Top 7 Tips on Teleworking

Teleworking is awesome…but there are tricks to the trade. Whether you are teleworking all the time or just 1-2 days a week, there are some common tips to being a great teleworker.

Here’s the top 7 tips on teleworking:

1. Provide updates – nobody knows what you are up to so you need to provide updates to the boss. Whether asked or not, sending a weekly update on what you are working on and have done is great. If you are teleworking only on a specific day, I’d encourage you to do a proactive morning (here’s what I’m working on) email & end of day email (here’s status update)

2. Answer the phone – If someone calls while you are teleworking and you don’t pick up, they get upset and think you are lazy. Same rules don’t apply at the office as when you don’t pick up the phone there, people assume you are busy at a meeting. So that means bringing the phone with you always….if you go out to lunch, go downstairs, etc.

3. Use all communication formats – Some people are phone people, some email…and some face-to-face. So if you are getting the run-around at work, try to use all formats. Get off email and make a call. Use instant message if that’s the best. And if face to face is the best – aska friend in the office to stop by someone else’s office for you.

4. Don’t let people know….that you are on the patio, that it is a beautiful day, that the dog just had a great walk, the cat is meowing while you are petting her, that you went kayaking at lunch…focus on work items and keep all background noises to the minimum.

5. Make the best use of your time in the office – If you telework frequently, you should rethink how you use your time in the office face-to-face. You should periodically go into the office. Think of this time as face-to-face time, build relationships, and more. While in office, spend less time cranking out emails or documents and more on those relationship building activities – stop by people’s offices, go to coffee/happy hour with folks, etc. This makes you more productive in your teleworking time.

6. Find Telework Buddies – For those that telework often, it’s important to find telework buddies. You don’t have the office cooler (or the coffe/lunch chatter) so you need some virtual chatter. Find some folks you can banter with on email or instant message so you have some daily dose of work bonding.

7. Save Projects for Teleworking – If you only telework one or two days a week, save specific work for telework. As stated above, in-person days are great for relationship building and day-to-day items. Use your telework time for long periods of uninterrupted work on bigger projects (great for writing documents, putting together plans, catching up on non-urgent email)

Do you telework? What are your top telework tips?

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16 Comments

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Profile Photo Bill Brantley

#7 – Use teleworking to work on projects that have tangible products. Further proof that you are productive at home and should continue teleworking.

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Profile Photo Nichole Henley

If possible, keep reasonable office hours when teleworking. Just because you can start at 5am and leave the office at 1pm doesn’t mean other work after 1pm will just have to wait. You still have to be a teamplayer- even if it is in a virtual world.

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Profile Photo Henry Brown

a gotcha: is make sure when you are talking to someone on the phone there are NOT distracting background noise (dogs barking, kids yelling/crying, daytime television noise, etc.)

In my case, as more and more video conferencing comes into play, I need to insure that I have changed out of my workout clothes and am at least somewhat presentable when on the web-cam.

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Profile Photo ChrisDu4

I find that I’m more productive when I make sure I shower and dress, even if I’m working from home all day. Keeps me reminded I’m actually WORKING and not fucking about.

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Profile Photo Scott Horvath

I don’t believe answering the phone at every waking moment is something that should be done. Do you do this at work now? Are you ALWAYS at your desk for every minute of the day? Don’t you go to the bathroom, walk around the office and have periodic chit-chat, go off to meetings for an hour or two hours at a time? You’re not always accessible in your own office…yet your manager doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. Why? Because it’s the assumption that if you’re in the office, you’re doing work…even if they can’t see you.

Why should teleworking be any different? There’s bathroom breaks, meetings (on the phone or remotely), etc. Chit-chatting IS different because you’re coworkers aren’t there at your home and chit-chatting in the office still allows the boss to grab you at a moments notice. But I don’t agree that you should take the phone everywhere you go. There needs to be some set of reasonable expectations.

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

I agree on answering the phone but that killed me. People definitely were upset when I didn’t answer the phone exactly when they called – and I could have been on a call, doing work, getting lunch, etc. Was a hard trick…

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Profile Photo Scott Horvath

That’s why there needs to be a better educational move for managers and supervisors around teleworking, how expectations are different from traditional “in office,” and the benefits and disadvantages of teleworking. Without that type of continuous education, perceptions of the teleworker will not change for a VERY long time.

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Profile Photo Nichole Henley

haha!! I always felt weird when working from home and had to take the phone with me to the bathroom… whether it was implied or not, I always felt guilty if I missed a phone call or let it ring too many times!!!

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

More Tips:

Get out of the house – there have been weeks where I never went out of the house for days! It’s okay (necessary?) to go to a coffee shop or another location to get a change of scenery if you work from home full-time.

Separate work from home – my biggest issue as a teleworker is knowing when to shut it down and go ‘home’…fortunately I my home office is downstairs and separate from the rest of the living area, so I can make a clean break. Lately, I have been trying to leave the laptop downstairs to honor family time. If I don’t, it feels like work beckons just a few feet away.

Great discussion forum around “Are you really working when not in the office? Prove It” that addresses some of the issues below around unrealistic expectations.

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Profile Photo Gina Robson

More tips: wake up at the usual time and follow the usual morning routine (right down to packing breakfast and lunch). Once ready for work, I would use the extra time that would have been spent commuting to putter around the house – laundry, housework, putting dinner in the slow cooker, etc. This minimized the temptation to be distracted once I actually started working and allowed me to start my day at the usual time.

Keeping the same hours at home as when I was in the office meant that I was still accessible when people expected and were used to being able to contact me.

If your telecommuting workspace allows, shut the office door or otherwise separate yourself from the “home” space. This tells family that you are working right now. It also helps minimize the noise as Henry mentioned.

And of course, being dressed for the office meant video conferences weren’t embarassing, and allowed for quick response on the (rare) occasion when I was asked to come into the office that day…

I also took the phone with me everywhere, but if a call came at an “inopportune” time, I simply told the caller I would have to call them back in a few minutes, which I did.

When I needed to “lock up” the laptop accessing certain databases remotely, I put an out of office message on my e-mail and let colleagues available through IM know. This way, if they needed to reach me, they knew not to do it online, added transparency to what I was doing at home (and even helped bolster an argument with IT to improve remote access).

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Profile Photo Kitty Wooley

This is great advice. Steve, the only thing I’d do differently – and this may be a function of the employer organization’s culture – is give more frequent updates to the boss. Everybody, I’m just amazed at how useful your posts are – thanks!

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Profile Photo Amelia Brunelle

I liked that this was sent out WITH the article about managing teleworkers. This is definitely a give and take. I agree, as a teleworker you need to answer your phone/be online and answer emails very promptly to build trust. If people can’t see you working/at the office, it’s easy to think you’re essentially on vacation watching bad daytime TV and lounging. Alternately, managers have to adjust their methods to communicate more and allocate work better with teleworkers. If someone has too much on their plate, you’re not going to see them in the office working long hours (or alternately if they have nothing, they’re not going to be obviously playing solitaire in the office). It’s also hard for co-workers to share burdens when they don’t see each other, so the manager needs to be the hub. It’s definitely an adjustment, but it’s a huge benefit for a lot of people. I really love to telework, as it let’s my ADD brain multitask to the highest extent possible (I can certainly put in a load of laundry between managing spreadsheets, or walk the dog while on a call… and I’m a much happier person for it).

I’m hoping we can get to a place where teleworking/flex location working is more normal, but until then, those who telework need to be great examples of attentive, hardworking employees who happen to be at home.

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Profile Photo Susan Chin

Good article and comments, but I don’t completely agree with #3. I would not ask someone else in the office to stop by and meet with someone for face time, unless it’s needed right away. If that person doesn’t telework that may cause resentment and they may feel like you’re passing off your work on them. I would follow up in person the next day myself.

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Profile Photo John Sim

Tip #5 deserves some more love. I absolutely agree that when frequent teleworkers come into the office, it’s more valuable to build in-person relationships at the office – e.g., have face-to-face time with colleague or go have lunch/coffee with a coworker. Otherwise, shutting yourself into your office all day long – it’s basically the same as teleworking from within your office.

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