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Smarter telecommuting, part II

Working efficiently from home

Most of you reading this Insights series have worked from home some of the time. Unless you have responsibility for setting things up the first time, gaining access to your company’s proprietary systems is usually easy. –A greater challenge is exercising the political and interpersonal skills required to maintain your job security and professional reputation. This is especially important for those who seldom spend time at their company’s home office. To protect yourself, be sure to stay in close contact with your manager(s) and colleagues at work. Carefully track how you are allocating your work time in case you ever need to justify it.


Set up your home office to ensure efficiency

You’ll be a lot happier and more productive if you pre-plan a work-friendly home office designed for efficiency and comfort.

A short checklist of requirements–

  • Create a separate, distraction-free office space

Avoid pulling up any available chair in front of a makeshift desk. You’ll be spending many hours in front of your (preferably large screen) computer, so make sure your desk chair is ergonomically designed to fit your body. Does it have a flexible back? Is the height correct? Is your desk large enough and at the correct height?

What about the office area itself?  Ideally, it’s a separate room with a door. Regardless, make sure it’s free of distractions from family, home phone, TV, pets, a too-busy view of neighborhood traffic, etc. –If there’s no way to eliminate ambient noise, buy a noise-cancelling headset.

  • Set boundaries with family and friends 

You need to set clear boundaries with family and friends before beginning to work from home. If you don’t do this, mutual frustration, even resentment, can build over time. –For example, you can no longer afford to drop things to take care of a friend’s kids; nor can you leave your home office to join friends for lunch.

While there’s no avoiding urgent matters, it helps to post your office hours on the office door along with a ‘stoplight’ with red for ‘don’t disturb,’ and green for ‘available.’  One big benefit of telecommuting– You have some freedom to create your own schedule, depending on how closely you need to coordinate with others in the home office in real time. Regardless, make sure you establish a routine with regular hours.

  • Make sure you have everything you need

You’ll need a considerable inventory of office items for your home office, paperless or not. Do you have permission to bring these things home from the home office–or will you need to buy them on your own and request reimbursement?

Install wall art, white boards or anything else that gives you a sense of comfort and helps you stay focused on work. If you’re lucky enough to have a separate bedroom for your office, you can store supplies is the closet. –Don’t forget to include a plant or two. Believe it or not, recent Scandinavian research confirms that doing so provides measurable health benefits.

  • Take care of yourself

Some people get so involved in their work that they neglect to get up and stretch or even stop for lunch. You aren’t a robot, but a human being who needs to step away from what you’re doing to maintain efficiency and well-being.  If you have a tendency to forget such things, set break times with an alarm in Outlook or another calendar. If, on the other hand, you’re easily distracted, avoid mindlessly going to the refrigerator throughout the day to avoid gaining weight.

Getting regular exercise is also requisite to your efficiency and health. Just as important is getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night ensures steady energy and productivity. Finally, some enjoy taking their work to a local coffee house. If you do, make sure to take all important steps to ensure your online security.

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