Congrats. You got your boss to let you work from home. Welcome to the world of telecommuting, or in today’s parlance cybercommuting. Just as moving from your childhood home into a college dorm room gave you an equal number of freedoms and new responsibilities, your new life as a satellite employee will have risks and rewards. Lucky for you, following a few simple rules will help make this transition from cubicle to domicile a rousing success.
First, set aside a dedicated space. It’s easy with a laptop to commandeer your kitchen counter or the dining room table as your office, but you will be more productive if you have a setup that closely resembles an office.
You can still take your work on the road to your local coffee shop, but having a dedicated space will put you in the mind-set to get work done. Double bonus: you may be able to write off a percentage of your home expenses if you commit a portion of your home solely to work.
Set a Schedule
Distractions are rampant at home. You’ll be tempted to do the dishes piling up in the sink, throw in a load of laundry, or reorganize your sock drawer, simply because you are already at home. Set your hours and your lunches, or you may forget to eat.
There is a rhythm that is present in an office, with coffee breaks, lunches and meetings that break up your day. Those cues for breaks or meals are no longer regulated for you, so you’ll have to set your own cues. Give yourself a few breaks to stretch, or grab a cup of coffee. Set lunches “off campus” so you can stretch your legs and get out of the house.
Try to keep a constant schedule, so that you can create a routine. This will also help you set boundaries with your employers, lest they think they can call you at any hour of the day or weekends, since you’re “always at the office.”
Check in Often
Out of sight. Out of mind. You don’t want to be forgotten simply because your boss doesn’t see your face every day. When you work from home, you need to make an extra effort to attend company meetings or social gatherings so that the rest of the team knows you still work there. Pick up the phone every once in a while. You don’t want email to be the only interaction that your colleges have with you.
Know Your Tools
Working from home requires a bit of tech savvy. Tech support isn’t down the hall to save you from your computer foibles, so you’ll have to be able to handle some of it yourself. Understand how your computer connects to your lifeline (aka the Internet), and who to call for your home ISP (Internet Service Provider).
Know the tools that you use to connect to the office, whether it be email, shared calendars, video conferencing software, or a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Get friendly with your office technical support, so you always have an ally you can call when the inevitable tech mishaps happen.
While at times it may feel like you’re floating out in a satellite outpost on Mars, following a few simple steps will make trading the hour long commute for the few steps from your bedroom, all worth it.