Is Telecommuting for Your Business?

Working from home has so much potential for combining domestic pleasures with productivity – lounging in pajamas, sitting all day with cat in lap, and taking long lunches while blasting music that would normally be silenced by the presence of coworkers.  It’s true that telecommuting has its benefits and provides more flexibility.  The convenience of business tools like instant messaging and videoconferencing allow you to have a presence at the office, and you have a lot more time to yourself to get things done.


But getting too comfortable – letting a 15-minute break extend for hours and bleed into work time – can cause a career to hemorrhage.  Without discipline and gratitude, working at home may turn into more of an extended weekend than a convenient career opportunity.  On the other hand, some telecommuters end up working well past their regular work hours simply because their work is always present.


homeworkBringing work to the home requires a period of adjustment to keep a work-life balance.  Yes, it’s even more important to maintain this equilibrium when working at home, simply because the line has not been drawn for you.  Most people are used to waking up, drinking coffee, and rushing out the door to face traffic and get to the office on time.  From the sound of their alarm, the employed have to get their brains into “work mode.”  When they get back home, they can relax and start the second part of their day.  Telecommuters must take independent steps to create their own environment and regulate their mindset to distinguish between work and home.


Designate your workspace

Create a space that is designed for work and only work.  No taking your laptop to your bed and propping your legs up with pillows.  The idea is to allow for sustained productivity without interruption from books, TV, other people, or anything else in your home that could pose a potential distraction.  An entire office is ideal – it gives the illusion of being at work – but a desk in a quiet, secluded space or near a window with your back to the door will work just as well.


Schedule your entire workday

head-clockIt can be a challenge to compartmentalize your break time and your work time when telecommuting.  Schedule everything in your day from start to finish – including breaks.  It’s best not to do household tasks or errands during the workday, but if you need to, schedule those as well and hold yourself to the time limits.  If you were already this organized at work, good on you – keep it up when your workplace becomes homebound.  Plan for phone calls and other communications from the office just in case and adjust your schedule to accommodate.


Don’t work when it’s not expected

Once the clock hits 5 p.m. – or whenever your workday officially ends – shut down your work brain and make the mental shift toward “going home.”  This is an act of the imagination, since of course you’re already home.  But it’s an important step to take to ensure that you don’t overwork yourself simply because you can.  After you close up shop in your home office, do something that helps you relax, and keep it as a ritual that you do after each workday.  If you have trouble separating yourself from your work in the beginning, you can take a short walk around the neighborhood, take a spin on your bike or get in the car and run a short errand.  When you return, you can act like you’re just “getting home.”


Stay in touch with coworkers

allcoOne drawback of telecommuting is that there’s no one to hang out with in the break room or trade jokes with at the water cooler (you won’t even have a water cooler).  But if you live reasonably close to work – or even have other telecommuting coworkers nearby – there’s no reason you can’t meet up for lunch, or stop by the office from time to time. Also, make a point to be included in meetings that take place if they’re relevant to your work.  And when you need to call a coworker or your boss, try video conferencing instead.  Actually seeing your face will keep you integrated with the rest of the team (and help them to not forget what you look like).  Staying in touch with coworkers helps keep you in the workplace mindset.  Additionally, it will keep you from feeling (or becoming) isolated simply because you’re in different physical location.


Appreciate your work situation

Working at home is a privilege, and one given to you based on your work’s trust in your integrity and belief in your abilities.  Anytime you’re tempted to spend the workday surfing the Web or getting things done around the house, embrace a sense of gratitude for being given the opportunity to telecommute.  The benefits of not having to deal with traffic, never forgetting your lunch at home and wearing whatever you want as you plug numbers into Excel are luxuries not afforded to all workers.  Enjoy them, but don’t take advantage.  Learn to self-manage your own work-life balance.

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