Lots of folks telecommute, or work from home. When you’re in outside sales, or self employed, telecommuting can be a gift from the heavens. Not circling back to the office to file paperwork or talk to your boss saves a lot of time! How do you make it work? A fast internet hookup, Skype, a smart phone, and a big dose of self-discipline will do the trick.
When telecommuters save all that driving and parking time, the boss expects even more from you! And yet, some people look at telecommuting as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. How do I know this? My office is in my house. And many people wink and smile at me, with a knowing look in their eyes. “So, can you meet for coffee Tuesday at 10:30?” Only if it’s a client meeting – never social. Would they say that if I worked in an office?
There are perks to telecommuting, and I’m not going to say you should never give in to them. If you need to file some paperwork and you see a Starbucks nearby, go. Grab your laptop or tablet, run in, grab a coffee, and do your work. (You’d never think twice about pouring a cup of coffee at the office, would you?) But if you’re likely to be distracted by the fireplace and a friendly neighbor, skip going in, and work from the parking lot. (The wi-fi works great from there!) You need to be getting more done with all that time you’re saving by not commuting.
One thing I never thought of before I started working from my home office is the isolation from the buzz of the office. I never noticed the number of times someone would drop by my desk, or update me at the coffee machine. Being out of the office creates a totally different social dynamic, and for some people that’s very unpleasant. It’s definitely something to think about.
People ask me all the time, “How do you avoid wasting time when you work from home?” There is a temptation to walk the dog on a sunny day, or or ‘take a break’ and catch up on my Mr. Robot addiction. But I constantly remind myself that I only have this privilege because I don’t abuse it. If my first meeting isn’t until 9:15, I’m still at my desk by 8:30. The email still needs clearing, and the phone calls still need returning. I’ve just saved the travel time. Here in Buffalo, NY, it’s nice to avoid driving more than necessary in the snowy months, and as long as I’m effective from home, that works. I like being able to have my dog at my feet while I type a proposal. And I love that I only have to visit my regular office once or twice per week. But if my performance slipped, I would be back at the office in a blink of an eye.
The reality is, some of us can’t handle the temptation. If you find yourself running errands between appointments, or putting together a pie recipe in your kitchen while you’re on the phone with a client at 3pm, you’re probably not cut out for this. If you’re typing reports in front of Jerry Springer, you’re probably not cut out for this. Don’t get dressed unless you have an appointment? You may have let your professionalism slide a little too far. The same rules apply to us telecommuters as apply to everyone else. Who we are when no one is watching is likely who we really are. So be terrific!