What is Telecommuting and How to Work from Home Effectively

What Is Telecommuting? – A How To Guide

Written by Ben Robinson Position
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What is telecommuting, and more importantly, how can one use it to maximize workplace productivity? Read today’s article to find out!

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In this article:

  1. What is Telecommuting?
  2. How Does Telecommuting Increase Productivity?
  3. When Is It Appropriate to Telecommute?
  4. How to Make Working From Home Work

What is Telecommuting, Why Telecommute, and How to Work from Home Effectively

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is an arrangement where employers let employees work outside the office. Because most telecommuters prefer to work from home, telecommuting is often referred to as a “work-from-home” arrangement, though telecommuters can work anywhere outside the office.

Instead of physically going to the office, telecommuting employees “go to the office” using electronic communication systems and devices. That way, they stay in touch with their colleagues who are in the office or who are also telecommuting

Telecommuting employees, depending on their arrangements, may work remotely most, or all, of the time. Some are required to report physically to the office every once in a while, while others telecommute completely.

How Does Telecommuting Increase Productivity?

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Working remotely for increased productivity

One of the primary reasons more and more employers are allowing their employees to telecommute is increased productivity. It’s also one of the reasons why many employees choose to go full-time with online freelancing work.

In an office, the single biggest work distractions keeping people from hunkering down and hyper-focusing on work are colleagues. They stop at other people’s desks to do, among other things:

  • Chitchat
  • Ask for work favors
  • Invite others for lunch or coffee breaks

By telecommuting from home, a coffee shop, or other remote work areas, workers can avoid such distractions. Hence, they can concentrate more on what they need to do.

When people are able to focus more on what they’re doing, they can:

  • Finish more things in the same amount of time.
  • Get the same things done within a shorter period of time.
  • Do more things in a shorter period of time.

Telecommuting also frees people from lengthy commutes to allow for more hours for work or other restorative activities like exercise, meditation, and sleep. These can result in greater work productivity too.

And with increased productivity comes higher income, too. A report from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics on telecommuting in the U.S. showed that in 2017, telecommuters earned $4,000 more annually on average than those who don’t.

When Is It Appropriate to Telecommute?

If telecommuting is such a great productivity booster, then why don’t most, or all, workers telecommute? It’s because telecommuting isn’t appropriate for all types of work or businesses.

The employee’s type of job is a key determinant of whether telecommuting is appropriate. After all, the main point of telecommuting is to help employees become optimally productive and the company more profitable.

If the job can be performed away from the office satisfactorily, telecommuting can be a viable option. But, if not being in the office will hinder people from doing their jobs well, it won’t be a good fit.

How to Make Working From Home Work

If you’re one of the lucky few who get to work from home, here are some tips to help you become more productive at your job.

Step 1: Start Working Early

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Starting early for a good working day.

The point of telecommuting is to free up more of a worker’s time so he or she can devote more time for productive endeavors. Telecommuting, especially working from home, shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to wake up late and work without a schedule.

As such, one of the best ways to make telecommuting work is to start work early. After all, commuting or traveling to and from work is no longer needed, hence more productive time available.

Another reason for working early when working from home is to avoid procrastination. Without the pressure of having to clock in at the office by a certain time, people can become complacent and develop the habit of procrastinating.

When procrastination becomes a habit, people start working much later in the morning compared to when in the office. When that happens, telecommuting stops being a productivity booster and becomes a productivity threat instead.

Step 2: Adopt the Same Morning Routine as When Working in an Office

Complacency and procrastination are two of the biggest risks most newbie telecommuters face. Without the beneficial time pressure of a Bundy clock, it’s easier to lose motivation and procrastinate.

A good way to minimize these risks is to adopt the same morning routine for working in the office. This means continuing to do all the things associated with physically reporting to the office such as:

  • Waking up with an alarm
  • Having coffee and breakfast
  • Bathing and getting dressed for work

By doing things like these, a person can continue priming up his or her psyche for work outside the office.

Step 3: Schedule Your Work Day Like You’re Working in an Office

A Bundy clock isn’t the only compelling factor that pushes people to work on time. For many, specific work schedules or routines in the office also provide useful psychological structures for work focus and motivation.

Telecommuting provides much-needed freedom and leeway that makes many workers more productive. But for others, it takes away the psychological structures they rely on for work.

A great way to counteract this is by scheduling one’s telecommuting workdays no differently from working in the office. By scheduling specific tasks at certain times during the day just like at the office, one can replicate similar psychological structures for telecommuting focus, motivation, and productivity.

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Step 4: Dedicate a Room or Space in the House for Work

A dedicated workspace, whether at home or outside, provides key productivity benefits including:

  • Mental Association and Work Habit Triggers: Working in the same place on the same furniture helps build mental associations that develop and trigger productive work habits.
  • Conducive Work Environment: With a dedicated workspace, it’s much easier to settle in and buckle down to work. Otherwise, a person will likely end up working in places around the house that aren’t conducive to focused work.
  • Can Reduce or Eliminate Distractions Caused by Others: This is important, especially for deep-focus types of work like writing, programming, and virtual bookkeeping. In a dedicated workspace, there’s an implicit or invisible “Do not disturb” sign that tells other household members to leave a telecommuter alone while working.
  • Privacy: A typical challenge for both employers and employees in a telecommuting set-up is how to protect sensitive data. While it may seem like the easiest solution is for the employee to physically protect their laptop, information security site SearchSecurity, actually recommends the opposite. According to them, it’s better to keep sensitive data in hardened database servers inside the corporate firewall instead. In this set-up, remote access can only be allowed by VPN. However, if there really is a need to keep sensitive data on your laptop, SearchSecurity recommends using an encryption tool like SafeBoot.

Step 5: Get Out of the House

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Telecommuting from different locations for higher energy

While working from home can be a great productivity booster, some people find it more difficult to telecommute there. Fortunately, telecommuting isn’t limited to working from home only.

Many telecommuters prefer to work in coffee shops, public lounges, and co-working spaces. Places like these provide a good balance of privacy and the energy of being around people in an office.

Step 6: Log out From Online Accounts

Three of the biggest work distractions both in and out of the office are social media, email, and direct-messaging apps.

In his bestselling personal productivity book Deep Focus, Cal Newport recommends going offline or logging out of accounts while working. He suggests checking one’s email and work-related direct-messaging apps only twice during the workday: lunch and late afternoon.

Those who are anxious about missing out on important communications by going offline for most of the day shouldn’t be.

More likely than not, messages sent via email and direct-messaging apps aren’t really urgent enough to disrupt work for. And for really urgent things like family and work emergencies, people will call directly using their phone.

Step 7: Work With Your Chrono Type

Different people reach optimal work productivity during different times of the day – or night. It’s because of their chronotypes.

What is chronotype? Chronotype refers to how a person is wired to achieve optimal productivity at certain times of the day. In particular, one’s circadian rhythm or natural sleep cycle determines when he or she is most energetic and productive.

There are four chronotypes, which are named after animals. These are:

  • Bears
  • Lions
  • Wolves
  • Dolphins

Depending on the nature of the telecommuters’ jobs, they may choose to schedule work around their chronotypes’ optimal working hours. Doing so allows them to enjoy the benefit of working when they’re at their mental and physical peak during the day.

Step 8: Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique refers to a work strategy of working in 30-minute cycles:

  • A person works for 25 minutes and takes a compulsory 5-minute break afterward, regardless of how he or she feels.
  • On every 4th work cycle, that person extends the break to 10 minutes.

This can significantly extend a person’s peak mental performance because the compulsory breaks help delay the onset of mental fatigue. In turn, this can help increase a person’s optimal working productivity time.

What is telecommuting? It’s one of the best ways to promote optimal work-life balance and maximize workplace productivity that could bring good results for both employees and the company.

Is telecommuting an appropriate workplace strategy in your line of work or business? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below!

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