How to Telecommute Successfully: 50 Tips and Resources

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 6:06pm by Site Administrator

Telecommuting is a beautiful thing, what with skipping traffic and wearing fuzzy slippers to work. However, working from home doesn’t come without its trials. If you’re not prepared for them, you may find yourself experiencing a serious drop in productivity and motivation. Not to worry though, here are some tips that will have you on the path to telecommuting success with just at little effort and preparation.

  1. Stick to a ritual. Make sure your work and home life don’t become too blurred. Create a ritual to transition from one to the other in the morning so you’ll be prepared mentally to get to work.
  2. Simplify your schedule. One of the pitfalls of working from home is the tendency to try too hard to prove you’re really working, which often results in doing too much. Simplify your tasks and only do what you really need to get done each day.
  3. Set limits for work. Don’t let work start taking over the rest of your life. Set a starting and ending time for work each day so you won’t work longer hours than you would if you were at the office.
  4. Make a plan. Don’t just jump into your work in the morning. Figure out what you need to get done and plan out exactly how you can accomplish it. The structure will help you to get more done.
  5. Schedule everything. Schedule not only your work time but your down time as well. Plan out times for breaks, lunch, and household chores so they don’t interfere with getting things done.
  6. Find quiet. Working at home can be full of distractions. Find a quiet place in your home that will allow you to get away from it all and concentrate.
  7. Work smarter. Don’t work harder just because you’re at home, work smarter. Be organized and focused when it counts and you’ll get more done in less time.
  8. Allow some distraction. It’s easy to overdo it and deny yourself any pleasures when working at home. You should be cautious of these distractions, but allow yourself the occasional distraction to break up your day. It’ll keep you happier and more productive.
  9. Don’t forget about your health. Sometimes working at home can take a toll on your health simply because you’re no longer climbing those stairs to the office or walking to the train every day. Make sure to take time to exercise and take care of yourself.
  10. Find a work space. While not everyone has the luxury of their own home office, set up a private and out of the way space to work. Make sure you have room to spread out, and surround yourself with things that make you feel good so you’ll get more done.
  11. Keep connected with coworkers. Don’t miss out on colleague friendships just because you’re working from home. Keep in touch with your coworkers so you don’t feel isolated working from home.
  12. Find your optimal work time. Everyone has a time of day when they work their best. Figure out when yours is and schedule your most challenging tasks around it.
  13. Be responsive. Check your email and voice messages regularly so you can quickly respond to issues and inquiries sent your way.
  14. Keep in touch with work. Let bosses and coworkers know where you stand on projects through emails and phone calls.
  15. Promote yourself. It can be easy to be passed over for promotions and raises when you’re not in the office all the time. If you are doing good work from home, make sure the right people know about it.
  16. Take advantage of associations. There are many associations designed for those that work at home. Try joining the American Telecommuting Association to meet fellow telecommuters and get advice and resources that can be helpful.
  17. Get dressed. It can be quite tempting to work in your PJs or sweats, but you’ll be more productive if you feel professional. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie, unless you want to, but at least put on something you’d be willing to leave the house in.
  18. Keep track of your time and work. Keep a spreadsheet or log of the time that you put into work each day. It will serve not only as a record for your employer of your work, but can give you a sense of accomplishment as well.
  19. Practice self-discipline. Telecommuting can take a serious toll on self-discipline. Learn to keep a lid on those voices telling you to head for the couch and you’ll be much more successful at working at home.
  20. Make downtime productive. Don’t waste time waiting around, make that time useful. Whether you’re waiting for a response to an email, or just for your lunch to heat up in the microwave, use those minutes to get small, easy tasks accomplished.
  21. Use a timer. If you’re having difficulty staying focused, try using a timer. Work without stop for a set amount of time and then take a break. Breaking up your day into smaller chunks like this can help you get more done.
  22. Limit incoming calls. You don’t need to take your phone off of the hook, but it can be to your advantage to screen your calls to avoid becoming distracted.
  23. Share your work. Don’t feel that just because you’re working at home that you have to do everything yourself. If you’ve got too much on your platter, don’t be afraid to ask for help from other telecommuters or coworkers back at the office.
  24. Don’t isolate yourself. While the isolation of working at home can help you be more productive, you shouldn’t let yourself become a total hermit. Keep in touch with coworkers, meet at friend for lunch, or just get out of the house and socialize every once in awhile.
  25. Prevent emails from dominating your time. Email is a fast and convenient way to keep in touch, but it can also be disastrous for productivity. Set times to check or respond to your email so you won’t constantly be interrupted by it.
  26. Practice good stress management. Sometimes working at home can be just as stressful as working in the office. Make sure you don’t let the stress get to you. If you feel overwhelmed, take a break to do something you enjoy, and come back when you’ve calmed down or relaxed.
  27. Put on headphones. Sometimes you just need to shut out the world, and headphones can help you eliminate all other noises and concentrate on your work. Try listening to songs that relax you or give you motivation.
  28. Establish checkpoints. You can often feel more productive by establishing checkpoints to help you monitor your progress. As you complete each checkpoint, even the biggest and most overwhelming tasks will feel more manageable and you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment.
  29. Set time limits for tasks. To keep any one task from dominating your day, set time limits for completing tasks. If you don’t get things done, set them aside and come back to them later after you’ve made time for the other things you need to accomplish.
  30. Disconnect from the Internet occasionally. Sometimes it can be helpful to get things done if you just disconnect from the Internet for a few hours. While it is a valuable tool, it’s also full of distractions, and you might be better able to concentrate when you’re not tempted to check your email or the news.
  31. Attend meetings whenever possible. If there is a meeting in the office, try to attend whenever you can. It will make your presence in the business known, and also let you represent your own work instead of letting someone else do the talking for you.
  32. Pace yourself. You don’t need to work at warp speed all day just to prove you’re working. In fact, it’s a surefire way to burn out fast. Instead, work at a steady pace, allowing for breaks and opportunities to get out of your office chair.
  33. Find helpful resources. You can find resources for telecommuters provided by many nonprofit organizations that are designed to support telecommuting. Check out the TelCoa website for valuable tips and information.
  34. Schedule face-to-face meetings. While you could very well telecommute to meetings with clients, it’s preferable to meet with people face-to-face. You’ll get to know each other better and be more comfortable working with one another.
  35. Close your door. If you work in a room with a door, sometimes it helps to just close it and shut out any potential distractions.
  36. Let people know your hours. Make sure that both coworkers and family members know and respect your working hours, so they’ll know when they can get in touch with you and when you’ll be off limits.
  37. Don’t let friends or family intrude on your work time. It can be tempting for relatives, friends and neighbors to take advantage of the fact that you’re home during the day. While these intrusions sometimes are unavoidable, make sure that those close to you know that even though you’re home, you’re still doing legitimate work and shouldn’t be disturbed.
  38. Remember the benefits. Sometimes working at home can get stressful, but don’t let the occasional stress obscure the benefits. Working from home can save you money, miles on your car, and the stress of commuting, not to mention the fact that it probably allows you a flexible schedule to be at important events for your friends and family.
  39. Keep work tasks and home tasks separate. While your dirty laundry or dishes may be calling your name, keep your work for work and work for home separate whenever possible by creating specific times to get each done.
  40. Don’t work from your bed or the couch. It’s easy to get lazy when you’re lying down, so only work from your desk or other more formal workspace to maximize your productivity. If you need to, you can take a nap or relax over your lunch break.
  41. Use the best technology for the task. Don’t waste time using technology that isn’t right for the job. Save lengthy and complex conversations for the phone rather than email.
  42. Expect a period of adjustment. Don’t expect to be the perfect telecommuter right away. Allow yourself a period of adjustment while you figure out your schedule and learn from your mistakes.
  43. Be accessible. Quell office fears about telecommuting by being readily available to bosses and coworkers. If necessary, arrange an office instant messaging system so you’ll always be just a click away.
  44. Network. Don’t let your business connections suffer because you’re not in the office. Talk to clients, business associates, and other telecommuters whenever you get a chance.
  45. Make sure people know how to get in touch with you. Make sure all your coworkers have your phone number and email handy if they need you for anything. You should also keep a list of contact information for yourself as well, just in case you have a problem.
  46. Don’t overindulge in the comforts of home. It can be hard to resist the temptations of your television or refrigerator when you’re at home and they’re within easy reach. Allow yourself a few indulgences, but keep them to a minimum, or you could end up with little work and a big waistline.
  47. Allow yourself breaks. You wouldn’t think twice about taking a quick coffee break at work, so allow yourself similar breaks at home so you don’t get burnt out.
  48. Plan work in and out of the office. If you have work that can only be done at the office, don’t waste time worrying about it at home. Get done what you can at home, and take care of office work at the office.
  49. Make sure you have the right equipment. Make sure your home office is equipped with all the gear you need to do your job properly. Technology is important, but be sure you’ve got a comfortable desk chair and a setup that won’t give you any aches and pains.
  50. Download productivity software. Sometimes it helps to have a little software to keep you on track. There are many free programs out there that can help you get organized and keep track of all your to-dos.