As technology becomes more prevalent in society and more accepted in the workplace, the dream of telecommuting (working from home) in your pajamas is coming true for more and more people. But, as many of those lucky people will tell you, working from home is often not quite as easy as you might think. We forget the thousands of extra distractions that we leave at home when we go to work each day, and we don't realize the threat that telecommuting poses to our work/life balance. But not to worry! Here is a quick list of some tips for working at home and some suggestions that will allow you to telecommute more effectively.
Make Your Own Office Space
It's very important that you choose a specific place in your home that will be set aside for doing work. Many new telecommuters, eager to escape the confines of their cubicle, don't realize how much the cubicle or desk at work helps them stay organized and stay focused. When you allow yourself to wander around your house from day to day while working, you waste precious time lugging all your tools from one place to another each day. Wandering also means that you're not creating a work/home boundary either physically and mentally, and you may eventually associate your entire house with work, preventing you from feeling fully rested after the work day has ended. And lastly, setting aside a specific place for work tells everyone else in the house that you're working, which is the next tip.
Make Sure Everyone Else Knows You're Working
Another unforeseen problem for new teleworkers is that when you're working from home, the other people in your house don't realize you're "at work." That is to say, when you actually go into an office, it's clear to everyone that you're not home and that they cannot interrupt you. However, when you're at home, but working, family and roommates have a tendency to feel that it's ok to interrupt you to ask you a question or ask for help with something. This causes unnecessary interruptions in your day, which leads to you doing less work during "work hours" and doing work later into the evening. Make sure to communicate with the other people in your house that when you're in your "home office," you are in fact working and that they should treat it as if you were actually gone at work. This will help you get more work done when you want to and to have more dedicated time for your family later in the day.
Make Sure You Have All The Right Tools
If you're lucky, your company may provide you with all of your telecommuting tools (computer, software, telephone, etc), but most telecommuters will be required to purchase their own equipment. This is generally an unanticipated cost of telecommuting (buying a new computer and other equipment could cost a few thousand dollars), which might lead you to try and "make do" with the equipment you already have. Using what you already have may tide you over for a small while, but in order to be able to telecommute effectively you need to make sure that you have all the equipment you need and that you aren't being stingy. This is the equipment that you'll be using everyday, and you'll be relying on it to produce a living; if your equipment isn't sufficient or not to your liking, you'll notice very quickly. Buying all the equipment up front is indeed a big expense, but if you're committed to telecommuting for the long haul, it's a worthwhile investment.
Practice Good Communication With Your Boss
It may make you shudder to read this, but it's important when working from home that you practice regular communication with your manager or client. Many people pursue telecommuting to get away from other people in the office, but the fact of the matter is that these people are either paying you or are deciding if you get paid, so making sure they're happy is very important. Even if you don't normally talk to your boss very often in the office, it's important to realize that your boss feels much more connected to you when you are geographically close by and when you show up at the weekly meeting, compared to when you work remotely. Telecommuting is still a developing style of business, and many managers are not quite sure how to interact with and manage teleworkers. Talking to you in an email only once every two weeks may leave your manager wondering if you're running into any problems or if you're even really working. Corresponding with your manager frequently and regularly about your progress and any problems you're facing will give your manager peace of mind and he/she will ultimately trust you more. Sending a progress email once at the end of each day or the end of every few days is good standard.
Accept That Telecommuting Is Not Paradise
The most abstract and yet possibly most helpful tip is just to accept that telecommuting is not the paradise it's cracked up to be. You will escape many of the downsides of in-office work, such as transportation costs, dress code, and the dreaded "cubicle cage," but telecommuting also presents it's own challenges. Even when you have your dedicated office space, your kids will still make noise playing outside your door. When your internet goes down, there's no IT department to call -- it's on you. Your manager isn't there to complain if you're late for work, so you need to be responsible for motivating yourself to get up in the morning. And ultimately, you may find that the office actually offered you some benefits that really increase your output: privacy, tools, organization, free coffee. Telecommuting certainly has it's benefits, and it may very well suit your lifestyle better than in-office work, but just be aware that work -- no matter where you do it -- is still work.