Whether it’s a paralyzing snow storm that has you trading in your cubicle for a make-shift desk at the kitchen table for a day, or your job requires you to telecommute from home on a more frequent basis, making sure your productivity remains at its prime when you are outside the office walls can be a challenge. There are many key advantages to working from home, and productivity could actually skyrocket if you utilize the correct tools and maintain an ambitious and keen focus on your goals and objectives.
Below are some tips Jason Rush outlined in an Interactive Pulse blog post on how to optimize your working from home situation, whether it is permanent or will last just as long as it takes for the snow plows to come through.
Many offices provide networked laptops for employees to take home. The benefit of this is that with a simple internet connection, you can access everything on the network and all the software you use at work is already loaded onto your hard drive.
If you are not fortunate enough to have a networked laptop you can always remote desktop in through your company’s VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is a service that allows you to login to your office network from anywhere there is internet access. Once setup all you have to do is click the icon, type your username and password, and BAM! your office computer is anywhere you want it to be. There are some services such as LogMeIn that allow you to do this through a web portal which can make installation and management easier depending on your company needs.
Another necessity to work from home is being able to check your work email. Many offices have access to webmail where you log in through a web portal and enter your username and password in order to check your email. This is the single most important item to have access to when working from home.
If you have a Smartphone (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) you can access your email as well as word editors and a slew of apps to help get you through an at home work day. There are apps for popular services such as SalesForce, FedEx, WebEx Meeting, and many others. Although it may be slower than using a real computer, it can get you through in a pinch or when you are on the road.
Another must have is Software as a Service. You probably use these services without even realizing it while at the office. For example, services such as SalesForce and Google Docs can be accessed through any internet enabled computer as can file sharing services such as Dropbox. I like to use Dropbox rather than a thumb drive to send myself files I may need while snowed in. You cannot lose files in the Cloud but you can certainly drop/misplace a teeny tiny thumb drive.
My Pros and Cons of Telecommuting
Working from home can allow you to choose the hours you work (assuming you have no deadlines or meetings that day) rather than being forced to work during office hours. Maybe you work better after 11AM and your day is 11-7 rather than 9-5. You decide.
Assuming you are disciplined you can accomplish drastically more working from home. There are no co-workers to socialize with and no boss looking over your shoulder. Less people are stopping by to ask you questions and you can avoid getting caught up in water-cooler banter, letting you focus on the work at hand.
Save time commuting
This results in increased productivity. If you are saving an hour by not having to drive anywhere that is an extra hour of work you can get accomplished or you can call it quits an hour early.
Rather than sitting at work watching the snow fall all day wondering how you are going to get home, it is always less stressful and more productive to pack up and work from home. You can then head home and work without the worry. Another bonus is that while you wait for your presentation to upload or for your conference call to start you can do some little things around the house. Throw in a load of laundry or get dinner started now and it’s one less thing you will have to do later.
Possibly the best thing about working from home regularly is that you can deduct almost all of your expenses. For those of you lucky enough to be self-employed you can write off everything from paper clips to the square footage of your office. If you are an employee you can ask your company to pay for your internet, telephone, and office supplies.
A one day break from the office can be exactly what you need but sustained dissociation can cause psychological problems like depression. Be careful about the amount of time you spend away from in-person social interaction.
Again, one day away from the office should not require any new purchases but if you plan on frequently working from home you may find that you need to purchase a fax machine, photocopier, and other office supplies.
This is my biggest problem working from home. While it is nice to not have the interruptions of the office, there is another slew of distractions at home. For example, I couldn’t start work the other day until I cleaned my room and desk. Once I did that I had a bunch of laundry to wash and by that time I was ready for lunch. I didn’t start work until 2PM because I kept finding other little things that needed doing. If you have children, a spouse, or roommate at home with you, they can also be the source of distraction.
This goes along with distractions. The TV may be calling your name and your bed might be too comfortable to get out of but if you want to work from home you have to be disciplined to be able to avoid the distractions and accomplish your work.