Working a job, no matter what you do, can be difficult, exhausting, and downright unrewarding. Waking up to the screech of an alarm, dragging yourself from your cozy bed, and making it all the way to work can be miserable, especially when the weather outside is grim and gloomy. So when you hear about people working from home, it sounds like a dream job. But is it?
In recent years, telecommuting has become more widely accepted as an option for company employees. Working from home has its perks, no doubt about that, but it comes with a whole different set of challenges that can really throw you for a loop if you don’t adjust to the new workstyle.
I’ve been working from home for the past few years and I’ve picked up a lot of great advice along the way. If you plan on becoming a telecommuter, or if you already are but you’re struggling a bit to keep up, then here are some telecommuting tips to help you out.
Separate Work Hours From Personal Time
Whenever I tell someone that I work from home as a writer, their eyes light up and they look at me like I’ve hit some mythical jackpot. You work from home? You’re so lucky! Of course, the implication behind that sentiment is that working from home is so great because I have so much freedom to do whatever I want.
And telecommuters do have that freedom, but that same freedom is a nagging hook that tugs on us hour after hour, tempting us to do anything but work. Sure, I need to write that article but I have nine hours left in the day… so I’ll watch a few episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix and work on that later. Next thing you know, we’re scrambling to meet our deadlines and it all devolves into a load of stress.
Create a work schedule. Set time periods that are dedicated to work and work only. You don’t have to work the typical 9-5 job because telecommuters have the freedom to set their own schedules, so if you’re most productive at midnight, go ahead and set your work hours at that time. But either way, set work hours. As a bonus, during your personal time, you can completely forget all about work and set it aside until the next day.
Treat It Like A Real Job
Of course, by saying “treat it like a real job”, the implication is that telecommuting is NOT a real job. Thanks to the massive amounts of freedom offered by telecommuting, it’s easy to take it all very lightly. When you hear the phrase “work at home”, I bet this is what you think of – waking up, making a cup of coffee, lying on the couch in your pajamas with your Macbook and typing away.
And you know what? Some telecommuters can do that and be extremely productive. But for the majority of us, myself included, doing that will only lead to flipping on the television and watching The Price Is Right until we drift off into a 4-hour nap.
Telecommuting is a real job, so treat it like one! When you wake up, go take a shower and get dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie but you’ll feel a huge difference just by slipping into a pair of jeans and a comfortable shirt – wear anything but your pajamas. Set up an office in your home, or purchase a separate laptop just for work.
Combined with the tip above (separate work hours), your productivity will skyrocket and you’ll still be within the comfort of your own home.
Communication Is Key
The importance of communication cannot be overstated. It’s the lifeblood of a company and when communication breaks down, everything breaks down. At the office, you can walk over to a coworker’s cubicle or pop by your supervisor’s office, but it’s not so easy when you’re stuck at home and away from everyone.
If you aren’t a big email user, get acquainted with it right away and don’t be afraid to use it. When I first started telecommuting, I rarely sent out any emails and that did not end up well for me. Nowadays, I shoot emails when I need clarification on a project, or if I need help, or if I just want to keep someone updated on my progress. When everyone is on the same footing, everyone benefits.
So when working from home, don’t forget to communicate. “Out of sight, out of mind” is what you really need to avoid. Just because you don’t see your colleagues or bosses doesn’t mean you don’t need to talk with them.
Avoid Being Isolated & Sedentary
What’s the downside to working at home? Most, if not all, telecommuters will tell you that it’s a lonely job – and they’re correct. I am one of the most introverted people that I know and even I grow lonely sitting at home 5 days a week with no one to talk to. Human beings need regular human contact or else they start to go mad and grow depressed.
Remember I told you to treat your telecommuting job like a real job? Well, real jobs have smoke breaks and lunch breaks. Real jobs have a water cooler where you can chit-chat with others, even if it’s only for five minutes. Take care that you have your own form of breaks – take your dog for a walk, go for a jog, call up a friend, etc.
Similarly, the sedentary lifestyle of a telecommuter can be detrimental to your health if you aren’t careful. If possible, try using a standing desk instead of a traditional desk-and-chair.
Telecommuting Is Not For Everyone
Still sound like a dream job? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. The fact of the matter is, telecommuting is not for everyone. Certain types of people may hate the concept because they can’t stand to be alone so often. Others may be able to tolerate the lifestyle, but only a very specific group of workers will flourish as telecommuters.
The main determinant, in my experience, is the ability to be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and self-controlled. If you need someone to bark orders at you in order to get anything done, working at home may not be for you. But if you’re the type to blaze new trails, stay organized, keep yourself accountable, and meet deadlines with ease, then you’ll do well. You essentially need to be your own boss.
Think you have what it takes to be self-motivated but still struggling? Try something like the Pomodoro Technique.
Let me be clear – working from home is an immensely rewarding experience. There’s nothing better than accidentally sleeping in, not being yelled at, and still finishing my work on time and sending it in all bright and shiny. However, that’s not to say that telecommuting is easy. It’s just different.
So if you ever have plans to become a telecommuter, take heed to the tips above and you’ll be successful.
Please let us know how these telecommuting tips worked for you! Also, if you have any other tips to share, please post them in the comments below.
Image Credits: Guy With Laptop Via Shutterstock, Guy With Clock Via Shutterstock, Woman in Pajamas Via Shutterstock, Talking Cans Via Shutterstock, Walking Dog Via Shutterstock, Exhausted Desk Via Shutterstock