6 Tips for Trouble-Free Telecommuting

Are you or any of your designer friends working from home one or several days a week? If you don’t now, there’s a good chance you will soon. Eighty-four percent of industry practitioners we surveyed for The Creative Team of the Future project said they expect the number of creative professionals who work remotely to increase in the next three to five years.

New technologies and communication tools are making it easier for today’s employees and freelancers to work outside traditional office walls. This may be particularly true for those in the interactive design industry, as they often can perform their jobs from anywhere—be it a home office, café or creative hive.

As appealing as this work arrangement may seem, it’s not for everyone—and certainly not without its challenges. If you’re new to telecommuting or are considering pursuing a remote work arrangement, heed the following six telecommuting tips:

telecommuting tips, working from home, work-life balance1. Start strong.

First and foremost, recognize that it’s important to be flexible and accommodating, especially during your first months of telecommuting. If few other people in your department or company have the same work arrangement as you, you could face extra scrutiny from your boss and coworkers. So if you miss a call, return it quickly. Make a point to offer frequent project updates and be easily reachable. And when in doubt, overcommunicate.

2. Be disciplined.

Just because you have the freedom to spend the day in sweats and slippers doesn’t mean you should. Rather than rolling out of bed and heading straight to your laptop in your PJs, establish a morning routine that prompts your brain to transition from personal to professional mode. You might put on “real” clothes, for example, and work in a room without a TV. As you go through your day, take planned—not indiscriminate—breaks. This will help you maintain a regular schedule and make it easier for your colleagues to know when you’re available.

3. Guard against technical difficulties.

Tech troubles aren’t a built-in excuse for missing deadlines. “Sorry I didn’t get the final files to you in time, but the free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop wasn’t working today!” won’t go over very well.

Make sure you have secure and reliable phone and Internet connections, and all the necessary hardware and software. Depending on your company’s policies, you may need to provide some or all of these resources yourself. Be diligent about getting detailed network access instructions and passwords before you set up your home office. (Remember: Your go-to IT guy is no longer within shouting distance.)

4. Stay on track.

Create a prioritized to-do list each day and hold yourself accountable for meeting deadlines. Maintain a well-organized work area and minimize domestic multitasking (the laundry pile can wait). Moreover, limit non-work web surfing, especially on social media sites. In addition to being time traps, these activities can be easily monitored. Too many likes, tweets or pins could give others the impression you’re taking advantage of your situation.

5. Beware of burnout.

Some bosses worry that employees slack when they telecommute, but the opposite is often true. To prove they’re putting in their time, many newbie telecommuters tend to overwork, skipping lunch or staying at their desk well past quitting time. While it’s understandable that you want to earn trust and prove yourself, your efforts to impress will be counterproductive if you burn out. By setting boundaries and stopping around the same time each day, you’ll keep your job from bleeding into what’s supposed to be your downtime.

6. Get some facetime.

Finally, look for opportunities to interact with your team in person. Whenever possible, make the effort to be in the office for important group activities, including key brainstorming sessions, training events or celebrations. If you work from a significant distance, try to visit periodically even if it’s not required. The bottom line is that maintaining solid rapport with your coworkers is vital whether you work in a cubicle or your spare bedroom.

Image by Susy Morris

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