A reader asks, “After a long period of unemployment, I was offered a telecommute job. I’ve never worked from home before! Any suggestions?”
Sure! I’ve been working remotely for ages and it’s definitely a love-hate thing.
Here are 3 tips to help, whether you’re working remotely for a corporation or starting your own business.
(1) Be firm about boundaries.
Many people — neighbors, friends, telemarketers — assume you’re available 24/7 because you’re home. If you’re over 45, they think you’re retired.
Decide how you’ll deal with calls during your work hours.
If you recognize the number, and you want to answer, say, “I’m in the middle of something. Can you call me back?”
If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer.
Set up client calls on a line that’s not your home number. You can use freeconferencecall.com, zoom.us or another service. That way you can record the calls so the client doesn’t have to take notes (and you have a record of what was said).
Say a firm “no” when friends ask if you’ll sign for a package. In my early days, a neighbor asked if I’d take care of the furniture delivery people … which could mean an hour or more away from my desk.
Practice telling the UPS driver, “I cannot accept packages for anyone except myself and my family.” Even better: rent a mail drop and send all your packages there. Clients may not appreciate your saying, “I have to stop and sign for a package” when they’re in the middle of a sensitive discussion.
No matter how politely you decline, some friends will never understand. And they won’t hear you the first, second or third time.
Setting boundaries with family? Yes, but that’s beyond my scope here.
And inevitably something will happen. I was right in the middle of a webinar one time when a substitute dog walker arrived to take my dog. Someone on the call responded critically: “The dog walker should have a key.” She did, but she was on vacation, and the substitute disregarded the instructions he’d been given.
(2) Consider joining a coworking space.
If your budget permits, a coworking space makes a better workspace than a coffee shop. You can put on your earphones and work steadily. In most spaces, you’ll be left alone if you look busy. My coworking space, IndyHall, has a special quiet area for people who don’t want to be disturbed. It’s like the Quiet Car: no phones or conversations. I prefer the background noise, with headphones. Ask your accountant if it’s tax-deductible.
(3) Schedule around your own productivity pattern.
People who work best in long spurts need to clear their calendars. They might schedule client consultations all together in one day, go to the gym after hours, hire a dog-walker and arrange for reminders so they won’t miss important meetings (and lunch).
Those who work in short bursts (which is my pattern) will be tempted by breaks and interruptions. I get more done when I break up my day with dog walks, lunch meetings and exercise classes.
Remember that productivity includes paying others to do personal chores as well as business activities. Sure the grocery store will be empty on Tuesday morning — but should you be there? These days you can order groceries online. Pay your dog-walker to take Fido and Fluffy to the vet. Organizations like TaskRabbit will help you get chores done while you work.
Tim Ferriss (author of of The Four Hour Workweek) asks: “What is the one thing you can do that would make you feel the day was productive and successful?” Ask the question early, he says, so you’ll have time to get it done.
Readers: What are your work-at-home challenges and solutions? Please post a comment.