Tips for Telecommuting

We find ourselves navigating new ground this week in different ways. For instance, the commute to work has transformed into a telecommute.

Characteristics of an effective office employee hold true for an effective telecommuter: organization, time management, prioritization, self-motivation, strong communication skills, self-discipline and more.

However, without the normal routine, the office, the familiar desk, community with coworkers, it can be difficult to stay on task. The most important aspects of telecommuting are reliable, working internet as well as phone service and a computer or tablet. A webcam can also help. Let’s explore tips beyond those important tools.

Establish a routine

We all have work routines for days in the office. In the absence of the workplace, we must create it ourselves. Establish your own new routine, a flex schedule if needed, that works for you… and your supervisor. While it isn’t as important to stick with the foundational 8-5 workday, it is important to have an understanding with your direct supervisor regarding a flex schedule.

Responsibilities have changed. We are caring for our children and family members at different times than usual, cooking at home more than usual and experiencing other changes. Those alterations affect our day differently. Now, you may have to find different hours to work to accommodate everything.

The time of day you work isn’t as important as completing the work that needs to be done. You and your supervisor should come to an understanding on deadlines, working hours, flex time, and establish a schedule that works and is agreeable to your supervisor.

Communicate

Effective communication is key. Consistently checking email, having the phone close by, and answering new phone numbers that you may have screened in the past all take on more importance.

Not only is information changing by the minute, but now there are more hurdles to communicating. You can’t just pop into the office next door (or in some cases, project your voice from your desk). If you want to stay updated and keep others updated, you have to make the effort to send that email or make that call.

Within that communication, be open and honest. Manage expectations. Discuss with your supervisor what can actually be accomplished from home. Do what you can but discuss what you can’t. Also, keep up your more casual communication with coworkers. Text jokes, share articles you like, keep regular meetings. All of that helps recreate normalcy.

Seek out and use resources

We have more ways to share information than ever. In addition to email, phone and text, there are Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and many others. Figure out what works for you, your coworkers and your supervisor. Use them. Schedule meetings. Stay connected.

Use The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed for information on trends in higher education. If you need to brush up on skills, try some of the outstanding material on LinkedIn Learning.

Don’t forget to look at TWU’s IT solutions for working remotely. Seek out your own resources as well. You know your department and your job the best. Find out what works for you.

Dedicated space

Find a dedicated space for work or make one if needed. This is even more important with the house being more full than usual. With everyone at home, it can be difficult to just sit on the couch and pop open the laptop.

A dedicated, private space, no matter how small, will feel like your new office. Not all of us have our own office at work. Here’s your chance to create yours at home.

Make it comfortable, but suitable for work. If you can work on the couch or a recliner, make sure it’s there. If you can’t, bring in a sturdy, upright chair from the kitchen. Head out to the garage to find a camp chair if that helps.

Build a spot where you won’t be distracted by laundry, kids, TV or whatever may pop up. If a show in the background helps you concentrate, have a TV nearby. Do what works for you. It’s your office now.

Stay healthy and practice self-care

Listen to yourself and your body. Don’t overwork out of a sense of owing the office because you aren’t there. Schedule breaks to keep yourself working at a healthy pace.

Continue the actions that enrich your life. Socialize with friends and coworkers alike. Get out and move (while practicing social distancing). Go for a run, ride a bike, find space in your home to workout. Do what energizes you.

Cut yourself some slack. We’re all trying to understand what is the new normal. This is a big transition everyone is trying to make. Supervisors understand there will be unforeseen challenges. Sudden changes take time to feel normal. Give yourself that time. Know that it’s okay if telecommuting doesn’t quite feel just right yet.

Don’t forget little things

A phone stand will get the phone out of your hands. A power strip will increase the number of electrical outlets you can use. A plant or a picture can relax you. These are all priorities in our offices at work, and they should continue to be at home as well.

Willpower

The will not to wash the dishes, snack all day, Netflix or whatever your vice may be is important. Do what you need to do in order to encourage your own will power. If you need to put on your work clothes to stay on task, do it. If you need to turn off the soft lighting of a lamp and turn on bright overhead lighting, do it. Whatever you need to stay on task, figure it out and exercise the will power to keep working.

These tips should help us all keep everything moving at wo--… at home. For more tips, check out LinkedIn’s suggestions or reach out to your supervisor for support.

Page last updated 3:42 PM, March 19, 2020