Each year, it seems more businesses are allowing workers to telecommute at least part of the time. Aside from security, which is always an issue, one of the top concerns for employers as they consider allowing employees to work from home is productivity.
Will workers, when left to their own devices, spend the day watching talk shows, or will they be more productive, away from the distractions of an office environment?
A study [PDF] from researchers at the University of Iowa and the University of Texas found that telecommuters actually work more hours than their office-bound counterparts. The Hard Truth About Telecommuting determined that 24 percent of respondents now work from home at least part of the time, and those employees log an average of five to seven more hours per week than those who report to an office each week.
All of this brings a new set of issues to light. When a worker heads to an office every day, it’s easier to set boundaries. The work day ends at five p.m. (or six or seven), and doesn’t begin until the next morning at nine. Someone working at home may receive a call or e-mail as late as eight o’clock, and feel pressured to deal with it. Over time, this constant attention to work can take a toll on the family environment, as well as the worker’s health and stress levels.
To successfully telecommute, here are a few survival tips:
- Set aside an office. As nice as it is to work while kicked back in a recliner, there is a psychology attached to going to a separate place to work. Set up a desk and printer in a room of your house, and declare that room your office from eight a.m. to five p.m., Monday through Friday. Sit down at that desk at eight a.m. and leave at five p.m., with breaks in-between, just as you would a regular office.
- Honor your work hours. If your boss expects you to work from eight to five each day, those are your hours. If you’re on a call at four forty-five, no one will expect you to hang up mid-call when five o’clock comes, but begin wrapping things up as the day comes to a close. Let your family know you’re theirs after the workday ends, and don’t take non-emergency calls or respond to non-urgent e-mails after those hours. Devote nights and weekends to your personal life.
- Interact with others. When you share an office with others, you get your daily fill of social interaction. When you work from home, you’ll often find yourself feeling isolated, and restless for human contact. Consider scheduling a lunch with co-workers or clients at least a couple of times a week. Or join with other telecommuters for a shared lunch break. Even setting your work aside and having lunch at a local sandwich shop can do wonders.
While telecommuting does have its challenges, it’s a great deal if you can make it work. By following these tips, you’ll be able to do your job efficiently, while reclaiming your home life once the workday ends.