Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Choose now what you would wish to have chosen at life's end.

St. Anthony Mary Claret

Telecommuting – It’s not a day at the beach!

By David Reed

There are many images that come to mind when someone mentions that they work from home. For some, they picture working by the pool or at the beach with a laptop and sunglasses. For others it would be sleeping in until 10 and stumbling into the “office” wearing your pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

Although there probably are a few people who take that approach to performing their jobs away from a central office, that is not what I recommend for those who want to hold on to that favorable working relationship.

There are several keys to a productive telecommuting experience. Having flexible work hours may be a benefit to working from home, but having a regular work schedule is still highly recommended. The vast majority of workers respond best when they have a routine that they follow each day. It is difficult enough to deal with the distractions of family or lists of home improvement projects that need to be completed, that having a regular starting time and work location are helpful.

From my experience, the most successful telecommuters still wake up at a respectable hour and go through their morning routine. For me, it is important to shave and shower and get dressed prior to heading to my office located in the back of my house. (That may be jeans and tennis shoes if I don’t have a client meeting.) I then spend time reading (for me it is a passage in the Bible) and prayer. There are a lot of studies that show people who start their day with some form of exercise are more alert and productive. This could be in the form of a short jog, or in my case, a walk.

The next step is to review the agenda for the day and set specific goals for what I need to accomplish before my day can be considered complete. Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, this may be something you share via email to make sure you are on the same page.

Following my “get myself together” routine, I check my emails and send notes to co-workers and customers as needed to communicate on current initiatives. When you do not have the ability to get up from your desk and walk down the hall to visit with a colleague, it is critical that you learn to use technology to its fullest. This may mean holding a tele-meeting utilizing a tool such as GoToMeeting where you can share documents and collaborate as you work on team projects.

Instant messaging may also be a tool to help communicate, especially to let your supervisor know that you are available and actually working. But don’t forget the phone! It is still the preferred method of remote communication when dealing with sensitive or complicated issues. It is the next best thing to being there!

If you are like me, one of the challenges that I face is being glued to my chair and computer and not taking time for lunch or breaks. When you work in the home, it is a good idea to get away for a bite to eat or to run some errands during your lunch hour. Some people will use this time to get in their exercise.

Each person has to establish the routines that work best for them, but the key is to have a routine. You can still take advantage of the flexible schedule that may come from not having to commute to a central office, but don’t abuse the privilege. There are very few telecommuters who can remain productive by the side of a pool!

David Reed is President of Remote Office Consulting, LLC. This company was created to help organizations create or improve on their remote workforce strategy.

For more information visit http://www.remoteofficeconsulting.com/

If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way."

Dr. Jane Goodall

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Harlan Ellison