Top 5 tips on how to work smarter while teleworking: How to make the most out of working from home

by Jacey Overton, Marketing Communications Manager, LifeSize

There are several reasons why some people have a love/hate relationship with teleworking.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user DDFic

On one hand, there’s the flexibility: You get to wake up at a reasonable hour and, for the most part, make up your own schedule for the day. There’s no need to commute, so you spend less time in the car. You also have fewer interruptions because there aren’t any co-workers stopping by to give you the play-by-play on last night’s episode of Dancing with the Stars.

On the other hand, there’s the isolation: When you’re not communicating face to face, it’s easy to lose that sense of connectedness to your colleagues. Time management can also become an issue as the normal regime of the 8 to 5 workday isn’t necessarily your standard. Additionally, physically joining your home and work lives together can bring an entirely new set of distractions:

“I’ll clean up the kid’s glitter and glue art project from last night, then get back to work.”

“I just have to see what the last gift is on Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things! I’ll get back to my project at the commercial break.”

Sound familiar?

Like it or not, telework is becoming more mainstream. In fact, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, aka the ‘telework bill’ is sitting on President Obama’s desk right now.

In order to create some balance in your workplace – wherever that may be – here are five tips to help you create some productive peace while teleworking:

Tip #1: Create your working environment

LifeSize Desktop at use in a home office

Just as your work office has a desk, lamp, phone, video conferencing system, etc.; your home office should too. PC-based desktop video systems like LifeSize Desktop allow you to connect literally anywhere. All you need is your laptop and a webcam.

So, even if it’s in a spare bedroom or the kitchen table, try to create a space that is comfortable yet conducive to, well, working. Open the blinds and let the daylight in. Put the dog outside. Throw on some relaxing music. De-clutter the space as much as possible (unless sitting in a pile of stuffed animals works for you.) Whatever you have to do to create a stress-free environment will improve your productivity.

Tip #2: Schedule. Schedule. Schedule.

Now that you have the flexibility to telework, use it to your advantage. Schedule recurring phone and video calls throughout the week so you can chart out the rest of your work time. You could also designate a specific time each day for video and audio calling. I have a friend who works from home and she consistently allocates her morning for e-mail and calls and the afternoons for projects.

Also, take advantage of being at home! When you hit a road block on the PowerPoint presentation, go for a walk around the block. Work in the garden for a few minutes while you wait for your next video call. The key here is to keep variety in your workday.

Tip # 3: Set mini goals throughout the day

The worst thing that can happen is you look up at the clock, it’s 7:00PM, and you don’t have a clue what you’ve accomplished.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re working on a short-term project or more of a set of individual tasks, give yourself a specific time to complete them.

For example:

“I will respond to these four emails, call Joe about the Hammer deal, and set up two client calls before lunchtime today.”

If you’re working on a longer-term project, give yourself milestone markers.

“I will finish writing page five of the white paper by 5:00PM.”

Tip # 4: Turn it off

That’s right. I’m talking about distractions. E-mail (personal AND work.) TV. Your Internet browser (unless you need it for the task at hand.) Turn off anything that could lead you down the rat hole of wasted hours.

After a few hours of focused work, you can go back and catch up. You will get more done in less time.

Tip # 5: Avoid feeling remote

Don’t let “out of sight, out of mind” become your excuse for isolation. Stay connected! Set up weekly coffee or lunch meetings with clients or colleagues or recurring brainstorming sessions with team members at your favorite restaurant.

But the beauty of staying connected doesn’t have to mean that you go out – this works for video, too! Have tea with your partner in London at 9:00AM and a snack with the San Francisco office at 6:00PM.

Wherever it is that you work, there will always be distractions, priority shifts and surprises. That’s life. But if you’re prepared and have the tools to combat those challenges, you will come out on top.

Even if the boss catches you on video in your pajamas.

For further reading, check out these working from home resources:

Home-Based Working Moms, an online community and professional association for moms working from home

U.S. Census Bureau information on working at home

Top 30 Tips for Staying Productive and Sane While Working from Home

Tips for Managing Teleworkers

One Response to “Top 5 tips on how to work smarter while teleworking: How to make the most out of working from home”

  1. Sarah

    I filmed a great talk on teleworking last year at SXSW called, “Showering Optional: Tips for Remote Workers.” Speaker acted as moderator in room full of remote workers. Subjects covered included: How to manage work hours, how to stay motivated, importance of manager that understands working remotely, work/life balance, and great tools to use (i.e. DropBox).

    Highly recommend it for all remote workers! Check it out here:


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