Telecommuting and working remotely can be a huge work advantage or major disruption in business growth. It takes focus, discipline and organization to work remotely. Focus, not only to prevent distractions but to counteract them. Discipline, to work unmonitored and complete tasks in a timely fashion. Organization to manage all of the moving parts that come with working in multiple locations and/or with multiple people, including clients.
When telecommuting, find a system and tools that work for you as individual and part of a team. Always treat your business as a business. When you are at work… do the work. Get organized, minimize distractions and stay on task.
1. Just because you can work without pants doesn't mean you should. As tempting as it may be to email your boss while wearing your boxers, what you wear affects how you feel. Even if you telecommute, it's important to change into "real world clothes" to help your brain and body transition into a "work mindset." At the very least, shower, do your makeup/hair and look presentable enough you could face the world - it makes a difference. Kendra Wright , @freehighfives
2. Mirror real world work environments. When telecommuting, it's important to mirror habits and boundaries in traditional office environments. Show up to work at the same time everyday, keep your cell phone on silent, and create a schedule you can realistically stick to. Half the success in telecommuting comes from discipline you create yourself. Kendra Wright , @freehighfives
3. Keep a heavy workload to minimize distractions. If you find yourself with too much time to squander, you'll get distracted. Initially free time will feel glorious but once you've grown tired of stalking your ex on Facebook or lurking Reddit, you're going to wonder why your job feels like a drag. The same way people go to live on tropical islands get bored - work gets boring if you're not actually working. Kendra Wright , @freehighfives
4. Get out of bed as if you're going to commute. Whether I'm headed to the office or to the dining table to work, I follow the same routine: Get up at 6 a.m., go on my morning walk, shower and get dressed. This means that on days I don't have to drive to the office, I can start my day earlier and get a jumpstart on my emails and to-do list. Alison Strickland , @AlisonTCG
5. Create a quiet zone. If conference calls are part of your work regimen, make sure you have a quiet place to take them. I learned this the hard way when I was hosting a call from home and my dog had a barking attack. I had to suddenly put myself on mute while I was talking to avoid subjecting the other participants to the loud yapping. I was horrified and my colleagues were confused and concerned. (I know this because I could hear them saying, "What happened? Is Alison OK?" Alison Strickland , @AlisonTCG
6. Keep track of time. Most remote working programs are designed to help employees achieve better work/life balance - so make sure you're reaping the rewards. While it's easy to work well into the night when you're in the comfort of your own home, avoid it. I'm a firm believer in sticking to an eight-to-five (or in my case, 7:30ish-to-4:30ish) schedule. That means if I start my day 20 minutes ahead of schedule (see tip 1), I give myself the option to wrap up 20 minutes early at the end of the day. Alison Strickland , @AlisonTCG
7. I keep a daily to-do list on a CRM and hold myself accountable for crossing off each daily task. When I get personal calls from friends or family, I make it clear upon answering that I am busy working and can't stay on the phone. I generally don't allow mid-day visits unless they can lead to some form of business discussion or outcome. Jenifer Kramer, @jenerositymktg
8. Get a Spotify account and find the artists you can work well with when they're playing in the background. Anything you don't like or aren't used to will probably distract you. Kenny Katzgrau, @broadstreetads
9. We use Slack to share information in various feeds (by department, topic, etc), so anyone can jump in and read whenever. It's made it so much easier to communicate as a team and not get buried in email. Also, the chat feature is less disruptive than Gchat and makes for easy check-ins. Integrated with Slack is Appear.in, a super simple video tool that lets me video conference in whenever I need to. Some days, it feels like I haven't even left. Emily Keller-Logan, @em_keller_logan
10. I spend 15 minutes each evening creating a scheduled on my Google Calendar for the next day. I block out time for each of my clients and include time for breaks, workouts and snacks, so everything is accounted for. I even schedule in an hour of "email time" at night, so that I'm not constantly checking my phone. Molly Antos, @Molly_Antos
11. Online task management system, Podio, (along with Skype chat and conference calls) is at the heart of our company’s efforts to ensure each team member has the benefit of all conversation and project status, much like a virtual water cooler. Katie, @swaygroup
12. Make sure that employees step away from their computers and home offices to breathe some fresh air. Sometimes it's incredibly difficult to build in a walk to your day when your commute is merely from your bed to your desk chair, a mere few feet apart. Each employee recently received a Fitbit and the team monitors each other's progress, encouraging one another to go for a walk at lunch or take that step class after work. Employees have become competitive and engage more with each other throughout the course of the day in the Sway Group Fitbit community. Katie, @swaygroup
13. Use technology specific to your needs to stay connected. Taskworld is a task management platform that provides performance feedback, helps keep managers and team members in-the-loop while working with remote employees. The mobile app allows business professionals who work remotely to access projects and provide performance metrics on office tasks-all easily accessible from their smartphone or tablet. With the ability to view personal and employee to-do lists, Fred Mouawad, @FMouawad
14. I have office space that's separate from the rest of the house and spend 100% of my day there (with the exception of breaks). My space has a door when required. I use a stand-up desk arrangement so that I have more energy , I have regular check-ins with my team members (at least once day informally, and once a week formally) and I take a break for lunch. I also wrote an article for my blog about gaining two hours back to my day by telecommuting here. Sue Brady, @SueBrady
Peter Metz with SkipTheDrive (a telecommuting job site) suggested the following articles for additional information on how to stay productive, while telecommuting. Procrastination and the Daily Telecommute and 3 reasons working in coffee shops can boost your productivity and Alison Strickland , @AlisonTCG has tips for working remotely here.
Do you telecommute? How do you stay productive? What keeps you focused and engaged in your work? Share it with us!
Micro Business Therapist™, A.Michelle Blakeley, is a small business professional with over two decades of experience in sustainable, holistic and progressive business practices who has successfully guided new and seasoned small business owners through the daily challenges of operating a small business with timely and transformative small business advice. She is featured in Forbes.com and the Financial Post as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter, contributor for the San Francisco Examiner and Women On Business; curator of the online magazine, Micro Business Therapy™ and was the host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurs on BlogTalkRadio.com.