As it seems that an increasing number of people are telecommuting, a trend I joined in March 2016, I thought it would be nice to compile an A-Z list of some tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts, insights and advice on telecommuting that I’ve gathered from my experience so far!
A. Autonomous and accountable – Telecommuting, what a wonderful thing, especially if you’re a natural self-starter with a propensity for discipline and focus. Be ready to put twice the effort and mindfulness into frequent communication and updates with your boss and coworkers. You want to be more available than ever to your company and clients to show that you’re always accessible, connected and reliable.
B. Business on the top, PJs on the bottom – Hate to blow my own cover, but there’s nothing quite like taking a video conference call in a button-up business casual blouse that’s clashing with an old pair sweatpants and hot pink fuzzy socks, just out of sight from the camera’s frame. Just make sure you don’t have to stand up to go get something across the room, revealing your quasi-formal attire to clients.
C. Call your boss – Pick up the phone and give your boss a ring at least a few times a week. Even if they’re busy, they’ll appreciate you reaching out to connect and catch up. Make sure they know you care. Be mindful to keep them looped in to what you’re up to that day, week and any upcoming plans or projects you have on the horizon.
If your boss and coworkers don’t get to see your brimming face everyday in the office, it becomes that much more important to remind them that, yes, you do still exist. And, yes, you still work with them and are just as integral as ever. There’s a good chance a part of why you were hired was because they at least sort of like your personality, so don’t forget to call up coworkers even for brief catch ups.
D. Do it once, do it right – La dolce vita, that’s what you have if you’re telecommuting. Don’t abuse your boss’ trust, and make sure you’re thorough with tasks. Just because no one is watching you work, doesn’t mean there’s room to slack and produce subpar work. Keep yourself motivated!
E. Eat well – You’re at home, so no more “I forgot to bring lunch for the fifth time this week and have to go eat out for lunch, again.”
F. Farewell to office banter and chit chat – This one is tough especially when your job is being a bubbly PR social butterfly of the sorts. You’ll quickly miss congregating with colleagues by the office coffee pot, or the office kegerator if you work at OutsidePR, to shoot the wind together.
G. Grazie! That’s what you say to your boss for letting you work remotely.
H. Hide untidy things – No one needs to see your dirty dishes or laundry scattered behind you during a video conference call. Stuff it in the closet if need be. The client should never be able to tell you work from home. So if it’s just one corner of your house that you work in make sure it’s tidy and organized, even if the rest of your house looks like an episode of Hoarders.
I. If – “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.” And a modern rendition for adults who work remotely could be: “If you give a telecommuting adult a dirty house to work in, they’re going to want to clean it. And when they clean it, they’re probably going to want to take it a step further and reorganize and sort through the areas and items they’re tidying.”
It’s so easy to get distracted at home, between laundry, dishes, chores, domestic projects and aimlessly surfing the bottomless rabbit hole that is the Internet. Try to get your chores done and work spaces tidy before sitting down to hammer out some emails. And if you find yourself absolutely needing to take care of some things around the house, be mindful and decide how long you want to spend on it. Set an alarm or timer to keep yourself from accidentally going down the slippery spiral of distractions.
J. Judgment – Working from home comes with a certain level of autonomy and sovereignty. And as no one is checking in on you 24/7 or micromanaging you, it’s up to you to use your best judgment to make the best choices for how to spend your time wisely and efficiently. It’ll pay off in spades if you routinely make decisions that show your boss and company that you’re always available, accountable, reliable and taking initiative. Prove that you’re worthy of the trust that’s been given to you to work remotely!
K. Know time zones – Don’t accidentally be inconsiderate and schedule a meeting in the late afternoon, say 4 p.m. PST, if you have a client or coworker on the east coast who’s three hours ahead of you.
Working from home lends itself to a flexible schedule, so make use of that and get up earlier or work later to accommodate time differences to make your client’s life easier.
L. Learn to “leave” work – A comment I often hear is that because I work from home that my job must be easier or never stressful or that I don’t “really have to work.” But nothing could be further from the truth. I find that I’m putting in more hours working at home than when I was commuting to an office, which in part could be from adding back to my schedule the hour and a half that I used to spend everyday in traffic. If my laptop is around and open, I’m working. So I’ve had to learn to close the laptop, take a breath, step back and remind myself to mentally “leave” the office, which also happens to be my bedroom!
M. Mentor – Find and buddy-up with someone in your professional circle that you look up to. It might feel a bit fangirl-esque at first, but most people are flattered and humbled to be asked for advice, guidance and about their experiences and subsequent lessons learned. This mentorship will become increasingly pertinent when you start working remotely, away from easily accessed in-person chat with coworkers and peers, and are still developing professionally and making a name for yourself in your profession.
And, to bring it full circle in due time, return the favor and pay it forward by mentoring a young gun that you later come across.
N. Network – This one could also be applied to people working in an office, but don’t be lazy about meeting people in your area, profession and industry. Reach out to make connections and build relationships whether it be by sending a thoughtful note to someone you look up to, asking to grab a coffee (or a beer, depending on who you’re talking to) or head out on a mountain bike ride or other shared interest.
The more connections, the better! You never know if and when that relationship might serve you well and come in handy sometime down the road.
O. Outside – Cabin fever creeps up and is easy to catch if you let yourself coop up for too long at home. To avoid driving yourself bonkers and only having conversations with your dog throughout the day at home, take a break and leave the house for a brisk walk, run or bike ride. REI isn’t the only one that needs to #OptOutside — you’ll feel good soaking in some vitamin D and getting the blood flowing, so you can return to work riding an endorphin high and feeling refreshed and ready to get ‘er done!
P. Plan – Paint a picture and prepare a plan of a personal and professional path to persistently pursue. Patience, passion and participation are pinnacle and will profoundly payoff.
Okay…sorry about the annoying alliteration ambush. Couldn’t resist. Promise I won’t do it again.
Q. Quasi-formal dressing – Okay I know I already touched on this, but I can’t stress this enough: wearing biz-casual on top and loungewear on your bottom half during a video conference call is strangely and stupidly satisfying.
R. Routines – Yes, sometimes it’s fun to wear sweatpants or leggings while working. But it’s important that your go-to loungewear for work is not also what you actually sleep in. Set an alarm everyday, get up, brush your teeth, make a cup of joe, shower and dress — just like you would if you were going into an office. It gets your head in the right space and ready to sit down and focus, rather than staying in that half-ready mode you’re in when you put PJs on.
And on the other side of the day, having a post-work wind down routine at the end of the day, like stretching or running, is a great way to signify to your brain that it’s okay and time to get out of “work mode.”
S. Socialize – By default your chances to socialize decrease when you work from your den at home. You’ll learn not to undercut or undervalue the importance of what used to seem like small, mundane interactions, like chatting with a grocery clerk or the guy who comes into the office bi-weekly to refill the office Arrowhead water jug.
Put in the extra effort to leave your hermit-shell of a home office, put on a “real” pair of pants (yes, ditch the leggings for jeans for a day!) and get your recluse-self socialized. Try working from a coffee shop one or two days a week, connecting with friends of friends, joining a gym, taking classes or joining a group that organizes activities that you would normally do alone, like a local MTB shop that puts on bi-weekly group rides.
T. Talking – After a long, solitary day at home of tapping buttons on a keyboard like I’m Mozart of the Interwebs and one of my roommates comes home, I find that sometimes I’ve nearly forgotten how to speak properly. Because on occasion I’ll go all day without seeing another human, when my roommate returns from work I’m like a wide-eyed puppy who finally sees its owner after they’ve been gone for a few hours. And the word vomit excitedly pours out of my mouth all over the misfortunate ears of whoever I happen to see first that day.
So reinforcing a few points we’ve already gone over, make sure you get yourself out of the house or at least hop on the phone just to chat a bit and make sure you retain your speaking skills and don’t excitedly verbally-bombard your roommate when they get home as if they’re the only person on planet earth that has ears.
U. Unemployed – is what you’ll be if you act unaccountable, unproductive, unconcerned, unconnected, uncouth, ungrateful or unreasonable. And all other negative words that start with “un” Kapeesh?
V. Visit the office – Don’t let them forget what your magnetic smile and bright eyes look like! Going into the office is a prime time to catch up with the company, brainstorm with colleagues, share current projects with each other and collectively devise plans to make sure everyone is still on the same page. And, if you can, try to go the extra mile and plan an easy group activity or event to boost morale.
W. Write lists – Sometimes telecommuting feels a bit disconnected, like you’re operating on your own work island. So to stay on track of tasks make sure you’re diligent about writing prioritized to-do lists for the current day, week and long term projects on the horizon, as well. Take up the pen, scribble, scrabble, record, pencil, note and stay organized.
X. X, cross off items from said list as you plow through your to-do list, which feels satisfying to do!
Y. You – You are your own pod. You’re your own little, remote bubble that’s hard working, focused and productive. And it’s up to you to self-govern and keep it that way. Taking full responsibility, carrying your own weight and starting and completing projects on your own without anyone watching or micromanaging you can be extremely satisfying and rewarding, if you enjoy being a disciplined self-starter.
Z. Zeitgeist of the digital age! Telecommuting is a new trend particular to our modern digital lifestyle, which makes you somewhat of a pioneer. Fancy that, eh? Especially if you’re one of the first in your company to telecommute, which in a sense also makes you the company telecommuting test dummy, it’s crucial that you do a good job to put working remotely in a favorable light in the boss’ and company’s eyes. Should any coworkers choose to take the telecommuting route in the future, they’ll appreciate you clearing the path and making telecommuting recognized as an advantageous, efficient and suitable way of working!