Don’t Phone It In: Five Tips to Make Telecommuting Work for Your Career


“I’m starting a new job, and it looks like telecommuting will be an option for me after I log a few months in the office. Working from home sounds like fun, but I know I’m going to be tempted to slack off. How can I get myself in gear?” – Julian from St. Louis, MO


You’re not the only one with telecommuting on your mind!

Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer recently made headlines when she axed the company’s telecommuting program in a move to foster more collaboration and communication between colleagues. The decision has sparked a national conversation around the benefits – and challenges – of telework.

According to the latest statistics from the Telework Research Network, 3.15 million people consider home to be their primary place of work, with an additional 16 million employees working at least one day per month from home. Some companies have reported productivity increases of 35-45 percent in employees who telecommute.

  • Make clear delineations between work time and personal time. When you don’t have to arrive at and leave from a physical office, it can be tempting to let traditional work hours bleed into the mornings and evenings. Set a schedule to let your colleagues know the hours they can — and can’t —  expect to reach you by phone or email.
  • Honor that schedule. Once you set that schedule, stick to it! Your employer expects your productivity level to match or exceed that of employees working in the office –  something that’s hard to do if you’re taking multiple television breaks or running errands during work hours. If you have to divert your attention from work tasks, schedule the same kinds of breaks you’d have in the office – a lunch hour and one or two breaks during the day – and complete these tasks then.
  • Don’t work in your pajamas. While it might be tempting to roll out of bed and jump onto the computer, start your day strong by taking a shower, changing clothes and eating breakfast. Taking these steps will put you in the right mindset to start your day strong.
  • Minimize distractions. If you have the real estate, establish an office space — preferably in a room with a door — to use during work hours. Ask any family members or roommates who are home during the day to respect your work schedule and keep interruptions to a minimum.
  • Create — and report out on — a to-do list. One of the caveats of many telecommuting arrangements is that the individual must be able to demonstrate the work or progress they’ve made off-site. Demonstrate your accountability by setting a to-do list each day and coordinating with your boss to provide daily or weekly updates on what you’re accomplishing.

Telecommuting can be a great work benefit if you can manage it appropriately. I invite readers to share their other tips for working successfully from home in our comments section below.