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Productivity tips for new telecommuters

Robert Half International

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Mobile technology and wireless communication are making it easier for employees to work from virtually anywhere in the world today. In fact, in a Robert Half survey, 33 percent of executives said that remote work arrangements have increased at their companies over the past three years.

But despite the growing popularity of telecommuting, it's not for everybody, and it's not without its challenges. If you're new to working remotely, or you only do it from time to time, here are tips on remaining productive and overcoming some common hurdles, particularly if home base is, literally, your home.

Get off to a strong start each day.
Just because you have the freedom to spend the day in sweatpants and slippers, that doesn't mean you should. Rather than rolling out of bed and heading straight for the computer, give yourself some prompts that it's time to make the transition from personal to professional. Shower, groom and eat your breakfast.

In short, get ready for the day just as you would if you were going into the office. No, you don't need to sport a suit, but wearing the clothes you sleep or work out in doesn't exactly help the brain snap into -- or stay in -- work mode.

Force yourself to be disciplined.
One of the advantages of working from home is that you don't have to deal with constant interruptions. There's no boss down the hall or chatty co-worker in the next cube hounding you with countless questions. But potential distractions of a different sort abound: the TV in the next room, that pile of laundry waiting to be put away or those YouTube clips of pets riding skateboards.

Stay on track by creating a prioritized daily to-do list, establishing interim goals for big projects and then holding yourself accountable for meeting each self-imposed deadline. Taking scheduled breaks is a good habit to get into as well. Maintaining a clutter-free work area, minimizing multitasking and simply keeping your door closed also can help.

One final efficiency tip: Limit Web surfing, particularly on social media sites. They tend to be time traps. And because your activities are easily tracked by colleagues who may also be Facebook friends, logging on may give the impression that you're not really working.

Stick closely to a set schedule.
Some managers worry their employees slack off when they telecommute, but the opposite is often true. To prove they're putting in their time, many newbie telecommuters actually "overwork." And without the benefit of an established routine or cues from colleagues, they end up working through lunch or staying at their desk well past normal quitting time.

While it's understandable that you want to prove yourself, your efforts to impress will be counterproductive if you burn out. By stopping around the same time each day, you'll keep your job from bleeding into what's supposed to be your downtime.

In addition, as odd as it sounds, don't bring work home with you. At the end of the day, shut off your computer and move to a different room. Some people even find it beneficial to run a quick errand or go for a walk. This serves as a signal to leave "work" and return "home."

Finally, stay connected to the office. Be accessible during core business hours and provide frequent status updates. Look for opportunities to interact with your manager and fellow teammates in person. Make a point of being in the office when group activities, such as departmental lunch outings or training sessions, are scheduled. Maintaining good rapport with colleagues is critical whether you work from corporate headquarters or your spare bedroom.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/dont-let-this-happen-to-you or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.



Last Updated: 27/02/2012 - 3:00 PM


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