Ten Tips for Potential Telecommuters
The best and most frequently cited advice gathered from nearly 2000 tech workers
If you're a tech professional, you have probably looked into the opportunities and advantages of working from home. Keep in mind, however, that a major work-style change can mean a major change in lifestyle, too, and you might not get what you bargained for.
Taken from a survey of 1,953 technology professionals at tech portal techies.com, here are 10 things you should know before you move your workplace home.
1. "Before telecommuting, make sure you have the necessary motivation to go to work every day and the drive to get your tasks done. Also, you know the saying 'out of sight, out of mind'; you need to take the initiative to stay in touch with co-workers, bosses and customers. Email is not enough. You need to call them, preferably with a work-related topic."– male systems administrator from the South
2. "Have a designated area in the home that can be isolated [close the door] and used only as your workplace."– female systems administrator from the Midwest
3. Hundreds of techies advise: "Be sure to get high-speed internet access." Also, many emphasize the need for a second phone line to enable better separation of work and personal issues. Both of these technical enhancements make for better time management and less stress, techies say.
4. Establish a solid relationship with co-workers, managers, and clients before telecommuting. "One of the major disadvantages to telecommuting is the reduced time spent with peers, which ultimately equates to reduced job/experience growth."– female project manager from the Midwest
5. "Be careful telecommuting in an environment that doesn't permit all to telecommute. Hostility may grow between those that can and those that can't." – male IT manager from the Midwest
6. "Get up in the morning just like you are going into the office. Make sure to get dressed. You don't have to wear office attire but don't run around in the same thing you slept in. This helps you with the work motivation. Make sure your home office does not have a television and you can't see one from where you are sitting. Keep to some sort of schedule that includes large chunks of work time. If you work for 20 minutes and break for 10, then your concentration and subsequently your work will suffer."– male IT manager from the Midwest
7. "You should be: technical enough to take care of your own equipment; disciplined enough to make yourself work; controlling enough to tell others that your are working and cannot do X; [and] strong enough in your workplace to not be dismissed lightly just because you are not seen."– male software developer from the Midwest
8. "Be prepared to have a lot more technical difficulties – especially problems with Internet/network access. Use your work-provided home PC for WORK ONLY!"– male help desk analyst from the East Coast
9. Trying to work with the kids around can be very difficult. "If you can time-shift, work while they sleep and while they are in school."– male tech salesperson from the Midwest
10. Communication with your manager is critical, many techies note. It's important to routinely keep in touch with your supervisor for a couple of reasons: to let him or her know what you're working on, and to stay abreast of company/department affairs. One techie recommends that, "For any work you have done, communicate that you have done [said work] to those whom it concerns and keep an archive of the communication."
But what a lot of folks might not realize is that managers who don't expect routine communication or have poor communication themselves are a liability to your telecommute. "The only real problems I've encountered with telecommuting are with managers that do not know how to manage remote employees," says a male systems support specialist from the East Coast. Techies point out that a manager must be just as prepared to handle telecommuters as telecommuters are ready to efficiently work from home.
Nick Doty is editorial director of Techies.com, an online career and training center for technology professionals based in Minneapolis.