The ideal teleworker is well organized, can work independently and requires minimal supervision. Successful teleworkers have a high degree of job skill and knowledge, and strong time management skills. Teleworkers like working at home or away from the office for at least part of the week and don't mind working alone. Teleworking is not ideal or desirable for every employee.
If you want to be successful as a teleworker, the single most important thing you can do is to take it upon yourself to make sure your supervisor is comfortable with the arrangement.
You can help establish a trusting telework arrangement by communicating what you'll be working on when you'll be teleworking and by providing feedback on what you accomplished when working at home. This is a simple, yet effective way for building trust with your supervisor. Many managers quickly find they know more about what their teleworkers are doing than their office counterparts.
In addition to building trust with your supervisor, here are some additional tips for becoming an effective teleworker:
- Other than not being in the office, coworkers, your manager, and business contacts outside the agency should not detect a difference in your work and work relations that would indicate you are not in the office.
- Forward your office desk phone to your mobile phone number.
- If you cannot forward you office phone to a phone you have at home, be sure check your voicemail at least once an hour (or even more frequently) to make sure you do not miss an important message.
- Respond to voicemail and email messages promptly.
- There is no need to change your voicemail greeting stating you are working from home. You will be answering calls on your mobile phone or checking desk phone voicemail frequently and responding as you would if you were in the office.
- Likewise, there is no need to set up an out-of-office email message stating you are out of the office and working from home. You will be responding to email as if you were in the office, so no out-of-office message is needed.
- Start your workday similarly to how you would if you were going to the office. Sure you can wake up a little later because you do not have to travel to the office, but give yourself time to start your day before you start working. Try to keep your normal morning routine the same.
- Dress for work. By all means wear something casual, but the clothes you wear will help you get into “work mode.” Sitting around in pajamas all day is not sending your brain the message that it is time to work.
- Keep regular work hours. If you normally start work at 8 a.m. then start your work from home at the same time. Take breaks as you would at the office. Take short breaks from staring at the computer and get up and walk around. Take your lunch break.
- Work on the “honey do” list after your work hours. When you mix work and chores one or both will suffer. When that happens either your supervisor, your spouse or both will be unhappy with you.
- Find a comfortable, quiet space in your home to work. If you do not have a separate office in your home, try the dining room table or someplace with room to work and away from kids and the television.
- Kids at home that need attention or help with homework assignments can complicate telework. Keep your time with the kids and at work separate, do not try to do both at the same time. Take turns being with the kids with your spouse. If your kids can be left alone with something to do for a short time, set them up with games or homework and do your work at the same time.
- Plan in advance what you'll be working on, don't "wing it."
- Prepare for technology glitches by having work you can do without the Internet or even your computer.
- Make sure you have everything with you that you need including phone numbers, reference material and office supplies (paper, printer cartridges, etc.)
- Avoid calling the office to ask others to look things up for you
- Set ground rules with other household members about when and why you can be interrupted when you are working
- Avoid overworking and burn out — shut down at the end of the day. Separating your work time from your personal time will help your mental health and you will be more productive.
Proper office ergonomics — including correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture — can help you and your joints stay comfortable while you work. Your chair may be the most important item when working from home or the office. Be sure the chair supports your lower back. Your knees and thighs should fit comfortably under the desk with enough clearance so your feet can be flat on the floor or a footrest. See more tips below.
- Your head should be aligned, not stretching your neck.
- Your eyes should be looking straight ahead. This is helpful on video conference calls as well to align your eyes with the camera. If you have to tilt your head down to look at your laptop, then you may need a device to lift your laptop.
- Sit as far from the screen as possible.
- Shoulders should be in a relaxed position.
- Your keyboard should be at elbow height.
- Wrists should be straight when typing. Your fingers should not be elevated or lower than your wrist.
- Your chair should support the curve in your lower back. Use a lower back support pillow to help with this.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.