So, You're Going to Telecommute - Staying Productive Out of the Office

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In today's working world, the lines between work and home have become more blurry. Modern technologies allow people to do work from almost any remote location. As a result, many people have become excited about the idea of working from home. Telecommuting can be a great solution for working parents who want to care for their children without taking a leave of absence from work. It can help those who are looking for flexible hours or evening shifts. Telecommuting also appeals to people who just want to avoid traffic and enjoy a relaxed dress code.

Working from home can deliver many benefits, but be careful to avoid the hidden danger of lost productivity. Use these helpful tips to start off on the right foot.

Prepare your home office

To make telecommuting a positive experience, you should make sure you have all the necessary technology and infrastructure you will need to be productive. Your phone, fax, and Internet connection are your lifelines to the office, so make them reliable! Broadband Internet service (DSL or cable) is essential, but also maintain a dial-up account as a backup. Use a traditional fax line rather than sending and receiving faxes with your internet connection, so that if one goes down you can still use the other. Your cell phone should also be charged and ready as a backup for your phone.

Be sure to also think about your work environment. Set aside an area of your home as your “work space” to help you focus on your job. It should be neat and clear of personal items, and not within sight of the TV. Don’t forget to stock up on general office supplies as well, such as extra paper for your fax, paper clips, pens, etc. These mundane items should be close at hand so you don’t have to waste time thinking about the small stuff.

Stick to a Schedule

Without the structure provided by an office environment, it's easy to get off-task. To avoid this, create your own structure by setting up a daily routine. It should be detailed enough so that you have a clear idea what you will be doing each hour of the day. Set aggressive deadlines for each task, and stick to them. It can be helpful to use small rituals as ways to break up the day and keep your mind fresh. For example, some telecommuters take a short brisk walk every day at lunch.

Keep your schedule up to date as your work responsibilities change, to make sure that you still have prioritized your tasks appropriately. It's important to get input from your boss on your home schedule for this purpose as well.

Stay in Touch

Working from home can sometimes make you feel lonely or isolated. But you don't have to miss out on the communal atmosphere and camaraderie of the office. Make sure you frequently check in with your coworkers by phone and e-mail. This serves the dual purpose of reminding you that you're part of a team, and also reminding them that you're hard at work even though you're not in the office. Keeping in touch also increases your accountability - coworkers know they can count on you to meet deadlines because they are always kept abreast of your progress.

Another part of keeping in touch is getting regular feedback from your manager about your performance. Are you fulfilling all of the objectives set before you? Is your supervisor happy with your productivity level? As a telecommuter, you don't have the regular face-to-face communication that provides healthy criticism of your effectiveness on the job. To make up for this, make a point of checking in periodically to ensure your level of productivity is satisfactory.

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