Whether you call it telecommuting, telework, mobile work, or a flex job, the remote workforce seems destined to stay. Working from home is a dream job for many employees, and the popularity is growing: A recent report notes that 3.2 percent of the U.S. workforce works from home at least part of the time. At 4.3 million employees, this represents a growth of 140 percent since 2005. Additionally, 68% of the global workforce works from home at least once a month.
The arrangement isn't just beneficial for employees and companies; less traffic on our roads is also good for our environment. Remote workers can also save money on clothes, lunch, fuel, and vehicle maintenance. They can even juggle personal commitments with their work schedule more effectively.
Whether it's the relief of avoiding that long and congested commute, the lure of working alone, or the fantasy of combining household tasks with professional responsibilities … Hold it right there!
If you're new to the telecommuting world, your first assignment is to absorb lessons learned from work-at-home veterans. Set aside any visions of shuffling to your home office around 10 a.m. in your flannels and fuzzy slippers, or you may just shuffle yourself to the unemployment line.
The reality is that working from home does have a lot of benefits for those who like to work independently and can be a necessity for the transportation-challenged, or those with disabilities. But there are also some productivity pitfalls inherent in the arrangement.
The distractions that call you after hours are now beckoning to you all day long. If you toss the structure of a daily routine out the window, including regular communication with co-workers, you may find yourself behind the curve in productivity.
Here are some myths debunked and associated tips to prevent common telecommuting trials:
Fact/Tip: Get dressed.
Getting dressed is one way of mentally telling yourself that you are preparing for your workday. Unless you have a meeting or outside appointment, it doesn't have to be professional attire, but you may find that your productivity goes up with your clothing choices of the day.
Besides, with today's videoconferencing services and mobile apps, you don't want to be caught in your robes when you answer that surprise FaceTime call or have an unexpected video conference with a client or team member.
Fact/Tip: Set a daily schedule.
If you work with a team, make sure you're available when they're working. This keeps the entire team on track and sends a signal to the company that remote working is successful.
Also, know your productive streaks; if it takes you a few hours after the first cup of coffee to make a dent in your workload, then use the morning time to catch up on emails or do some industry reading.
Use a calendar system to set reminders for meetings, deadlines or just important tasks. Google Calendar is a popular one that's easy to use for both you and your team that is also mobile-friendly.
Fact/Tip: Respect your work zone.
Treat your home office space with professional respect. Keep it free of clutter and at-home distractions. Having a welcoming space increases your productivity, prepares you for unexpected drop-ins from co-workers, the boss or clients without last-minute "tidying."
Having a clutter-free office zone also projects a professional environment during video conferences.
Fact/Tip: Don't skimp on visual and audio technology.
Premium video conferencing tools no longer demand premium and out-of-reach pricing for substandard equipment. Gone are the days of video conference phones that cut out frequently or seemed to attract noisy interference at critical moments. Video conference systems that you can host and access on your laptop have also advanced in quality and affordability. Meeting Owl, for example, offers dynamic, all-in-one video and audio that is easy to set up and easy to use, with no recurring costs. A 360-degree "Intelligent Video" lens automatically focuses on each speaker. There's no software to worry about an update; just plug into your USB port, and you're ready.
It's also important to not skimp on headphones. Investing in a high-quality headphone set prevents embarrassing requests for repeat responses and makes the most of the high-quality audio from your video conferencing system. This combination of superior audio and visual quality will have you feeling as connected to your team as if you're standing in the same room.
You can find other helpful working-from-home tips here that are worth reviewing. So, walk from your kitchen to your home office with purpose, and you'll see why so many are discovering that in both play and work, there's no place like home.