According to Global Workplace Analytics, by 2014 over 3.7 million Americans had joined the telecommuting workforce. At the time, that amounted to around 3% of the working population, but it represented a 102% increase since 2005. In addition to offering employees increased flexibility and removing the headaches of commuting, remote work can save employers five-figures per employee per year, meaning there’s no reason to expect the prevalence of telecommuting to decrease anytime soon.
Despite providing a host of benefits, remote work also presents unique challenges, so here are a handful of best practices to help maximize efficiency when working from home.
1. Place a Premium on Communication
As you start a remote work arrangement – whether transitioning from on-site to off-site with the same employer or beginning a new project in a freelance capacity – establish clear communication protocols to which all parties agree. Depending on the situation, this may include daily morning check-ins, end-of-day roundups, or weekly video calls. Such standing commitments are essential, but always try to leave time for spontaneous conversations as well.
2. Utilize the Best Tools Available
Luckily, as technology continues to improve, communication is becoming both easier and more fruitful. Video conferencing, online chat-rooms, project management software, and collaborative document editors all enrich the process of working remotely and help closely mirror an on-site office experience. Always be on the lookout for new products and services that can make you seem available and engaged, regardless of whether you are an employer or employee. Just remember to invest in high-quality hardware – headsets, printers/scanners, webcams – in order to guarantee that you get the most out of your software.
In addition to offering employees increased flexibility and removing the headaches of commuting, remote work can save employers five-figures per employee per year
3. Optimize Your Environment
In order to really benefit from good technology, it’s critical you create an environment conducive to productivity. A home office need not be large, but it should be defined, as maintaining a physically and psychologically distinct workspace goes a long way toward forcing you into a professional mindset. This also helps establish clear boundaries for your family or roommates, signaling that even though you are home, you are fully occupied by your work. It doesn’t hurt to locate a suitable backup location – a coffee shop, a public library, a co-working space – both for days when unforeseen challenges (WiFi outages, unusual bustle from cohabitants) arise and for days when you simply feel like a change of pace.
4. Monitor Energy, Not Time
Even with the best tools and the perfect environment, efficiency ultimately boils down to one thing: you. With a finite number of hours in the day, it’s natural to be concerned with time management, but redirecting your attention to energy management can be even more effective. Once you figure out what invigorates you – consider experimenting with short walks or other exercise, catnaps, meditation, or healthy snacks (no sweets!) – incorporate it into a daily schedule and stick to it, even if your energy level feels fine. Adhering to an energy-boosting regimen will prevent you from being blindsided by bouts of fatigue and guarantee that you function at your best day in and day out.
5. Find the Right Remote Work
Perhaps most importantly of all, don’t let the allure of remote work lower your standards during a job search. If anything, being personally invested in your work is even more valuable for remote positions than on-site ones, as the importance of self-motivation and self-discipline is magnified once you step outside an office environment. Loving what you do is the easiest way to avoid burnout, especially if you’re working fifty, sixty, seventy, hours per week. The novelty and flexibility of working from home can compensate for dull work for a time, but in the long run, finding a position that you enjoy and that you’re good at is the best way to ensure success.
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