Most people love the idea of telecommuting and who can blame them? I certainly can’t. Rolling out of bed, throwing on a pot of coffee and starting work sounds a lot more appealing than putting on business clothes, sitting in traffic, and working in a cubicle all day. Or is that just me?
I didn’t think so.
While telecommuting may sound like the greatest idea since the invention of the Internet, it can be full of land mines if not approached properly. In the office to home switch, productivity levels often fall and managers may begin to doubt your commitment to work. Don’t worry. Today, we’ll offer 10 tips for a productive technical consulting telecommuting experience so that you avoid these pitfalls.
1) Have Morning Rituals
While rolling out of bed, putting on a pot of coffee, and pulling out the laptop may sound like the perfect way to start your work morning, it’s not. Studies have shown that people are more productive when they have a morning ritual that signals to their body that they are getting ready for work.
This ritual will be different for everyone, but could include making breakfast, putting on clothes that aren’t pajamas, and sending the kids off to school before you start working. If you get into the habit of doing this every morning, you’ll be in the work mindset when you do pull out the laptop.
2) Get Dressed
Did my example morning ritual surprise you? No? How about the part where I said to get dressed? Probably a little bit, huh?
While working all day in your PJ’s is one of the imagined benefits of working from home, it’s just that – an imagined benefit. If you work in your PJ’s all day, you’ll feel more relaxed, and less energized. That’s never good for productivity. For a productive day, put on real, although more comfortable, clothes than you would wear at the office.
Furthermore, you never know when your manager is going to want to have a Skype meeting with you. Do you really want them to see you in your bathrobe? I highly doubt it. Putting on real clothes ensures that you’re more productive and that you’re never surprised at a meeting, both of which illustrate that you take your work seriously.
3) An Office
While it may be tempting to work on your bed or couch all day, don’t do it! It’s a trap! Both of these places signal relaxation, and you may find yourself, two hours later, waking up from a nap or watching one of those Lifetime specials. No wonder your productivity levels are falling.
You need a home office. This should be a quiet place that is completely devoid of distractions. You should feel comfortable working there, and have enough space. But the most important thing? Only use this space for work. Enter it during working hours, leave when your working hours are done. You’ll be more productive if you have a quiet workspace that you associate with work.
4) Don’t Run Errands Daily
When you work in cube-land, you’re there to work. You don’t run off every day at 2:00 to run errands. This is the same if you’re working from home. Telecommuting doesn’t give you the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You’re working, just from a different location, a different ‘office.’
A telecommuter is still on the clock 9-5. And during that time? Your manager expects you to be working. This isn’t to say that you can’t run occasional errands, like going to the doctor. You just can’t do this daily, and you need to make sure that your manager is aware of your time off.
5) Keep a Log
Managers oftentimes worry that their technical consultants may not be as productive as they should be when working from home. Solution? Keep a log.
Write down every task you do, and how long it took you. Not only does doing so keep you on track, it ensures that you have a sense of what you’ve accomplished.
Furthermore, should your technical manager ever accuse you of not working as hard from home, you can pull out the log and show just how productive you’ve been. To prevent this accusation from ever coming up in the first place, you can send your manager weekly status reports containing information from your log.
When you’re in the office, you’re in constant contact with your manager and colleagues. When you’re not at the office, it’s easy to let your communication go by the wayside. Don’t let it slide.
You need to stay in contact with your team when you’re telecommuting. Let them know what you’re up to, and what you hope to accomplish. Find out what issues they’re having, and contribute advice or help where you can. This sort of communication is crucial. It helps you to be seen as a team member, and a productive one at that. This goes quite a ways in keeping a long-standing technical consulting contract.
7) Don’t Sit Still For Too Long
As a technical consultant sitting in a cube all day, it may feel like you’re never moving. However, there are bathrooms, break rooms, and meetings to go to. This gives you the opportunity to walk, to stretch, to move.
At home, things are a bit different. Everything is much closer. You could sit in the same position all day, and walk only a couple of yards to the bathroom and kitchen. Make sure that you don’t do that.
Stretch and walk around. Each time you do this, you’ll reset. Even with a minute refresh, you’ll be energized and ready to attack that programming issue like the Energizer Bunny.
8) Be Social
Maybe you like being left alone all day, every day, working on tough technical issues. Other people, however, can’t do that. They need at least a little bit of human interaction throughout their workday.
If you’re the later, working at home can get lonely and monotonous. One solution to this problem is to work from a café or other people-populated Wi-Fi hotspot. Sure, you may not be talking with strangers, but even being around people may be the thing you need to get you back on track, and in a more productive frame of mind.
9) Reward Yourself For A Job Well Done
Did you finally solve the threading issue on the JVM on Solaris? If so, celebrate! Meet colleagues and friends for drinks or dinner.
You’d be doing the same thing if you were working in the office. By keeping this ritual alive, you’ll maintain the motivation to work hard.
10) Limit Hours
When you work from home, it is easy to work extra hours. You’re already home, and there isn’t a commute. You oftentimes find yourself working a 10-hour day, sometimes without even meaning to.
While this sort of work ethic is admirable, it is often hard to maintain. Individuals who work 10 hours a day often burn out quickly, become less productive, and begin to resent work. Don’t become that bitter IT consultant. Set work hours, and when 5 o’clock rolls around … stop working. You’ll be a better consultant for having done so.
Telecommuting is convenient. Without a commute, you can cut several hours out of your week and save hundreds on transportation costs. Furthermore, you’re bound to be more comfortable working in your own space, and you won’t have to deal with the constant steam of cube visitors. Yet, for telecommuting to be as great as it appears, you have to remain extremely motivated and productive. Hopefully our 10 tips will help you do just that.
Thanks to L Gnome for the use of their respective photographs.