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Telecommuting Tips from Proficient Telecommuters

May 05, 2017
By Paula Bernier
Executive Editor, TMC

The topic of today’s story is whether it’s possible for telecommuters to achieve balance between work and their personal lives. That’s a topic with which I am intimately familiar. And my answer to this question about work-life balance is a resounding yes – that is, if you’re a personality that doesn’t get easily distracted.


I’ve been working from home for most of my career. And although I’ve moved several times over the course of that career, I always seem to end up back at home sweet home – wherever that may be.

After going to newspaper and magazine offices for about seven years early in my career, I received an exciting job offer. It was shortly after the internet became a mass market phenomenon, and tech writers were in high demand.

But the company was in New York. And I was in Chicago. However, most of the reporters for this company worked remotely. So I set up a home office in the second bedroom of my tiny bungalow in the Chicago suburbs.

It was great time. And I happily worked a lot. But when my new husband came home exhausted from a day at work, I was ready to go out and do something. But he sometimes needed some R&R. So I needed to either go out for a bit on my own, or give him a little time to relax and then suggest an activity.

Getting away from the house is important for telecommuters to achieve a good work-life balance, as Phone.com notes in a recent blog. The blog suggests to “make sure that you don’t stay tethered to home, especially for reasons related to work. It’s good to get out and do things that you enjoy, and getting out every now and then may also help to replace some of the more social aspects of working in an office or store.”

A few years later I got a job offer from a company in another state. They relocated us so I could be at headquarters. But I was used to working at home by that point, so I negotiated working at home one day a week as part of the deal.

It worked out so well that the company instituted a telecommuting policy. And a few years later, as the company moved to allow more of its employees to work from home in an effort to lower its real estate costs, I was again telecommuting full time.

However, by this time I had a young daughter, so rather than putting my desk in a common area or in the guest room, I set it up next to my bed. Bad idea. This meant that work – and my messy desk and work phone – were within view and earshot as I was trying to relax at night and as I was just waking up in the morning.

As the Phone.com (News - Alert) blog explains, one of the challenges of achieving work-life balance is “the lack of separate between your home life and your work life.” That’s exactly what I was suffering from in this case.

Eventually we decided to fix that by turning our guest bedroom into my home office. It was right next to my daughter’s room, so I had to adjust by trying not to schedule calls during her sleeping hours. But it made for a much more balanced personal life.

My current job is yet another full-time telecommuting gig. This time I’m working from my home in Arizona for a company out of Connecticut.

After telecommuting for years, I think I have this thing down.

I have always been disciplined in working from home, so I’m not distracted by household tasks or the TV. If I need to get up and stretch, I may load the dishwasher as part of that mini break, but I never get pulled away from my work mindset during the day and quickly return to my desk.

The Phone.com blog suggests that telecommuters make a schedule. Having a list of tasks has always been an important part of my work regimen. But I would suggest if you’re the kind of person who really needs to map out a detailed plan to stay on task while working from home, perhaps you’re a better candidate for office work.

In my case, my general schedule is kind of built in. I wake up with my husband and daughter, hang out with them a few minutes as they have coffee. And as they’re getting ready for work and school, I take my breakfast into my office and start work. I also eat lunch at my desk.

But after a few hours of work, I’m ready to stretch and get some natural sunlight. So on most days I leave the home office to either take a short hike or (if temperatures are in the 90s, like they were this week) workout at the gym, which is just across the street in my condo complex. It’s good for me, and it’s good for the company, because we both get a happier and healthier person out of the deal.

I still check my email at the gym, but at least it’s a change of scenery. And sometimes I even get a chance to chat face to face with a real, live person!




Edited by Maurice Nagle


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