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Working from Home? Tips for Telecommuters

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

I'm the biggest flexible work schedule proponent you'll ever meet. That's partly because I commute four hours a day, four days a week. I treasure my telecommute time. I love the fact that I can start working from my home office with my dog warming my feet, instead of schlepping from my house to a train, to a bus, to another train, to the office.

But some companies don't share my passion for telecommuting.

Yahoo! recently announced that -- starting in June -- employees with flexible work arrangements are to begin reporting to the office each day, according to The New York Times. Perhaps my public-transit-colored view is biased, but this seems like the WORST. IDEA. EVER. But that's Marissa Mayer's problem, not mine.

While studies show that most employees want career flexibility, working from home isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Earlier this month, Mashable identified four common pitfalls of telecommuting -- lack of focus, blurred boundaries, overworking, and isolation -- and offered suggestions for combating those problems. If your firm permits or is considering flexible work arrangements, it's definitely worth checking out.

After trying both the office thing and the full-time telecommuter scene, I've learned that it's important to take proactive steps to become a better worker at home. In addition to the Mashable advice, here are three tips I recommend for telecommuters:

  1. Wear clothes. Rolling out of bed and over to a laptop is not the best way to start the day. Don't underestimate the benefits of your usual morning routine, whether it involves coffee and a trip to the gym, or just getting dressed after a quick shower. You don't have to wear a suit, but change out of your sweats/pajamas. Tip: Force yourself to wear something presentable by scheduling a video conference.
  2. Establish a separate workspace. Create a designated workspace in your home. If you're working from your bed or your sofa when you get a call from an angry client, that bad energy is going to linger in your personal space. When bad things happen -- and they will -- it's helpful to be able to walk away at the end of the day. Tip: If you don't have space for a home office, get a rolling desk that you can use as a mobile work station at home. Roll it out of the way when you're not working.
  3. Check in. It's easy to work longer hours at home while receiving less recognition for your effort. Check in with your collaborators when you begin your workday so they know that you're available. Do the same thing when you're signing off/putting your computer away. If you work until 2 a.m., people will at least know. Tip: The 2 a.m. email generally occurs during a crisis. Everyone's working long hours; don't send a look-at-me-I-worked-until 2 am-message. That's annoying. Send a useful "status update."

Do you have more tips for telecommuters? Share them with us on Facebook or Google+ .

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