For many, telecommuting—also known as teleworking, e-commuting, or working at home—is a coveted benefit that boosts productivity for employees and employers alike. Flexible work policies are growing in popularity as remote work becomes evermore feasible with technology.
A lot of companies are hiring telecommuters, who are employees who don't make the daily commute to the office space because they don't work in the companies' buildings. Instead, they do home-based work, which offers a lot of perks. For example, a flexible work arrangement can offer employees a better work-life balance and, therefore, often results in higher job satisfaction, too.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll become one because it’s a choice and requires effort. But you will be given the opportunity to stretch your listening muscles and strengthen your employer-employee relationship. How? Well, listen. When you’re remote you’re forced into a unique dialogue structure professionally, you can learn a tremendous amount. (More tips on listening here).
When you’re not listening what are you doing? How do you properly interject into a conversation that is happening hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away? A seasoned telecommuter doesn't just talk but they also know how to ask really good questions. Questions that both help projects and people and also questions that reaffirm their presence on the team.
What do all those questions, good listening skills and the ability to interact with a team from afar help build? Executive presence. A telecommuter has to learn how to “show up” from a distance. Video conferencing and technology like Slack help, but when you’re on a conference call with 10 or more people, many in the same room, it’s an art to have your voice heard without steamrolling and interrupting the natural conversation. How do you do this? You learn to develop your presence and own style. You know you’re doing this right when people start to ask for your input after long stretches of you not talking, since even without constant chatter they know that you’re there.
Do you like being around yourself all day? Do you like being yourself? These questions may seem more appropriate from a therapist but they come up while telecommuting. You’re around yourself all day. Sometimes you might not see anyone else all day. Sometimes you might not talk to anyone for hours. What’s that like for you? If you don’t know, you’ll learn quite soon. Some people revel in it; some people despise it; some are in between — and it can really affect employee morale.
Many people find working from home a little isolating. The trick is to observe your preferences and then create an environment that will support your style as best as possible. This means possibly getting a membership at a co-working space, if you realize after the first six weeks that you are going batty alone, or creating a really inspiring home office or workspace, if you find yourself being tempted by Netflix or the fridge. Or it might mean embracing your love of solitude!
No matter the business, industry or your level, all work has some downtime. When you work remotely, you have a fascinating new insight to your own instincts and comfort level with slow days. Are you comfortable powering down? Do you find yourself creating more work for you and your team that isn’t really necessary just to seem busy? Do you take the time to read about industry trends or start online shopping? If you’re unsure, or you’re unsure what I mean, consider this: On a slow summer day in the office, many people will take a long lunch, a few more coffee breaks or maybe even duck out early. Because of the collectiveness of the shared space and the social agreements of the office this is usually fine. Working from home it can feel a little different. What do you do at 3:30 pm on a Friday when there’s nothing left to do? (Now enter back my questions about creating work, logging off, idly shopping or refreshing your expertise). A telecommuter will quickly learn her own instinct.
It might sound hokey, but some of the most unexpected, yet most helpful, learnings telecommuting offers are insight to you, and the benefits of telecommuting are plentiful. So if you’re lucky enough to be one of those telecommuters with the opportunity to work remotely and really work on an ideal work-life balance for you, take the time to focus on productivity (and design a work office space that allows this), work on how you exert your presence without face-to-face interaction or face-to-face communication and build that employee-employer relationship so you can ensure job satisfaction with your flexible work.
Say goodbye to the traffic congestion and costs of your daily commute in our fast-paced society and say hello to remote work from your living room couch. Home-based work is the way of the future.
Jane Scudder is a certified leadership, career, and personal development coach, facilitator, and workplace consultant based in Chicago, IL. She helps individuals and group navigate their careers, teams, and personal lives. Find out more at janescudder.com.