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“I could never work from home,” is a common response I hear when people ask where I work. While it may be true that not everyone can work remotely, it’s been a great professional option for me.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 percent of employed people reported doing some or all of their work at home or from a remote location other than their company’s main office.
I decided to make the switch from working in an office to working out of my home when an opportunity to work for a great company came along a couple of years ago. The position was in a different state, but I was told I could work remotely and wouldn’t have to relocate my family.
As with any decision, I did not take it lightly. I had previous experience with working remotely one or two days a week, but moving to full-time was a big change. So, I reached out to some professional colleagues who also work remotely full-time to get their recommendations.
The following are 10 tips to successfully work remotely created from my personal experience and with input from my colleagues.
1) Experience It For Yourself
It’s usually a good idea to try something out before you jump in completely. I started working remotely one or two days a week several years ago as an experiment.
I found working remotely to be very productive for me. I did not have any problems focusing on the work-related projects, making deadlines and shutting out the rest of the house during work hours.
2) No Pajamas – Designate A Work Space
You are a working professional, even if you work from home. This means it is not okay to work in your pajamas. I recommend getting up, taking a shower and getting dressed like you did when you commuted to the office.
Okay, so sometimes I might wear shorts in the summer or other season-appropriate comfortable clothes, but you need to look and feel like you are ready for work.
It’s also important to officially designate a work space in your home. My designated work area includes a desk, bookshelf, printer, extra monitor and comfortable desk chair in a room where I can shut the door when I need to.
3) Use Technology To Your Advantage
Video conferencing, instant messaging and conference lines are just a few of the technology options that make working remotely easy for both the person out of the office and his or her colleagues.
Some people prefer to install a designated landline for their daily use and others prefer a mobile phone. I chose the mobile phone option, but invested in a quality noise-canceling Bluetooth headset with a boom mic so my conference calls would be clear and professional. It also works great when traveling.
In addition, if you work for a company that does have a main office, have a designated phone line at that office forward to your remote office line or one that emails your voicemails, so everyone can reach you.
Even in remote offices, remember phone etiquette. I recommend using mute when you’re not talking during a conference call. Even at home, there may be a lot of noises that might be distracting to other participants.
4) Connect With Colleagues Via Phone
Call your colleagues on a regular basis instead of relying solely on emails or instant messaging. Nothing replaces a live conversation. Talking with co-workers and clients helps you establish and maintain better lines of communication.
Since you are not in the office daily and do not have the opportunity to stop by their desk, create a similar opportunity by picking up the phone.
5) Make Regular Trips To The Office & Attend Social Functions
Plan trips to the office on a regular basis, once or twice a month. You and your team will benefit from in-person work days. While there, take advantage of the face time and schedule meetings with your team.
It’s important to make it a priority to attend work outings and social gatherings. These events help you build camaraderie with coworkers and the larger team. It may mean an extra trip up to the office that month, but the benefits are worth it.
6) Create A Personal Presence At The Office
If you have a designated workspace at the office, make sure to personalize it with photos or things important to you.
This helps show your coworkers you are a part of the office team, even if you are not there every day. Plus it gives you a familiar place to work when you’re in the office.
7) A Place Away From Home
Some days, you need to get out. Maybe for human interaction or maybe because your family came home early and you have an important deadline.
Find a local coffee shop with wifi, a quiet room in the public library or another location where you can plug in your laptop and get the work completed.
8) A Little Exercise Makes A World Of Difference
Some days you need a break. Some remote employees religiously schedule lunch workouts a couple days a week. I am not so regimented because my schedule can vary each day.
However, when time allows or when the need arises, I have seen positive results from taking a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood in the middle of the workday. This healthy option is good for your mind and body and may be just the mental break you need to have a very productive day.
9) Make Working Remotely Work For Everyone
Recognize that the initiative is in your court to make sure that working remotely is a great opportunity for you and your colleagues. There are many ways to do this, so find out what works best in your situation. Here are a few suggestions:
- Over-communicate with team members. Make sure everyone understands priorities and deadlines.
- Over-communicate your schedule to your supervisor and co-workers. Make sure they know when you are available and how to reach you.
- Establish ongoing performance communication with your supervisor. Keep him or her apprised of what you are working on and how you are working towards your professional goals.
- Conversely, just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to be available 24/7. It’s reasonable to set expectations with your supervisor and co-workers around your off-hours availability, too.
10) Networking Is Still The Key
I learned early in my career that networking is important for all the stages in your career. Being a remote employee is not an exception to this rule. In fact, my recommendation is to also establish a network of colleagues who are remote employees.
There is a lot of value in being able to reach out to them for timely advice as the need arises. In addition, it is important to continue your involvement in professional associations and other groups.
Professional associations, lunch and learn educational sessions, or other networking events are great places to find new clients, get ideas, and have a chance to socialize with other professionals.
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