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the reality of the telecommute day September 25, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Adventures in Telecommuting.
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Photo used under a Creative Commons license; by Richard Winchell.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license; by Richard Winchell.

For reasons that are unimportant to you, the readers of this humble blog, the inimitable That Guy took a telecommute day. Telecommuting really is the holy grail these days, what with gas prices being high and the ubiquitous meetings office workers face every day. Here’s what really happens:

First of all, remember that your actual commute consists of going to your computer and sitting down, so you’ve got time saved that you didn’t spend driving to work. You can avoid showering if you want, but it does help you wake up. You may find yourself wondering what to do, or coming in to work early (as it were), but remember… you’re at home. Why not take that extra time to do some work around the house? Run the dishwasher. Do a little laundry. Take out the trash. Go out for a leisurely breakfast. Whatever. Just be back home and logged in by ten minutes before your scheduled start time.

Oh, and get dressed. There’s plenty of appeal to working in your underpants (or less), but by putting on clothes that you actually don’t mind being seen in — a t-shirt and a pair of comfortable jeans or khakis — you will subconsciously force yourself to be a little more professional. Think of your telecommute days as casual Fridays when you get dressed.

Just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you can surround yourself with whatever media you want. Unless your job requires it, leave the TV and radio off. If you listen to streaming music at work, you can put on music at home, but with all the other distractions of your house — pets, telemarketing phone calls, noise from outside, the pile of dishes in the sink that you didn’t bother to clean before you started work — you will want to minimize media distractions as much as possible.

Keep your house phone and cell phone handy. If you have hands-free, use it. If you have a wired internet connection, use it.

Once you get into the swing o fthings, you’ll probably find that you’re getting a lot of work done. Why, you ask? Simple.

No distractions.

No one’s coming up to your desk just to chat. Or to ask you to do something. Or to get your help (especially if you’re Mr. Fix-It). Or, best of all, to complain. By working from home, you avoid people complaining around you, and you don’t have to listen to inane conversations or deal with shouting matches because your office doesn’t have an adequate paging system.

Plus, you actually can remain more organized. All your tasks will come to you most likely via e-mail, with the occasional phone call if IMs and e-mails get too confusing. You can prioritize any way you want.

Remember, as a telecommuter, you still get a lunch break. Take it. You may find yourself working through it anyway, so you might want to just get up and take a walk around the block. Get out of the house for a few minutes. Stretch. Go out to eat if you want, but remember, you’re still in the middle of a working day. Be back within an hour.

Closing out for the day is pretty easy — just e-mail or IM everyone who needs to know that you’re leaving and tell them that you’re off for the day. Then put the computer away and start making dinner. You’ve saved 30-90 minutes of afternoon commute time; might as well put it to good use.

Now, telecommuting isn’t for everyone. If you can’t discipline yourself to work, you’re in trouble. Plus, if you tend to be the kind of person who gets lost in Google Reader, StumbleUpon, or WikiPedia, there’s no boss walking up behind you to see what you’re doing. You have to know when to stop. You also can’t work on your personal site or blog, or your freelance gig, and you certainly can’t spend the entire day looking at salacious pictures of your friends on Facebook or submitting your resume to every opening on Monster. Save that for your breaks.

It can get kind of boring if you never leave the house; you may find yourself spending the money you saved on gas going out to the nearest Bar and Grill for a sandwich and some fries (all right, all right, cottage cheese). But it also gives you the opportunity to kick back with some leftovers from the night before and watch an episode of “Californication” instead of having to sit in the break room talking to people you don’t really like.

One more thing: got pets? You’ll have to take the dog out or pet the cat, but keep in mind that this counts as your “get up and walk around and talk to people” break time. You can’t use your pets as an excuse, and if you need to lock yourself in your home office to get away from them, so be it.

If you can get your boss to let you have a telecommute day, and everything you need to do for your job can be done from a home computer, give it a shot. Just remember that it may not actually work out for you. But if it does — and if you can discipline yourself to do the work instead of goof off — it’s great.

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Comments»

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