Five Tips for Telecommuters

Five Tips for Telecommuters

The daily commute to work is a fact of life for many of us, and if you live somewhere like Sydney, that could be three hours a day or more you’re sitting in your car or on a crowded bus getting to and from work.

But what if that daily commute was from your kitchen to your home office for a grand total of ten seconds spent getting to work? What would you do with the potentially fifteen-plus hours per week you used to spend dodging sneezing and nose-blowing passengers on the train?

“Telecommuting” is a fancy word for working from home, and more and more employers are beginning to recognise the myriad of benefits that working remotely can have on workers’ productivity and health … not to mention the money the company can save from reduced office space!

Although Australia is slightly behind countries like the United States (where it is estimated that up to 25% of the workforce now works remotely at least part of the time), we are slowly catching up. And it’s not just the more innovative industries such as IT where employees are starting to enjoy a better work-life balance from flexible work arrangements – with amazing web-based productivity and communication tools the trend is affecting many types of companies. Studies have shown that employees who work from home at least part of the week have higher job satisfaction, are more productive, and take fewer sick days. There is also higher employee retention, because let’s face it – anyone who has worked from home knows it’s a pretty good gig and they’re keen to keep the privilege.

However, moving towards more flexible arrangements can be an adjustment for some, especially if you lack the self-discipline to get to work on time without the threat of your boss giving you the evil eye if you’re late. These five tips will help you enjoy all the benefits that working from home offers and still keep your boss happy – it’s a win-win!

Get dressed

When you first start working from home, it’s so darn tempting to lounge about checking emails in your tracksuit pants and ugg boots, just because you can. This might be a subconscious rebellion after years of being forced to squeeze into the power suit on a daily basis, but do resist – you don’t have to sit there in a collared shirt and tie, but getting dressed will help you mentally shift to “business mode” and let your brain know it’s work time, not sleepy time.

Stick to a routine

Similarly, another thing working on-site gave you that you’ll now have to manage for yourself is a routine. Rather than having to shuffle into the office and be at your desk by 9:01am, you might have a bit more flexibility with your working hours when you work from home. This is fine – some of us do a lot better if we start early, while there are others whose brains don’t switch into gear properly before noon. The important thing is to find out what works for your body clock and make a point of starting work at the same time every day. This is a lot easier than it sounds, and after some practise you’ll know when it’s time to work.

Also, even if you’re not working, it’s probably a good idea to be reachable by phone or email during business hours, in case your boss can’t get hold of you and thinks you’ve just been lying at the beach all day. Which leads to our next point …

Check in with your boss

While the telecommuting arrangement is a new thing, you’ll need to prove to your manager that you’re not going to abuse the privilege – especially if he or she has only started testing the waters when it comes to remote employees. Some old-school bosses will be dubious about the whole thing and tend to think that unless they can see someone sitting at their desk in a physical office, there’s no way they can be working. (It’s not like employees never go on Facebook or eBay during work time in the office – but that’s another story!) Checking in via email or even a quick phone call will let them know that you’re on the clock and getting things done, and ease their fears that you’re slacking off.

Take advantage of productivity tools

There are so many amazing web-based platforms designed for communication and collaboration between telecommuters and their teams and employers. In relation to the point above, project management software can be a great way for bosses to quickly log in and be assured that tasks are getting done. Cloud hosting and VoIP (“voice over internet protocol”) digital telephone platforms keep communication and accessing files a breeze.

Enjoy the benefits

Once you’ve got your routine and productivity tools down, you’ll start to wonder how you ever survived five days a week of commuting to a crowded office. Getting cabin fever? Take your laptop to a local café, order a latte and work there for the morning. Feel like getting away? Book a B&B mid-week to take advantage of the cheaper rates and have a mini working vacation. Or, spend your lunch hour at a Pilates class without worrying about having to go back to the office in workout gear.

There are so many great aspects to the flexibility and freedom of working remotely, and taking advantage of these will only help improve your sense of work-life balance and therefore your job satisfaction and productivity. You will be happy, your manager will be happy, and your colleagues will be happy once you show how your boss how it can benefit everyone! (And hopefully they’ll all shout you a drink at the Christmas party!)

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