How to Adapt to a Virtual Workplace

Maintaining Productivity in a Virtual Workplace

In your virtual workplace, just like in an office setting, you want to do your best work and keep your productivity high. This is essential for staying employed. Get control over your virtual workplace so you have control over your productivity.

As mentioned previously, your selection of space is important. If you find it easy to shut out the world around you while you're working, you could set up your workplace almost anywhere you're comfortable. If you're easily distracted, though, or need a certain setting in order to focus, set aside a "work-only" space at home that meets those needs, or try a co-working space as described in the sidebar on this page.

Numerous studies over the last two decades report higher productivity for teleworkers than their office-bound counterparts [source: Cisco, Belanger] Eliminating the commute time and having a more relaxed environment could account for this. However, a recent study at Brigham Young University reveals another reason: more hours worked. BYU researchers studied 24,436 IBM employees in 75 countries and found that teleworkers clocked an additional 19 hours of work each week (57) than office-bound workers (38) before the work began to conflict with other parts of their lives [source: Brigham Young University]. If your work hours concern you as you try to balance them with your personal life, set a daily and weekly schedule for working and limit your work to those scheduled times. Be sure your manager and co-workers know your schedule, and make agreements with them about when you'll be available.

With your space laid out and your schedule set, you'll need to find a way to eliminate distractions to ensure that you remain productive. Start by getting rid of any obvious distractions like television or computer games. From there, establish boundaries about what tasks are important during your work hours and stick to those. Wait until you're not "on the clock" to do laundry, go out for groceries or pay your bills.

One misconception about teleworking parents is that they can be stay-at-home moms and dads. While teleworking does provide a lot more flexibility for families, it's still a full-time job requiring focus during work hours. Sylvia Payne, a contract negotiator, knows this well after four years of teleworking and being the mother of two young kids. "My youngest is in daycare and my oldest is now in school and before school/after school care," Sylvia explained. "It would be unfair to both my kids and my employer to keep them home while I worked. I would also go crazy trying to get everything done while caring for them both" [source: Payne]. However, Sylvia also explains that her experience is mostly due to the nature of her work, and that she's met other parents whose jobs allow them to have their kids around without a loss in productivity.