So you want to telecommute?

Telecommuting, remote working, or simply "working from home" is becoming mainstream in today's business culture. Businesses are opening up to the idea as a way to keep good employees, reduce stress (mainly in the form of not having to drive to work) and to allow employees more flexibility in their work schedules. Both the employer and employee can benefit from remote working situations.

I've been working from home since 2004 so I've had the chance to figure out what works and what doesn't - for me. Some of these thoughts may help you or your company entertain the idea of telecommuting.
Not my home office
It helps me to have a set work schedule. Doing so can keep you from either working too many or too few hours in a day.  Discuss this schedule with your boss so they know when it's appropriate or not to contact you. Let coworkers know your schedule and learn their's. Remember to take time zones into account as well.

Scheduling Pros:

  • Keeps you from working late into the day
  • Co-workers know when to call you - and not call you

Scheduling Cons:

  • Feels like you may as well be in an office at times

Home office
It's essential for productivity to have a dedicated home office. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but having a space dedicated for working allows you to set the work mood and jump right in to your daily tasks. A kitchen table for example isn't good for productivity if you have to clean up at end of every day. We're lucky to have a spare bedroom at our house that I have dedicated as my office. It's equipped with the normal things you would see in an office: desk, shelving, an office chair and appropriate lighting.

Dedicated Space Pros:

  • Promotes a working environment
  • You aren't forced to cleaning up at the end of the day

Dedicated Space Cons:

  • You need to have extra space in your house
  • Office furniture costs money
My actual home office

Family Considerations
Your family, and to a lesser degree your friends, need to understand that working at home means that you are working - from home. Just because you're home all day doesn't mean the house will be cleaned, the dishes will be washed, the yard will get mowed AND the laundry will get done. You are there to work. This is one of the most difficult hurdles to proficiency and efficiency as a remote worker. An understanding family is important.

There are many tools specifically designed to keep remote workers engaged with their company while working away from the office. Video conferencing is an obvious one. Seeing your co-workers face to face maintains the bond and working relationship you have with them. Just remember when on video to be in your office and maintain a professional setting (don't have empty beer bottles visible on camera, etc). There are also numerous group messaging/collaboration apps, like Slack or Microsoft Teams where you can work with team mates in real time and stay productive.

Think it's right for you?
Of course, not all positions are acceptable for telecommuting. If you think yours may be, talk to your boss about it. Prepare a list of benefits, not just for yourself but for the company and see what happens. Propose a trial run of one or two days a week.

Don't go into it thinking that all of a sudden you're going to have more free time - it's not like that if you want to keep your job. You will need to stay highly self motivated to avoid some of the pitfalls like:
  • The refrigerator
  • YouTube/Netflix/internet in general
  • Television
  • Staring out the window
  • Working too fast/doing a sloppy job because you want to go outside and play
Working from home isn't for everyone. As I mentioned above, it take a high degree of self motivation to keep from starting work later in the morning and stopping work earlier in the afternoon. Plus, it can get lonely at times with no one to chat with at the "water cooler". If you can overcome some of the problem areas you can find yourself being more motivated and more productive at your job.

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