Telecommuting 101: 7 tips for remaining productive when working from home

By Robert Half 18 March 2020

Once viewed as a perk, telecommuting is now the norm at an increasing number of companies.

For many employers, it's smart hiring and retention strategy, not to mention a business necessity. And for workers, a work-from-home option can be life changing: People want the flexibility to skip the stressful commute and late hours at the office, stay home to watch over children or care for family members, and better manage their homelife.

If you’re one of the growing number of workers planning to work exclusively from home, it’s important to establish a plan and discuss any potential obstacles and solutions with your manager.

Here are seven suggestions to help make sure you stay productive without compromising your work-life balance.

1. Create a to-do list

Start early and create a daily prioritised to-do list with short-term goals for important projects and hold yourself accountable for meeting each deadline.

Dive into your to-do list first thing in the morning, when the household will likely be at slumber; this will also allow you time to focus and strategise on the day ahead.

2. Set a schedule

Stick closely to a set schedule that includes breaks. By starting and stopping around the same time each day, you’ll keep your job from bleeding into what’s supposed to be your downtime. 

Incorporating organised pauses into your workday will help increase productivity and boost energy levels throughout the workday. Taking breaks provides the opportunity to reevaluate your daily goals and make any adjustments as necessary.

3. Clear communication is vital

Maintain regular communication and schedule recurring online meetings or conference calls when possible. Ask your manager for a designated time to check in, ask questions and share any project updates.

The more you communicate with remote colleagues, the more connected the team will feel. It’s worthwhile to consider setting up a short team meeting — say every other Friday — strictly for the purposes of catching up, like a virtual coffee break.

4. Define expectations

Stay on top of your workload by understanding what your manager expects of you and meet those objectives in a timely manner. Once you’re given the green light to work from home, be certain to over-communicate with your manager during those initial weeks. Share what you’ve already accomplished and communicate to-dos for the coming days.

Don’t forget to list priorities for the following day so everything remains top of mind once you’re back online the next morning.

5. Ensure you have the right equipment

Stay connected by making sure your home computer, phone and other required equipment are up-to-date and safeguarded by your company against security threats. Speak with your manager if you don’t have what you need. Using online collaboration tools like Skype, Slack and Google Hangouts can keep distant colleagues connected instantly.

Also, a centralised calendar sharing your home office hours with members of your team helps ensure projects flow smoothly.

6. Be aware of distractions

Limit distractions by establishing an area that’s designated exclusively for work. It doesn’t have to be a formal desk and it should be away from anything that might distract you, like kids, pets or TV.

If you feel tempted by chores, create and stick to a schedule like you would when working from the office. Only tackle chores or manage other domestic responsibilities during breaks or designated time periods.

7. Remember to maintain a balance

Make time for yourself and your family by dedicating time to unplug, decompress and take care of your private life.

It’s crucial to set clear boundaries in your professional and personal lives to create a sense of balance. Remember to communicate expectations with anyone that will be home while you’re working.

Working from home requires no small amount of discipline

In terms of both quality and deliverables, there should be no difference between the work you produce at the office or while you’re telecommuting. As importantly, you have to know when to close shop for the day and tend to your homelife.

Create a routine and process that’s fair to both you and your employer, and follow it as closely as you would when you’re at your workplace.

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