot off the living room. You are going to need space, storage, and a quiet spot to work. I know this isn’t always possible, but it is the best approach.
- Set working times and make sure your colleagues know what they are – I try to work the same hours as those who are in a traditional office. It keeps me focused on my daily workload and I am available to others in my organization when needed.
- Create an ergonomic workstation – this goes with the first tip – you must be able to work comfortably and safely, just like in an office setting.
- Take regular breaks and lunch – If you need to, set a timer or other reminder to get up and do what those in the office do – grab a cup of coffee, walk around, etc,, but make sure you are giving yourself time to reflect and reenergize throughout the day.
- Check in with your in-office coworkers and supervisors often – since you are not physically around them, they don’t always know what you are doing or how busy you may be. I send a quick email to my direct supervisor twice a week, just outlining the status of my projects and giving a heads up on any issues or challenges. Pick up the phone if you have a quick question or need to give an update – a personal call does wonders for communication and keeping you linked to the office.
- Get ready for work every day – I know it seems you should be able to just roll out of bed and start working, but for your mental state of mind, taking a shower, doing your hair, and getting dressed for work (even if your “uniform” is a t-shirt and jeans) will help set the tone of the day. It also helps to look more professional if you are regularly using video conferences such as Skype.
- Take notes and action items from every meeting you attend – Send these out after the meeting to all participants. Follow up as needed. Since you are not in the office, you will find you need to do more to remind others of what was discussed and action items assigned to other team members you depend on for information or work. I use Microsoft’s OneNote to keep myself organized.
- Proactively address distractions – Many times, well-meaning family and friends equate “working from home” with “not really working.” Limit personal phone calls, visits, and other distractions by letting others know you work specific hours and when you can be available outside of work time.
- Keep receipts for things you buy out of pocket, but the company doesn’t cover, or if you work for yourself, keep receipts for everything bought for your home office and working environment. Take these to your tax advisor at tax time, just trust me on this one. I’m not an accountant or a tax professional, but this is important.
- Get out of the house – finally, this is really important because after the first month and the excitement of working from home wear off, you will find yourself talking to the dog or cat a lot more (if you have one, if not, I guess you will be talking to yourself). Schedule lunch with a friend, make time to go to local conferences, or network with other professionals. Just make sure you have contact with others on a regular basis or you will begin to feel very isolated.
Working from home is wonderful, if you have the right mindset and are comfortable working without much interaction or direction. You must be able to map out your day, finish assignments on time, and conduct conference calls (both voice and video) effectively while remaining professional. So, if you do get to work from home, I hope these tips will make the transition easier and help you stay productive throughout the day.