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Successful Telework Practices

Teleworking is more than just working from home. It takes self-discipline, self-motivation and effective time management skills. The following are some tips for a successful telework practice:

Setting Boundaries

Establish a work space

Identify an appropriate workspace in your home. You may not need an entire room – any space that's quiet and free from distractions (including the television) is adequate. If your home is not suitable for telework due to lack of space, distractions, or the unavailability of high-speed Internet access, consider alternate locations such as a telework center.

Home office setup tips

Often when planning work spaces, employees don’t consider how to best setup their home office. The home office should be set up in an area in your home just for work. It can be anywhere in your home, but must duplicate, in some way, your office at work, including computer, desk and work station. Ideally, it will be a dedicated space with a door so you participate in conference calls without bothering your housemates or worry about interruptions during critical work meetings.

Make sure your desk and computer are set at a proper work height. You will know if you desk is at the correct height if when you set up straight your forearms are parallel to the ground and your wrist is not bent up or down when type or use a mouse. Your monitor should line up so if you look straight head when sitting, your eyes are at a height of 25% below the screen.

Get the best office chair you can afford. Bad chairs can possibly injure you over prolonged use. Arms rests are preferable, but not required.

Define your schedule

Your schedule should be clearly defined in your employer's telework agreement. Employees will need to agree to follow this schedule. Having set hours, designated breaks and routine times for checking in with the office will help you meet others' expectations.

Managing Your Work

Create a routine

Without a daily commute to the office, teleworkers may wish to create a new morning ritual to help prepare for their workday at home. This routine could be as simple as a morning walk, listening to music or the radio, or a morning exercise program.

Ending the workday with a ritual is equally important, because it allows you to mentally "leave work." An end of day routine could be as simple as shutting your office door or picking up your kids from daycare.

Developing a telework system can be an effective way to organize your off-site work. Here are a few examples of things you can include to help make your teleworking program a success:

Teleworking challenges

Telework can create significant organizational changes. Like any new change, barriers or roadblocks car appear and have to be overcome. Sometimes, these barriers can prevent employees from participating in a telework program. Barriers can be personal, operational or technical.

Develop of list of potential challenges and review them with your supervisor. Once identified they are easier to address and overcome.

Make a daily "to do" list

Plan your work assignments before teleworking. Prepare to transport or electronically transfer any potential materials you may be unable to access from an off-site location. Create a list of goals and review the list at the end of the day to assess your progress.

Stick to deadlines

Treat deadlines exactly as you would if you were working in the office. Whenever possible, submit your assignments early, either electronically, by mail or by messenger. For your own job security, always keep a paper trail to prove when, how and to whom you submitted your assignments.

Communicating Effectively

Maintain open communication with your office

Continual communication will reassure your manager and coworkers that you don't have to be in the office to be contributing to the work. Keep your supervisor in the loop on project status, progress and especially any concerns that may threaten a deadline. Check in with the receptionist and others, on a daily basis. If you can't be seen then above all, be accessible.

If you have an office phone, you will need voice mail and the ability to check your messages continually throughout the day. Also, if your office uses some system of instant messaging, be available online just as you would in the office. Your continual communication with the office reassures others that you are completing your valuable work. Your continued communication will help to cultivate the trust required for a successful telework program.

See and be seen at work functions

For the sake of interoffice rapport and job security, make every attempt to attend office gatherings and group meetings. Do not allow telework to make you appear uninvolved, detached or invisible to work colleagues or management.

Manage interruptions

Teleworking is a fairly modern concept that family and neighbors may misunderstand as, "not really working." Hold a family meeting and develop a list of mutually agreed upon interruptions that are allowed. That said, be flexible. Sometimes doing an errand will give your work a needed break and help you focus when you return.

Maintaining and increasing productivity

Employees need to establish a baseline for productivity. Once established, managers and teleworkers can compare work results against this baseline when evaluating a teleworker’s progress.