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August 18, 2014

Top 5 Telecommuting Tips

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By all accounts, the number of employees worldwide who work from home has jumped exponentially in recent years. According to the Telework Research Network, that number is expected to swell by over 63% over the next five years.

I’ve personally had the pleasure of being offered the flexibility of working from home with various employers. During that time, I have come up with a set of guidelines that enable me  to stay focused and ensure that I keep productivity high.

I would like to emphasize that certain personalities do not work well from home while others thrive in this sort of independent environment. One needs to be self aware enough to be able to identify where they fall on the spectrum.

Whether you telecommute full time or occassionally, this list will undoubtedly come in useful.

1. Maintain a schedule

…And hold yourself to it! When I first began working from home, I stayed up until all kinds of crazy hours, only to be exhausted the next day and unprepared for work. Subconsciously, I knew that I only did this because I had nobody to report to the next day and no schedule to follow. Keeping track of your work hours and making sure that you work when you are supposed to work can be very difficult. I quickly found myself in a position of being “on call” 24-7. Boundaries between work and home blurred and both aspects of life suffered as a result. Don’t let this happen to you! Being your own boss means kicking up the level of self-discipline. Setting up a reward system can help you to this end.

2. Create your own office environment

Sure, everyone dreams of working in their pajamas, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Get dressed in the morning as if you are going to an office. It changes your mindset and helps establish a boundary.

Equally as important is having an established work space. I would even suggest having a separate room to work from if you can afford it. If you have young kids, this will also help your family respect your allotted working hours. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that home offices can be reported for tax credit.

3. Stay in touch with the mothership

It’s all too easy for headquarters to forget remote workers. Schedule daily or weekly conversations with your coworkers, even if you find that these calls are unnecessary for business purposes. I found that using these regular meetings to update team members on my projects and progress was greatly appreciated and prevented any kind of miscommunication which is common in such situations. In person meetings with coworkers and visiting the physical office is also a useful tip.

4. Work in blocks of time

I still utilize this method now that I work from an office. Working in any online position presents a litany of distractions. My solution has been to set my phone alarm to 20,30, or 40 minute blocks of time to work. This allows me to concentrate on a task before taking a break to check messages, email, Facebook, etc… It also forces me to be more aware of how much time I actually spend on those networks as well.

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5. Leave the house!

Even for sworn introverts, it’s very important to have some measure of human interaction during the work week. This can mean going to the gym, grabbing lunch with a friend, or even working from an office hub established for other telecommuters. Such spaces have been popping up all over the place and should not be hard to find in your hometown.

Best of luck, and feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions!

-Jason

jason@zulaapp.com