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Telecommuting – Setting Up for Success

written by: Victoria E•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/4/2011

Successful telecommuting experiences start with organization. Know what it takes to be successful, productive, efficient and reliable, and you set the stage for success. Learn about what you will need to do to get started in this exciting world of telecommuting!

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    Getting Organized

    So you have decided to try a telecommuting option at work. Not only is it important to be organized and ready for the work, but you must make sure that you have the right mindset. For ideas on getting the right mindset, read the article Telecommuting – Starting with the Right Attitude. Now, it is time to consider how to set up, not only your home office, but also your routines and processes.

    What type of equipment?

    According to Telecommute Institute, a resource for telecommuters and employers, depending on the type of work you do, or the companies you work for, you may be issued specific company owned equipment in order to perform your work, or you may be asked to furnish your own. “Companies that require you to provide your own computer equipment in order to access their network, will require you to have specific hardware and software, specific versions as well as specific antivirus protection. Serious teleworkers will step up and comply with these requirements, teleworkers who do not will be declined. It is imperative that you set up your home office as though it were your own business - that means No Kids playing on your office computer!"

    Location location location

    Identify a safe location in your home as your workspace. You don't need to devote an entire room for your office at home. Some telecommuters have successfully developed a part of an existing room, a garage, an attic, and even a closet for their workstation. Locate your workstation away from distractions. Don't try working on the bed, or couch in front of the T.V., or on the dining room table. It doesn't work! Make sure you have room to spread out the required materials you will need, make sure you can leave them safely, if necessary. If you are going to be a serious telecommuting professional, you should have a relatively professional area – A dedicated table or desk, a receptacle for reference or storage (like a file cabinet or bookshelf), good lighting, access to phone and internet, and a comfortable chair.

    In addition to just basic organizational factors, for tax reasons, you need to establish and maintain this location, as you may be able to deduct that percentage of your home as your home office.

    Success by Route

    Successful Telecommuters establish a routine. Set a daily home office hours for the days you telecommute and stick to it, just as you would regular office hours. Begin and finish working at the same time on telecommuting days. This will help you establish a routine. Telecommuting schedules may differ from your office hours. You may be able to start earlier or stay later by eliminating the commute or you may use the opportunity to work with overseas or other remote teams in different time zones. But be consistent, and communicate your schedule to others. Remember that your boss and your team need to know how and when they can reach you.

    Use your new found time effectively

    Since you no longer have a morning or afternoon commute, you may find it difficult to truly get started or end your day. Try establishing new rituals for telecommuting days - Use the time to your benefit. For example, if you still need to start work at 8:00, but used to have to leave the house at 6:30 to get there, try leaving at 6:30 for a bike ride, or run, or a visit to the gym. Or if starting earlier is one of the benefits, try a ritual of making your favorite pot of tea or coffee, getting out your “telecommuter" mug and settle in to read your emails. The end of the day is harder, as it is difficult to “leave the office at the office" when the office is at home. Also, in the office you often hear your co-workers packing up to leave at the end of the day, triggering the end of your day. Try having a small bell or alarm to signify time to ‘leave,’ or communicate online with some team members at the end of the day, and let them know you are “shutting down" for the day. Power down the computer, close the door and shut off the light. Try that bike ride as a commute alternative. Change into your “after-work" clothes. Find a ritual that will work for you.

    Productivity

    Make a to-do list. Develop a list of goals and assignments for the days you telecommute. At the end of the day, go over the list and see how much you've been able to accomplish. Make sure your to-do list has milestones, not just big projects. You want to be able to mark items complete, as well as be able to communicate those completions with your boss or team. “I’m working on x" isn’t what you want to put on your progress/status report. It's beneficial to start the list a couple of days before you're telecommuting to plan for all the resources you'll need to support your activities at home. Remember, communicating the work you have completed helps your boss feel more comfortable with telecommuting, and goes a long way to promote your future as a remote worker.