You’ve got it made now! You’ve been authorized to telecommute – code for many wonderful things, including freedom from your boss breathing down your neck, watching TV “at the office,” the “bedtime casual” dress code you’ve been advocating for years (i.e. bathrobe; pants/underwear optional), long lunches and breaks whenever you want, and a three second bed-to-desk commute. Awesome! Totally awesome!
Not so fast, Spicoli. If you break the tremendous amount of trust your employer is showing you by allowing you to work remotely, he or she might just show up at your door with an extra copy of Land of Truth and Liberty (or a termination letter), just for you. In the competitive workplace, you certainly don’t want to just “squeak by.”
Don’t ditch your morning routine.
Rolling out of bed two minutes before your work day begins and wearing pajamas all day long may be tempting, but it comes with the very real risk of nurturing lazy work habits. Give yourself plenty of time to have a shower, get dressed for the day and have a well-balanced breakfast (avoid the mid-morning crash by going easy on the carbs and choosing whole fruit instead of sugary juice). Even if you decide to go with what an office would consider “casual dress” (e.g. jeans and a t-shirt), you’ll find that simply getting dressed will make you feel more motivated and on-task throughout the entire day.
Get out of the house in the morning.
If you’ve never worked remotely before, you’d be surprised at how a daily commute can positively affect your work day. I don’t mean traffic jams or the commuter-crowded public transportation slog; I’m talking about the simple act of stepping out your front door into the fresh air. I promise that you’ll experience a HUGE increase in motivation if you set aside some time every morning to get out of the house. So take a walk, go for a run, water the garden, go grab a coffee or just sit on your front steps for 15 minutes; there are a million different ways to get your daily dose of fresh air. You’ll be glad you did.
Have a comfortable, distraction-free office space.
You aren’t going to get any work done if you set up shop in the middle of the family room or kitchen where everyone else spends time during the day. A spare room that you can dedicate as your office would be ideal, but any space where you can have quiet and seclusion will do. Avoid setting up near a TV and don’t bring your personal phone, tablet, laptop or other devices unless they’ll be used for work purposes. If you have other people living with you or have friends who like to pop in unannounced, make sure everyone understands that you’re working and are not to be disturbed.
Keep a to-do list and stick to it.
Just because you don’t have your manager monitoring you in-person all day doesn’t mean that you won’t be held accountable for what you do (or don’t do). If anything, your production and work ethic will be held to a higher standard once you start working remotely. It’s important to identify priorities and to ensure that you’re doing your best to meet daily goals. If you’re unable to accomplish the tasks you set for yourself, speak with your manager about what you can do to be more successful under minimal supervision (but be sure to keep this conversation positive if you want to keep working remotely).
Observe office hours and lunch/break policies.
One of the most basic things your employer expects from you while working remotely is for you to be on time. Don’t prove yourself untrustworthy by starting work late or taking long lunches. It’s disrespectful to your employer and is one of the easiest ways to lose your telecommute privileges. If you wouldn’t do it in the office, don’t do it while you’re telecommuting. Simple!
Remember, communication is key.
If you regularly feel like no one is watching, counter-productive habits will start rearing their ugly heads sooner or later. Keep the lines of communication with your team and your manager open; stay in touch throughout every day via phone, email or instant message. Even if you’re simply checking in with your manager every morning to go over daily priorities, you’re less likely to become distracted if your co-workers generally know what you’re up to.
What strategies do all you telecommuters out there use to stay focused while working remotely? Let us know!
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