Photo by Domenico Loia

I’ve been telecommuting for over 15 years and with the threat of the COVID19, many of you may be joining me! Here are my tips on how to be a successful telecommuting employee, from years of practice.

1. Get up at least an hour before your work day starts.

If your workday starts at 8:00 am, be up by 7:00 am. The human body needs time to wake up, and if you are serious about being a valued employee that telecommutes, you don’t just roll out of bed. As a digital marketing consultant, I start my workdays at 7:30 am and I get up at 5:30 to take some time for myself, make my tea, get my daughter to school and give the dogs a quick walk.

2. Be sure that your kitchen is clean

Be sure to get your kitchen and workspace in order before you start your day. I find it hard to concentrate knowing that there are dishes in the sink. When you work in an office, the dishes in the sink don’t bother you, out of sight out of mind, when you are at home, those lingering chores can really hurt creativity and productivity. I usually do the dishes right after I take a shower in the morning and start my day with an empty sink.

3. Take a shower and get ready

It’s so easy to sit down and start working and completely forget that you are still in your PJs. I am not going to lie, I do sometimes work in my PJ’s, however my goal each day is to get up and look presentable, so I am always video call ready. I do dress comfy, but I try to always put on a little makeup and earrings. It’s important that you feel put together during your workday, even if you don’t see anyone in person.

4. Do not start your day with your email

This is something I learned when I was working in an office. Starting your day with checking your email leads to disruption to your plan for the day. It’s so easy to get off-track and spend hours reading emails that are not at the top of your to-do list. I set an Alexa alarm for 10 am and 2 pm to spend 20-30 minutes checking, replying and most importantly cleaning out my work email.

5. Use Alexa

Alexa is my best friend during my workday. I use her to keep me on track and get the most out of my day. When I make my plan for the day, I roughly know how long a task or project should take. I set verbal alarms to keep me on pace. “Alexa, remind me in one hour I should be done with this blog.” I also use Alexa to read me top news stories and weather, so I don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of news sites. I’ve started out just wanting to check the weather and an hour later I find myself watching Jennifer Gardner make Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken.

6. Use video conferencing to feel connected

I personally use Zoom for all of my work calls. I find that seeing a human face once or twice a day does wonders for my mental health. Working from home can be isolating and we sometimes just need to make eye contact. Plus the sharing screens feature is so helpful and so much more comfortable than having someone look over your shoulder at your screen.

7. Take a real lunch break

I take a 1-hour lunch break every day. I usually make a salad and sit outside to eat when the weather is nice, while I catch up on personal emails and calls. About once a week, I go out to lunch with a friend or have a business lunch. I try very hard to keep lunches at one hour in length, so I don’t lose the momentum of the day. Also, I try to avoid sweets and too many carbs during the day, because the sugar crash would tempt me to take a little nap or curl up on the couch and binge NetFlix.

8. Keep your schedule consistent

Not that I do a perfect job of this, but I really try to work from 7:30 to 5:00 pm with an hour break and a couple of mini breaks. I feel good about my day when I know I gave work a true 8 hours, and I know that employers need to see that you are taking your work and schedule very seriously to avoid the stigma that telecommuters are just sitting in PJ’s watching the Kardashians.

9. Take a mental break and get outside

At least once a day I take a little siesta. I try to get outside and see the sky. Usually, it’s a simple 15-minute walk with my dogs or sitting on the patio having a snack. I also use this time to put down my phone. I tend to walk without headphones and listen to the sounds of the trees.

10. Instead of TV, listen to music or an audiobook

I have to admit, my go-to background noise is episodes of The Office that I have seen probably over 100 times each. It’s my happy place. However, I stay away from new or unseen shows or movies that would steal my interest. I listen to business-related books for an hour or two in the morning and it helps me feel motivated for the day. I also try to end my day with some tunes as I transition from work mode to mommy mode.

11. Take 30 minutes to wrap up your day and prep for tomorrow.

Transitioning your day is key. You need to wrap it up and have a hard stop. I like to use Alexa to tell me when I have 30 minutes left in my workday. “Alexa, remind me to wrap this up at 4:30 pm.”

12. Be sure to take weekends off

Often employers make telecommuting seem like it is some sort of gift and you have to work all weekend to prove yourself. YOU DON’T! Telecommuting has proven to be more productive than an office setting in most industries. However, it’s all up to you and how serious you take your position. I ask myself several times a day if my employer was standing behind me, would they be proud of my work, and the answer for me is always yes. In most telecommuting situations, you will still work a standard workday or a set schedule. Be sure to not let employers take advantage of you and end up working 80 hour weeks, with no overtime pay. Your time and skills are valuable. The days of working employees to the bone and being disrespectful of their work-life balance are over. Employers who continue to treat employees like this will suffer the consequences of losing talented workers. If your employer has agreed to telecommuting and you practice these tips, your telecommuting should be an advantage to your career and a valuable skill set you can add to your resume.

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