Telecommuting Tips – Part 2

Have fun

For the first couple of weeks, I was finding it hard to actually enjoy myself.  While working in an office, there are plenty of entertaining things going on.  You hear side conversations that interest you, you bump into colleagues that you enjoy, youtube links are dropped into chat, etc.  All of these things do spice up the work day.  Before I found my rhythm telecommuting, it felt almost like a prison in my home office.  I forgot how to have fun while working.  Sure, people would drop youtube links in chat that I would be tempted to click on, but I would refuse the temptation thinking it might reduce my productivity and my employer isn’t paying me to watch youtube all day.  While it’s true that my employer doesn’t want me watching streaming videos all day, small breaks of entertainment at appropriate times has turned out to be a good way to re-energize and reduce stress.

I feel that I now enjoy work again.  If something comes across my news-feed that I check periodically, I’m not afraid to pass it along to my co-workers.  Sometimes it even sparks interesting conversations about our own product(s).  Being miserable doesn’t mean you are being productive (which was my problem).  Ensure you take some time to enjoy working from home and don’t just lock yourself in a room with the lights off for 8 hours straight hacking away at a single piece of code (unless, that is, you enjoy that sort of thing).

Move (don’t sit all day)

I tend to usually start work around 6:30AM or so.  I usually end my day around 3:30-3:45 (and then I check on thing periodically throughout the night).  My lunch is usually what would be considered a working lunch as I step away just long enough to make lunch (usually either a quick sandwich or maybe leftovers from dinner the night before) and eat at my desk while I continue to work.  So that is a solid 8.5+ hours of working.  During my onboarding phase with my current employer, I often got head-down into some documentation or code and didn’t really resurface until the workday was over.  My office chair is pretty comfortable and I can spend quite a bit of time gaming in it.  However, 9 hours of sitting in a seat only up long enough to use the restroom real quick or to make a quick lunch began to cause my body to ache.  It has been important for me to find other areas that I can work and try to migrate between them when convenient.  If nothing else, the fresh view spices things up a bit and the moving about ensures that I don’t get stuck in a single position for too many consecutive hours.  I’m still working out a schedule and trying to balance this with boundaries for the kids, but things are getting better.

Be social

One big concern for telecommuters is that there isn’t enough communication.  I’ve heard concerns about the employer favoring employees at the office because they see them every day, so it’s easier to (micro)manage them or to physically see what they are working on.  Whereas remote employees can go quiet and you might wonder where they are or what they are doing (or if they are even being productive).  I am fortunate enough to work on a team who relies heavily on chat (jabber) for communication and there is not often more than 5-10 minutes without someone sending a message to the group chat.  This has created a healthy about of socializing (for me, at least) while still allowing me to focus on tasks that require attention.

This is certainly one concern about not having sufficient social interaction.  Another issue is that I’ve heard some remote employees end up feeling too cooped up and miss interacting with other individuals.  This is also addressed by a team that communicates well over group chat.  However, if you are not so lucky to be on a team that is leveraging instant messaging well, there are still options.  There are these neat things called CoWorking Spaces that allow you to work in the same office as someone else (who is likely telecommuting for a different company) and get the interpersonal interaction, but it’s a rented space that is only yours for a short stint.  You could, for example, use a CorWorking space for a couple of days a week to ensure you are getting your socialization needs filled, and then work from home for the remainder of the week.  This doesn’t work for me, as the whole point for me is to stay home, but for individuals who want to work for an employer who is out of state, but still get a bit of an ‘office’ feeling, this might be a good option.