Telecommuting Hacks

I’ve been working from home for over ten years. Because telecommuting is a smelly and hairy yet lovable beast, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

**Please note, I have always worked for a corporation. I am not self-employed. Self-employed people have courage and determination that are foreign to me.**

Time Management. This one has been a struggle. My previous job had very flexible hours, as in, “put in 80 hours sometime during these two weeks.” Procrastinator that I am, I would put work off as long as possible. This meant I would go months without having a day off because during the week I would work an hour here and an hour there, then make the rest up on the weekend. I just don’t have the self discipline to make myself get out of bed and get to work if I don’t have to.

My current job has set hours that you can flex if necessary, like for a doctor appointment. Now I have to work regular business hours, and this is actually much better for me. What a surprise, right? So if you have the option, set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Keep your evenings and weekends free.

timer

One of my favorite tricks is using a timer. I hate to sit still, but my job requires me to sit at a desk and read all day. So I got this timer and set the memory for eight and a half hours (lunch included). When I log in each morning, I start the countdown. I get paid by the hour, and for some reason checking the timer helps my brain more than watching the clock.

Avoid Temptation. The fantasy is to roll out of bed and into your desk chair, right? And start a load of laundry during your coffee break. Maybe set up the TV in your office so you can binge watch Game of Thrones while you’re working. The problem is, you actually do have to work. You still have to get your job done, and if you work for a company like mine, they are tracking your log in times, your mouse and keyboard movements, and which websites you visit. Hey, they have to protect themselves too, right?

My company has a policy in place stating that you cannot be responsible for someone, like a child or a sick person, while on the clock. This means my coworkers with children still have to use daycare even though they’re at home. As for me, I still have to shower, get dressed, and have breakfast before I clock in, otherwise I’m so groggy my morning is a waste. Wasted work time shows up on all those trackers the company uses. And frankly, it’s easier to work than it is to pretend to work. Keeping home time and work time separate will help you feel like you work at home rather than live at work. It’ll keep you employed, too.

Keep Moving. I set up a basic exercise routine that I can do in chunks at my desk. So when I need a stretch, or if the office is too cold, I do one of these:

  • Push ups. When I started doing this, I could only do one honest, non-girlie-style push up. Now I can do seven. I hope to reach ten by the end of the year.
  • Plank on my elbows for a count of thirty.
  • Using a ten pound dumbbell (recently graduated from a three pound dumbbell), I do ten bicep curls, ten tricep extensions, ten butterflies, and ten wrist curls.
  • Thirty “twists.” Plant your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your hips stationary and your tummy flexed, and twist your torso while punching the air with your right then left hand.
  • Thirty side bends.
  • Fifteen leg lifts, flat and laying on your side.
  • Thirty calf raises.

And at the end of the day, I do some very basic yoga poses using this poster. I can’t do inverted poses and I’m not terribly flexible. I don’t know what it is about yoga, but I always feel better after doing it, even poses as simple as these. And after doing yoga consistently this year, I can now touch my toes for the first time in my life.

Music. Being home, alone in an office, can get boring and lonely. So I listen to music as much as possible. Music makes everything bearable, I think.

Cat Bed. If you have a cat, or maybe even if you have a dog, set up a place in your office for your pet to sleep. They’re going to commandeer your desk anyway. You may as well try to make them a spot, even if you have to be sneaky about it.

chloe

I put a cat bed on my desk, crumpled up a fleece blanket on top so she wouldn’t recognize it, and turned on a desk lamp for the heat. Now Chloe sleeps there all day instead trying to sit on my lap or the back of my chair.

Privacy Film. We live in a subdivision and have a tiny front yard. It’s very important that passersby not be able to see my computer screens, so we got this privacy film. You clean the window, spray it with water, and then squeegee this film onto the glass. Then as long as it’s brighter outside, people trying to peek in will only see their own reflection. We actually put this stuff on every window in the house because I love sunlight but I hate peeping toms.

 

If I want to work full time, my health pretty much requires me to telecommute. Usually when I tell someone I work from home, they make a few assumptions. Not taking these assumptions personally is a skill that’s taken me a long time to acquire.

Assumption #1: “Which Facebook banner ad did you click?”

Assumption #2: “Gosh, I wish I could get paid to sleep in, wear my jammies, and do laundry all day!”

Assumption #3: “Must be nice to not have office politics!”

Nope, nope, nope.

But rather than waving my resume in a person’s face, I’ve learned to simply smile and nod, then change the subject.

According to Forbes magazine, one in five Americans already work from home. That number will only go up as companies realize the money to be saved by maintaining smaller office complexes, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity. Soon enough, office workers around the country will all be working at home in their blue jeans and listening to their favorite music. Beats cubicle city, right?