Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Telecommuting - Part 3 The Lifestyle

By Toni Grundstrom

You are now approved to work from your home either part or full-time. You feel the freedom, already, but you need to know some basic telecommuting skills to made your work-at-home option successful. You also have to set up your office so you remain a professional working at home.

Establish your workspace in a part of the house that is well lit and has good air circulation, is not in the busy area of your home, and can be dedicated as 'your work area only'. Check with your tax preparer to see what guidelines need to be met for tax write-offs. You have the freedom to arrange your hardware, supplies, and desk any way you wish but easy access to everything allows you to function smoothly. Turn your chair away from the door to avoid distractions and hide supplies that aren't used often to keep your office un-cluttered. Realize that you are now responsible for security of the equipment, backup of your online files, your personal ergonomics, and managing stress.

There are two types of stress at your home office - stress from the job and stress in maintaining a work/life balance. Creating this balance requires your dedication to making the telecommuting opportunity successful and your entire family's support in the lifestyle change. You have set performance standards with your boss. A telecommuter may feel the need to perform miracles to exceed those or you will be returned to the office. That is self imposed stress. You will automatically increase your output because of less interruptions and non-commuting. Learn to determine what is or is not urgent, have a set beginning and ending time for your day, turn the ringer on your phone/fax off when you are not working, and avoid using the extra time gained by not commuting to complete more work. Keep your performance standards in mind so you don't feel the need to take on extra work to prove yourself and justify what some of your co-workers may see as a special perk.

Your home life may have played a large role in asking for the telecommuting option. This said your home life will change when you move your work home, which could cause stress. Talk with your family members to let them know what your work goals are and how each of them can contribute to your success. Let your friends know what your work hours are and encourage them not to call during those hours. Distractions such as personal phone calls, reading, lounging, cleaning, laundry, and errands need to be managed and worked in to your work/home life schedule. Snacking is now easier. Keep your eating under control by staying with the same schedule you had at work. What you choose to wear during your work hours is a personal choice yet keep this in mind. Casual clothes are fine but doing a professional job in your pajamas or a torn sweatshirt with sweatpants may not put you in the correct frame of mind to do quality work.

Staying Visable

Are you concerned about out-of-mind meaning no promotion or being overlooked for that one assignment you've been waiting for? To overcome this make sure you attend weekly and/or monthly meetings, organize a lunch with co-workers or your boss, and stay in touch daily with the office.

There are psychological issues of working alone. Isolation is the most prominent. This new working arrangement means that you left behind the network of friends and coworkers who provided a very important social and interactive part of your day. This is where the lines of communication, you arranged while negotiating the telecommuting option, play a very important role. Make sure that you contact your coworkers so you stay in touch with each other. They need to know that you are still part of the team and you do, too. Isolation, after a period of time, may also affect your creativity and professionalism. Join an online group of other individuals who are working from home. This opportunity creates a different type of social activity and you will learn from others who know exactly what you are going through or trying to avoid. Joining a telecommuter association opens the door to receiving information about the pros and cons of telecommuting or what to pursue or avoid. Working from home gives you the freedom of managing your own time. Understand the life/work style changes and use them to make you an effective telecommuter.

Maintaining visibility is a very important aspect of telecommuting and arresting the resentment some coworkers may feel towards you for working from home. Encourage people to contact you at home, post a note on your office desk reminding people of the days and hours you are working at home, stay on the routing lists for magazines and journals, and develop a buddy system. This buddy can keep you posted on what is happening at work and send you your mail or critical information in a timely manner. Attend meetings and other work related gatherings (such as an in-office retirement party) and always attend social functions. You don't want to be 'out-of-sight out-of-mind'.

There are unique skills needed to succeed in your 'virtual office'. Some of these will be learned over time yet you can be aware of others and prepare for them. Telecommuting is appealing because your professional goals do not have to be sacrificed for personal goals, or visa versa. Working just like you would in the office with set hours, using effective communication, and continued professionalism will help this new lifestyle create less stress, more flexibility, and more time for you.

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