How to successfully telecommute from home

Telecommuting is a great opportunity for employees who are offered the chance to do it. Many businesses have realized the benefits of telecommuting and, as a result, offer this option to employees. While it isn’t for everyone, for many it is a great experience.

Allowing employees the ability to work from home is often a cost-savings measure for employers because telecommuting often increases productivity and helps retain the best employees. With these cost-effective advantages, employers are passing on the opportunity to their employees and many people are jumping at the chance to work from home.

Some of the benefits that come with a telecommuting position are:
  • Autonomy
  • Flexibility
  • Savings on commuting costs
  • Reduction of stress (for some)
While there are many pros and cons associated with telecommuting, for many people the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The key to maximizing these advantages is to develop strategies to help you succeed. You can best do this by customizing your days to be a good fit for the telecommuter environment and put yourself in the telecommuter frame of mind.

5 Tips for Successful Telecommuting

Separate work space

One of the biggest mistakes some telecommuters make is to try to work in their casual home-based environment. This often causes problems due to distractions, disorganization and interruptions. It’s a wise idea to separate home and work space and make an effort to create a work-centric location in the home. Ideally, a separate room is the best scenario, but this may not be realistically feasible. If not possible, at least get a work-only laptop (if your employer doesn’t provide one), preferably with a separate desk to use for work space. When you your own designated work space, it's easier to stay in the business frame of mind, keep organized and be more productive.

Reduce interruptions

While one of the biggest advantages to telecommuting is it gives you more family time and enhances your home life, the drawback is it’s easy to get distracted and forget the times you should be “at work.”  With family, chores and other projects lurking about, this can easily become a big distraction if you allow it. Once in a while won’t do much harm but if the interruptions snowball, this can lead to lowered productivity and performance, which could hurt your career and/or jeopardize your telecommuter status.

Telecommuting requires a high degree of autonomy and ability to stay on-task and focused. Don’t let the household distractions draw your attention away from your work. This should be a firm rule you set right from the start and make sure you keep to it yourself.

Good time management

Since telecommuting requires high degrees of autonomy and self-pacing, good time management skills are a much-needed skill set to possess. It’s to your advantage to learn good time management skills and vigorously practice them. When you work from home you have to be able to self-regulate your assignments, projects and other work-related tasks. Managing your time well helps you achieve this and enjoy a solid work-life balance.

Set office hours

It may help both yourself and family/friends if you set specific office hours where you are off-limits to interruptions, such as visits or telephone calls. This way you can schedule blocks of time to get your job done without distraction. Hang a sign on your door or put office hours on your voice mail, this way everyone will clearly understand when you’re working and you can reduce, or at least minimize interruptions. If you can effectively reduce breaks in your workday and get your family and friends to understand you are not ‘home’, this will make your transition much easier.

Maintain contact with colleagues

Continuing regular interaction with colleagues is important to do when you move to telecommuter status. When you leave the office setting, at first, you may catch a glimpse of fresh air to be able to escape the often stressed work environment. This relief can quickly change to one of frustration of isolation if you aren’t careful. Often one of the biggest problems associated with transitioning from office to home work is the adjustment to working in solitude instead of within the company of colleagues.

By maintaining regular contact with colleagues, attending meetings, both professionally and socially, this will help reduce feelings of seclusion. Additionally, it is good for your career to maintain levels of visibility; you don’t want to become a statistic of the old adage, out of sight, out of mind. Being invisible can hinder your career, be sure and make at least occasional appearances.

Changing your status from office based employee to a telecommuter can be a big transition, but if you keep these five tips in mind, you can experience all the wonderful benefits that come with the ability to telecommute to work. In the long run, the telecommuter structure can be a win-win scenario for both employer and employee.

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