How to successfully work from home

Time magazine recently ran an informative and instructional article about the “remote worker.”  Whether you are an employee working remotely (or wanting to) for a large business, or you are an independent contractor working remotely for a family-owned business, or whether you are a published writer building your author platform in your spare time, Time magazine’s suggestions here are worth making note of (and incorporating into your routine). More and more companies are embracing the notion of telecommuting; workers are happier and have the opportunity to be more productive if they work smarter, and not just harder.  After all, they’re gaining the time they might otherwise lose to a daily commute (say good-bye to rush hour traffic). They can save money on work clothes and day care and, let’s face it, it’s just plain “cooler” to be able to work from home.

But working from home can have its disadvantages and downsides, so the productive, savvy worker recognizes these and overcompensates for them.  From the article: “Some telecommuters do, in fact, turn into slackers, take advantage of their situations and… don’t form strong emotional bonds with co-workers (no chance for after work cocktails, obviously), and they don’t get the all-necessary ‘face time’ with senior management. Even so, there are ways to win over your boss and be a successful, wonderfully productive remote worker…”

Here are the top 5 tips from Time magazine’s article:

1. Get organized – demonstrate outstanding organization and attention to detail, along with the ability to prioritize and consistently meet goals while exhibiting an overall sense of professionalism.

2. Check in frequently – In the corporate world, if you aren’t seen or heard frequently, you are often not thought of for new opportunities.  Telecommuters can overcome this disadvantage by checking in on a consistent, scheduled basis. That way you stay “top of mind” and demonstrate your work ethic.  Email, use instant messaging, and don’t be afraid to use the telephone.

3. Push yourself to network –  Direct from Time’s article: “Just doing your job isn’t enough to be successful as a remote worker. You need to build your soft skills by networking in person and via social media with co-workers and other people in your industry. If possible, [attend] training programs and holiday parties, and participate in as many networking events and conferences as you can. Building strong relationships can be a challenge for a telecommuter, but it is often just as important as being a good worker.”

4. Take breaks and get fresh air – Without formal meetings and lunch breaks, it becomes important to devise your own productive schedule; and productivity can depend upon a sustainable pattern.  Mimic working at a office by starting work at a consistent time every day (8am works), taking a break or two, an hour for lunch, and stopping at a consistent time every evening.  If “work” were fun it would be called “play” so it’s important to train your body and mind to perform as if you were in an office.

5. Respond to emails quickly – Direct from Time’s article: “This is a simple tip — and an important one. Make replying to… e-mails a high priority. Get back to them promptly so that they trust you’re working, not sleeping or playing video games. And when you respond, be clear and concise. Cover all of your bases to avoid unnecessary back and forth.” If multiple e-mails are required to take care of an issue that could be covered in a 30-second conversation, pick up the phone. If it takes you 2 business days to respond to emails, there’s naturally going to be someone, somewhere, questioning your commitment.  And once confidence is lost, it’s hard to gain back, especially remotely…