Could working from home—commonly referred to as telecommuting—actually make employees more productive? According to research, increased productivity depends on the task performed as well as the employee’s personal motivation, but telecommuting is something many businesses have found to increase their bottom line. I have also discovered this to be true for myself, both in my telecommuting “day job” from the past two years and while working on my own business.
Regardless of whether you work from home, I feel the lessons learned from this experience can apply to any job. That’s why I’m sharing five lessons from working at home that you can use to improve your productivity:
1. Maintaining work-life balance requires discipline.
It is already difficult for many people to leave work at the office, and even more so when work is never technically done in an office! Work-life balance is something each individual must decide for themselves.
For some, that may mean not checking email between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. while dealing with homework and dinner, but then catching up on a bit of work for a half hour before settling in for a Netflix marathon. For others, work-life balance may mean weekends and evenings are family-only, with no connection to work at all.
Regardless, the key to maintaining a healthy balance is deciding what works for you and your family and then having the discipline to make it happen each day. Quick tip: If you’re in a relationship and you tend to have trouble keeping away from work, talk with your partner about times when it is okay to do a quick email check and times when they are more bothered by this. Having their support may increase the likelihood you will stick with your boundaries.
2. Schedule your work at times when you’re more productive.
One benefit of many telecommuting positions is flexibility in deciding when the work gets done. Not a morning person? No problem! Make sure to schedule meetings and big projects later in the day, when you’re more alert.
Pay attention to times when you feel awake, times when meetings are difficult to follow, and times when you find yourself wishing the day were at an end. Once you key into your strengths with scheduling, you may be able to improve your productivity dramatically. And if you’re able to present some concrete examples to your supervisor, you may increase the likelihood they will support a nontraditional schedule.
3. There is no substitution for face time.
When considering a transition to working from home, ask whether there are opportunities to come in to the office for meetings.
A major drawback of telecommuting is the lack of face time with coworkers and management. According to the book The Best Place to Work, this can reduce creativity in your work and lead to feeling isolated or even overlooked when it comes time for performance reviews.
When considering a transition to working from home, ask whether there are opportunities to come in to the office for meetings. This can be a great way to break up the monotony of working in your pajamas while still giving you the flexibility in your schedule that is so desired from telecommuting. You may also find you enjoy time with coworkers much more when it’s focused and sporadic.
4. Work with people you trust.
Not only was I a telecommuter at my last job, I was also a supervisor for eight field-based employees. This required me to give my employees a wide berth while still expecting them to complete quality work on time. The only way this is accomplished is through working with colleagues you trust.
You can achieve this by communicating expectations very clearly (whether you are the employee or the manager), including when tasks are due and how information will be shared. You may also want to check in with others about their work schedules. It is horrible to think your coworker has left you hanging when, in reality, they were simply waiting to complete a task that evening rather than in the morning.
5. Morale is the ultimate motivator.
Although working from home can be a big morale booster for individuals, the greatest morale boosters come from managers and companies that value their employees and show it. Any company can do this, whether or not they are able to allow telecommuting.
So don’t underestimate the impact your words and actions have when you’re in a meeting, responding to an email, or even talking with friends about work. If morale is a problem at your job, discuss it with management and talk with coworkers about ways you can make the day more enjoyable.
Ultimately, telecommuting won’t keep you at a job if everything else about it is negative. However, a position that is fulfilling, at a company that shows it values your contributions, will likely keep you even if the pay is lower and the office options are few.
A huge part of being successful while working at home (or in any job) is knowing yourself. Know your character traits, your internal and external motivators, and be realistic about your personal circumstances. This will allow you to make choices in the beginning that set you up for success, and you’ll also be better able to recognize when things are heading south and it may be time to pivot.
- Allen, T.D., Golden, T.D., & Shockley, K.M. (2015). How Effective Is Telecommuting? Assessing the Status of Our Scientific Findings. Sage Journals. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/rbtfl/EnhOwEhELZ4aI/full
- Friedman, R. (2014). The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. New York, NY: Perigee.
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