News and Insights

advice and updates for IT professionals and employers.

Making it work when you’re working from home

We recently talked about hiring remote staff, so we thought we’d talk this time about telecommuting from the employee/contractor point of view.

There’s a lot of information about working from home on the Internet, with many great tips for making it work. Some are geared toward the self-employed, some toward the remote employee. We’re talking about how you, the contractor/employee, can work your 40 hours away from the mother ship.

The basics

  • Set up a space that is just for work. It helps you focus on work when your workspace doesn’t have to be cleared for dinner and the kids aren’t distracting you.
  • Let family and friends know that, just because you aren’t commuting, you still aren’t available to run errands, stop for coffee, or do the laundry.
  • Get organized, get started, manage your time. Working from home can actually be more efficient than working in the office when colleagues aren’t stopping by to chat. Be careful not to get sucked into spending hours on social media. Make a daily to-do list.
  • Get dressed. For some people, getting dressed as if going into the office makes a mental divide between hanging out at home and working.
  • The commute is great!

Get technical

  • Working from home usually means no IT department to call when something goes awry on your computer. If you don’t have at least some technical know-how, the remote gig may not be for you.
  • Some companies will buy your computer, printer and mobile, others won’t. Either way, it’s useful to be able to configure your own technology – and usually faster than waiting for IT.
  • Be sure you tap into your company’s cloud storage and online team management tools. Some of those tools are HipChat, Zapier, Google Hangout, BaseCamp, Sugar, Trello, Google Drive, and DropBox. There are many, many more.

The secret sauce to successful telecommuting

Working remotely can be lonely. You don’t have easy access to department and company gossip, there’s no one to discuss last night’s game with, and you may feel you are interrupting if you call with questions or insights. Here’s what the experts say:

  • Be sure you are clear on your assignment, the deliverables and the deadlines, says Marie McIntyre of Your Office Coach. If you aren’t sure, ask.
  • Stay visible, part 1. Make a special effort to share information and get feedback and updates from your boss, McIntyre says, especially if you’re the quiet type. Don’t let yourself become out of sight, out of mind.
  • Stay visible, part 2. Your colleagues who are still schlepping to the office every day may wonder what you are doing with your time. Make a point of staying visible with them. Call, Skype, chat online. Attend meetings in person, if possible. Invite your colleagues to meet your for lunch or coffee (or a beer after hours), says Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual, a company comprised entirely of remote employees. Stay connected. These person-to-person communications build relationships – and trust.
  • Stay visible, part 3. Call frequently, keeping it brief. Have standing appointments for calls with your team and your boss.
  • Tell everyone who has an interest what you are working on. Send updates. Otherwise, how will they know?

Working remotely has its challenges, but it can also be worthwhile. It can open up opportunities for jobs you might otherwise have not considered, without having to pack up the kids and move across the country. If the opportunity should arise to telecommute, carefully think it through the pros and cons before you decide to give it a shot. It may be just what you were looking for.