Virtual workplaces are not ideal for every job or every person, but there are several things you and your employer can do to adapt to the new working environment. Here are a few tips:
Communicate clearly, communicate often. Don't assume your coworkers know what you're doing or how you're doing it. Keep a dialog going, such as through e-mail, instant messages or chat rooms. Computer programmers can also communicate through comments in code and in version control system messages. Check in regularly with coworkers to make sure you're understanding each other and meeting each others' needs.
Demand clear goals and expectations. Be sure your manager describes what's expected of you on the job, and work to those goals and expectations. Plus, make sure there are clear ways to convey your productivity, such as meeting your deadlines or keeping a digital log of your daily progress.
Invest in the equipment you need. You're going to spend a lot of time with your computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, headset and other equipment. Spend a little extra money to get what you need for a comfortable and productive work experience. If it's your employer who's buying, see if you can work out a deal for what you need, even if you have to pick up some of the cost.
Track your office expenses. If you telecommute, even as a salaried employee, you can claim some of your home office expenses on your income tax forms. Save your receipts and track your expenses. This could amount to hundreds of dollars in savings on your income tax bill at the end of the year.
Keep the IT staff on speed-dial. Even if you're tech-saavy, you can't fix everything from home. Your employer's IT staff is your lifeline to prevent a loss in productivity. For example, if you rely on a virtual private network (VPN) connection to the main office, you'll need to contact your employer's IT staff for assistance as soon as possible when you can't connect to the VPN.
Give yourself a break. Sometimes you need a little distraction. Take advantage of the flexibility you have as a teleworker by taking breaks or even changing scenery when you're getting bleary. Just keep your breaks in check so you don't lose valuable work time.
Know when it's time for a change. The most perfect virtual workplace may not be perfect forever. Recognize when you're losing focus and dropping in productivity, and do something to fix the problem before it gets you in trouble. This could include anything from upgrading the RAM in your computer to moving your desk away from a drafty window in winter.
For more information about the working world, take a look at some of the links below.
- All, Ann. "Study Finds Teleworkers Can Handle More Work Before Feeling Strain." IT Business Edge. NarrowCast Group. June 3, 2010. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/blogs/all/study-finds-teleworkers-can-handle-more-work-before-feeling-strain/?cs=41527
- Baker, Paul; Head, Lynzee; and Ward, Andrew. "Virtual Exclusion and Telework: Barriers and Opportunities of Technocentric Workplace Accommodation Policy." Center for Advanced Communications Policy. Georgia Institute of Technology. 2005. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://www.workrerc.gatech.edu/Presentations/Baker/bakerslides.php
- Belanger, France. "Workers' Propensity to Telecommute: An Empirical Study." Information & Management, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 139-153. March 8, 1999.
- Brigham Young University. "Telecommuters with flextime stay balanced up to 19 hours longer." June 1, 2010. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://news.byu.edu/archive10-jun-telecommuting.aspx
- Cisco. "Cisco Study Finds Telecommuting Significantly Increases Employee Productivity, Work-Life Flexibility and Job Satisfaction." Cisco Systems. June 25, 2009. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2009/prod_062609.html
- IBM. "IBM Predicts Five Future Trends That Will Drive Unified Communications." IBM press release. March 19, 2010. (Aug. 8, 2010)http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/23716.wss
- King, Rachel. "CEO Guide to the Virtual Workplace: Tip Sheet, Virtual Workplace Dos and Don'ts." Bloomberg BusinessWeek. (Aug. 7, 2010)http://www.businessweek.com/technology/ceo_tipsheet/2007_2.htm
- King, Rachel. "Working from Home: It's in the Details." Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Feb. 12, 2007. (Aug. 8, 2010)http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2007/tc20070212_457307.htm?chan=technology_ceo+guide+to+tech_green+computing
- Mears, Jennifer. "Father of telecommuting Jack Nilles says security, managing remote workers remain big hurdles." Network World. May 15, 2007. (Aug. 10, 2010)http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/051507-telecommuting-nilles-security.html
- Miller, Kerry. "Where the Coffee Shop Meets the Cubicle." Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Feb. 26, 2007. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/feb2007/sb20070226_761145.htm
- Payne, Sylvia. Teleworker. Personal interview. Conducted on Aug. 8, 2010.
- PBS NewsHour. "Telecommuting: Dream Come True?" PBS. Nov. 14, 1997. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://www.pbs.org/newshour/forum/november97/telecommuting.html
- Reisner, Rebecca. "Telecommuting Now and Forever." Bloomberg BusinessWeek. March 2007. (Aug. 9, 2010)http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2007/03/telecommuting_now_and_forever.html
- Seeger, Jared. "Going Virtual, Going Green: A Manifesto." The Huffington Post. July 14, 2008. (Aug. 8, 2010)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jared-seeger/going-virtual-going-green_b_112714.html
- Telework Coalition, The. "Teleworking (Sometimes called Telecommuting)." (Aug. 10, 2010)http://www.telcoa.org/id193.htm
- VanDine, Ken. Ubuntu Desktop Integration Engineer, Canonical. Personal interview. Conducted on Aug. 1, 2010.