Telecommuting: How and Why to Work Remotely

by Brian on September 19, 2011 in Location Independence,Online Business

Let’s face it. Having to get up and go to the same office at the same time every day sucks.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve been working remotely 100% office free for the past 30 days and I have to say that removing your obligation to go to an office every day is the single highest impact thing you can do to maximize your freedom.

You don’t have to be self-employed either. I aspire to eventually support myself through a business I own and operate virtually, but currently I still make the majority of my income as a W2 employee.

In case you aren’t already convinced that working in an office is a relic of the past, I have a number of problems with being tied to an office that you might resonate with.

First of all, that office doesn’t move. I’m stuck in whatever city that office is stuck in. Want to take a week trip someplace? If you’re tied to an office you have to justify your absence and put in the required forms in advance to take time off. If you telecommute, you just bring your equipment with you, work during the necessary hours, and you can be anywhere you want.

Secondly, nap time. Yes, nap time. Studies abound that show a 20 minute power nap in the middle of the day works wonders to boost your energy and productivity. Most offices don’t have any problems with you taking 20 minutes for a smoke or a coffee, but goodness help you if you’re found sleeping on the job–not to mention it feels awkward to be seen lying down.

Perhaps more damning, there’s mounting evidence that working in an office actually makes you less productive. Many people say that they are the most productive early in the mornings before everyone gets to the office or in the evenings after the office has cleared out–that’s right, when no one is around and conspicuously not during the middle of the day when they are being “supervised” and interrupted with “urgent” requests for copies of e-mails.

But what is telecommuting actually like? Can you still get everything you need to do done without being in the office? Can you telecommute to any job?

If you work in manual labor you are probably out of luck for telecommuting, but it’s possible to telecommute to most white collar office jobs and still do as good a job or better as if you were in the office.

However, you will need to change your work style and learn to use a few new tools.

Telecommuting Tools of the Trade

With a laptop, internet connection, and three basic tools you should be able to accomplish 99% of everything you could do in an office.

Skype

This my new telephone. I have a regular 10 digit phone number registered through Skype that I can use anywhere in the world as long as I have an internet connection. Customers and coworkers can reach me seamlessly without having to juggle phone numbers. It’s also a nice all in one program since I use it to instant message or voice chat with coworkers

Cell Phone

Who doesn’t have one of these anymore? Most plans don’t have roaming charges anymore either, so you have another fixed phone number to provide stability to your coworkers and clients.

Scanner-Printer-Fax Combo

These days you can pick up one of these for your home office for less than $100 on Amazon. A small price to pay for freedom. Though one thing I failed to consider when setting up my current home office is that I don’t have a regular land line so I can’t actually use the fax. However, these days everyone has a similar all-in-one device and I haven’t had any problems scanning and e-mailing documents to clients or vice versa.

Unless you happen to spend a large portion of your day printing, scanning, and faxing, it’s also generally not that difficult to locate a Fedex Kinkos or similar place to take care of these tasks if you happen to be on a trip someplace.

How Telecommuting Changes the Way You Work

Most of what you do will be the same when working remotely. Reply to emails, look at spreadsheets, talk to coworkers and clients about projects you are working on.

However, meetings become a bit trickier. I have coworkers spread out across 3 states and 3 countries. And if we have a conference call with a client, that ads yet another locale.

We’ve conquered the technical aspect by using Skype for group calls, but here are a few more tips for working with people in multiple time zones.

  • Have an agreed upon set of working hours and respect them
  • Always specify the time zone (ie, the meeting starts at 1PM PST)
  • No meetings just for the sake of meetings

How Telecommuting Affects Your Social Life

One change that you might not have thought about is that you no longer have the social component of meeting and conversing with your coworkers at the office. Depending on your personality this might not be big deal to you or it might leave you feeling a bit disconnected and lonely.

However, I think there is a big opportunity here. Having to commute to work, be at an office all day, and then commute back home often leaves you feeling too tired to go back out again. Once you remove the energy suck and back and forth travel time to the office, suddenly you have a lot more energy and you can go out on week nights. Working from home lets you take care of business during the day and still feel up to going out in the evening to be social.

Building a social life not tied to your office also means that if you quit, get fired, or change jobs you don’t lose your social circle along with the job.

So is being a telecommuter right for you? Only you can answer that, but I personally would have a very difficult time taking another regular office job.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ramon Barca September 30, 2012 at 2:58 am

“Have an agreed upon set of working hours and respect them”

I cannot stress how important this is. In order to build natural communication, telecommuters must have an agreed work hours where they should be online. In our company for example, we are required to log-in for work three hours everyday, with the rest of the 8 hour shift fully flexible. This arrangement allows us to catch up with each other on important projects, etc.

Regarding tools of the trade, we use Skype, Time Doctor, Basecamp, Aweber and several other online tools that can help.

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