14 Tips for Working from Home
So, you want to work from home. Who doesn’t?
Working from home isn’t for everyone, though, and there are some caveats to consider. But, if you develop a good plan, “telecommuting” can be a productive and gratifying experience for you, your family, and your employer.
Once you and your employer have agreed it is mutually beneficial for you to work from home full or part time, you may want consider the following:
1. Understand Your Employer’s Expectations
Will your job requirements and duties be the same at home as in an office environment? How much support will you receive as a home office worker?
Some companies have stringent guidelines about what equipment and support will be provided by the company and what will not. Companies will often provide a computer and telephone and will support each, but not a printer or a fax machine, for example.
It is important to clarify where your company stands and what they are willing to negotiate.
2. Meet and Exceed Your Employer’s Expectations
You should make sure your boss knows you are consistently meeting and exceeding his/her expectations. You may work nine, 10, 12 hours a day, but it won’t matter if your boss doesn’t know it or you don’t get the anticipated results!
How will you communicate your efforts and results to your employer?
Don’t rely on her to evaluate this. Your performance, or lack thereof, may not come up until there is a need for a scapegoat or something goes wrong.
3. Set Up a Comfortable, Separate Space for Your Work Area
Setting up a separate work area is critical to your success as a home worker. Your space should be relatively free from distractions such as family, pets, home telephone, the television, and even an interesting view if you are new to telecommuting.
You should have a good-quality chair and large monitor if you are primarily working at the computer (who isn’t!).
4. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need
A computer, workstation, phone, printer, and fax are a given. But, you will also need paper, ink cartridges (you would be surprised how quickly these seem to need to be replaced, even in a “paperless” environment), possibly letterhead, pens, sticky pads, etc. Think about many of the things you use in your office and the well-stocked supply cabinet there.
Will you visit the office periodically to replenish these standard items or purchase them and be reimbursed? Iron this out in advance.
5. Set Boundaries with Your Family and Friends
Boundaries are pivotal not only to your success at working from home, but also to your personal relationships!
When you first begin telecommuting, friends and family may not understand the demands this requires of you. A friend whose sitter cancels may call you for a favor: “Can you watch the kids since you are working at home?”
You may get invitations to lunch or drinks, which, down the road, you may realize you can work into your schedule periodically and could end up being a networking opportunity.
In the beginning, you need to be careful to set a tone for your family and friends as well as good work habits for yourself.
6. Set Specific Work Times or Goals
Goals are important to keep you on track, as well as to validate your progress. Working at home can be very positive regarding autonomy and independence, but it can be lonely and unfulfilling without the regular feedback that comes from working in an office.
The telecommuter needs to feel confident he or she is doing what is necessary to be viewed as successful and to feel secure in his or her job. Paranoia can set in pretty quickly without the constant input of co-workers.
7. Stay Connected
It may be a good idea to start out telecommuting just a day or two a week and increase gradually from there. Staying in touch with the office will provide you the opportunity to transition how you will communicate in a more natural way.
You will find you and your co-workers may e-mail or call more often to stay in touch. You will determine which issues and co-workers require attention and which do not.
Increased productivity due to decreased co-worker distraction may be a significant benefit to working from home.
8. Schedule Daily and Weekly Breaks
Many home workers find they spend too much time at the computer, which can decrease overall productivity. Schedule breaks into your day. Take a regular lunch (at any time you want—no one is watching!) and stand up and walk around periodically.
You may find it helpful to set an alarm in Outlook or another calendar to remind you to move away from the computer.
Telecommuters may not realize they are squinting at the screen, are hungry, or even have to use the restroom when they get too engrossed in their work.
9. Understand Your Work Style
It is crucial for you to know better how you work best. Do you work best according to your moods? If so, keep track of your tasks according to task type: computer work, telephone work, meetings, etc. This way you can perform these tasks when you are at your best.
10. Track Your Work and Progress
Your employer may have a specific way for you to track your time. It may be as simple as emailing your supervisor when you start and stop your work. It may be a more elaborate time-tracking system where you record your specific activities in time increments or journal style.
It may be a good idea to keep track of what you are doing in more detail. Keeping a work log may come in handy if you are asked to justify your time or when you would like to ask for a raise.
11. Assess Your Progress Weekly
It is important to organize your work in such a way; you can quickly and clearly see what you have accomplished. Often, this is achieved through efficient use of a calendar system like Outlook.
In some industries, the billable hour or journal system (even a combination) is standard. However you approach it, you need to be able to determine you are on target to reach your goals.
12. Make Adjustments to How You Accomplish Your Job
If something is not working, don’t be afraid to change it. As a telecommuter, you may be a pioneer at your office, company, or industry. No one may have all the answers.
Invest time researching ways to improve your productivity. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is there a quicker, better, more efficient way out there?” Seek it out, albeit carefully.
Don’t jump on the first bandwagon that comes along. Try it out tentatively—not all solutions meet all users’ needs.
13. Ask For Help or Input
Have regular meetings with your boss or co-workers. These meetings could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The meetings may be more frequent in the beginning.
Talk to others from a similar field who also telecommute. Use social networking to stay in touch and obtain advice in answer to a question. Be selective about which groups or lists you sign up for or follow.
You don’t want social networking to become a distraction rather than a way to stay in touch and obtain input!
14. Take Care of Yourself
It is hard to do your best when you don’t feel your best, and especially hard when you don’t have regular input from others! Get up at a regular time and get dressed. Have your breakfast and coffee before work if that is your habit.
If you usually brown-bag it, pack a lunch to eat when you are ready. Meet co-workers or friends for lunch periodically if you are in the habit of this. Set regular breaks and quitting time. Avoid the temptation to work when it should be family time, and remember to exercise and go to bed at the appointed hour. BW
Mary Sherwood Sevinsky is a career and occupational consultant who is masters-prepared and certified. Sevinsky is a businessowner with nearly 20 years of experience in corporate management, career assessment and counseling, and writing career articles and educational materials. She has experienced in hiring, firing, and managing a staff of professionals with a multimillion-dollar budget. www.life-works.info