Tips for First-Time Telecommuters

The COVID-19 pandemic is going to introduce a lot of people to the world of telecommuting. As someone who has been telecommuting for 30 years, I have a little experience that may be valuable to you. Here are a few suggestions that may help you to avoid some of the potential pitfalls that come with working from home.

  • Get up, take a shower, and get dressed. A lot of first-time telecommuters think it’s going to be fantastic to just roll out of bed and work in their jammies and bunny slippers. However, when you don’t get dressed or set a fixed start time, you may find it challenging to start your day. You may feel free as though it were not a workday. Not getting dressed increases a feeling of disconnection from your “normal” routine. Experienced telecommuters agree that it’s wise to maintain a regular work routine. Of course, getting dressed doesn’t necessarily mean putting on a suit or tie or makeup or heels! You should dress comfortably but do get dressed. (Especially if you are going to be meeting people online and using a webcam!)
  • Close the door during working hours. Make it known to anyone you live with that when you are in your workspace – your home office, a bedroom, a section of the living room couch, the kitchen table – they need to respect that you are, in fact, at work. In other words, they should not interrupt you for anything that they wouldn’t have called you at work to discuss. Let everyone know your working hours and when you can and when you can’t be interrupted. Having a quiet space, especially one behind a closed door, can make it a lot easier for everyone to remember that when you’re working, you need to be left alone and allowed to work.
  • Set up a healthy workspace. The good news for anyone writing on their machine at home and providing remote realtime is that they’ll get to use a comfortable chair (vs. being stuck with whatever chair they’re given at someone’s office)! For other computer work, while it’s tempting to work on a couch or a recliner, it’s much wiser to set up at a desk or a table, and to sit up straight! Proper posture is essential to your long-term health and working at a coffee table or on your lap can cause issues with your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and knees! No matter where you set up, be sure to stand up and stretch regularly.
  • Stick to regular mealtimes. You can get to food a lot more quickly, easily, often, and less expensively than you can when you’re at an office. A lot of first-time telecommuters make the mistake of having a constant supply of snacks in their office while they work, which results in putting on unwanted weight! If you stick to a regular schedule for meals and exercise regularly, you will feel better!
  • Quit when your day is over! When the workday is over, it’s over. Stop checking email. You can and should wait until the morning to answer a question that pops up after the end of your day. You have the option to deal with urgent problems, of course; however, if you had been going to the office and wouldn’t have been available to deal with something until the next day, the same should be true when you’re not going to the office.
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