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Telecommuting – Common Pitfalls and Solutions

written by: Victoria E•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/6/2011

Working from home can be very productive, but if you are not careful, you can fall into some very common pitfalls. Read about the most common pitfalls of telecommuting and some solutions that will help your telecommuting experience be a success!

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    To be considered as a serious telecommuter, you'll need to consider telecommuting seriously yourself. As a telecommuter, you represent others wishing to have the opportunity to telecommute. Be careful not to create a bad image for telecommuters, turning your employer against the idea because of poor experiences. Beware of these situations and prepare your home environment for success.

    Pitfall #1: You aren’t home to play, or sleep, or visit. When you are telecommuting, your home is your office. Solution: In addition to explaining (and convincing) this to yourself, you need to explain this to family members and neighbors; you're working while at home. You have the same objectives, goals, and deadlines. The only difference is you have the opportunity to complete part of your assignments at home.

    Pitfall #2: Constant family emergencies or interruptions. Determine what questions, favors, and needs that are acceptable to interrupt you. Solution: First and foremost, you should not be the sole adult in the home, if there are children present and you are telecommuting. You cannot supervise children and work at the same time. Establish ‘Family Telecommuting’ ground rules for you and your family while you're working at home; make lunch dates, plan for breaks. After all, when you are in the office, people stop by and chat for a few minutes, you meet people for lunch, you take coffee breaks, your spouse or children call you for questions or emergencies, no need to be more restrictive when you are at home than at the office.

    Pitfall #3: Family use of the Office Supplies and equipment. A pencil here or there or the use of a few sheets of printer paper for a drawing project is not an issue. However, constantly having to search the house for the office stapler that keeps getting taken and not returned wastes your office time. Having to reorder paper every week because someone uses all your office paper for printing personal letters, documents and projects is probably not part of the deal. Solution: Establish guidelines for the availability or usage of the office supplies. If they are off-limits, explain that and why. If some items can be shared, let them know whether it's all right to borrow pens, paper, staples, paper clips, etc. You may want your workspace to be off limits to other members in your household, if so, lock up the items, cover or store supplies, or close and lock the door, if possible.

    Pitfall #4: Telecommuting isn't a replacement for childcare. Don't assume because you're at home working you can also take care of the kids. In the same way “A Lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client” the Parent that hires themselves as a babysitter while telecommuting, has a fool as for a client. Solution: If you think you can take care of the children and do your work as well, you might actually end up with two jobs instead of one, and neither will be done with much quality. Take your telecommuting schedule into consideration when you arrange for childcare. Consider which days you will be home, and which days you will be away from home. Also, consider the Solution for Pitfall #2, and how you can use your telecommuting schedule to your advantage. Plan time to pick up the kids, or eat with the kids, or relieve the primary caregiver for an hour so they can pick up kids, or run an errand, etc. Work with your schedule and your needs. If your schedule requires more flexibility, talk with your boss and see if you can arrange a solution to the benefit of both.

    In addition to pitfalls, you want to steer clear of bad habits, too. Check out the article, Telecommuting – Avoiding Bad Habits. When you are planning your telecommuting environment, keep these solutions in mind, plan for success and keep the goal in sight; productive, happy, successful telecommuting experiences for you and your company.