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101 Tips for Telecommuters

101 Tips for Telecommuters

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Telecommuting-an increasingly common practice of working from home or away from a central office, while staying linked by phone and/or computer-has become a way of life for more than eleven million people in the United States, and the number constantly rises. But most books on the subject focus on its technological or administrative aspects rather than its human ones. What are the pros and cons of telecommuting for the legions of men and women that actually do it on a daily basis? And how can current or would-be telecommuters maximize their performance while minimizing their headaches?
In 101 Tips for Telecommuters, seasoned telecommuter Debra Dinnocenzo shares her practical, easy-to-implement "action tips" for making telecommuting as efficient and productive as possible. Written for full-time, occasional, and aspiring telecommuters, this helpful book covers everything from managing one's own time, balancing telecommuting with family demands, and working effectively with others from afar to networking the "virtual" way, getting a grip on technological overkill and even resisting the ever-beckoning refrigerator when working at home!
Dinnocenzo offers useful advice on special self-management factors to consider when telecommuting; how to keep in touch with all the people-coworkers, managers, support personnel, customers, and others-who make up your telecommuting world; and even how to nurture crucial ties with suppliers, vendors, and service providers.
In the new age of professional mobility, 101 Tips for Telecommuters is the perfect guide for the millions of Americans who want to succeed in this exciting and challenging new way of work.
Telecommuting-an increasingly common practice of working from home or away from a central office, while staying linked by phone and/or computer-has become a way of life for more than eleven million people in the United States, and the number constantly rises. But most books on the subject focus on its technological or administrative aspects rather than its human ones. What are the pros and cons of telecommuting for the legions of men and women that actually do it on a daily basis? And how can current or would-be telecommuters maximize their performance while minimizing their headaches?
In 101 Tips for Telecommuters, seasoned telecommuter Debra Dinnocenzo shares her practical, easy-to-implement "action tips" for making telecommuting as efficient and productive as possible. Written for full-time, occasional, and aspiring telecommuters, this helpful book covers everything from managing one's own time, balancing telecommuting with family demands, and working effectively with others from afar to networking the "virtual" way, getting a grip on technological overkill and even resisting the ever-beckoning refrigerator when working at home!
Dinnocenzo offers useful advice on special self-management factors to consider when telecommuting; how to keep in touch with all the people-coworkers, managers, support personnel, customers, and others-who make up your telecommuting world; and even how to nurture crucial ties with suppliers, vendors, and service providers.
In the new age of professional mobility, 101 Tips for Telecommuters is the perfect guide for the millions of Americans who want to succeed in this exciting and challenging new way of work.

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Publish date: Sep 1, 1999
Added to Scribd: Jan 19, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9781605097107
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More praise for 101 Tips for Telecommuters

“101 Tips for Telecommuters is much, much more than the title implies. Yes,
there are 101 extraordinarily valuable tips, and each one will significantly
improve your effectiveness and efficiency. This is, however, not only a book for
the increasing number of us who commute down the hall to our work space.
It’s really a field guide for all people who want to take control of their own lives,
and work and live with a sense of mastery. 101 Tips for Telecommuters will help
you get your work organized, your life back, and it will make you and your
employer (if it’s other than you) very, very happy.”
Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge and Encouraging the Heart, and
Chairman Emeritus, Tom Peters Companies
“101 Tips for Telecommuters is packed full of practical ideas that can be applied
immediately and are described in an easy-to-use format. This book is destined
to become a ‘must have’ resource for current and aspiring telecommuters, as
well as for organizations who have telecommuters within their workforce.”
Richard Y. Chang, CEO, Richard Chang Associates, Inc. and 1999 Chair of the
Board for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)
“Whether you love it or hate it, telecommuting is part of our new reality.
This book is an extraordinary collection of useful insights for both the telecom-
muters and their managers on how to get the maximum benefits from this
new way of working. It is chock-full of practical wisdom on all of the issues
that a telecommuter faces. Beyond that, it is a useful collection of personal
productivity tips for everyone who ever works at home.”
Jack Zenger, President of PROVANT Inc. and co-founder of Zenger Miller
“This book is unique in that it puts the technology of telecommuting in its
proper role, that of the enabler. In the end, it’s really all about the people,
and Debra Dinnocenzo skillfully tackles those critical success factors of
telecommuting.”
Connie Bentley, President, PACE (A Sylvan Learning Company)
“This book is extraordinarily timely and absolutely on target. It is so valuable
I have assigned it as orientation material for all of our telecommuters.”
Dave Erdman, President, Behavioral Technology
®
“Very readable and engaging—the BIBLE for telecommuters!! Add it to your
‘must read’ list whether you’re already telecommuting or just making the
transition to working remotely.”
Steve McMillen, Director of Leadership Development & Performance
Improvement, Hillenbrand Industries, Inc. and co-author of
Building Community: The Human Side of Work
“101 Tips for Telecommuters is an extremely valuable resource for anyone seek-
ing to successfully telecommute or work effectively from a home office. Readers
will learn how to plan for the most effective use of their workdays and to avoid
pitfalls which can lead to failure. I highly recommend this book to anyone who
is considering telecommuting, operating a home office or attempting to improve
their efficiency.”
Stephen M. Paskoff, President, Employment Learning Innovations, Inc.
“Telecommuting is hard work. This is the first practical set of advice for the
new generation of distributed workers. Wonderfully, it addresses all aspects of
surviving and thriving while working from home. A great read!”
Elliott Masie, Editor of TechLearn Trends and President of The MASIE Center
“101 Tips for Telecommuters is the right book for those who want to telecom-
mute rather than starting their own home-based business. Every company
considering telecommuting should be passing out a copy of this book to each
of their telecommuters.”
George M. Piskurich, Technology consultant and author of
An Organizational Guide to Telecommuting
“Use this book to convince your boss that you can telecommute successfully—
everything you need is here!”
Deborah Dumaine, President, Better Communications and author of
Vest Pocket Guide to Business Writing
“If I only had this guide when I opted to telecommute ten years ago!
I learned by trial & error. This book covers it all, read it—overcome
obstacles and reap the benefits!”
Patricia Bruns, Senior Account Executive, Development Dimensions International
“Every telecommuter will gain tremendous insight from the author’s first-hand
experiences of living and managing the telecommuting process. Increased
productivity, effective resource management, generating more income and
understanding the key human factors for success will result.”
Jim Welch, Principal, Welch & Associates
“A practical and fun book. I found many ideas to use in my own work as a
telecommuter. The style and content make it feel like a very helpful ‘distance
learning’ experience.”
David M. Kolb, Senior Associate/National Accounts, Ridge Associates, Inc.
“A superbly practical guide to telecommuting resonating with the voice of
experience. Some books explain what to do, others explain why to do it—
Dinnocenzo’s book does both. It’s a goldmine of information with an application
step for each tip, making it a must read if you want to telecommute or want to
be a more effective telecommuter.”
Dr. Jim Dupree, Professor of Business and Communication, Grove City College
“Anyone who is considering working at home, either part time or full time,
will find invaluable resources in this book. The telecommuter gets checklists
and tips that lead to productive work from home, along with keys to avoiding
pitfalls. As a human resource director, I can use this book to persuade our
executives to support and encourage telecommuting.”
Dan Hupp, VP Human Resources, Blattner Brunner, Inc.
“An invaluable resource not only for telecommuters but also every manager who
faces the decision of providing employees with the opportunity of ‘working
from home’ some portion of their time. Debra’s expertise in this subject matter
becomes clear right from the start and her mindful approach of connecting tips
and ideas to the practical business realities of telecommuting puts this book on
my short-list of must read for managers.”
Richard V. Michaels, Managing Partner, Michaels McVinney, Inc.
TIPS
Telecommuters
Successfully Manage
Your Work, Team,
Technology
and Family
Debra A. Dinnocenzo
1
01
f o r
101 Tips for Telecommuters
Copyright © 1999 by Debra A. Dinnocenzo
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or trans-
mitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other elec-
tronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher,
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other
noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the
publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
235 Montgomery Street, Suite 650
San Francisco, California 94104-2916
Tel: (415) 288-0260, Fax: (415) 362-2512
www.bkconnection.com
Ordering information for print editions
Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations,
associations, and others. For details, contact the “Special Sales Department” at the
Berrett-Koehler address above.
Individual sales. Berrett-Koehler publications are available through most bookstores.
They can also be ordered directly from Berrett-Koehler: Tel: (800) 929-2929; Fax:
(802) 864-7626; www.bkconnection.com
Orders for college textbook/course adoption use. Please contact Berrett-Koehler:
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Orders by U.S. trade bookstores and wholesalers. Please contact Ingram Publisher
Services, Tel: (800) 509-4887; Fax: (800) 838-1149; E-mail: customer
.service@ingrampublisherservices.com; or visit www.ingrampublisherservices.com/
Ordering for details about electronic ordering.
Berrett-Koehler and the BK logo are registered trademarks of Berrett-Koehler
Publishers, Inc.
First Edition
Paperback print edition ISBN 978-1-57675-069-8
PDF e-book ISBN 978-1-60509-710-7
2010-1
Interior design by Detta Penna. Cover design by Brenda Duke.
Dedication
To my husband, Rick Swegan
who cheerfully reviewed drafts
and provided helpful feedback,
while working overtime as
Mr. Mom/Head Chef
And to my daughter, Jennimarie
who consistently inquired
about the progress of my “story”
and volunteered to contribute the special foreword,
written on behalf of telecommuter children
everywhere
This page intentionally left blank
Contents
Foreword xi
Special Foreword xiii
Preface xv
Acknowledgments xvii
How to Use This Book 1
Where to Begin 4
1. Assess Yourself for Telecommuting Success 6
Telecommuter Self-Assessment Checklist 7
Working Well in Your Home Office 11
2. Focus Your Life 13
3. Focus Your Work 15
4. Focus Your Day 17
5. Avoid Time Wasters 19
6. Maintain a Healthy Balance
(Manage the Workaholic Within) 20
7. Stay Motivated
(Manage the Slouch Within) 22
8. Get and Keep Your Office Organized 24
9. Get and Keep Your Day Organized 25
10. Keep the “Administrivia” Under Control 27
v
v 101 Tips for Telecommuters
11. Manage the Maddening Mounds of Mail 29
12. Determine the Best Location for Your Home Office 30
13. Draw a Clear Line Between Your Work and Living Space 33
14. Determine the Best Address for Your Home Office 35
15. Design Your Office for Efficiency 36
16. Design Your Office for Good Health 38
17. Be Your Own OSHA Inspector 39
18. Dress for Success (According to the New Rules) 41
19. Make a Habit of Avoiding Bad Habits 43
20. Reject the Refrigerator that Beckons You 44
21. Work During Your Peak Energy Times 46
22. Making “The Rounds” for Efficient “Erranding” 48
23. Stay Fit and Healthy 50
24. Take Breaks to Relax, Re-energize, or Recover 51
25. Multi-Task to Maximize Your Productivity 53
26. Avoid the (Real or Perceived) Isolation Trap 55
27. Track Expenses and Expenditures 57
28. Simplify and Improve Continuously 59
29. Reward Yourself and Celebrate Successes 61
30. Take Responsibility for Developing
New Skills and Managing Your Career 62
Working Well with Your Family 65
31. Negotiate Expectations and Agreements 67
32. Get Your Family on Your Team 69
33. Manage and Minimize Distractions 71
34. Establish Clear Interruption Rules 72
35. Take Care of Childcare 74
36. If You Mix Childcare and Work (God Help You!) 76
37. “Take Your Children to Work” Guidelines 77
vi 101 Tips for Telecommuters
38. The Shift to Home-Based Work with Older Children 79
39. Meeting the Challenge of Eldercare or Family Care 81
40. Minimize Household and Family Stress 83
41. Working With and Around Your “4-Legged Children” 85
42. Resolve Disagreements Promptly 86
43. Accept the Guilt—and Move On 88
44. Answering Phones: Decide Who and How 90
45. Get the Respect You Deserve
(How to be sure you and your work are taken seriously) 92
46. The Happy Marriage Partnership Guide to Office Sharing 94
47. Schedule Periodic “How Goes It” Meetings 96
Working Well with Your Team 99
48. Establish a Rock-Solid Foundation of Trust 101
49. Keep Your Boss Informed 103
50. Know and Nurture Your Team 104
51. Stay in Touch with Co-Workers 106
52. Be (Creatively) Accessible by Telephone 108
53. Don’t Ignore Those Who Resent You 109
54. Network to Stay Visible and Informed 111
55. Stay on Track for Promotions (and Other Good Deals) 113
56. Know When to Ask for Help 114
57. Master Effective (Virtual) Interaction Skills 116
58. Technology Talk: Keys to Communicating
Without Speaking 118
59. Determine the Need for “Live” Interactions 120
60. “Distance Delegation” that Delivers Results 122
61. Manage the Performance Management Process 124
62. Reach Agreements that Foster
Commitment and Collaboration 126
Contents vii
63. Resolve Conflicts Effectively and Proactively 128
64. Master the Fundamentals of Productive Virtual Meetings 130
65. Make Everyone Skilled and Comfortable
in Virtual Meetings 132
66. Just Say “No” 134
67. Work Productively With Co-workers
Who Share Your Home Office 136
Working Well with Your External Partners 139
68. Know Who Provides Your Critical Services and Support 141
69. Be Your Own Purchasing Manager 142
70. Select Service Providers that Meet Your Criteria 144
71. Set Service Expectations and Get Your Desired Results 146
72. Negotiate Deadlines and Details 148
73. Establish Consequences for Unsatisfactory
Service Performance 150
74. Get It in Writing 151
75. Know When to Outsource 154
76. Establish a Partner Mindset and Relationship 156
77. Treat People As People 158
78. Reward Good Work 160
79. Bartering for Best Results 162
80. Network Your Partner Network 164
81. Follow-Up for Best Results 166
82. Get the Most Out of Business
and Professional Associations 168
viii 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Working Well with Tools and Technology 171
83. Assess Your Real Needs and Choose
the Best Technology for You 173
84. Know Your Backup Options (Before a Crisis Occurs) 175
85. Be Prepared With the Basic Tools, Too 178
86. Get Wired—Electrify Your Telecommuting Experience 182
87. Computer Choices and Conundrums 184
88. Beyond the Computer: Essential Tools (and Toys)
for the Well-Connected Telecommuter 186
89. Rarely Is a Phone Just a Phone 189
90. Make Your Phone Calls Chase or Wait for You 192
91. Manage the Madness of Multiple Machines
that Ring or Beep at You 194
92. Skip the Massage—Get a Headset 196
93. Which Chair to Buy
(When You’d Really Rather Have a Recliner) 198
94. Learn to Love Voice Mail (and Other Impossibilities) 200
95. Videoconferencing: The Next Best Thing to Being There? 202
96. Meet the Challenge of Internet Connections 204
97. Have Technology, Will Travel 206
98. If Talking to Yourself Is Interesting, Try Faxing to Yourself 208
99. Protect Your Equipment (and Your Livelihood) 210
100. So, Do you Really Need a Speakerphone in the Bathroom? 212
101. Make Telecommuting Work Well for You 214
Telecommuting Implementation Guide 217
Appendices 223
A. “Make a Case for Telecommuting” Guide 225
Addendum to Appendix A 229
B. Telecommuting Resource Guide 234
Contents ix
Index 239
About the Author 251
How To Get (and Give) More Information 252
x 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Foreword
Telecommuting will be a major part of the 21st century’s global envi-
ronment. The workplace has been preparing for telecommuting for
the past two decades. Emphases on employee empowerment, self-
directed work teams, and techniques for improving productivity
have been simultaneously preparing us to participate in a workplace
exposed to continuous change. The landscape of business has moved
from local to regional, from national to international, from multina-
tional to transnational. In this age of the global community, telecom-
muting has made the transition from an exotic fad to a business
imperative.
101 Tips for Telecommuters is a toolbox of practical ideas and so-
lutions for both employees and employers who intend to succeed.
Debra Dinnocenzo is not only a bright thinker who has great busi-
ness savvy, she deliberately developed her career through a wide va-
riety of business environments. Additionally, she is an applied
researcher who recorded her experiences, pondered her observa-
tions, and learned from her results. She has captured her telecom-
muting experience and expertly packaged it into a book structured
with great flexibility and containing a wealth of resources for people
who want to work smartly from home.
The flexibility that is essential to your success as a telecommuter
or telemanager has been carefully designed into this text, from first
to last page. Unlike the flood of “how to” books currently filling
bookstore shelves, 101 Tips for Telecommuters demonstrates and
models the traits so critical to telecommuting success. The versatile
design accommodates your needs, whether you are an experienced
telecommuter or are unsure of what telecommuting really means—
and if it’s appropriate for you.
This book will serve as an essential tool in helping you discover
where to best begin your personalized journey into the world of
xi
xii 101 Tips for Telecommuters
telecommuting. Telecommuting opportunities exist in large and
small organizations, for full- or part-time employees, as well as for
nontraditional workers such as independent consultants, subcon-
tractors, project managers, home-based businesses, and cottage in-
dustry enthusiasts. Workers who love to travel, as well as those who
prefer to stay home in their cozy den, will find creative ideas, practi-
cal tools, shortcuts, time savers, productivity enhancers, well-
thought-out business strategies and day-to-day common sense
business advice. The bottom line is this: If you spend any amount of
time working at home or think that you might, this book is for you.
Any organization looking to increase productivity, retain talented
employees, and gain competitive advantage in the 21st century can’t
overlook telecommuting as part of its strategy. Those already imple-
menting telecommuting should make this book required reading for
their telecommuters and telemanagers. Those who are preparing to
move into telecommuting won’t want their people to be without this
valuable resource to help “kick start” their telecommuting success.
As an 11-year veteran of telecommuting—for one of the largest
distance education institutions of graduate degree programs in the
world—I discovered that everything I needed as a telecommuter in-
structor and administrator over the years is conveniently presented
in this book. Debra Dinnocenzo has done an insightful job of de-
scribing the world of telecommuting. If you currently telecommute
or aspire to be a telecommuter, you won’t find a more useful and ex-
perience-based resource for achieving great success with telecom-
muting. Further, not knowing how to telecommute effectively is sure
to become a liability for anyone who wants to maintain his or her in-
dividual competitive advantage in the evolving workplace.
Ronald C. Fetzer, Ph.D.
Nova Southeastern University
Why It’s Good to Work at Home
contributed by
Jennimarie Dinnocenzo Swegan
(age 5)
It’s good to work at home because:
©All the kids get to spend more time with their families.
©The Moms and Dads don’t have to drive as far to get to their of-
fices. (In fact, they don’t have to drive at all!)
©Moms and Dads don’t have to have very many meetings and eat
lunch at the same time.
©Dad has enough time to practice basketball with me.
©I get to meet Mom’s work friends on the (videoconference)
computer.
xiii
Special Foreword
This page intentionally left blank
Preface
It’s been difficult during recent years to avoid noticing the increased
coverage that telecommuting has received in the business press.
Stories about the challenges and rewards of telecommuting are espe-
cially visible during times of natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes,
floods, blizzards) and other traffic traumas (e.g., bridge collapses,
roadway reconstruction, the Olympics).
Much of the early coverage of the telecommuting trend focused
on the increased availability of cost-effective computer and tele-
phone systems. While these advances in technology have given us
the proliferation of notebook computers, desktop videoconferenc-
ing, and vital levels of corporate computer network connectivity,
we’re beginning to understand the importance of the human side of
telecommuting. People telecommute; computers and telephones are
tools that facilitate the telecommuting process. As we look beyond
modems and multimedia, a broad range of human factors impact the
success of telecommuting. Understanding these human factors and
learning how to effectively manage the nontechnical aspects of
telecommuting, while competently handling the technical realm, is
essential to your success as a telecommuter.
I envisioned this book as a succinct, easy-to-use guide for cur-
rent and aspiring telecommuters. As a seasoned telecommuter, I’ve
seen firsthand the factors that make telecommuting prosper or fail.
I’ve also witnessed the significant impact telecommuting can have on
one’s quality of life—both good and bad. But from all that I’ve seen
and experienced, I have found that telecommuting can have a pre-
dominantly positive impact on your quality of life, your productivity,
your peace of mind, and (if you’re like the rest of us) your eternal
xv
quest for the much-sought-after balance between work and the rest
of your life.
All of the advantages, though, are contingent on your ability to
telecommute wisely. In writing this book, my goal is to help you
learn some of the secrets to effective telecommuting. It is my fervent
hope that, in reading this book, you will discover ways to open doors
to telecommuting success that enable you to prosper—both person-
ally and professionally—by achieving whatever goals you have for
your telecommuting venture. Until now, some of those goals were
only dreams. With the right information, skills, and mindset, you
can now transform those dreams into reality!
Debra A. Dinnocenzo
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
1999
xvi 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Acknowledgments
At the end of the long journey I’ve taken to complete this book, I’m
left only with the final (and delightful) task of giving thanks.
Naturally, there’s a long list of people whose help made this a better
book. More than that, however, was the unexpected reminder of
just how wonderful people can be.
♥ Without the love and support (and occasional reminders to get
some sleep) provided by my husband, Rick Swegan, frustration
and exhaustion would have overtaken me long before the
manuscript was completed. He and our daughter, Jennimarie,
have been patient beyond reason and enthusiastic in spite of my
all-too-frequent absences from them. I offer you both, the love
and light of my life, my deepest thanks.
No one else cooked, ran errands, or brewed tea for me, but their
help was, nonetheless, invaluable. My sincere thanks and apprecia-
tion to:
• Anne Palmer, who persisted in asking me, “How’s that book
coming along?” so many times that I finally decided to write it.
Every author should be so fortunate to have a literary agent
with Anne’s energy, vision, determination, creativity, and skill.
• The team that comprises Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., who
saw the opportunity and voted to accept my book for publica-
tion. Special thanks to Steven Piersanti, for not tossing my pro-
posal in the circular file; my editor, Valerie Barth, for her
patience and guidance; and Pat Anderson, a kindred marketing
soul whose insight and vision make all the difference.
• To my colleagues and friends, all of whom are very busy people,
but who still made the time to help by reviewing my manuscript
or offering their guidance, insights, or experience. Their collec-
tive feedback sharpened the focus of the book and added to the
xvii
“real life” examples throughout. I’m amazed—and grateful—for
the care they took and the detail they provided in their feed-
back. The book is what it is thanks to the help of: Lynn Arkan,
Ray Bard, Terry Broomfield, Patricia Bruns, Bill Byham, Deborah
Dumaine, Jim Dupree, Jody Ellis, John Hayden, Dan Hupp,
David Kolb, Mark Little, Jerry Noack, Steve Pascoff, Alice
Pescuric, George Piskurich, and Jim Welch.
• I owe a debt of gratitude (and I’m sure he’ll collect!) to Ron
Fetzer. His enthusiasm for the book was evident when he re-
viewed the manuscript and provided pages of ideas and sugges-
tions, not only for this book but for the next one he’s convinced
I must write! Further, in spite of an impossible deadline, he
agreed to provide the Foreword to the book and did miraculous
work. Thanks, Ron, for your energy and vision.
• For every telecommuter, there’s usually a boss who also believes
in telecommuting or is willing to take the gamble to support an
innovative way of working. Without the vision and support of
three such leaders, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to ac-
quire the experience I did as a telecommuter. I offer my sincere
appreciation to Rich Wellins, J. Gordon Myers, and Dave
Erdman. Without their support, so much would have been so
unattainable.
xviii 101 Tips for Telecommuters
How to Use
This Book
T
1
This page intentionally left blank
101 Tips for Telecommuters is designed for current and prospective
telecommuters or home-based workers who want to increase their
level of skill and effectiveness. It provides information, suggestions,
guidelines, insights and glimpses of reality from the “trenches of
telecommuting” based on firsthand experience. With an emphasis on
the relationships and interpersonal interactions critical to telecom-
muting success, this book offers readers a unique and practical view
of the pros and cons, the good/bad/ugly, and the critical criteria for
successfully and enjoyably working from home.
This book is focused primarily on the issues and needs of
telecommuters—those who regularly work from home during some
portion of their work week. However, many of the issues and chal-
lenges faced by telecommuters are strikingly similar to those of other
home-based workers who may not refer to themselves as telecom-
muters. Therefore, others who work from home (e.g., consultants,
salespeople, trainers, et al.) will find value for significant portions of
their work-at-home needs and issues.
You can derive the greatest benefit from the book by selectively
reading tips that align with your areas of greatest need, interest, frus-
tration, or anxiety. While reading the book from cover to cover is an
option, the book is designed so that tips can be read in any order.
Refer to the next section, Where to Begin, for suggestions on the tips
most appropriate for you as starting points.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
• Each tip includes an addendum referred to as the TIP
2
which
suggests you should “Transfer It Promptly To Improve
Performance.” Each TIP
2
offers action guidelines to help you
apply the recommendations presented in the context of the tip.
• Reading the tips without taking the time to apply the TIP
2
to
your work or your life will diminish the value of the tip and the
3
book. Reading the tip and taking the action in the TIP
2
section
will get you the best result.
• Therefore, I suggest that you read a tip each week or every few
days, providing ample time to apply what you’ve learned or take
the action steps suggested. This is far more critical than the spe-
cific order in which the tips are read, so prioritize them accord-
ing to your needs. In this way, the information and action steps
are relevant to you and to your specific needs as a telecom-
muter. This is a sure-fire way to ensure you’re getting a great re-
turn on your investment of the money to purchase this book
and your time to read and apply it.
Where to Begin
Relax! Unlike how so much of the rest of your life feels, it’s okay not
to digest this entire book now by reading it from cover to cover with-
out a break. As a matter of fact, this is definitely not the way to derive
the greatest benefit to you and your work (see the preceding section,
How to Use This Book). To help you determine where it’s best for you
to begin, use the following guide. Prioritizing the tips and reading
them according to your specific needs will provide more immediate
and relevant results.
Statement most appropriate for you: Begin with these tips:
I’m thinking about becoming a telecommuter.
1, 2, 12, 13, 26, 32, 33, 35, 36,
48, 68, 83, 85, 86, 88, 101
I want to telecommute and am ready to begin discussing this with
my family and boss 1, 2, 3, 31, 35, 40, 48, 49, 61,
83, 85, 88, 101
I’m ready to start telecommuting, but need to plan/prepare my:
• self 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 18, 19,
20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30,
101
• office 1, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 86,
101
• work processes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13,
15, 24, 25, 27, 101
4 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• family 1, 2, 13, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 40,
42, 44, 46, 47, 101
• work relationships 1, 2, 3, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 56, 57,
58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 67, 68, 101
• equipment/supplies 1, 8, 9, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88,
89, 92, 93, 99, 101
I’ve started telecommuting and on some days I think I’ve made a big
mistake!
1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 13, 19, 21,
24, 26, 29, 31, 32, 33, 40, 42,
48, 51, 56, 62, 66, 67, 84, 91,
94, 101
I’ve been telecommuting with some success, but I’m still encounter-
ing a few “bumps in the road” with regard to:
• family conflict/demands 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42,
47
• mixed signals or unclear expectations from my boss
48, 49, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63,
64
• uncooperative co-workers 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57,
58, 59, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67
• distance communication/meetings
48, 57, 58, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65
• priorities and productivity 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16,
19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 61,
75
• disorganization and distractions 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 19,
21, 22, 24, 25, 33, 34, 61, 75
• loneliness 7, 23, 26, 30, 32, 48, 51, 54, 56,
57, 82
• overworking (again!) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 15, 21, 23, 24,
26, 29, 30, 32, 47, 56, 66, 68,
75, 91, 100
• unreliability of others 31, 32, 42, 45, 47, 48, 50, 51,
60, 62, 68, 71, 72, 73, 74, 78,
81
• technology snafus and crashes 17, 83, 84, 86, 91, 97, 99
How to Use This Book 5
6 101 Tips for Telecommuters
1
Assess Yourself for
Telecommuting Success
Telecommuting is not for everyone:
• You can get lonely and miss being with people every day.
• You may feel isolated and invisible.
• You might lose sight of goals and not feel motivated.
• You could detest some of the mundane aspects of working from
home.
• You might experience more conflict with your family.
And it’s not easy:
• You may find yourself working more hours than before you
telecommuted.
• You could be frustrated by the hassles of technology when it
fails.
• You can run into problems with co-workers who resent your
telecommuting.
• You might experience breakdowns in communication with your
boss or your team.
• You could find yourself spending more time than you imagined
serving as your own maintenance person, computer technician,
electrician, office designer, furniture mover, and filing clerk.
But the rewards are tremendous! As other telecommuters will tell
you:
• “I’m so much more productive than when I commuted to the of-
fice everyday.”
• “Now I can actually concentrate and think clearly without all
the distractions and interruptions I used to deal with in the cor-
porate office.”
• “I love telecommuting . . . and my kids like having me closer to
home. We see more of each other now, and that’s worth any
trade-offs that come with telecommuting.”
• “It’s helped me increase my output, be more responsive to cus-
tomers, have more time for exercise, and eliminate much of the
stress I felt from my long commute everyday.”
You’re certainly not alone if you find yourself wanting to telecom-
mute or have already jumped on the telecommuting bandwagon. But
before I learned how to telecommute successfully, I discovered that
there are distinct skills, attitudes, and behaviors essential to that suc-
cess. Many can be learned, developed, reinforced, and honed once
you’re aware of them and understand your own strengths and weak-
nesses with regard to the criteria for successful telecommuting.
Using this book as a guide will help you address many of the crit-
ical aspects of effective telecommuting. It’s important, however, that
you begin by identifying those areas that are of particular importance
to you and your needs. By doing so, you’ll gain greater insight to
your own ability to succeed working from home and can focus your
ongoing learning and development efforts to ensure your continued
prosperity as a telecommuter.
Use the following “Telecommuter Self-assessment Checklist” to
identify areas of concern and strength for you as a telecommuter. To
enhance the usefulness of this process, also give the checklist to:
• Your boss
• A trusted co-worker who knows you well
• Your spouse or significant other
• A close friend
Ask for their perspective on any obstacles to your success and com-
pare their responses. Use the insight gained from the checklist to
guide your decisions about whether, when, and how to use telecom-
muting to your best advantage.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Telecommuter Self-assessment Checklist
Put a check mark next to all those that apply to you. If you are think-
ing about becoming a telecommuter, consider whether items you
do not check will create a barrier to your success as a telecommuter
or will require extra effort on your part to overcome a potential
obstacle.
How to Use This Book 7
If you are already telecommuting, use this checklist to identify
any areas of difficulty that are detracting from your productivity or
satisfaction as a telecommuter.
Personal Traits/Preferences
I believe I:
■ enjoy working independently.
■ like to think through and resolve problems myself.
■ am a high initiative person.
■ am not a procrastinator.
■ can set and stick to a schedule.
■ like to organize and plan.
■ am a self-disciplined person.
■ am able and willing to handle administrative tasks.
■ can balance attention to major objectives and small details.
■ do not need constant interaction with people.
■ can work effectively with little or no feedback from others.
■ enjoy being in my home.
■ do not need frequent feedback or coaching.
■ have the required level of verbal and written communication
skills.
■ can pace myself to avoid both overworking and wasting time.
■ can resist a refrigerator that’s only a few steps away.
Job Appropriateness
My job:
■ requires minimal face-to-face interaction.
■ involves many responsibilities that can be met by phone, fax, or
modem.
■ allows for accountabilities to be quantified, measured, and
monitored.
8 101 Tips for Telecommuters
■ affords me the freedom to manage my work as I see best.
■ does not require frequent interaction with work associates.
■ involves co-workers who are supportive and collaborative.
Home Office Space/Environment
I have a space for my home office that:
■ has an adequate amount of work space for my current needs.
■ would provide opportunities for future expansion.
■ has an adequate amount of storage space.
■ has adequate lighting.
■ has sufficient ventilation.
■ has a safe number of electrical circuits.
■ is quiet enough to allow me to concentrate.
■ provides appropriate separation from home/family distractions.
■ is a pleasant and comfortable space I’d enjoy working in.
■ is a reasonable distance from needed business services.
■ has no zoning or lease restrictions that preclude telecommuting.
■ has adequate insurance coverage to protect business equipment.
Family Support
My family:
■ is supportive of my desire to telecommute and will react
positively.
■ is willing to minimize distractions and interruptions.
■ will not require care or involvement from me during work
hours.
■ can accept my need to focus on work during business hours.
■ is stable and has no relationship conflicts that would be
distracting.
How to Use This Book 9
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11
Working Well in
Your Home Office
c
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2
Focus Your Life
Few things will undermine your telecommuting effectiveness as
swiftly and significantly as a lack of focus. The myriad distractions
that bombard a telecommuter (ringing phones, incoming faxes,
buzzing doorbells, chatty friends, whining children, etc.) along with
the ever-present demands of the moment (looming deadlines, crash-
ing computers, demanding clients, frustrated co-workers, impatient
bosses) contribute to our occasionally taking our “eye off the ball”
with regard to our true focus.
A quick scan of the dictionary definition of focus produces words
and phrases such as:
➡ convergence
➡ adjustment
➡ positioning
➡ clear image
➡ central point
➡ sharpness
➡ concentrated
Focus serves as:
©Your guiding light; the purpose underlying your actions.
©The vision to which you calibrate your achievements.
©The clear and unambiguous ultimate objectives or goals that
justify your effort.
Achieving focus is at the core of success in nearly every enter-
prise. But a lack of it can be particularly detrimental to the telecom-
muter whose continued success is tied to achievement of results.
While this is certainly true for focusing your job in general as well as
the details of your daily work, it is also applicable to your overall life
focus. The underlying reason for my foray into telecommuting is at-
tributable to focus: the priorities in my life became clearer and my
desire to telecommute evolved from those priorities. Once I em-
braced a vision of myself telecommuting, I moved toward opportuni-
ties and learnings that allowed my vision to transform—and I started
telecommuting!
13
14 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Somewhere there must be estimates of the huge amounts of
money spent on goal setting, life planning, time management, and
values-clarification systems and programs. Who wouldn’t agree that
having a life plan isn’t a good idea? Who wouldn’t agree that clarify-
ing your values, establishing your life priorities, balancing your vari-
ous life roles, etc. isn’t essential to a well-lived life? But, how many of
us actually do this type of life planning? And if we attempt it, do we
have the discipline to follow through, refine, update, and implement
our plan on an ongoing basis? Just how many (well-designed and
well-intentioned) day planner/timer/runner systems have been aban-
doned and added to the accumulation of stuff we think there isn’t
enough time to do?!
Be careful not to let a time-consuming or misused planning sys-
tem become a barrier to your life-planning efforts. So, abandon the
system if necessary (or begin to use it properly), but don’t abandon
your focus! Without a clear definition of your life focus, your daily
priorities and work goals soon become empty means to a dissatisfy-
ing end. Most important, like so much else in the life of a telecom-
muter, your commitment and discipline to use whatever process you
choose is the real key to a focused life.
Schedule a life-focus planning session with and for yourself. Block
off time on your calendar, and find an appropriate place where you
can commit some undisturbed time to contemplate and create. In the
spirit of simplicity, begin by defining the:
4 most important things in your life
3 most important values you hold
2 most important things you want to accomplish before leaving
the planet
1 thing you want people to most remember about your life
Get more detailed if you want—write a life mission; identify your life
roles and define the priorities in each role; write your eulogy; map
out a 5-, 10-, and 20-year plan—but don’t procrastinate on the major
points until you have time for the detailed version. You’ll soon figure
out that the “big picture” represents the most critical aspects of your
life focus; the details will fall into place naturally.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
3
Focus Your Work
Bringing focus to your work is critical to defining your job purpose
and accountabilities. As a telecommuter, with a strong orientation to
achievement of results, clarity regarding your job and your account-
abilities is a fundamental communication tool between you and your
manager.
If you work remotely, be certain you clearly define your:
• Mission
• Job purpose
• Key measures
• Rewards
Your mission should relate to the mission of your organization
and should express objectives in areas such as market share, growth,
levels of service to customers, positioning of your business relative to
the industry, and the competition or perceptions of the marketplace
or your customer base. Your job purpose states why your particular
position exists and how it supports the mission. For example, the
corporate annual report might provide a clear mission. But if you
think your job purpose is to expand marketplace awareness and your
boss thinks you were hired to increase sales, it would be useful to
sort this out sooner rather than later.
Specific key results and measures are absolutely critical. You and
your manager must have a crystal-clear agreement on how your ef-
fectiveness and success will be measured. Without such performance
measures, especially when you telecommute, there’s a risk that eval-
uations of your performance will be based on subjective criteria or—
even worse—on what’s seen by your manager versus what you
Working Well in Your Home Office 15
deliver in terms of results. Finally, rewards (merit increases, advance-
ment benchmarks and timeframes, bonuses, other perks) should be
clearly tied to performance measures. Otherwise, there’s a huge risk
of confusion, assumptions, second-guessing, disappointment, anger,
resentment, and job dissatisfaction.
When you telecommute, it’s essential that you take steps to clar-
ify agreements between you and your manager to ensure that your
job focus is clear. In my telecommuting work arrangements, I’ve con-
sistently supplemented my telecommuting agreements with more
specific job performance measures documented through the perfor-
mance management process (Tip 61). However it is handled, be sure
it’s addressed. Take the initiative when necessary to discuss, clarify,
and document the terms of your role and your relationship with
whoever evaluates your performance and influences your future.
Therefore, if your organization doesn’t utilize a structured telecom-
muting agreement or performance management system, create one
and negotiate the details with your boss.
Remember that ultimately you are responsible for managing your
performance, your work, and your future (Tip 30) and for determining
on a day-to-day basis how best to ensure that your goals are realized.
Create a job plan that includes the following items:
1 Purpose statement for your position with a clear statement of
the added value you bring to:
• Your organization
• Customers
• Other stakeholders
2 Identify at least five key results you’re expected to achieve, with
specific measures by which your results are made visible.
Discuss/review this with your manager and document your agreements.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
16 101 Tips for Telecommuters
4
Focus Your Day
Regardless of the goal setting or time management system you use
when telecommuting, you should begin each day knowing:
• What your priorities are (and why they’re critical).
• What you need to accomplish (be certain you can quantify, mea-
sure, or otherwise clearly define this).
• What your game plan is for achieving the needed results (this
includes both the “how” and “when” components of your daily
action plan).
• What the rewards are for accomplishing your goals for the day
(the immediate payoffs to you personally and professionally).
Your daily priorities are based on your job focus (Tip 3) and are
the “call to action” for your day. For example, your priorities may re-
late to things like closing sales, completing articles, or designing
strategic change plans. What you need to accomplish on a given day
would be more specific and clearly measurable: complete a sales pro-
posal, finish another phase of research, or complete the development
of a change-management survey. While clarifying priorities and tasks
to be accomplished are important to anyone who values productivity,
telecommuters can be especially vulnerable to factors that diminish
daily focus. Aside from distractions and demands of the day, you
must maintain your focus without the benefit of co-workers, team
members, or other more traditional workplace influences that may
contribute positively to focus. For example, if a team is pulling to-
gether a major presentation or finalizing a project design, the energy
and visible signs of progress that may exist in a team work area or a
project “war room” won’t exist in your home office. Since you’ll need
to maintain the same focus, however, you’ll also need to be clear
about what must be done when you leave your office at the end of
the day (hopefully, at a civilized hour!).
Your game plan includes a list of “to do” items that support the
accomplishments you’re targeting for the day. These items could in-
volve anything from phone calls with clients, conference calls with
team members who are collaborating with you on a project, docu-
ments you need to write, feedback to be reviewed and discussed with
Working Well in Your Home Office 17
colleagues, meetings with your manager, etc. Your game plan would
detail the importance of each task, when you need to complete it,
and how. For example, a sales executive may note in her/his schedule
for the day that one of the “must do” items in connection with a
major proposal is the completion of the pricing plan, to be accom-
plished by calling the marketing manager for input on the discount
schedule and reviewing the draft plan with the sales manager before
2:00 P.M. so it can be faxed to the client to meet the 4:00 P.M. dead-
line. Of course, the sales executive also would plan the reward for
completing and faxing the proposal (and completing other work tar-
geted for that day).
Rewards (Tip 29) can be anything that provide incentives and
motivate you (take a snack break with the kids, head out to the gym,
visit a favorite chat room on the Internet) and keeps you focused on
the things that contribute to your success in your work and your ef-
fectiveness as a telecommuter. Specific daily goals and associated re-
wards were vital to my ability to complete this book. On a few days
(or nights) when deadlines were approaching, my reward was fairly
basic: complete the tips that had to be written for that day, and then I
could leave the office and/or finally get some sleep!
Decide which daily planning process is best for you. If you’re not
sure, start, at a minimum, with a blank piece of paper (or a new doc-
ument on your computer). Be sure to put in writing your prioritized
“to do” items for your next work day. It’s a simple step, but all the
great journeys begin with one!
To get more specific, determine the:
4 top priorities in your current work.
3 specific accomplishments targeted for your next work day.
2 actions you must take to complete your accomplishments.
1 reward you’ll attach to completion of targeted accomplishments.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
18 101 Tips for Telecommuters
5
Avoid Time Wasters
Being a advocate of telecommuting, you’re likely to appreciate the
value of time and ways to utilize it efficiently. It’s likely you’ve al-
ready calculated the time you are or could be saving by telecommut-
ing. Perhaps you’ve also identified all the things you can accomplish
with the extra time telecommuting will provide. While thinking
through all of this is helpful, beware of “activity creep”!
“Activity creep” is the slow emergence into your day of “stuff”
that needs to get done but is not essential to achievement of your key
daily goals. When you work in a traditional workplace, this “stuff”
simply lingers in the back of your mind and is annoying. But when
you telecommute from home, it’s very much an “in your face” kind of
annoyance that results in the waste of that precious time you so
much wanted to save.
Here are just a few distracters that, in excess, may be a drain on
your time and ability to achieve results:
• Reading the newspaper
• Playing computer games
• Exercising
• Visiting with neighbors
• Cleaning/light housekeeping
• Talking with family members
• Laundry
• Doing filing
• Running “quick” errands
• Organizing papers, files, drawers, closets, etc.
• Watching television
• Answering the door or home telephone
• Taking snack/refreshment breaks
• Talking on the telephone (personal chatting)
• Surfing the Internet
• Reading/filing personal mail
Working Well in Your Home Office 19
20 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Paying personal bills
Of course, some of these distracters may be on your list of fun things
to do. Great! Use them as rewards or activities during work breaks
(Tip 24). The easiest way to avoid time wasters is to be conscious of
the ones that plague you. Make a commitment to yourself to use
your time wisely and keep yourself focused each day (Tips 2, 3) on
the essence of your work and your key accomplishments for achiev-
ing your goals. If the threat of failure isn’t enough to motivate you, be
sure to give yourself other rewards (Tip 29), incentives, or conse-
quences that keep those time wasters at bay.
Think about and list the major time wasters that create “activity
creep” in your day.
Right now—make a commitment to yourself to eliminate (or
better manage) two of them this week.
Make your commitment visible. For example, you could make a
big sign or poster on which you write the time waster with a big
red circle around it and red line through it. Or make little signs
with a key word or symbol to remind you of a critical work goal
(such as your sales goal for the month/quarter/year). Post your
reminders near opportunities to waste time (on the file cabinet,
refrigerator, pool table, telephone). The point is to ask yourself
in the moment, “Is doing this activity right now the best use of
my work time?”
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
6
Maintain a Healthy Balance
(Manage the Workaholic Within)
A great myth of telecommuting is the inherent—or automatic—at-
tainment of balance. True, it’s possible to rack up great savings in
commute time which, in theory, can be redeployed as more time for
family, recreating, relaxing . . . or more work! So, here’s a simple rule
of thumb: If you were a workaholic before telecommuting, you’ll
have a greater tendency to continue that pattern after telecommut-
ing. The reasons for this are simple—you’ve only changed the loca-
tion of work, you didn’t get a frontal lobotomy! The situation is a bit
like your computer, which, loaded with the same software, operates
the same way in your home office as it does in your living room:
same software, same hardware, same performance.
In many cases, this means setting reasonable limits to your work
hours (except during peak times like end-of-month billing, getting a
big proposal out the door, or responding to a client crisis).
Otherwise—especially for the typical goal-oriented, high-initiative,
hard-charging workaholic—you’ll begin to feel as though you never
really leave work. One of my telecommuter friends considers this to
be the biggest obstacles he had to overcome—until he finally got his
office out of a corner in his family room. Only then did he have a
more tangible way to distance himself from work during nonwork
hours and thus achieve some of the balance he needed. You, too,
need to turn out lights, close doors, avoid checking e-mail or voice
mail, let the answering machine respond to a call—in general, plan
ways you will ensure that the balance you seek is indeed achieved.
If you were desperately seeking balance before telecommuting,
you’ll need to maintain the same—or stronger—commitment to
achieving it as a telecommuter.
▼Visualize your ideally balanced life. Actually write out a daily
schedule for your ideal day. Use a daily schedule format, a pie
chart, or whatever tool helps you make your ideal plan specific
and visible.
▼How does it compare to ways you are currently investing your
time and energy? (You may need to track your schedule for a
few days to be more objective about how your time is spent.)
▼Now find that prioritized plan for tomorrow and be sure that
some of your vision for a balanced life is reflected in your plan.
Working Well in Your Home Office 21
Do at least one thing tomorrow that moves you toward the bal-
ance you’re seeking.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
7
Stay Motivated
(Manage the Slouch Within)
You’re undoubtedly a highly motivated, high-achieving, self-starter
type of person with unbounded confidence that you will achieve
high levels of performance and output as a telecommuter. And when
all the forces of the cosmos and the dynamics of your universe con-
verge in perfect harmony, this is likely to be the case. But let’s talk
about reality. Those forces and dynamics don’t just occur; you make
them occur or respond to them in ways that keep you motivated, fo-
cused, and productive. How do you minimize factors that compro-
mise your motivation and productivity?
An important key to staying motivated is to avoid procrastina-
tion. This is a particular challenge, even for highly motivated
telecommuters, since many of the contributors to procrastination are
ever-present in the telecommuting workplace (such as household
chores, family distractions, personal tasks, television, exercise equip-
ment, etc.). So, use these guideposts to maintain your motivation
and keep the “slouch” at bay:
• Keep your focus (major goals, daily to-do tasks) in mind AND
visible.
• Establish a system for tracking your accomplishments. Be sure
it’s easy to use (not another time-consuming excuse to avoid
your real work!) AND visible. One telecommuter I know insists
that he nurtures his sense of progress with a simple TO DO list.
The important aspect of this for him is that he diligently crosses
out each item as it’s completed. Beyond the sense of achieve-
ment, it also serves as a method to track results. Other telecom-
22 101 Tips for Telecommuters
muters use computer-based systems that accomplish the same
objectives. (It’s debatable, however, if one gains more satisfac-
tion from vigorously crossing out an item on paper or hitting
the delete button on the computer!)
• Organize your work into chunks that you can tackle in manage-
able pieces (remember that journey of a thousand miles and the
one-step strategy).
• Set deadlines for accomplishing tasks.
• Do the hard stuff (probably also the important stuff) FIRST.
• Take breaks and/or switch activities periodically, using this tech-
nique as a way to either capitalize on your energy patterns or re-
ward yourself for accomplishing a critical task. (Remember to
limit your time commitment to reenergizing or rewarding activi-
ties. Too much of a good thing can be both wonderful and de-
structive to your best-laid work plans!)
Bottom line: Plan your work and work your plan—and do so
relentlessly.
• Be sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:
✓ Do you have a workable, visible plan?
✓ Is your tracking system functional and visible?
✓ Do you know your priorities and have deadlines attached to
action items?
• Make a list of at least 10 activities you can do or things you can
give yourself when you need a short break or have earned a re-
ward, especially in connection with accomplishing a task that
was previously in your procrastination file!
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well in Your Home Office 23
8
Get and Keep Your Office Organized
Tom Peters has written eloquently about thriving on chaos, but it’s an
organizational state of mind—not the way you want to approach
telecommuting. It’s not even open for debate; it’s a given, a truism, an
unalterable fact of telecommuting life: lack of organization will
doom you.
Managing the tons of paper (weren’t we fantasizing about the pa-
perless office just a decade ago?!) is inherent in your ability to be or-
ganized (Tip 9), and efficiently processing the mounds of mail you
receive (Tip 11) is vital. But you need a context in which to manage
the “stuff” of your day, and this context is created by systems and
structure.
Unfortunately, you can’t run to the local office superstore for
your complete, customized system in a box! You need to create your
own systems, based on your needs, priorities, type of work, and indi-
vidual style. You can, of course, buy the components required to cre-
ate workflow and organization systems that allow you to eliminate
clutter on your desk; move essential work tools and resources under
furniture, overhead, on the walls, onto shelves, into cabinets or lat-
eral desktop files; or store items used less often in containers that
provide easy access when you do need them.
Remember, this is nonnegotiable. It’s essential that you analyze
your work requirements and design systems that keep you orga-
nized. Does this mean you must have a clean desk when you leave
your office each day? No, not necessarily. (Based on how my desk
looks at the moment, I’m certainly relieved to know there are no hard
and fast “clean desk” rules!) But if you continue to find yourself
wasting precious time looking for things in all those stacks of paper,
consider it a warning sign. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you spend
more than 10 minutes every day looking for a file, your favorite scis-
sors, a phone number, someone’s business card, your supply of sticky
notes, an old proposal, a purchase order, or anything critical to your
work (and your efficiency), you need better systems.
If you’re not good at creating systems, hate doing it, or don’t
think you have time, hire an organization consultant to do it for you.
But only you can keep the system working well, so it’s vital that you
have systems tailored to your needs and style.
24 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Quickly scan your office and identify:
5 Things on your desk that you can relocate to a smarter place.
(Now move them.)
4 Things in your closest desk drawer that aren’t used frequently
enough to keep them there. (Now find a new storage space for
them.)
3 Files in your closest file drawer or desktop files that haven’t been
used in at least a month. (Now move them to a more appropri-
ate file drawer or box.)
2 Areas where you have space that’s not being utilized most effec-
tively. (Now rearrange them.)
1 Thing you can buy that improves the organization of your office.
(Add it now to your running list of things to order for delivery
by your office supplier.)
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9
Get and Keep
Your Day Organized
Just as important as systems is the structure or routine of your day.
Telecommuting has the appearance—and misconception—to others
of being an unstructured, easy-going way of working. Successful
telecommuting could not be further from this misperception.
Most successful telecommuters have a fairly structured routine
they follow daily. This doesn’t mean they overlook the need for flexi-
bility, as with any typical workday. But, it’s not a free-for-all in the
way the day is approached—as much as possible there are set times
for planning, phone work, project work, meetings, etc. And all of the
daily activities of the successful telecommuter are based on and
driven by priorities (remember focus!).
Working Well in Your Home Office 25
It is also essential to manage with a solid “calendaring” or
scheduling system, along with a to-do list or tickler system that
functions as a central input and output point for all of your tasks.
This can be a pocket calendar, binder-based calendar, wall calendar,
computer-based calendar and scheduler, notebook with prioritized
action lists—whatever works well for you and your business. In spite
of the best organized calendar and to-do list, you’re still bound to
have a cluttered mind, so it’s important to avoid trusting any more to
memory than necessary. Therefore, discipline yourself to write EV-
ERYTHING down when you think of it—and then transfer it a.s.a.p.
to your main scheduling system. Don’t forget to be flexible when
necessary—if you think great thoughts while exercising, keep a mi-
crocassette recorder handy. (I’m sure my neighbors are somewhat cu-
rious about what I’m saying into my recorder as I dictate along my
power walk route!) Do the same in your car if you travel or commute
periodically—talking is safer than writing while driving! And if solu-
tions to the world’s great problems come to you in the shower, install
a writing board and grease pencil on your shower wall.
To get and stay organized, it’s just as your mother always told
you: a place for everything and everything in its place. This applies
to all of your tools, resources, supplies information, AND events,
tasks, commitments and other to-do items.
✎Confirm that you have paper and pen near every phone in your
house, near your bed, in the bathroom, in your car, and any-
where else where you typically think of things that you need to
do.
✎Think about the other places where you want to capture your
thoughts and create a way to do so even if the paper method
won’t work (microcassette recorder in your car, waterproof writ-
ing board for your shower, etc.).
✎Get in the habit of gathering those notes and reminders so you
can quickly integrate them into your central calendar and plan-
ning system.
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26 101 Tips for Telecommuters
10
Keep the “Administrivia”
Under Control
The devil is in the details, as they say, but nowadays the more dan-
gerous devil probably lurks in your data. More pointedly, anything
that compromises your ability to manage, track, file, and retrieve in-
formation is a serious villain and a major threat to your success as a
telecommuter. Therefore, you must be passionate about organizing
the current and archived information relevant to your work.
Whether you do this electronically or with traditional paper files
(and usually it’s a combination of both), how you manage informa-
tion greatly impacts your efficiency and, ultimately, your success.
Don’t go cheap here—invest in filing and/or data management sys-
tems that are first-rate. Buy good equipment—sturdy file cabinets
and plenty of them, portable file bins (on wheels) for easy access to a
current project or client files, a fabulous rolodex or a great business
card scanning software package—whatever choices are most suited
for your specific requirements.
Get help from a consultant that specializes in office organization
or data management if you’re not an organizational genius about
such matters. But, once again, how you individually work with the
system is essential to its success, so it must be customized to your
needs and to the way you manage your work. A good consultant
(e.g., one that will install a system that will work for you) will ask
lots of questions about your work, what you do, how you do it, how
you access information, your preferences, the things you hate, your
needs, your limitations, your budget, and your time constraints. Your
future needs should also be a consideration since your filing system
should be designed to expand as your needs change and your
archived data grow.
If you can’t afford a consultant, consider bartering for the ser-
vices (Tip 79). At the very least, attend a workshop or read a few
books that focus on data organizing systems.
As for your tendencies to be a pack rat, there’s no easier way to
begin feeling that your work is taking over your entire house than to
have file boxes stashed in corners and closets well beyond your of-
fice. One important rule: PITCH IT if you can. (Note: My husband
assures me that I’m living proof that achieving perfection on this sug-
gestion may be a fantasy!) Otherwise, a few hints:
Working Well in Your Home Office 27
• Keep current project or client files as close to your work space
as possible, with other information (topical files, sales or mar-
keting material, frequently used forms, etc.) kept at a reasonable
distance from your desk.
• Keep noncurrent files that must be retained someplace other
than your office, if possible (such as the basement, garage,
closet). If these files require a significant amount of storage
space, consider other options such as moving them to a corpo-
rate records retention facility or a local storage facility that pro-
vides a dry, climate-controlled, lighted indoor environment.
• Establish specific time frames for reviewing current files so they
can be moved to storage as soon as possible; provide discard
date on archived files so they’ll automatically be destroyed when
no longer needed.
One experienced telecommuter I know insisted that I include a
reminder about protecting yourself against the hazards of your files
being discarded without your consent. He discovered, with much
angst, that young grandchildren in your office apparently can iden-
tify and activate the delete key on the computer faster than you
might realize. So, while this minimizes your electronic storage de-
mands, the judicious use of passwords might be advisable under
some circumstances!
Maintain a master file list in your computer (print a hard copy
for backup) reflecting file name, contents, and location. Update it re-
ligiously whenever any file is moved or altered. The time investment
required to do this will pay off handsomely whenever you quickly
search your master list to locate a needed file.
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28 101 Tips for Telecommuters
11
Manage the Maddening
Mounds of Mail
You may recall feeling burdened in the not-too-distant past by the
volume of paper that filled your in-basket. It seemed that days would
be filled with meetings, travel, and “normal” work, followed by the
seemingly endless end-of-day processing of mail. (Unless, of course,
you stuffed it in your extra brief case and took it all home to read!)
Then the enlightened age of technology brought us the time-saving
(and supposedly paperless) wonders of voice mail and e-mail . . . and
you saved time, right? Not likely, since now you have three inbound
sources of mail instead of one! And, no doubt, you feel as if you’re
drowning in it all. How can you stay afloat?
The overriding guide on handling mail is to do it as quickly as
possible BEFORE it backs up badly. (The plumber can unclog your
pipes, but only you can flush out the mail that awaits you.) I vividly
recall times when I was locked in meetings for days or out of touch
due to travel or had taken a few days of vacation only to face upon
my return 147 e-mail messages, 63 voice mail messages, and a huge
box of mail. You, too? Recall those times, remember the feelings of
dread, and swear to yourself right now that you’ll never let it happen
again. But, how?
Processing your mail quickly doesn’t mean you handle it as soon
as it appears. Set aside specific times during the day to deal with all
forms of mail. Overcome the temptation to read that fax when you
hear the fax machine humming or switch to e-mail when your com-
puter signals the arrival of a message. Don’t worry—they’ll still be
there when it’s time to read them! For all types of mail you receive,
following these simple steps:
• Do an initial sort and quickly trash anything of no value. (Also
delete from e-mail anything sent by an unknown addressee and
avoid being on lists for automatic distribution of e-mail mes-
sages or new releases unless they’re essential to your business.)
• Prioritize the items you’re keeping into folders, boxes, files or
piles: *Act Now, *Do Later, *Read, *File.
• Handle the *Act Now items immediately, remembering to be as
brief as possible and respond to only those items that require a
Working Well in Your Home Office 29
response. (Yes, your mother said to always say “Thank you,” but
she didn’t realize that doing so would someday clutter some-
one’s e-mail box!)
• Deal with the *Do Later and *Read items as time permits, al-
ways looking for creative uses of snippets of time (while on
hold for a caller, during lunch, in the bathroom, etc.).
• Use drive time to keep on top of voice mail (following “safe cel-
lular” guidelines, of course), and always leave your office with
something from your *Read file should you encounter a delay
or reading opportunity (when your vehicle is NOT in motion!).
.Review your system for processing mail and your sorting sys-
tem. If you don’t have clearly designed places for different types
and priorities of mail, set up the appropriate places now.
.Be sure that your *Read items are easily accessible near your of-
fice door (so you can grab them quickly on your way out when
you may have opportunities to catch up on your reading back-
log).
.Also, check the size of your trash can—you probably need to
order a larger one.
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12
Determine the Best Location for
Your Home Office
Once you’ve decided to work from your home-based office, deciding
where to locate your office in your home is a critical issue. (Actually,
you should have given this some thought before pursuing the
telecommuting option to ensure you indeed have appropriate space
and work conditions essential to telecommuting success.) As you
consider options within your home, there are a few factors to con-
sider first:
30 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• How much space will you need? (Base this on: the type of work
you do; the furniture and equipment you’ll require; the neces-
sary access to supplies, files, and other materials; and the real-
ization that you’ll fill the space faster and need more of it than
you expect.)
• What access will others need to have to your office? (Will you
have meetings in your office? Will an assistant work with you?)
• How much psychological or symbolic distance will you need be-
tween your office and your family and your living space?
• How much physical separation will you need to give yourself to
minimize the distractions presented by your family and the rest
of your home?
• What security requirements will your office have?
Once you’ve assessed your space requirements, you can consider
the options your home provides. Look carefully—there may be alter-
natives you hadn’t seen before. Obviously, a gigantic spare (and con-
veniently empty) room would be ideal, provided it meets other
requirements for your efficiency. If you are so fortunate as to have a
separate space to transform into an office, consider yourself blessed.
Otherwise, look for creative ways to work with what you’ve got.
Some telecommuters share space in a seldom used room, such as
a guest room or even the dining room (unless you entertain fre-
quently or don’t have a table in the kitchen). Sharing a space in a
room such as a family room or living room is usually less desirable,
since these rooms usually are used by other people in your house and
maintaining separation can be difficult. However, if you must have
an arrangement like this, there are some great furniture solutions
that provide an efficient “office in a box” that closes neatly when not
in use and can easily be mistaken for an armoire. This type of solu-
tion also can work as a customized built-in arrangement in a closet,
providing the dedicated office you need for working within the con-
fines of limited space and with the advantage of having it “gone”
when you close the door.
Using a section of your bedroom for your office is usually an un-
desirable option, since the mingling of work and sleep are not con-
ducive to doing either one very well. If you absolutely must use a
section of your bedroom or another room with a primary purpose
other than housing your office, be sure to use a partition of some sort
Working Well in Your Home Office 31
(or an “office in a box”) so you provide the necessary separation be-
tween your professional life and your personal life.
A final thought to consider: Wherever you decide to locate your
office, be sure it’s in a place where you WANT to work. A large, cav-
ernous basement may appear to provide more space than you’ll ever
need; however, if it’s dark, windowless, damp, or gives you the
creeps, it certainly won’t beckon to you and contribute to your moti-
vation. The same is true for a cozy attic office—if you feel claustro-
phobic and always on the verge of a panic attack or heat stroke.
Everything else you do to create focus, organization, systems, and
support for your telecommuting success will be undermined by an
office that you hate. So, create an office in your home that balances
and combines requirements for appropriate space, suitable conve-
nience, necessary separation, and personal comfort.
✓ If you’re just establishing your home office or need to reevaluate
the location of your existing office, make a list of everything
you need, such as furniture, equipment, supplies, files, resource
materials, etc. (Tip 101).
✓ Create an office layout and determine your space requirements.
✓ Based on the space options in your home, consider the pros and
cons of each option in light of the factors discussed above.
✓ If you’re already ensconced in your home office, reassess how
well it’s working for you in terms of needed space, access, sepa-
ration, security, etc. Consider a change or enhancements if your
office is not all you thought it was cracked up to be.
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32 101 Tips for Telecommuters
13
Draw a Clear Line Between
Your Work and Living Space
More than likely, you won’t have an ideal location for your home of-
fice unless you: (1) are fortunate enough to have designed your
home with this in mind; (2) have the luxury of renovating or remod-
eling to create an ideal work space; (3) have a former carriage house
on your property that lends itself perfectly to your needs; or (4) you
have a huge house and a large, empty room (with a bathroom, small
kitchen, lots of windows, plenty of electrical outlets, multiple tele-
phone jacks, etc.) that yearns to function as an office. If none of these
scenarios describes your situation, you have lots of company—and
need to improvise! Situating your office within your home with a
clear demarcation between office and home is one of your biggest
challenges and most critical requirements for successful telecom-
muting.
To whatever extent possible, your office should be removed from
the activities and distractions of your home and family. If, however,
you’re using a spare bedroom or other location that’s not in a separate
wing of your mansion, consider a few steps to promote real and psy-
chological separation:
• Install a solid (versus hollow) door to buffer distracting sounds.
• Add additional soundproofing with cork board on your walls
(very functional, as well!).
• Use carpeting that’s different from the rest of your house (and
functional for use with office furniture and equipment: thick or
shag carpeting was not designed for use with casters on office
chairs).
• Keep your personal business matters (mail, checkbook, files,
etc.) in a separate location so your office is clearly a work-re-
lated space only.
Be sure that your soundproofing blocks out distracting sounds
(like your children, assuming someone else is managing their care)
but still lets you hear sounds that are important to your work (like
the doorbell when an express delivery arrives). One way to stay con-
nected while removed from the epicenter of activity in your home is
to use an intercom or room monitor. This alerts you to the doorbell
Working Well in Your Home Office 33
or a true family emergency that would demand your attention
whether you were telecommuting or in an office 10 miles away.
Because your office is ever-present in your home and so easily ac-
cessible, you may benefit from learning ways to psychologically sep-
arate your work life and your home life, as well. One way to draw a
psychological line between work and home is to end your workday
with a ritual that signals you to focus on the rest of your life.
Hopefully, you have a door you can close; discipline yourself to leave
it closed until the next workday. Other end-of-day ritual and tech-
niques successful telecommuters use to transition to a nonwork
mindset include:
• End the workday with a 15-minute planning session for the
next day’s work.
• Take a walk.
• Head out to the gym for a workout.
• Spend a few minutes of “how was your day” sharing time with
your spouse or kids.
• Have a snack.
• Change clothes.
• Make a small dent in your *Reading in-box (or treat yourself to
some light, nonwork reading).
Identify:
3 Sources of distraction that come from your home, your personal
life, or your family.
2 Things about your office that make it hard for you to concen-
trate or get started with work.
1 Major barrier to your ability to “close the office door” in your
mind at the end of your work day.
Consider ways to overcome these obstacles and implement solu-
tions for at least two of them today.
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34 101 Tips for Telecommuters
14
Determine the Best Address
for Your Home Office
Just because your office is in your home doesn’t mean your home ad-
dress also should serve as your business address. True, your mail
reaches you more directly if it’s dropped in your home mailbox, and
packages left on your doorstep easily are accessible. However, there
are several disadvantages that you should consider.
If you live in an apartment, condominium complex, or gated
community, mail might not be delivered directly to your door.
Additionally, delivery services sometimes face delivery restrictions in
these situations. A package delivered to the property management of-
fice on Friday afternoon might not be accessible to you until Monday
if you can’t retrieve it before the office closes. If packages can be de-
livered directly to your doorstep, they often will be left there for days
if you’re traveling or away on vacation—and the mail can begin
spilling out of your mailbox in a short period of time while you’re
away. So, if you receive your mail at home, you’ll probably need to
ask someone to retrieve it or ask the post office to hold it when
you’re out of town. This can prove to be a big nuisance if you travel
more than occasionally.
Some telecommuters prefer to keep their home address out of
their business dealings for other reasons, as well. You might not want
your home address to be public information. If you need to include
your mailing/shipping address on your letterhead, business card, en-
velopes, e-mail or fax cover page, your home address inherently be-
comes public information. Should this be unacceptable for any
reason, you may elect to use an entirely different address.
If you opt to use an address other than your home address, there
are several options: (1) a post office box—although this is problem-
atic for most express or package delivery needs since many shippers
will not deliver to post office boxes; (2) post office box for mail and
home address for packages (do you have room on your business card
for two addresses?); (3) an executive suite location with ship-and-re-
ceive services; (4) a full-service ship-and-receive location (e.g.,
Mailboxes, Etc., The Package Store, etc.). The off-site ship-and-re-
ceive alternatives should offer staffed facilities that provide signa-
tures, tracking and storage for your mail and packages, as well as
Working Well in Your Home Office 35
after-hours access to your mail. Dedicated ship-and-receive services
seem to provide the best combination of options and flexibility for a
telecommuter with mounds of mail, occasional packages and express
shipments, and varying degrees of travel.
Do you need a change of address? Review the types of mail and
packages you receive, how you receive them and problems you en-
counter. If you need to change your address, check the yellow pages
for options (Mailbox Rental and Receiving) or create a new version
of your home address.
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15
Design Your Office
for Efficiency
If even the thought of designing your office makes you panic or
begin fantasizing about hiring an interior designer to make it magi-
cally appear, this might be an area where you do need some expert
assistance. Keep in mind, however, that you ultimately must think
through your equipment and furniture needs, space limitations, nec-
essary work flow and requirements, as well as your individual work
style. It’s unlikely you’ll get what you need if you attempt to abdicate
completely and trust anyone else to design an office that will work
for you. So whether you’re planning to work with a design expert or
pull together the components of an efficient office on your own,
you’ll need to give careful consideration to a few key issues:
• What type of work do you do, how does your work flow, what
does a typical day consist of in terms of work activities?
• What information, resources, references, files, etc. must you
typically access throughout your work day?
• What equipment is critical to your successfully and efficiently
accomplishing your work?
36 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Answering these questions leads to a determination of the type of
furniture and storage space you need, how much space it will re-
quire, and how it will best be placed in your office. If you’ve already
created a floor plan (Tip 12), you know that assessing your needs
and designing an office plan sometimes results in reconsidering your
office location. Once you’ve settled on the location, however, you
want to achieve the most efficient use of the available space.
With limited space, a modular furniture system might be best. If
you have more space available, a U-shape or L-shape design often
promotes wonderful efficiency and access to equipment and infor-
mation. From where I currently sit, I can—without leaving my
chair—use my computer; operate a four-line telephone; grab current
project files; reach for paper clips, writing implements, the calcula-
tor, the stapler, tape, etc.; dictate a quick thought or letter; partici-
pate in a videoconference; retrieve output from both my laser printer
and my fax machine; and shred any of that output in the paper
shredder! While sitting for hours isn’t such a great thing (Tip 24), ef-
ficiency in the design of your work space is fundamental to your suc-
cess as a telecommuter. Without an office that promotes efficiency,
you’re likely to either fail or make yourself crazy—or both!
¯Make a list of all the things (e.g., equipment, files, information,
supplies) you access in a typical day.
¯Design (or redesign) your work space to make all of those
things easily available.
¯Look around for “dead” space—on the walls,
under/on/above/behind your desk—that you can use more effec-
tively to hang, stack, box, shelve, or file the things you need.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well in Your Home Office 37
16
Design Your Office
for Good Health
Any way you cut it, you’ll spend a lot of time in your office. So it be-
hooves you to make it not only a safe and pleasant place but also an
environment that promotes good health. This is desirable since un-
healthy situations and habits can lead to inconvenience, expense,
and pain for you—and your employer is not likely to be thrilled with
a workers’ compensation claim that is avoidable. To begin, there are
any number of steps you can take personally to ensure that you stay
healthy (Tip 23) and that your office is safe (Tip 17). Let’s focus here
on how the design of your office can support your sustained good
health and continued productivity. Keep these key things in mind
when you select your office space, choose your equipment, and de-
sign your office layout:
• If you don’t have plenty of natural, northern light streaming
into your office, supplement with a good balance of ambient
(bright, indirect light for the room) and task (direct light on
your work space) lighting. Avoid bright sunlight, lighting di-
rected at your computer monitor, or bright light directed at your
eyes.
• Work at a temperature that keeps you alert and comfortable
while ensuring a good supply of fresh air (just open the win-
dow!—or install a ceiling fan). Also, too little or too much hu-
midity can be uncomfortable and should be avoided. Your list of
essential office equipment may need to include a humidifier or
dehumidifier.
• If your office design is highly efficient and you’re sitting a lot,
a proper fitting chair is essential (Tip 93). Aside from the
adjustability you’ll want in your chair, look for work surfaces
that adjust to different heights and angles. If possible, consider
a stand-up work surface, provided you can access the needed
equipment and information to maintain efficiency.
• Carefully select a computer keyboard and mouse that is suited
to your needs and minimizes the pitfalls that come with com-
puter territory. And be sure your monitor is large enough and
clear enough to avoid eye strain. While your notebook com-
38 101 Tips for Telecommuters
puter is great for traveling, it’s not the best option for significant
office use. If your notebook is your primary computer and you
like having everything in one machine, consider a docking sys-
tem or port replicator that enables you to use a more appropri-
ate monitor and keyboard for extensive office computing.
• Assuming you spend any amount of time on the telephone,
don’t even debate with yourself—buy a headset that gets that
telephone off of your shoulder and frees your hands for other
productive work (Tip 92). The savings in neck strain and raging
headaches will make your headset one of the most cost-effective
investments in your entire office.
Select one aspect of your environment (air, light) and one aspect of
your equipment that can be changed to improve the health level of
your work space. Implement it now (open the window, adjust your
chair height), or schedule execution of your improvement ideas as
quickly as possible.
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17
Be Your Own OSHA Inspector
The local OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
inspector may not be on your list of external partners and is not
likely to ever visit your home office. And though your employer may
not conduct an on-site check of your office for conformance to safety,
security, or design standards, office safety should not be an issue you
overlook. Many of the basic safety guidelines applicable to corporate
offices are relevant to your home office, too. While your employer
may provide guidelines to guard against liability challenges and
worker compensation claims, you should monitor compliance with
office safety standards to protect your personal well-being and to
Working Well in Your Home Office 39
guard against damage to your property. Compromising either objec-
tive potentially results in situations that preclude you from working.
Exercise diligence with regard to safety in your home office and
monitor how your office stacks up against these basic guidelines:
❏ Aisles/walkways clear of boxes, chairs, wastebaskets, etc.
❏ Files not top-heavy (e.g., empty drawers on bottom, full draw-
ers on top).
❏ Boxes of papers, files, books not stored on top of cabinets, files,
window sills, equipment.
❏ First aid kit easily accessible.
❏ Equipment turned off when not in use.
❏ Restricted access to equipment (paper cutter, utility knife, etc.)
potentially harmful to children.
❏ Pencils pointing down in pencil holders.
❏ Availability of ladder or appropriate step stool.
❏ Phone numbers for local emergency services posted on each
phone.
❏ Electrical cords in good condition (not frayed).
❏ Electrical cords located away from heating sources and work-
ing/walking areas.
❏ Electrical equipment located away from water source.
❏ No use of unnecessary, inappropriate, or excessive numbers of
extension cords.
❏ All electrical equipment and appliances grounded (use of three-
pronged plugs).
❏ Use of appropriate power-surge protection equipment.
❏ Fire extinguisher easily accessible to office and in working
order.
❏ Appropriate ventilation for good health and to vent fumes from
equipment or materials.
❏ Flammable liquids stored properly.
❏ Adequate lighting for type of work performed.
For additional information or more detailed guidelines, contact
40 101 Tips for Telecommuters
your local Department of Labor or OSHA office, or access OSHA on-
line at www.osha.gov.
■✓ Use the checklist above to evaluate the “safety correctness” of
your office.
■✓ Are there any areas of vulnerability? Pay particular attention to
areas of potential significant hazard (fire risk, chemical expo-
sure, etc.).
■✓ Take immediate steps to correct any dangerous conditions in
your office by relocating offending materials or by calling an
appropriate service provider to correct the situation.
■✓ On a related issue, review your homeowner’s insurance or
renter’s policy to ensure you have adequate coverage for
losses of structure or contents associated with your home
office (Tip 99).
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18
Dress for Success
(According to the New Rules)
With the advent of casual dress, dressing for success certainly has
evolved over the last decade. This could not be more true than for
telecommuting, where dress for success rules are driven by what
works best for you—what makes you feel best and what helps you
work best. And until videoconferencing and videophones are more
prevalent in the telecommuting workplace, when you’re working at
home, you’re dressing for you and you alone. (Good news: Even if
you utilize video communication, it only matters how you look from
the waist up!)
The media continue to publish articles about telecommuting
with fanciful pictures of telecommuters wearing bathrobes and
Working Well in Your Home Office 41
bunny slippers or floating in a swimming pool with a drink and a
notebook computer. Unfortunately, this perpetuates the myth that
telecommuting is an informal, laid-back adventure in relaxation
with only occasional interruptions of work. Do not be misled by
these unrealistic images! Most telecommuters find the relaxation/in-
terruption equation to be completely reversed. As for the bathrobe
and slippers, if this wardrobe choice helps you feel focused, ener-
gized, and professional, by all means do it. More frequently, how-
ever, effective telecommuters choose comfortable attire (sweats,
jeans, shorts, T-shirts, sensible shoes). Some telecommuters use
dress to help establish a mindset for work, so for them donning a
shirt and tie or a dress contributes to a productive workday. The
same issues of individual style and psychological need influence
other choices, such as shaving and wearing makeup. If it helps you
work more productively, do it; otherwise, save the time for more
critical activities. One telecommuter I know really feels there’s a
connection between how he looks and how he works (“If I feel
sloppy, chances are I will do sloppy work”), so he won’t start his
work day until he’s showered, shaved, and dressed (the equivalent
of business casual). Remember, whatever works for you is the right
solution for you.
If meetings with clients, suppliers, or colleagues may be part of
your day, dressing appropriately for such meetings might determine
your daily wardrobe. In any case, you should dress once and avoid
outfit changes midday, since this is a waste of precious time.
Along the wardrobe continuum from bunny slippers to business suit,
a range of options are available to you. Make your choices based on
NEED (any meetings today?), STYLE (can you take yourself seri-
ously in your bathrobe?), and COMFORT (what feels both relaxed
and energizing and isn’t a barrier to your work?). Consider your
wardrobe options. Are your choices contributing to your overall pro-
ductivity? If not, decide now on ways to improve your focus, effec-
tiveness, and time efficiency when you get dressed and prepare for
work each day.
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42 101 Tips for Telecommuters
19
Make a Habit of Avoiding Bad Habits
Poor work habits are a problem for anyone, since they erode produc-
tivity, compromise effectiveness, and—eventually—degrade motiva-
tion. All of these factors are exacerbated for the telecommuter
because of the independence and isolation characteristic of remote
work. The successful telecommuter makes it a habit to plan, orga-
nize, and execute work so that bad habits are avoided.
Do bad habits plague you? Consider whether any of these have
crept into your work, day, or life:
✖ Sleeping longer and starting your work day later than you
should.
✖ Not regularly reviewing your priorities and updating your ac-
tion list.
✖ Longer work breaks or lunch breaks than are necessary (or
breaks that evolve into social, shopping, or snoozing activities).
✖ Watching TV when you should be working.
✖ Consuming alcoholic beverages, drugs, or unhealthy food dur-
ing the workday.
✖ Working constantly.
✖ Looking, feeling—and working—like a slob (generally, leave pa-
jamas and bunny slippers in the bedroom—and don’t let your
personal hygiene completely lapse!).
✖ Excessive or insufficient amounts of planning, organizing, fil-
ing, Internet surfing, exercising, eating, relaxing, meditating,
networking.
Of course, none of these habits is innately bad unless it becomes
extreme enough to be a detriment to your effectiveness. Keep in
mind (something else your mother may have mentioned!) that the
“rule of moderation” applies here—even a strength in excess be-
comes a weakness. Much as you might believe Mae West’s maxim
“Too much of a good thing is wonderful!”, it’s not likely she was re-
ferring to work issues or habits. Also, remember that you shouldn’t
try to transform all of your bad habits to good habits at once. Once
again, moderation is the rule.
Working Well in Your Home Office 43
Make a list of the habits you want to change. Select one to change
today:
®Think about what causes the bad habit or what keeps you from
changing it.
®Analyze the process or precipitating incidents that activate the
bad habit.
©Visualize the new habit and imagine how you’ll feel and behave.
©Identify the steps that will provide a different response to what’s
activating the bad habit.
©Eliminate obstacles to the new habit (get the futon out of your
office!).
©Provide interim rewards to yourself as you progress to full inte-
gration of the new habit.
Note on your calendar when you plan to implement this change
process for other bad habits on your list. Don’t overwhelm yourself,
but be dogged in your determination and attack the most counter-
productive ones first.
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20
Reject the Refrigerator
that Beckons You
One of the biggest struggles some telecommuters face is the refriger-
ator—it seems, at times, to call out your name, be needy of your at-
tention, and be anxious to dispense its contents. However
reasonable, analytical, or planful you may otherwise be, all sem-
blance of these fine traits may dissipate when you walk within 20
feet of your refrigerator (or any other place where delectable edibles
are stashed). Why is this? We’re not all a bunch of undisciplined
telecommuting food junkies. Rather, the reasons are varied—some
44 101 Tips for Telecommuters
overeat out of nervousness, the need for a break, procrastination,
and—sometimes—as a response to hunger. However, the temptation
is not just to overeat, but to eat badly. This is more often a result of
poor planning (nothing healthy in the refrigerator) or laziness (a
high-fat, prepackaged entree cooked for 3 minutes in the microwave
is easier than just about anything healthy, or so it seems). And then
there are the workaholic telecommuters who simply let the day fly by
without eating much of anything. These folks aren’t as fat, but nor
are they any healthier.
Your refrigerator is like so many other things in life—you get out
of it what you put into it. So, start your “refrigerator control” pro-
gram by committing to a healthy lifestyle and diet. From there, de-
cide on the types of healthy foods that (1) you enjoy and will eat; (2)
are not excessively time-consuming to prepare; (3) will provide a nu-
tritionally balanced, taste-pleasing variety of meal and snack options.
Purchase the healthy foods you’ve chosen and eliminate, wherever
possible, any sources of unhealthy foods in your kitchen (or your of-
fice, if you’re one of those who stockpiles goodies like a squirrel
preparing for winter!).
Knowing that tempting foods may be impossible to completely
eradicate from your home (if you live with other people, occasionally
receive yummy gifts, or maintain your supply of excess Halloween
candy right through the Christmas cookie season until the onslaught
of Easter candy), here are a few ways to remind yourself about the
virtues of planful and controlled eating:
❥ As part of your weekly planning, decide on meal choices and
snack options. Giving yourself choices, within a range of
preestablished guidelines and limits, won’t make you feel so reg-
imented and restricted.
❥ Don’t eat randomly—schedule your snack breaks or snack only
when you’re hungry.
❥ Don’t hang around the kitchen while you eat (food seems to
yearn for more food!). You probably need a change of scenery,
anyway. Have lunch on your deck, munch on carrot sticks while
you take a short walk, or drink a glass of juice while doing your
on-line banking.
❥ If you’re a recovering overweight person, post a picture of your
larger self on the refrigerator. Remembering how hard you
Working Well in Your Home Office 45
worked to achieve the new, slighter you will dissuade you from
overindulging.
❥ Cover your refrigerator with clippings from magazines and cata-
logs of people whose bodies you, too, can have if you avoid
overeating. (This also will encourage you at a subconscious
level to stay in better shape through exercise.)
❥ Post friendly (and large-print) reminders on the refrigerator:
“Over the lips—straight to the hips!”
“If it tastes good, spit it out!”
Bear in mind that a number of former telecommuters decided to re-
turn to a traditional office because they attributed their weight gain
to working at home. So, while all of this emphasis on healthy eating
may be good for you, it may also be essential to your satisfaction
and success as a telecommuter.
Make a commitment to healthier eating and having more control
over your snacking. Begin by adding:
4 Healthy meal options to your grocery list
3 Healthy snack choices to your approved snack list
2 Motivational quotes or photos to your refrigerator door
1 Unhealthy item currently in your refrigerator to the trash bin
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21
Work During Your
Peak Energy Times
In an ideal world, you would work only when there is a harmonic
convergence of time, energy, inspiration, and need. But since you
must sometimes deliver your services at the convenience or demand
of others, the timing of your work might not always align with the
46 101 Tips for Telecommuters
peaks in your motivation and energy levels. Whenever possible,
however, it’s helpful (to you and your employer/colleagues/clients/
partners) to work during your phases of high energy and to mini-
mize certain types of work during dips in your energy level. If your
circumstances provide any degree of flexibility on the timing of your
work, begin by knowing the patterns of your energy level.
To determine your energy patterns, think about how you cur-
rently work: when you feel highly energized, when you feel that
you’d love to (or you do!) just nod off for a nap, when you find your-
self tackling complex tasks, when you feel that talking on the phone
is the most challenging task you can undertake, etc. If you’re not cer-
tain when you’re more inclined toward certain types of work, keep a
log for a week or so to track what work you do when. From this log,
develop a profile of your energy and work patterns, and look for
ways to leverage your patterns to maximize your productivity.
Consider, also, the limitations on your ability to work during times
of peak energy.
Unless your job is completely flexible or you are an individual
contributor with minimal external contact, it’s likely you’ll have
some constraints on how you manage your work and your energy. If
you negotiated a telecommuting agreement with your employer, you
may have committed to availability during specific hours of business
operation. Certainly if you’re providing customer service or support
by phone, there will be certain times you’re expected to be available
(and coherent!). Also, if you work with people or support operations
across multiple time zones, you’ll need to manage your work and
your energy with this in mind.
On the other hand, if you have lots of flexibility, you may join
those of us who are natural-born night owls and able to accomplish
enviable amounts of work through the night. Telecommuting often
offers a range of options and degrees of flexibility with regard to how
and when you complete your work. And without the commute, it’s
much easier to accommodate those bursts of energy at unusual hours.
As you balance the demands of your job with the reality of your
energy patterns, don’t forget about ways you can enhance your en-
ergy. Staying fit and healthy (Tip 23) will contribute to your overall
energy level, while taking appropriate breaks throughout the day
(Tip 24) can make a real difference in extending energy peaks for top
performance.
Working Well in Your Home Office 47
It’s not likely that the events of your typical day are ever com-
pletely within your control, so your ideal work schedule and pattern
may seem a bit like a pipe dream. But, knowing when it’s best for you
to do different types of work and using this knowledge as a guide will
allow you to achieve the best output for the energy you invest each
day.
Determine the discretionary time available in your daily schedule
and consider the best use of the time based on your energy patterns.
Add at least three action items to your schedule for specific activities
at certain times based on your anticipated energy levels and the re-
quirements of your job.
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22
Make “the Rounds” for
Efficient “Erranding”
Being a telecommuter, you’re likely to resist unnecessary time in your
car or any other mode of commuting. A reality of telecommuting life,
however, is that some “erranding” is unavoidable and may in fact in-
crease, since you are likely to be remote from corporate services. With
this reality accepted, it’s wise to avoid procrastination or inefficiency
in your erranding and focus on accomplishing what you must in a
minimum of time and with a minimum of effort. The following guide-
lines will help you incorporate efficient erranding into your day.
Avoid the temptation to ease your sense of isolation by socializ-
ing while running errands. Instead, avoid any face-to-face en-
counters where you can by banking electronically, ordering office
supplies on-line and having them delivered, using courier or ex-
press delivery services whenever possible, and using your phone
and fax whenever those walking fingers can save you time.
When you must get in your car and run errands personally, plan
your route carefully by arranging stops geographically. Consult
48 101 Tips for Telecommuters
a map if necessary and look for alternative routing that mini-
mizes your time out of the office.
Use your drive time as productively as possible. Use your cellu-
lar phone to make calls that require minimum concentration
(and very minimal notetaking!). Keep a list of key phone num-
bers handy in any vehicle you might use for errands (since you
might not always remember your day planner, and accessing a
phone number from your computer is a tricky task while driv-
ing). If making calls isn’t an option, keep a microcassette
recorder handy to record ideas that occur to you during mind-
less driving or to dictate letters, memos, monthly reports, etc.
(or in my case, to dictate another tip!). Keep a pad of paper and
pen or pencil in all of your vehicles so you always have at least a
low-tech way to capture a thought and make your drive time as
productive as possible.
Be familiar with alternatives and options for your most common
erranding needs. Toward this end, know where the latest pick-
up times are for the mailboxes within a 10-mile or 10-block ra-
dius of your home (your local post office does not necessarily
provide the latest pick-up time). Also, know or keep a list of the
express service drop boxes and pick-up times in your area.
(Even better—have express items or packages picked up at your
office whenever possible.) If you frequently need other business
services such as printing, copying, word processing, etc., be fa-
miliar with the options in your area and their times of opera-
tion, and know the backup option you’ll exercise if your first
choice is unavailable (which will happen only when you’re op-
erating under an incredibly tight deadline for a major project!).
Make a list of your typical stops when you run errands. Review the
list for at least two stops you can eliminate or minimize by using
other options. Consider how you can improve the order in which
you make your rounds to save time. Call either your local or central
post office to locate the closest mailboxes with the latest pick-up
times.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well in Your Home Office 49
23
Stay Fit and Healthy
Once again, the “Rule of Mom” is the operational guide to staying fit
and healthy: get plenty of rest; eat a balanced diet; don’t forget to ex-
ercise, drink plenty of water, and take a multiple vitamin everyday.
Putting aside everything you might read on this topic (and foregoing
all the fancy equipment or the expensive health club membership), it
really comes down to the fundamentals from Mom. Of course, Mom
didn’t explain the specifics of making this work for telecommuters,
so read on!
I love the sections on sleep you find in any number of books
about health, self-management, successful entrepreneurship, etc.
They include long explanations of the value of sleep, with cute little
self-quizzes to help you determine if you’re getting enough sleep. In
the spirit of efficiency, try this instead:
A: No—great!
Q: Are you tired?
A: Yes—you probably need to get more sleep.
Of course, you know all the benefits of sleep to your body and
brain. So, if you need to sleep more, then just do it—everyday, be-
cause Mom was right also about our inability to stockpile those sleep
hours! As for naps, whoever invented the concept of siesta was bril-
liant, and probably in tune with rhythms of the human body. Some
people can take a 15-minute catnap midday and reenergize for the
second half of a long day. If you’re wired this way, give thanks for the
good fortune of your telecommuting blessings, use part of your
lunch break for that quick nap, and avoid compromising any of your
commitments to availability during scheduled work hours.
Entire libraries can be filled with books about diet and healthy
meals, so I’ll leave it to you to find the best culinary solutions for your
health needs. Be aware, however, that telecommuting easily can result
in either not eating (the workaholic reigns and won’t stop to eat!) or
overeating (Tip 20). Neither is a good idea, and you’ll need to be con-
scious of the effect your work has on your food consumption.
As for water consumption, it’s an easy enough thing to do, cer-
tainly. But, like other things, it requires discipline. So, be creative:
Add it to your daily task list, including a specific amount of water to
50 101 Tips for Telecommuters
consume. Get a water cooler for your office that’s either easily acces-
sible to your desk or provides you a good reason to get out of your
chair to stretch and walk across the office (not to mention the exer-
cise you’ll get walking to the bathroom so often!). Reward yourself—
select an incentive (food, quick visit with your kids, short phone call
to a friend, etc.) you can earn for hitting water intake targets.
Of course you should exercise daily, and only you can make the
commitment to creatively fit exercise into your day. Whether it’s an
invigorating way to start your day, to provide a midday break, or to
make a transition out of your work day, it you don’t plan it, it won’t
happen. Additionally, you can integrate exercise into your day by
doing isometric exercises at your desk or using quick breaks for
stretching. And don’t forget to breathe—take several deep breaths pe-
riodically throughout the day. This is good for your body, your mind,
AND your work.
RIGHT NOW! Stand up, take three deep breaths, stretch your arms,
and drink a large glass of water. Feel better? ©
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24
Take Breaks to Relax,
Re-Energize, or Recover
Working in a traditional office, as I recall, seems to involve a long se-
ries of interruptions between which you try to complete your work. As
a telecommuter, you’ll probably find there are few interruptions if
you’ve taken steps to manage this (Tip 34). More likely, you’ll need to
create opportunities for breaks from your work, whereas in BT (before
telecommuting) days, you had constant breaks in your work flow.
People without telecommuting experience simply do not com-
prehend how focused and task-oriented a telecommuter can become,
and, therefore, how easily an entire morning can fly by without even
Working Well in Your Home Office 51
the thought of a break. As delightful as this sounds from a productiv-
ity perspective, it’s really not healthy or ultimately productive to sit
for extended periods of time, compromise liquid intake, and avoid
breaks for the brain! Taking breaks is essential to good health, clear
thinking, and the achievement of the much-sought-after balanced
life (remember why you wanted to telecommute!).
Who would imagine that you might need to schedule a break?! If
that’s the only way you can be sure to fit breaks into your day, then
do what it takes to make it happen. You might set a timer or plan a
break at the end of a scheduled conference call or ask your spouse to
retrieve you from your office at a designated time. You also can use
other activities to prompt a break—refill your water glass, take your
designated 3-minute stretch break each hour, let the dog outside for
a few minutes, throw a load of clothes in the washer, have a quick
juice break with your spouse, or surprise your kids with a quick hug.
Because we typically work in high-productivity work cultures
and because telecommuters are prone to workaholism, the notion of
taking and enjoying breaks requires moving beyond the sense of guilt
often wired into our thinking. And, of course, many of the activities
you might choose for your breaks can transform (if extended unrea-
sonably) into time wasters. So, balance and discipline are critical.
Remember that you take these breaks—whether they are quick,
3-minute breaks or several hours in length—for your sanity and for
your survival as a productive telecommuter. With this in mind, learn
to appreciate your breaks as an essential part of your balanced life
and expand the following list of break activities to rejuvenate your
mind and spirit:
➢Take a walk (or take the dog for a walk).
➢Call a friend.
➢Send a electronic card to an e-mail buddy.
➢Take a musical interlude (play the piano, listen to a favorite CD,
etc.).
➢Read a nonbusiness magazine.
➢Take a catnap.
➢Surf the Internet (nonbusiness related).
➢Have a romantic interlude.
➢Catch headline news on radio or TV.
52 101 Tips for Telecommuters
➢Write a quick note you’ve wanted to send.
➢Meet a friend for coffee or lunch.
➢Meditate.
➢Have a healthy snack.
➢Sit . . . do nothing . . . just be (and breathe).
➢Spend a few minutes with your pet.
➢Visit your garden to enjoy the view, water plants, or dig in the
dirt.
Schedule two breaks today. Decide now how you will spend your
break times. Make a list of five other break activities you plan to
enjoy during the next week.
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25
Multi-Task to Maximize
Your Productivity
Telecommuting will not save you from workaholic tendencies that
rob you of the balance you need to be both professionally and per-
sonally successful. Nor will it eliminate the time and focus you must
invest to achieve high performance levels in a demanding or chal-
lenging job. It will, however, afford you the flexibility to manage the
competing demands on your time if you’re open to approaching
these demands creatively and learning how to integrate the many
facets of your life. This requires maintaining a focus on your work
that is not singular but, rather, encompassing—allowing for the real-
ity that your work is important/vital/critical/primo, but also that
your life is not one-dimensional (or shouldn’t be!). Your work and
the rest of your life must integrate and work well together to achieve
ultimate success.
Working Well in Your Home Office 53
The first step toward integration is a handy little tool you can
learn from your computer. There’s a reason you’re not still using a
computer that does only one function at a time—it’s slow, inefficient,
and terribly frustrating. Your life will be, too, unless you master some
basic skills in multitasking—the fine art of doing more than one
thing at a time. My computer is persistently trying to access my e-
mail service while I’m inputting these words. I don’t have time to just
sit while waiting for a response that isn’t a busy signal—and you
probably don’t have that kind of time to waste either. There are lots
of opportunities throughout your day to get more efficiency out of
precious time. You should constantly look for, anticipate, and lever-
age these opportunities:
➔Have simple tasks or quick-read materials easily accessible dur-
ing telephone “wait” times when you’re stuck on hold.
➔Combine quick personal errands with your business errands if
they’re in the same vicinity or can save time. (For example,
picking up your groceries midday when you’re in the same area
to pick up your mail may be very sensible if an evening trip to
the grocery store will involve much more time due to an addi-
tional commute, increased crowds, etc. Assuming your schedule
allows for this degree of flexibility during the day, you’re more
than likely to devote the available time in the evening to a
work-related activity.)
➔Use some of your work breaks to make brief personal calls that
aren’t purely social (e.g., schedule an appointment with your
doctor, hair stylist, etc.) or to do quick household tasks (make
the bed, reshelve the kids’ toys, get the breakfast dishes in the
dishwasher, etc.).
➔When a conference call is long, somewhat unproductive and not
necessarily demanding of your complete intellectual capacities
(unfortunately, these virtual meetings still exist!), combine it
with other office tasks that are not very distracting and not too
noisy (e.g., reorganize your desk drawers, set up a new desktop
lateral file system, backup your computer files, put postage on
outgoing mail)—or tackle a personal task like trimming your
nails. One word of caution: Be sure that your multi-tasking is
essentially silent (or use the Mute button on your phone), since
obvious multi-tasking can be distracting or insulting to callers.
54 101 Tips for Telecommuters
± Make a list (or keep a log for a week) detailing the tasks or ac-
tivities you perform that have potential multi-tasking opportu-
nities.
± Make another list of the tedious, time-consuming, low brain-
power tasks that need to get done. Pick three opportunities to
combine with the “gotta do” list and watch your output and ef-
ficiency begin to improve.
± Challenge yourself everyday to find just one more way to multi-
task and integrate the demands of your life.
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26
Avoid the (Real or Perceived)
Isolation Trap
If you willingly chose to telecommute, you undoubtedly yearned for
the solitude and focus telecommuting would afford you. If telecom-
muting is an option you didn’t voluntarily elect, these elements—
along with the inherent isolation of telecommuting—are the reality
of your world. Either way, you must balance the advantages of soli-
tude with the potentially damaging affects of isolation and avoid a
major threat to your effectiveness, emotional well-being, physical
health, mental health, and ultimate success.
Isolation is a major complaint of telecommuters, even those who
love the solitude. While everyone operates on a continuum of affilia-
tion needs, and some of us need more or less of the types of interac-
tion provided by a traditional office, everyone needs some amount of
it. You must determine the right balance to meet your needs and
proactively implement isolation avoidance techniques.
Keeping actively in touch with co-workers (Tip 51) is an im-
portant first step in managing your sense of isolation. There are spe-
cific ways you can stay connected and involved with your team in
Working Well in Your Home Office 55
spite of being remote from them. Besides your team, it’s important to
stay in touch with the broader world (Tip 54) to stayed informed and
to maintain a sense of connection to people, events, trends, changes
and information beyond your team and your company. Here are a few
key ways to help maintain those connections and overcome isolation:
• Use all the technology available to you—telephone, fax, e-mail,
paging, Internet, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, web con-
ferencing, electronic bulletin boards or conference rooms—to
maintain communication, keep informed, stay visible.
• Schedule face-to-face meetings (breakfast or lunch meetings,
walking or exercising together, playing tennis or golf, etc.) with
co-workers, colleagues, associates, and friends on a regular
basis.
• Join industry, trade, technical, or professional associations in
your community.
• Participate in groups that support telecommuters and other
home-based workers.
• Take frequent work breaks (Tip 24) to avoid the sense of solo
plodding that leads to feelings of overwork, frustration, and
isolation.
• Read professional and trade publications to keep abreast of de-
velopments in your field; technological changes affecting your
industry and your job; and relevant trends that affect your
work, industry, company, community, country, and world.
• Enroll in classes, seminars, and other professional development
opportunities to keep yourself connected and to avoid lapses in
your skill development (Tip 30).
• Teach a class or lead a seminar to keep you current in your field
and keep you in tip-top shape for making sharp presentations.
• Volunteer for a service association in your community—it’s hard
to feel isolated when you’re helping others.
Regardless of your level of comfort with solitude, recognize the
negative impact of isolation on your life and your work, and actively
plan activities and techniques to avoid the worst.
56 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Review your schedule for the next two weeks to assess the level of
“isolation buster” activities on your calendar. Be sure your schedule
reflects at least:
5 Work breaks throughout each day.
4 Networking events (meetings, phone calls, etc., with people
other than your team).
3 Exercise opportunities each day. (Can you share these with
someone?)
2 Opportunities to meet face-to-face with either your boss or a co-
worker.
1 Professional development activity.
0 Days that hold the promise of no face-to-face human interac-
tion. (The FedEx and UPS drivers do NOT count!)
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Track Expenses
and Expenditures
After you’ve cured yourself of the tendency to keep everything and
you’re more inclined to effectively manage the administrivia (Tip
10), it’s important to be clear about which documents you will need
to retain. In addition, you’ll want to establish a streamline tracking
and retention method that is easy to use, easily accessible, and rela-
tively automatic.
Some of the guidelines associated with record retention will be
provided by your employer. Your telecommuting agreement may
stipulate certain types of records you’re required to maintain. Of
course, there are some of the more typical types of expense tracking
requirements: mileage, tolls, travel, entertainment, etc. Other ex-
pense items, such as telephone, equipment, supplies, services, etc.,
Working Well in Your Home Office 57
may be directly billed to your employer or will require that you apply
for reimbursement. If you’re shelling out the money and submitting
receipts for reimbursement, be aware of how easily you can lose
track of the money you spend on your employer’s behalf. Unless you
have reliable systems that you use consistently, it’s likely you’ll come
up short on reimbursements (and not even know it!). So unless you
feel you’re overpaid or want to consider your employer a charity to
which you make donations, take a few key steps to ensure that your
business expenses are reimbursed:
$ Keep a business mileage log in your vehicles and faithfully
record any miles you drive and tolls you incur for business.
$ Establish a file, box, folder, or envelope in which all business-
related receipts can be dropped in each day (this, of course, as-
sumes you will be certain to get a receipt for everything!).
$ Use either a computer- or paper-based system (whichever you’ll
actually use) for tracking expenses and preparing reimburse-
ment requests.
$ If not required by your employer, set up a regular schedule for
yourself for submitting expense reports to your company—no
less frequently than once a month, more often if you incur sig-
nificant expenses.
$ Devise a tracking system for business expenses and receipts to
use when traveling. At a minimum, have a file or envelope
where you accumulate everything until you’re back in the office.
I’ve always tried to discipline myself to summarize expenses or
prepare expense reports during my return flight or as an A-1
priority when returning to my office.
You also may want to track expenses associated with the use of a
portion of your home for your office. If you’re deducting these non-
reimbursed home office expenses on your tax return, be sure to con-
sult with your tax adviser as to the appropriateness of this for your
circumstances and the proper way to document these expenses. At a
minimum, you’ll want to avoid any unnecessary “flagging” of your-
self as a candidate for an IRS audit, as well as any unnecessary (and
time-consuming) scrambling for documentation during the tax
season.
58 101 Tips for Telecommuters
List the types of reimbursable and/or tax-deductible expenses you
incur. How are you currently tracking these expenses, retaining asso-
ciated receipts, submitting reimbursement requests, documenting
for tax purposes, etc.? Revise (or create) the systems you need to en-
sure that all your expenses are captured and your expenditures reim-
bursed.
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28
Simplify and Improve Continuously
It’s critical to the efficiency and effectiveness of telecommuters to re-
member the simplification and time-saving rule, “If it ain’t broke,
don’t fix it!” Because there’s usually no one else around to handle im-
provements to systems, processes, procedures, etc., you’ll be stuck
implementing any changes you envision. This can be a major time
drain and focus detractor and should, therefore, be avoided . . . un-
less something really is in need of change. In this case, your effort
should be directed toward solutions that truly simplify your work
and your life. And while you shouldn’t wile away your day redesign-
ing the color coding of your files or reorganizing your library accord-
ing to the Dewey Decimal system, you should be constantly looking
for ways to streamline, simplify, clarify, uncomplicate, uncloud, and
unencumber your work and the way you do it.
Periodically assess how your systems, processes, and work flow
are working by asking yourself which tasks take more time, consume
more energy, cause more frustration, or result in more cursing than
you’d like. (One of my telecommuting colleagues uses his personal
“annual retreat” as a time to review systems and processes in his of-
fice, as well as to re-evaluate strategic issues such as focus, business
goals, etc.) Then analyze how you handle those tasks and how the re-
lated support systems, tools, and information are aligned. Also look
Working Well in Your Home Office 59
for signs of simplification and improvement opportunities if you ob-
serve:
• Clutter on your desk or surrounding your work area.
• Unnecessary redundancies in your tracking or documentation
systems.
• Huge backlogs of filing. (Do you really need to keep it all?)
• Any amount of time spent looking for things (in drawers, files,
boxes, closets, briefcases, or on your desk) that you need to ac-
cess routinely and should be able to put your hands on in-
stantly.
• “Lost” files (e.g., you just can’t find them) on your computer or
on backup disks.
• Outdated software that causes incompatibility problems with
the systems and documents used by other people with whom
you work.
• The use of fancy files, labels, packaging, etc. that are nice but
not essential.
• Extra errand running for “one-off” or forgotten items.
• Continual rework on specific functions or tasks.
• Tendencies on your part to complete tasks to a state of perfec-
tion.
Identify—and act on:
3 Critical tasks that you know could be simplified—schedule on
your calendar time to create and implement simplification steps
to address these situations.
2 Areas in your office that should be redesigned to improve your
efficiency—decide how and when you’ll take care of these.
1 Pile or drawer of cluttered, backlogged, or unread items that
you keep stumbling over—get rid of it now!
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60 101 Tips for Telecommuters
29
Reward Yourself and
Celebrate Successes
It’s easy to forget about the value of rewards. And if you do remember
to acknowledge, thank, and reward those who help you, it’s easy to
forget YOURSELF in the process. But inherent in the solo work of a
telecommuter is the need to be cognizant of self-management issues
to include rewards— for completing a major project, attaining a goal,
hitting a significant milestone, surviving a really stressful week, re-
taining a critical customer, landing a major new account, etc. It’s es-
sential that you find appropriate and meaningful ways to celebrate
your successes and provide incentives and rewards because:
1. You’re human and need these things.
2. Others may not be aware of your accomplishments—at least “in
the moment”—and won’t be in a position to provide a virtual
pat on the back.
3. Your continued motivation, determination, perseverance and
psychic energy will be greatly enhanced.
Without distracting yourself with a long, protracted process to
devise a reward scheme for yourself, begin by making a brief list of
rewards that are appropriate for different types of achievements and
are meaningful to you. Combined with that, devise ways to celebrate
your successes—a little bit of celebration along the way makes the
daily grind tolerable and will help you feel as if it’s all worth while.
Your list of rewards and celebration rituals will be uniquely yours.
But to help you get started, here are a few ways other telecommuters
gives themselves kudos:
! A nice dinner at a new or favorite restaurant
! Tickets to a concert or the theater
! A new book (and the time to read it)
! An afternoon off for a round of golf, time at the beach or a
museum, a tennis match or pampering at the spa
! A new outfit (or sofa, case of wine, piece of art, etc.)
! A long weekend at a resort, in a remote fishing camp, skiing,
sailing, hiking, camping with the kids
Working Well in Your Home Office 61
Create your own list of wonderful rewards for good work and ways
to celebrate your successes. Decide now how you’ll earn at least three
rewards (be specific about the achievements to justify the rewards)
and pinpoint the next success milestone that will earn you a specific
celebration activity. Post your performance targets and the corre-
sponding rewards/celebrations in a visible place in your office. Keep
your longer list of rewards and celebrations wherever you document
and track your goals. Learn to use rewards and incentives in the way
that best motivates and sustains you.
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30
Take Responsibility for Developing
New Skills and Managing Your Career
As a telecommuter, your skill development and career management
may suffer if you do not champion your own cause. While the
amount of money corporations spend on training and investing in
their human capital generally is increasing, this seems to be concur-
rent with an increased emphasis on self-responsibility for skill devel-
opment. Further, with the rate at which people are changing jobs,
careers, and employers and are being caught in merger/acquisition
situations, it’s no longer wise to trust your professional development
plans and career management to your “employer du jour.” Finally,
the unique skills you require to successfully telecommute (Tip 1)
may necessitate specific skill development efforts you might need to
locate and/or fund at your own initiative. As for the management of
your career, no one has as great a vested interest as you, so don’t en-
trust this important task to anyone else.
So, beyond being a champion to access corporate resources, you
may very well need to identify development needs, locate resources,
and purchase what you need on your own. This is very consistent
62 101 Tips for Telecommuters
with the growing trend toward self-responsibility for learning and ca-
reer management. Fast Company magazine refers to this as “The
Brand Called You”™. This thinking is based on the philosophy and
attitude that you’re always self-employed and, for a time, you may
find yourself on some company’s payroll. Regardless of how your in-
come reaches you, you remain ultimately responsible for addressing
your skill and career development needs—both for your telecom-
muting function and for the job-specific aspects of your position.
So what are your needs?
✔Begin first by looking at the job you’re currently doing—what
skills and competencies are essential for success?
✔How do you stack up against those requirements?
✔What problems are you experiencing, or what skill deficiencies
have you identified for the telecommuting role you’re in cur-
rently?
✔What additional skills must you develop to achieve the level of
success you desire?
✔Beyond your current job, what do you expect to be doing (or
want to do) for the next five years?
✔What skill deficits or barriers currently compromise your ability
to move in that direction or be successful?
Whether it’s a move to management, sales, a line position, an indi-
vidual contributor role or is a complete job change, an industry
switch, or a move to self-employment, you’re likely to have some de-
ficiencies that are obstacles. Or you could be planning a fairly stable
job picture for the foreseeable future and simply want to ensure that
you remain competitive, marketable, knowledgeable, or challenged
by your work. Either way, identifying your needs will help you craft
a development plan and strategy for YOU, INC. Without a plan that
you manage, you entrust your future and your prosperity to someone
else. This is always a risky course of action.
Make a list of your weaknesses relative to the skills needed for your
current job and your ability to function well as a telecommuter.
Working Well in Your Home Office 63
What developmental resources can close any gaps you’ve identified?
To identify appropriate resources for eliminating any skill deficits,
talk to your boss or someone in human resources, contact the execu-
tive development division of a local university, or search the Internet
for training options you can access through your company or on
your own.
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64 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Working Well with
Your Family
4
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31
Negotiate Expectations
and Agreements
The first thing you and your family should be in rock-solid agree-
ment on is your decision to telecommute. This may be a major
change to the lifestyle and day-to-day routine in your household, so
don’t underestimate the impact telecommuting will have on every-
one involved. If your decision is more of a directive than a choice,
you’ll need to be even more careful in formulating agreements and
dealing with issues, feelings, fears, concerns—those of your family
and your own.
Without clear agreements established at the outset, you’re likely
to stumble through misunderstandings, hurt feelings, productivity
drains, declines in marital bliss, and unnecessary stress. While you
may have more structured, as well as spontaneous, opportunities to
participate with your family, your presence in a home office can send
confusing signals regarding your availability or accessibility. Many of
the joys and advantages of telecommuting quickly dissipate when
the expectations of your family are not aligned with either your ex-
pectations or your work requirements. Being diligent about address-
ing potential conflict proactively and reaching agreements
productively will serve you well in your quest to be a successful
telecommuter.
Being clear about where and when you’ll work are fundamental
issues to be agreed upon initially. If your office occupies a space sep-
arate from the rest of your home, this simplifies things. If, however,
your office will occupy some space that is or previously was shared
by other family members, your “squatter rights” won’t necessarily
eliminate conflict regarding use of the space. Access others will have
to your office, when that can occur, and how the space (and anything
in it) can be used by your family will need to be discussed in detail.
When you will require dedicated work time is another important
issue that necessitates a clear agreement. You may have fairly firm
work hours or require some flexibility for meetings, conference calls,
international calls, etc., during nontraditional work hours. As much
as possible, anticipate your requirements so you can have agree-
ments in place—along with agreements to renegotiate as your needs
and circumstances change. For example, should you begin a project
67
that involves international associates, you may require extensive
phone time with another part of the globe at some unusual (or in-
convenient) times for your family. Anticipate this, whenever possi-
ble, and negotiate agreements in advance.
As with negotiation and goal-setting discussions you may have
with your manager and colleagues, don’t hesitate proactively to have
corresponding discussions with your spouse, significant other, chil-
dren, or household employees. Everyone will benefit from the clarity
and frank discussion of needs and limitations, guidelines and op-
tions, dos and don’ts. Do yourself and those who share your life and
space a big favor. Be clear about some basic things as a starting point:
• Work hours (established times or required flexibility)
• Interruptions (when, how, for what types of things)
• Work space (if it’s share space, agree on where it starts/stops,
how it’s used, how it’s maintained and organized)
• Household tasks (who does what and when)
• Childcare (who is responsible for what and when)
Consider where clear agreements are lacking with regard to your
telecommuting arrangement. (Warning signs include sources of
stress, conflict, loud disagreements, or unspoken fear of impending
disaster!) Using the checklist above, schedule a time to negotiate an
issue that requires a clear agreement. Follow the same process for
other areas where clear agreements will contribute to your telecom-
muting success. Remember—sometimes it’s those who care about
you who will be the reminder (not so subtle, but vital!) of your com-
mitment to balance and good health. You need to balance this con-
cern with the realities of your work to ensure that both are
recognized and reconciled.
To secure clear agreements with your family, be sure to:
✔Explain clearly what you need or expect and why it’s important
to you or your work.
✔Ask about issues, concerns, fears, feelings.
✔Listen to and discuss your family’s input.
68 101 Tips for Telecommuters
✔Mutually agree to a workable solution.
✔Take notes on agreements and give everyone involved a copy.
✔Schedule a follow-up time to confirm its working or revise the
agreement if necessary.
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32
Get Your Family
on Your Team
Your family can work with you or against you when you telecom-
mute, and it’s better by far to have them working with you. As you
identify the members of the broader support team that contributes to
your success, your family is likely to be high on the list. Therefore,
it’s wise to acknowledge this, understand the dynamics of family sup-
port, and proactively enlist their support.
When you telecommute, your work world is inherently more ap-
parent to your family than with more traditional work arrangements.
Be conscious that your office occupies space in your home and the
environment that others call home. Even if you have a clearly delin-
eated work area that’s removed from common areas in the house and
you are very disciplined about maintaining separation from family
during the work day, your proximity and presence cannot be forgot-
ten completely. And the reality is that if you want to realize some of
the personal benefits of telecommuting, you will be more visible at
times (you might take a break to say hello to your kids when they get
home from school; share your lunch break with your spouse; or, if
you’re a new parent, take a break to feed a newborn).
The increased visibility and additional opportunities for involve-
ment with your family has a down side—family members might like
being with you and may make demands for involvement that are
detrimental to your work. This is when setting expectations and ne-
gotiating agreements (Tip 31) is helpful. As part of establishing (or
renewing) your telecommuting arrangements, you must consider
and incorporate your family in your planning. More important,
Working Well with Your Family 69
involving them in your planning ensures that they understand your
commitments to your work, your employer, yourself, and them. This
is a key step in securing your family’s commitment to be supportive
members of your team.
Beyond the framework of your family’s stated commitment to be
supportive, look for ways to actively engage family members as
bonafide teammates. A few techniques you might use:
• Find aspects of your work in which you can involve your family
by getting their help (e.g., collating papers, stuffing envelopes,
operating the copier, filing, unpacking supplies, organizing ref-
erence material, running errands, or just sharing problems and
challenges and asking for ideas and input).
• Empower your family to help you monitor your track record
relative to key professional and personal performance measures
(e.g., sales results, call targets, exercise goals, life balance goals,
time limits on hours in your office).
• Share the rewards and include your family in celebrations of
your success (an end-of-day “office party” when major mile-
stones are reached, a special shared meal to celebrate achieve-
ment of your quota for the month/quarter/year, a “brag board”
where you post letters from customers or acknowledgments
from your employer, or a special trip or vacation for the family
when that big bonus check arrives).
Identify and share with your family or significant other the following
about your work-at-home arrangement:
3 Things that are positive for the relationship between you and
them.
2 Things that you need their help with.
1 Way they can help you celebrate a recent success.
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70 101 Tips for Telecommuters
33
Manage and Minimize
Distractions
Some distractions are self-initiated; they’re caused by lack of focus
(Tip 4), low motivation (Tip 7), or bad work habits (Tip 19). As with
some forest fires, prevention is the key—and only you can prevent
these types of distractions from wrecking your day, destroying your
productivity, and undermining your telecommuting success. The
same results can occur if you don’t manage or minimize distractions
caused by others (family, friends, visitors, pets, etc.).
Your family, in particular, has a unique ability to distract you
from your work due to your presence and proximity. Negotiating
agreements in advance (Tip 31) is a wise step, but managing distrac-
tions seems to be a challenge requiring on-going attention. Aside
from the self-discipline you must have to avoid involvement in fam-
ily or household matters during work hours, there are other strate-
gies you can use to manage distractions:
• Establish specific rituals to begin your workday that clearly put
you in a focused-on-work frame of mind.
• Evaluate interruptions from the perspectives of seriousness and
urgency—stop working only if the issue rates high on both
scales or the matter of urgency demands immediate attention on
your part.
• Ignore the household chores (close doors, hide the laundry bas-
ket, remind yourself that no one will be visiting today—does it
really matter if the bed isn’t made or the sink is full of dishes?)
until you’ve either completed your established work hours or
accomplished all of your goals for the day.
• Don’t answer the home phone (or screen calls using caller ID)
and ignore the door bell (unless you’re expecting an express
shipment that requires your signature).
• Establish a sign or signal to your family when interruptions
must be avoided (Tip 34).
• Use some of your scheduled work breaks to touch base with
your family, check messages on the home phone, let the dog
out, etc. so these do not become in-the-moment distractions.
Working Well with Your Family 71
• Turn the TV off, the stereo down, and ensure that sounds of
shrieking/screaming/crying children (or spouse) cannot be
monitored in your office.
Decide today to minimize or eliminate three sources of distraction
for you:
2 Distractions that you directly control due to lack of focus or motiva-
tion. Formulate a plan to manage the distraction you cause by
identifying the source, diagnosing the cause, clarifying a mea-
surement and reward system, and committing to a change NOW.
1 Distraction that is caused by others. Schedule time to talk with
whoever else is responsible for distractions from your work and
negotiate agreements (Tip 31) that will resolve the problem.
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34
Establish Clear
Interruption Rules
The proximity you have to your family while telecommuting greatly
enhances opportunities for communication. This has clear advan-
tages in terms of increased sharing of information, experiences, and
time. However, the temptation for your family to capitalize on your
accessibility can disrupt your concentration, compromise your pro-
ductivity, and erode your patience. Because your presence is so ap-
parent, the tendency to interrupt is understandable. For the same
reason, it’s important to specifically address the issue of interruptions
with your family.
Basic guidelines regarding what constitutes a justifiable inter-
ruption is a good beginning. Even people who work in traditional
offices often establish such guidelines, especially for their children
(“Call me only if the problem involves fire, loss of blood, or you’ve
already called 911 for any other reason!”). Otherwise, as you may
72 101 Tips for Telecommuters
have experienced, an incessant series of phone calls can result in an
incessant litany proclaiming boredom, obnoxious siblings, or other
problems completely unresolveable from a distance. However, your
lack of distance should not be a reason to become involved in do-
mestic situations that are better handled in other ways. It’s often
useful to provide similar guidelines for spouses who can become in-
ordinately needy of your involvement in matters you wouldn’t even
know about if you weren’t there.
Once you’ve established groundrules for a justifiable interrup-
tion, how the interruption is made is another point upon which to
reach agreement. A sudden, loud—or tearful and whimpering—de-
mand for your immediate attention may create an embarrassment to
you and great frustration to the needy interrupter if you’re in the
midst of a conference call or negotiating a contract with an impor-
tant prospect. So, set a clear method whereby whoever desperately
needs you can communicate it. If you have a door to your office, re-
mind everyone that it’s there to be knocked on (quietly!). If you
don’t have a door, use some other visible method to convey that
you’re working (buy or make a “OPEN/CLOSED” sign to indicate
when your virtual door is slightly ajar or closed tight).
To promote the notion of a gentle intrusion and the need for a
possible delay in my response, I placed a little bell (like you might
find on a counter in a small country store) on a shelf outside of my
office. Even small children and a variety of service providers use my
little bell quite consistently—and it’s cheaper than installing a door-
bell, less annoying than keeping the monitor on constantly, and pro-
vides a reasonable balance between immediate interruptions and a
long-delayed response.
Review how interruptions to your workday currently are made
and/or how you would like them to be made. Establish two guide-
lines for when you can be interrupted and create a reasonable, family-
friendly (or child-appropriate) method for how your attention can be
captured when necessary. Set aside time on your schedule to discuss
and reach agreement with your family.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well with Your Family 73
35
Take Care of
Childcare
There are few unalterable truths about much of anything, but about
telecommuting there is one undeniable, nondebatable, nearly uni-
versal truth: Telecommuting is not a substitute for childcare. While
you may have more time with your family (assuming you manage
your workaholic tendencies and discipline yourself to stay out of
your office when you should be with your family), the additional
family time you have is derived primarily from your former commut-
ing time.
Unfortunately, this is a great myth of telecommuting that still
prevails (primarily among uninformed nontelecommuters). So, don’t
be surprised if people comment about your having more time with
your family or being able to raise your children while working (a
perception particularly held about women who telecommute).
Anyone who has children knows that in most cases and when done
properly, child-rearing requires a full-time commitment. And unless
you have a part-time job, have a very flexible work schedule, and/or
you require practically no sleep, combining two full-time jobs will
produce dismal results for both.
Most corporate telecommuting agreements address the issue of
childcare and will secure the telecommuter’s commitment to provide
adequate childcare arrangements. The options are the same as those
for nontelecommuters: daycare, in-home nanny service, multiple
baby-sitters, a grandparent or other relative, combination of school
and childcare, etc. Some telecommuters find it easier (but certainly
costlier) to have in-home nannies, since this avoids a commute to a
childcare facility. Other telecommuters find that the distractions of
children at home are too problematic and opt for out-of-home child-
care. This option also provides for clear transitions into and out of
your workday.
The best option for you is a function of
• Your budget—what can you afford?
• Your choices—is there a grandparent or other relative you can
rely on and trust?
• Your psychological needs—do you need a work environment
74 101 Tips for Telecommuters
that is free of any distracting sounds from your kids, or does it
comfort you to know they’re close by?
• Your work environment—is your office removed enough from
activity centers in your home so that it’s feasible to have family
and work under one roof?
• Your job—can you run the risk of a screaming child being over-
heard while you’re on a conference call or negotiating a contract
with a client?
• Your employer—is there a clear mandate that you provide full-
time childcare during work hours?
One situation in which childcare and work may intersect is at times
when your co-workers in a traditional office might otherwise need to
take the day off. Even with full-time childcare and the best-laid
backup plans, you’re bound to face situations where a sick child or
baby-sitter requires that you be at home with your children. In these
cases, it’s much easier for you to creatively integrate the demands of
work and home on a short-term basis and keep your work flowing to
some extent. As for the long-term, however, every telecommuter
with children requiring full-time care needs a full-time and perma-
nent childcare solution.
• If you have young children who require the attention of a care
provider, assess how well your current or projected childcare
situation meets your needs. What current or potential problems
are created by your childcare arrangements?
• How does your childcare solution support achievement of your
job targets? How does it detract from your ability to be success-
ful at work?
• Imagine some “worst case scenarios” and determine if you have
adequate back-up arrangements in place to meet the demands of
your job and your needs for childcare.
• What changes must you make to address the concerns you’ve
identified?
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Working Well with Your Family 75
36
If You Mix Childcare and Work
(God Help You!)
One of the great myths of telecommuting is that it eliminates the
need for childcare. True, you are likely to share more waking hours
with your family if you telecommute. And you may be fortunate
enough to have the flexibility (and necessary self-management) to
adjust your work hours to participate in more of your children’s ac-
tivities and special events. But it’s important to remember (and some-
times remind others) that caring well for children—especially young
ones—is a demanding undertaking. Assuming someone is paying
you to do a full-time job via telecommuting, it’s not likely you’ll han-
dle either your job or parenting very well if you try to do both at the
same time. Further, it is the clear (and reasonable) expectation of
most employers of telecommuters that childcare arrangements are in
place.
Some home-based business entrepreneurs are more inclined to
combine childcare with a business enterprise. Although this, too, can
be fraught with problems, the circumstances (independence, type of
business, client expectations, financial pressures, etc.) may justify
some integration of work and childcare. Still, it’s certainly not easy,
and it extracts a high price in terms of focus, energy, and productiv-
ity. The bottom line: Combining work and childcare is a risky, exas-
perating and potentially counterproductive venture. And if your
employer has a specific policy (or implicit assumption) against it, it’s
a downright foolish venture.
If, in spite of all of the warnings, you undertake to juggle your
job and your kids (and your employer supports this), it behooves
you to learn ways to minimize the difficulties of doing so. Also, on
days that you have a sick child or you’re both stranded at home due
to a weather (or traffic) obstacle, it’s likely you’d miss the entire day
of work if you commuted to a traditional office. One advantage you
have as a telecommuter is that you can (depending on the age of
your child, severity of the illness, etc.) continue to be productive on
such days by keeping a few guidelines in mind:
• Avoid making or taking critical phone calls while children are in
your office (unless they’re old enough to honor commitments to
keep quiet).
76 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• If you must be on the phone, be sure you either disclose the sit-
uation to your caller or you are highly skilled in the lightning-
speed use of the MUTE button on your phone.
• If your child still takes naps, utilize this quiet time to the great-
est extent possible for phone time or focused work time.
• Designate a dedicated space and, if possible, a spare computer
(Tip 37) in the office for kids to use.
• Have toys, games, whiteboard and markers, paper, crayons, and
other creative play activities readily available. Involve your kids
in some age-appropriate activity that enables them to help you
or feel that they’re helping, and remember that even toddlers
love to sort and organize. One of my telecommuting friends
keeps a VCR in his office (since he’s a trainer), along with his
trusty assortment of Disney videos for times when his children
are in his office.
If you have children or have occasion for children to visit your office,
check your inventory of resources and activities you can make avail-
able quickly to keep little people entertained/distracted in your of-
fice. If your current options are limited, put together a KID box now;
you’re likely to really thank yourself at some point in the future.
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37
“Take Your Children to Work”
Guidelines
When you’re working, you should do so without the distraction of
children. However, telecommuting affords you the flexibility to inte-
grate your family and your work on rare occasions. At the same time,
it’s important that you manage your balance between work and fam-
ily so that you devote a reasonable amount of time to each of these
important priorities in your life. When there does need to be some
Working Well with Your Family 77
overlap, there are some creative techniques for incorporating chil-
dren into your office so that it’s a happy experience for all concerned.
Additionally, familiarizing your children with your office and your
work can minimize any resentment they may feel toward your work
and enhance their understanding of and respect for what you do
when you’re ensconced in your office for hours at a time.
Having children in your office with you is likely to occur outside
of your regular work hours (when you’re desperately trying to get
some critical work done or catch up on office chores during evening
or weekend time). While this can be a fun time for your children and
a life-saver for you, be careful to ensure that you’re not trying to
achieve the impossible, that your children are safe, and that everyone
avoids any unnecessary frustration. Here are some ways to do this:
• Set some office rules and expectations for in-office behavior—
consistent with the age of your children—regarding things like
interruptions, noise levels, access to supplies, use of phones, etc.
• Designate a work space for your child, including a desk area,
computer, calculator, writing tools, and other age-appropriate of-
fice items. (My 4-year old consumed huge amounts of time play-
ing with an old 3-ring calendar binder containing all my unused
pages and tabs, along with unused checks from canceled ac-
counts, sticky notes, and brochures gathered at tradeshows, etc.).
• Be realistic about the need to childproof your office—make im-
portant documents inaccessible, lock or password-protect any
computer equipment with critical files or software, put locks on
drawers and cabinets, secure electrical cords to avoid tripping or
shock hazards, get dangerous equipment out of reach (paper
cutter, letter opener, knives, staplers, shredder, scissors).
• Secure bookcases, shelves, cabinets, lamps, etc. by bolting them
to the floor if your children are still in the climbing phase.
• Remove small items and plants from view if your child is still in
the chewing/choking phase.
• Involve your children as much as possible in your work—talk
about what you do and why you enjoy it, show them what you
do, take them with you when you can (on errands or deliveries
or meetings, if appropriate) and let them help you in any way
that’s age-appropriate and fun.
78 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Look around your office and think with the mindset of a child (the
age of your child/children).
• Where are the places that hold potential for harm (but might look
like fun)? Take steps immediately to eliminate these before let-
ting your child spend time in your office again.
• Consider whether there’s a way to designate or improve a dedicated
work area for children. It doesn’t take much space or need to be
fancy. (I created a nameplate for my daughter to place on her
“desk” in my office, and it made her feel VERY important and
involved!)
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The Shift to Home-Based Work
with Older Children
Children who are born to telecommuters tend to grow up under-
standing and accepting the inherent rules of telecommuting for fam-
ilies. Except during phases of great attachment or separation anxiety
(remember, they’d scream just as loudly if you were leaving to drive
to an office), these children seem to take for granted that they have a
parent working at home who cannot be disturbed during working
hours. And note, these children also seem to have an internal clock
that tells them when you should be done working!
The dynamics are different, however, if you begin telecommuting
when your children are beyond the baby stage and have different ex-
pectations of parental presence and proximity. These children have
learned from earlier experiences that having a parent around means
that “kid time” is in full force. Beyond that, most young children like
their parents and want to be with them. So, setting expectations and
ground rules with these children is important to your telecommuting
success and the happiness of both you and your children.
Working Well with Your Family 79
Begin by talking with your child about your home-based office,
what you’ll be doing there, and why you’ll be working at home.
Letting your children help you with some simple organizing tasks
(such as sorting files folders by color) helps them become familiar
with your office and comfortable with where you’ll be. If you have
been a full-time parent and are introducing a new child care arrange-
ment to your child in conjunction with your new full-time job and
your telecommuting situation, take great care to explain the reasons
for this change, the benefits to both you and your child. More impor-
tant, encourage questions, be open to discussing your child’s ques-
tions and concerns as they emerge at unexpected times, and listen for
opportunities to re-explain and reinforce your messages of support
and love. As a parent, however, you’ve undoubtedly discovered by
now that since children are constantly changing and evolving, so are
the issues you need to deal with. So, consider it an ongoing discus-
sion and take cues from your children about what to discuss and
when they need to talk.
School-age children are better able to understand the role of
work in your life and the need for separation, limitations and agree-
ments. It’s easier to negotiate agreements in these cases (Tip 31) and
employ consequences and rewards where appropriate. Involvement
of older children tends to be easier, so don’t overlook ways to get
your children on your team (Tip 32) and feeling that they have a role
in your success.
Regardless of the ages of your older children and the level of in-
volvement and cooperation you can reasonably expect from them,
they certainly will resent you, your work, and your telecommuting
arrangement if your work/life balance becomes unbalanced in favor
of work. (And kids have an amazing detector for this malady!) You
can’t tell them too often that they are what’s most important to you—
your top priority and a major driver for your desire to telecommute.
They’ll tolerate (perhaps grudgingly at times—but, hey, they’re kids!)
a fair amount of the downside of your demanding, distracting job as
long as they understand and benefit from the upside. Let them know
often that you occasionally have time conflicts but that you never
have priority conflicts.
80 101 Tips for Telecommuters
¯ Make a list of five things you can do to let your children know
that they are your #1 priority. Plan to do at least one of them
today and add the others to your schedule for the near future.
¯ Ask your child to tell you two reasons why it’s good that you
work from home.
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39
Meeting the Challenge of
Eldercare or Family Care
When unique or urgent family situations confront you, it’s important
to remember that while your job may provide extraordinary flexibil-
ity, it’s still a job and you still have important work to do. The pres-
sures of a demanding family situation may make it difficult to
maintain the appropriate separation and focus you need.
Additionally, you may face pressure and expectations from other
family members who work in more traditional environments and
who may have misperceptions about the degree of flexibility your
work affords you. And while you may have done an admirable job of
setting boundaries and ensuring that your work is respected (Tip
45), extenuating family circumstances can cause people to lose all
semblance of rational thinking.
If you have a bona fide family care situation that requires addi-
tional attention from you for a period of time, you may need to take
a leave of absence from work. In this case, you may be eligible for
time off from work and should talk to your employer about this.
While it may be tempting to continue working since your office is at
home, don’t short-change yourself, your family, or your work. Be re-
alistic about the time and energy you’ll need to devote to your family
situation and plan accordingly.
Working Well with Your Family 81
If you’re involved with an extended care situation, such as a dis-
abled child or spouse or an ailing parent that resides with you, the
factors that impact you and your handling of this situation are simi-
lar to those of childcare (Tip 35). You also must clearly assess the
level of care the dependent family member requires and determine
how much of that you can provide while continuing to meet the de-
mands of your job. As with childcare, you may find it necessary to
secure the services of a care provider. This may involve part-time or
full-time in-home nursing services, as-needed companion care, elder
daycare, or nursing home care.
Whatever your situation is or may become, keep in mind that
telecommuting (in spite of its inherent flexibility) is not a substitute
for family care or elder care services you may truly need. And while
this might be clear to you, you’ll also need to bear in mind that being
forthright and assertive with family members may be necessary to
ensure that the realities of telecommuting and the demands of your
work are clearly understood. It’s unwise (and ultimately unhealthy,
unproductive, and potentially unprofitable) for you to let yourself
and your work be taken advantage of when a family situation de-
mands increased attention. Having this clear in your mind before a
crisis occurs is useful, since clear thinking may not abound in the
midst of a family crisis.
Clearly articulate in your own mind what is and is not feasible with
regard to family care and your availability of time and energy to help.
Think about how you would present your position and parameters in
such a case. If you’re blessed enough to be free of such pressures now,
jot down your thoughts to keep in a safe place and refer to it should
you ever need the guidance of a rational mind.
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82 101 Tips for Telecommuters
40
Minimize Household
and Family Stress
While telecommuting eliminates some of the stress associated with
commuting to and working in a traditional workplace, it is certainly
not a stress-free mode of working. Some of the advantages of in-
creased proximity to your family and your office are offset by disad-
vantages that can be stressful to you and members of your
household. Certainly you’ll be more attuned to the problems and is-
sues of your home and family, which can be an added source of stress
you take with you to your office. At the same time, your family may
be much more aware of and feel the tension and stress associated
with some of your on-the-job issues and challenges:
• Deadline pressures
• Relationship problems with co-workers
• Unrelenting demands (from a nonstop phone, an overflowing
in-box, an overloaded e-mail box)
• Falling short of goals
• Isolation and detachment from co-workers
• Being disorganized and feeling constantly “behind the power
curve”
You and your family also will experience elevated levels of stress if
there are unresolved problems within the home that are created by
your telecommuting arrangement. Rather than wait for an issue to
fester into a crisis (or to undermine your success with telecommut-
ing), much of the typical stress telecommuters experience within
their home and family can be averted by proactively setting expecta-
tions (Tip 31) on issues such as:
• Work time and space
• Interruptions
• Noise
• Orderliness and cleanliness
• Telephone protocols
• Visitors (during business hours)
Many telecommuters (and their families) also experience stress
Working Well with Your Family 83
because of misunderstandings with regard to household responsibil-
ities. Your presence and proximity do not constitute an inherent
promise to take on additional household tasks, although it might be
a natural assumption some people will make. Therefore, take great
care to discuss and agree in advance who will handle responsibilities
such as:
• Child care and family care
• Lawn maintenance/gardening
• Cleaning
• Laundry
• Lunch preparation/cleanup
• Answering the phones/door
• Cooking
• Shopping
• Errands
• Household financial management
Since a great antidote for telecommuting stress is proactive and open
dialogue, block off time on your calendar today to discuss and im-
plement action steps to eliminate:
• A source of stress you create for your family (be sure to listen
carefully).
• An area of stress you experience that your family can alleviate
(be sure to be specific and clear).
Using effective issues resolution skills (Tip 42) is key to keep the
focus on the problem while avoiding defensiveness and anger.
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84 101 Tips for Telecommuters
41
Working With and Around
Your “4-Legged Children”
With or without children, if you have a pet in the house, you have
some unique parent-like considerations to address when you
telecommute. Unlike older children with whom you can negotiate,
reason or bribe, pets are not always so cooperative. And while they
won’t scream like a baby, incessant barking or meowing while you’re
on the phone with colleagues or clients is not likely to enhance your
image as a serious professional. Rather, it will reinforce mispercep-
tions about telecommuting, distract you and your caller, and frus-
trate your pet if you continue to ignore those persistent pleas for
attention.
Having a pet can have many positive benefits—companionship,
exercise opportunities, etc. To help you enjoy the benefits of pet
ownership while minimizing potential problems when you telecom-
mute, advance planning is imperative. If you’re just getting a dog,
consider a puppy kindergarten class for you and your pet to instill
good habits and establish roles (you ARE in charge and the pet needs
to know this!). You might also benefit from reading books on pet
care or talking with other telecommuters who also own pets. If
you’re just beginning your telecommuting experience, think about
how you’ll manage this with your pet.
• Do you have a telecommuting-friendly pet?
• Do you have another room to move the pet into while you’re
working? Or are you willing to spend the money to find a pet
sitter (yes, there is such a thing as pet daycare!)?
• If it proves to be problematic, will you/can you give up telecom-
muting? Or are you willing to find a new home for your pet?
Those who telecommute with pets at home have found a few ways to
make it work:
• Obviously, if you have a quiet pet and one that doesn’t like to
sleep on your desk or someplace that requires you constantly
step over it, it’s very comforting to have your pet with you dur-
ing the workday. So, don’t hesitate to do this if it makes you and
your pet happy.
Working Well with Your Family 85
• If your pet occasionally is noisy (when the doorbell rings, a de-
livery truck stops by, etc.) you’ll need to quickly hit the MUTE
button on your phone. (A telecommuting friend of mine simply
apologizes for the interruption of her “security alarm” when her
dog barks.) Or you might be able to evoke complete silence im-
mediately by having a plentiful supply of pet treats readily avail-
able.
• If your pet is unpredictably or constantly noisy, the pet has to go
(to another room, to a pet sitter, or to another home). You may
only need to relocate the pet if you have a critical phone call, a
conference call, or some other task that requires focus and con-
centration on your part. Of course, your pet must be willing to
stay outside your office without destroying the room or creating
such a racket that it still hinders your work.
• If noisy pets continue to plague you, remember the numerous
advantages of having fish (e.g., they’re VERY quiet, fun to
watch, and can contribute immensely to your meditative time).
Identify: Any ways that your pet compromises your ability to
work effectively and efficiently.
Create: Solutions to any pet problems you have (or anticipate).
Decide: When and how you’ll implement the solutions.
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42
Resolve Disagreements
Promptly
Making the transition to telecommuting can be a stressful and diffi-
cult process for everyone impacted by it. Expectations, roles, needs,
demands, perceptions—these are all influenced by your telecommut-
86 101 Tips for Telecommuters
ing arrangement and can result in tension, anxiety, anger, resent-
ment, and conflict.
In spite of establishing clear expectations and negotiating agree-
ments (Tip 31), disagreements may arise. Whether you share your
home with a stay-at-home spouse or someone who is a full-time em-
ployee commuting to a traditional workplace or a partner who also
telecommutes (Tip 46), there are likely to be some points of conflict.
It’s wise to be alert to these conflicts and to address them quickly and
effectively. This allows you to minimize the negative emotions and
sources of stress that can undermine your telecommuting effective-
ness and vital personal relationships.
When a conflict arises, deal with it promptly and proactively.
This doesn’t mean you should necessarily stop working to discuss
the conflict “in the moment.” Sometimes circumstances necessitate
that you acknowledge the conflict situation and defer the discussion
to resolve it. This is fine, provided you set a specific time to have the
discussion and then be sure to follow through. One of my telecom-
muting colleagues occasionally runs into conflict with his wife re-
garding who is available to transport their young children to and
from school or to extracurricular events. Since they both work and
both have unexpected demands creep into their schedules, conflicts
can arise unexpectedly. They talk “in the moment” about how to re-
solve the immediate problem, and they have a commitment to each
other to follow-up later in the day or evening about how to avoid
same problem again, how to be more flexible or creative the next
time, etc.
Is your telecommuting causing any conflicts or lingering sources
of stress between you and the people in your home? If so, or when-
ever a conflict does arise, be proactive about identifying the conflict
and creating an opportunity to quickly work through it to a resolu-
tion. The resolution you reach is a function of the type of conflict
and is dependent upon your unique situation. You may find that the
solutions involve either more or less time together, establishment of
clear boundaries or expectations, changed parameters regarding time
and space, a shift in responsibilities, or increased flexibility.
Whatever the resolution, it will be facilitated greatly and strength-
ened by the increased openness and communication you’ll achieve
with a positive process for resolving conflict.
Working Well with Your Family 87
When discussing a problem or conflict, be prepared to:
☛Stay calm (emotions can run high, so be conscious of remaining
cool).
☛Listen carefully and respond with empathy to concerns, feel-
ings, frustrations.
☛Ask for additional information regarding the problem.
☛Reflect (repeat back) what you’ve heard to confirm you under-
stand both the facts and the feelings expressed.
☛Ask for input regarding ideas, suggestions, possible solutions.
☛Share your own thoughts, perspective, feelings parameters,
needs.
☛Work together to discuss proposed solutions.
☛Agree on action steps and any further discussion or follow-up
required.
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43
Accept the Guilt—
and Move On
It seems sometimes that we’ve become so conditioned to feeling
guilty that we’ve forgotten how to enjoy moments of delight without
some angst about something. If only telecommuters had the perfectly
balanced, blissful, unstressed and guilt-free life that nontelecom-
muters think we have! But, it’s not likely. While you may be better off
than when you spent 2
1
⁄2 hours of your life everyday commuting, the
quest for balance and bliss is an ongoing one. So if you’re contem-
plating or just beginning a telecommuting venture, don’t expect a
miracle. And if you’ve been at it for a while and are wondering why
88 101 Tips for Telecommuters
nirvana eludes you, take heart—you’re not the only one, and it’s
probably not anything you’re doing wrong.
In spite of admirable self-discipline, organization, focus, and
commitment to balance, many telecommuters experience feelings of
guilt, especially in connection with their children. Working at home
should allow you to see more of your kids and participate more ac-
tively in their lives. It also makes you more vulnerable to their re-
quests for your time and attention. For some telecommuters, this
translates into a double-edged sword of guilt: feeling guilty when
you’re at home working and not spending time with the kids, AND
feeling guilty when you are spending time with the kids or involved
in their activities and you’re not working. Well, let’s fast-forward to
the bottom line—you can’t be in two places at once (or if you can,
please e-mail me immediately with your secret!), and balancing the
conflicting top priorities of work and family is just part of the equa-
tion (so we’ll just have to deal with it).
One way to deal with it is to maintain, with constant vigilance,
your commitment to boundaries between work and the rest of your
life, as well as your commitment to limit any workaholic tenden-
cies (Tip 6) you’re prone to. Another technique is to interject a bit
of perspective into your view of things. Ask yourself, when you feel
that you’ve just subjected your child to the most disastrous disap-
pointment, “Will this really matter 10 years from now?” Children
are so resilient that sometimes a trauma you’ll agonize over for
hours won’t bother them for more than 10 minutes. The perspec-
tive litmus test is also useful when you’re psychologically gnashing
your teeth over a decision to defer work to do something important
with your family (accompany someone to the doctor’s office, attend
a program at your child’s school, have an extended lunch with an
elderly parent). I’ve always found it useful to consider these
choices and decisions in light of “the grand cosmic scheme of
things.”
Realize that guilt is a natural response to some of the choices you
make. But if you maintain a balanced perspective between the pres-
sures of immediate demands and the long-term rewards of the
choices you make, you’re bound to find the wisdom to make choices
that are right for what you value now and for what will keep you
guilt-free down the road when you look back on your life.
Working Well with Your Family 89
Think about decision points in your life that evoke feelings of guilt.
Take some time to contemplate the values behind the feelings.
Consider how to minimize guilt so you can move forward with the
confidence that your choices are the best ones for now and for the
future.
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44
Answering Phones:
Decide Who and How
Your telephone is a primary link between you and the rest of your
business world. While your phone lines may also be used for fax,
data, and video transmission, the voice contact you have with others
is vital. Therefore, it’s important for you to have well-established and
communicated phone procedures. While a ringing phone has be-
come quite a commonplace event in our everyday life, the ringing of
your business phone should elicit a much more attentive and
thoughtful response than usual.
It’s likely that you’ll want or be required to have a dedicated
phone line for voice communication. For one of my corporate
telecommuting stints, I had five separate lines installed (the phone
company loved me!): 2 lines for voice, 1 for fax, 1 for the computer
modem, and 1 ISDN line for videoconferencing. While you might
not require this many lines, be sure to assess your needs and negoti-
ate with your employer to secure an adequate number of business
lines for your purposes. Once your business voice line is established,
you’ll need to think about where it rings and how it will be answered.
Ideally, your business line should be restricted to ringing in your
home office, completely separate from your home telephone.
Depending on your circumstances, you may want the flexibility to
answer the business line in other parts of your home. This is fine,
provided you can control who and how the phone is answered if you
90 101 Tips for Telecommuters
don’t manage to grab it on the first ring. You may experience some
difficulty with business calls coming into your home if you have
young children just discovering the delights of answering the phone
or teenagers who are convinced that every call simply must be for
them. If either of these conditions is present in your home, consider
doing the following:
• Do not let your business calls ring outside of your office, and do
not let your children answer your office phone.
• Use voice mail, an answering machine, or an answering service
to take messages when you can’t answer your business phone
yourself.
If you must have business calls follow you from your home office
into other parts of your home:
• Install an extension of your business line in your home and lo-
cate it someplace where young children can’t reach it (and
teenagers know to never touch it).
• If available from your phone company, use an additional phone
number with a special identifying ring on your home line so
you can forward your business line to this number—and don’t
let your children answer the phone when this ring sounds.
• Forward your business calls to your cellular phone and keep the
cell phone on your person at all times.
While some books about home-based offices provide guidelines for
training family members to answer business calls and take messages
professionally, this rarely is appropriate for corporate telecommuters.
Unless your business is unique, your employer extremely flexible,
and your clients graced with inordinate understanding, it’s not likely
that your callers really want to talk with anyone in your house other
than you.
Review your telephone situation to assess:
W How messages are recorded on your business phone line and
any improvements you can make in this procedure.
W The opportunity your family has to answer your business calls
and the appropriateness of this.
Working Well with Your Family 91
W The degree of access your calls have to you when you are not in
your home office and any need to alter this.
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45
Get the Respect You Deserve
(How to be sure you and your
work are taken seriously)
Since many myths and misunderstandings still exist regarding the
life of a telecommuter, it’s sometimes difficult for other people to
take you and your work seriously. The perception others have about
someone “at home” is that the person is not really or seriously work-
ing (since they perceive home is not a real or serious workplace).
The burden for achieving the regard, respect, and seriousness you’ll
need rests squarely on your shoulders.
For you and your work to be taken seriously by others, you must
take yourself and your work seriously. All of your effort to focus your
energies, organize your work, plan your day, and monitor your
progress are major contributors to a self-perception of seriousness. It
also helps if you maintain established work hours—and be sure to let
everyone (immediate family, relatives, friends, neighbors) know
what those hours are. Additionally, it will help convey a sense of pur-
pose and seriousness if you conduct yourself seriously (another good
reason to get out of your robe as soon as possible). In spite of these
efforts, some of the people in your world will feel compelled to
bother you. Oh, it’s not that they (consciously) intend to sidetrack
you; they just might be unable to restrain themselves. So, you’ll need
to arm yourself with a few weapons to keep these people (and their
inherent distractions) at bay:
• In addition to looking the part of the serious home-based pro-
fessional, sound like it also. Always answer your phone (even
the home line if you happen to answer it during work hours)
with your name and/or your company name. This conveys the
message that you’re talking from your office and you don’t have
time for chit-chat.
• Always refer to your workplace as your office. (“I’ll be in my of-
92 101 Tips for Telecommuters
fice until 5:30, but I can return your call in the evening.” “Why
don’t you call me at my office; the number is…”) Referring to
your workplace as home sends the wrong message and confuses
people about your need to delineate between work and home.
• Be clear and assertive with people about your needs, time con-
straints, and work demands. (“I need to meet a deadline on a
client project and can’t talk now.” “I’ve got a conference call
waiting for me, so I’ll have to talk with you later.”)
• Make it clear to everyone who calls you, stops by, or rings your
doorbell that you need to focus on your work during business
hours and defer nonwork matters to nonwork times. (“I’m in
the middle of writing a proposal and need to get it expressed
out today. What’s a good time for you to talk after work?”)
• If you use a headset or have a portable phone handy, never an-
swer the door without one of them attached to your ear—few
things convey an urgent sense of “work in progress” as well as
these.
• Does it go without saying? During work hours, absolutely avoid
initiating any contact with neighbors or social interactions that
are not essential. No one will understand why they can’t simply
reciprocate whenever the spirit moves them (which will always
be at a time when you don’t have or shouldn’t have the time to
spare).
Be alert to the temptation by your neighbors to take advantage of
your availability. A telecommuter I know has been asked at various
time to watch a neighbor’s child, sign for an express package, give a
key to a service technician, feed a neighbor’s pet, water someone’s
plants while they were on vacation, and serve as a pick-up point for
Girl Scout cookies. The accumulation of these intrusions on your
time and focus will erode your productivity, increase your annoy-
ance, and make you feel not very neighborly.
When the situation is approaching an emergency, it’s probably
appropriate to help. Recently, for example, my neighbor’s children ar-
rived home from school one day and found their door locked. So
they rang my doorbell, and I wouldn’t have thought of not welcom-
ing them into my home to wait for their parents. Of course, right
after I offered them milk and cookies, along with access to either the
library or the television, I returned to my office to continue working.
Be reasonable about helping when the circumstances justify it.
Working Well with Your Family 93
However, when neighbors make intrusive or inappropriate requests
for your help, let them know that you’ll be busy at work (in a phone
meeting, on a conference call, etc.) and won’t be available.
Otherwise, you’ll become the local “drop-off/pick-up/central” as well
as headquarters for neighborhood services, such as security watch
and baby/house/pet/plant sitting.
Review your approach to your work and evaluate how effectively you
convey a sense of focus and professionalism to those around you.
Consider how you might dress, act, and talk differently to communi-
cate a strong “WORK IN PROGRESS; DO NOT DISTURB!” message.
Select at least one thing you can change immediately with regard to
how you handle nonwork visitors or phone calls that interfere with
your work day.
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46
The Happy Marriage/Partnership
Guide to Office Sharing
Many of your traditional office-bound colleagues are fairly con-
vinced that telecommuters enjoy the best the work world has to
offer—a decent wage, minimal commuting, independence, etc. If
you happen to also share your home office with a spouse or partner
who telecommutes, you’ll be the envy of just about everyone you
know (except those people who can’t imagine that much proximity
to a loved one). True, sharing an office with a life partner has lots of
advantages in terms of time together, awareness of the ups and
downs you each experience, and involvement in the challenges and
rewards of each other’s work. That assumes, of course, that you hap-
pily and productively manage the shared office arrangement. There
are lots of ways to transform this into a recipe for disaster. And the
disastrous consequences are multiplied because of the impact not
just on your work, but on your relationship, as well.
94 101 Tips for Telecommuters
It all begins with the relationship, as with any partnership. If
your relationship is shaky, it’s not likely that telecommuting together
will improve things. Rather, you’ll probably experience added strain
to the relationship and additional stress on your work that prevents
you from being successful on either front. So, consider a shared
telecommuting arrangement only if your relationship is strong and
your ability to separate your relationship from your work is well
honed.
On the foundation of a strong personal relationship, there are
several steps you can take and agreements you should reach to estab-
lish a productive working relationship:
• If your office is an open work environment (like the cubes you
tried to escape!), follow basic open office etiquette guidelines
(e.g., don’t use speaker phones, avoid loud talking, respect the
designated space of others, maintain a not-too-slovenly work
space, etc.).
• Position desks and work areas so that sound from equipment
and voices moves in a direction opposite from each other’s work
space.
• Avoid “stream of consciousness” babbling; avoid interrupting
with a thought, question, suggestion, or news flash unless
you’ve asked permission to disrupt your partner’s work or con-
centration.
• Respect not only each other’s space but also equipment, sup-
plies, tools, and resources. Ask permission for or have clear
agreements regarding the use of things that belong to the other.
• Take great care to track expenses associated with any shared
equipment or services (e.g., fax, computer, Internet, mail meter-
ing, etc.) so that reimbursements can be handled appropriately.
• Decide on phone procedures (who answers phones, how mes-
sages are to be handled, etc.).
• Take time out to be together when you can by sharing work
breaks, lunch breaks, “erranding,” success celebrations, mun-
dane office chores (such as filing, cleaning, etc.).
Whenever possible, negotiate these issues (Tip 31) in advance and
check periodically (Tip 47) to be sure that things are working well
for both of you.
Working Well with Your Family 95
When you’re ready to discuss shared office issues, first check to see if
it’s a good time to interrupt your office/life partner. Schedule a meet-
ing or a working lunch to discuss ways to more effectively work to-
gether. Think of one thing that you can suggest to improve the
productivity of each of you.
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47
Schedule Periodic
“How Goes It” Meetings
Your commitment to work well with your family may include a num-
ber of focused efforts:
• Set clear expectations with family and friends (Tip 31)
• Reach agreements and resolve conflicts (Tip 42).
• Make necessary arrangements for family care (Tips 35, 39).
• Manage the logistics of your home and office (Tips 13, 33).
• Make time to celebrate milestones together (Tip 32).
In spite of these efforts, there may be just a few bumps in the road
you take to telecommuting bliss. Why? Mostly because of two
things: all of this involves people and change. Since few things stay
constant and people need continual attention and nurturing, be pre-
pared to review, revise, revisit, and renegotiate regularly. I suggest
doing this during regularly schedule “how goes it” meetings with
your family.
Having a predetermined time to discuss problems, eliminate ob-
stacles, resolve issues, etc. helps you avoid more highly charged,
overly emotional “in the moment” discussions. While urgent matters
may call for an impromptu discussion to resolve a problem, less crit-
ical, annoying, or nagging situations should be deferred to a desig-
96 101 Tips for Telecommuters
nated time with a structured process for handling them. You’ll find
also that the little bumps and molehills along the way don’t seem like
such mountains to circumnavigate when people know there’s a time,
place, and way for charting a resolution to problems.
When to hold your “how goes it” meetings depends on several
factors: how new you and your family are to telecommuting; you and
your family’s tolerance for stress, ambiguity, and delayed gratifica-
tion; and the degree of change occurring within your family and your
work demands. It’s useful to establish the frequency for “how goes it”
meetings during the early discussions with your family members
when you establish expectations (Tip 31) and ask for their help as
part of your team (Tip 32). It’s helpful to also agree on the format for
these meetings.
You might use an initial meeting with your family to propose the
“how goes it” meeting concept as a way to channel issues for discus-
sion. Discuss a timeframe and structure that addresses the concerns
and needs of various family members. Don’t forget to use effective
dispute resolution skills (Tip 42) when handling concerns or dis-
cussing conflict.
Use the following “how goes it” meeting guideline to keep lines of
communication open and to minimize conflict situations:
" Review solutions and agreements discussed during previous
meetings or discussions and assess their effectiveness.
" Ask for input regarding any new or unresolved problem areas.
" Exchange ideas about things being handled successfully and
discuss keys to success. Also share successes/good news regard-
ing achievement of work goals.
" Share any concerns, issues, obstacles you’re experiencing and
ask for input, improvement ideas, and proposed solutions.
" Agree on action, next steps, and/or any follow-up required.
" Confirm the date, time, and location of the next “how goes it”
meeting.
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Working Well with
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48
Establish a Rock-Solid
Foundation of Trust
Underlying every successful relationship is trust. Without it, people
become suspicious, noncommittal, uncaring, undermining and
jaded—all of which leads to deteriorated and nonproductive rela-
tionships. This further leads to unpleasant work environments, dis-
gruntled workers, frustrated customers, dejected leaders, and
unprofitable organizations. So, while you’re just one person in the
whole intricate array of people and relationships in your organiza-
tion, it’s exceedingly wise for you to make trust-full relationships a
major priority. As a telecommuter, establishing unwavering trust in
relationships with colleagues and your boss is particularly vital, since
distance and the absence of day-to-day interactions can create pres-
sure on relationships that will erode trust.
The fundamental ingredients of trust in the working relation-
ships that are critical to your success include reliability, consistency,
and integrity. Knowing how these factors affect trust and how your
behavior affects perceptions and beliefs is important to your success
while telecommuting.
Reliability essentially means that people have confidence that
you will honor the commitments you make. A good rule of thumb
here: undercommit and overdeliver. So, don’t make a promise on
your voice mail greeting to return calls by the end of the day if you
can’t be certain you will. If you commit to attend on-site meetings or
to participate in conference calls, show up. (Remember that you’re
not the only one who worries about being forgotten; people remote
from you can begin to wonder if you remember them or care about
their concerns if you don’t follow through on your commitments to
them.) Avoid not being available when you’ve scheduled time for a
specific phone call or videoconference. Everyone gets unnerved if
your essential availability and your ability to honor commitments is
perceived as unreliable.
Trust is also strengthened by consistency. Be available to people
on a consistent basis by establishing your home office work hours
and maintaining those hours routinely. If you won’t be in your office
as scheduled, take steps to be accessible (Tip 52). Additionally, try to
be consistent in your temperament and tone when speaking with
101
people, responding to voice mail and e-mail, and participating within
your team. Being unpredictable emotionally (a screaming maniac
one day and happy-go-lucky the next) makes it very difficult for peo-
ple to be comfortable with you, and trust will suffer.
Integrity is vital to trust, since it reflects how people perceive
your ability to be honest in your dealings, truthful in your encoun-
ters, and respectful of the rights of others. While there’s plenty of
confusion, indirectness and hidden agendas in work relationships,
it’s important that you avoid these negative dynamics when you
telecommute. Do this by remembering to:
• Be honest in everything you do. Once your honesty is compro-
mised, trust is lost.
• Be truthful and forthright (without being obnoxious about it).
People may not always like what you say or believe, but at least
they won’t have to wonder about it.
• Avoid sarcasm, joking, and teasing in your distance interactions.
So much of what you say on voice mail, send in an e-mail, or
blurt out in a conference call can be misinterpreted without you
ever having the chance to know, respond, or recover.
• Maintain confidences so that you’re not perceived as a “highly
networked grand-central-station” of gossip or confidential in-
formation people have entrusted to you.
• Treat sensitive material appropriately. Don’t send group broad-
casts on voice mail or forward to the entire team an e-mail
meant for your eyes only.
• Consider steps you can take to be more reliable and consistent.
• Look at your work habits, your team involvement, your interac-
tions with colleagues; also think about any feedback you’ve re-
ceived regarding any concerns about your availability and
follow through on commitments.
• Identify three immediate steps you can take to improve your re-
liability.
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102 101 Tips for Telecommuters
49
Keep Your Boss Informed
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a major fear of telecommuters, and, de-
pending upon the working style of your manager, it may be a bona
fide fear. While you’ll want to maintain visibility in the organization,
keep your network active, and secure the necessary support of col-
leagues and subordinates, don’t overlook the critical relationship be-
tween you and your boss. Don’t be fooled by the expressions of envy
from your friends and nontelecommuting associates who think lots
of “space” between you and your boss is a dream come true. Too lit-
tle contact with your boss can be very damaging to this critical rela-
tionship, so you’d be wise to overcommunicate whenever possible.
Telecommuting is facilitated greatly by the range of alternatives
for communication (telephone, voice mail, e-mail, fax, groupware,
etc.). These options in no way eliminate the effort and time still re-
quired to ensure effective communication in critical areas. With dif-
fering schedules, time zones, travel commitments, information
needs, and communication styles, it’s a real challenge to overcome
the obstacles to effective communication with your boss.
Even with your best intentions, however, you may find that your
boss is unreliable about keeping appointments or is sorely lacking on
follow-through—all of which brings it squarely back to you.
Regardless of the barriers, you have the responsibility and the great-
est vested interest in relentlessly keeping your boss updated on your
results, problems, opportunities, and need for her or his support.
The “no surprises” theory is a good rule of thumb here: Never let
your boss be surprised by anything about you or your work that you
should or could have communicated promptly.
Be conscious of communicating with your boss daily—by e-mail,
voice mail, page, or telephone. This keeps dialog active, even from a
distance, and maintains your visibility on your boss’s “radar screen.”
Ask yourself periodically if you feel your issues, challenges, prob-
lems, and achievements are visible enough to your boss. Also, are
you clear about how much time your boss feels is appropriate for
face-to-face and phone meeting time? If not, discuss and agree on
this.
Working Well With Your Team 103
Use interaction opportunities with your boss either to provide an up-
date or seek input, guidance, or other assistance from your boss.
Focus your communication so that your boss clearly understands:
1. What the topic is that you’re addressing.
2. What the problem, need, or opportunity is.
3. The degree of urgency or seriousness the situation represents.
4. What action or input you need from your boss.
5. When that action or input is needed.
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Know and Nurture Your Team
The relationships and interdependencies you have with your formal
team members (e.g., those co-workers with whom you work directly
and/or who focus on the same projects, accounts, or functions that
you do) are inherent in the structure of your organization and the
processes whereby work is accomplished. The relationships certainly
require nurturing, and efforts to strengthen them should be ongoing
as your team develops and evolves. As a telecommuter, you need ef-
fective relationship-building, communication, and interaction skills
in order to function effectively as a virtual team member. Also, as
work processes change, marketplace pressures increase, and commu-
nication tools evolve, these relationships and interdependencies also
reformulate. Beyond the scope of your formal team, however, there’s
likely to be an array of other colleagues who constitute your total vir-
tual team. Identifying these colleagues and realizing their value to
your attainment of goals is essential to your success.
Beyond the support staff that works with you directly, your suc-
cess is contingent upon the work and commitment of any number of
104 101 Tips for Telecommuters
other resources that you may access throughout the organization.
These might include:
• Billing/collection agents • Customer service representatives
• Editors/proofreaders • Graphic designers
• Consultants • Installers
• Proposal developers • Peers
• Salespeople • Managers
• Shipping and receiving • Receptionists
• Audio-visual technicians • Library/information services
• Executives • Dispatchers
• Computer systems specialists • Help-desk technicians
• Maintenance staff • Travel coordinators
The members of your broader team, while they might not be taken
for granted, are often overlooked when considering who comprises
your team. If you’re typical, you have a long list of associates
throughout your organization working with and for you. And espe-
cially in your telecommuting role, you’re even more dependent on
these resources and their commitment to your success. Knowing
who they are and taking steps to recognize their efforts will be in-
valuable in ensuring their ongoing support (especially during the
“crunch” times when you most need it).
Begin with a commitment on your part to stay connected to these
remote but critical resources through simple efforts: a call, e-mail,
page, or voice mail to thank someone for their help; a memo to
someone’s manager praising him or her for some extraordinary ef-
fort; nominating someone for an award for continued excellence in
his or her work or attitude. Not forgetting who makes you successful
will ensure that those people don’t forget you when you’re really
counting on them.
Identify:
3 Resources or associates who are not members of your formal
team.
Working Well With Your Team 105
2 Specific things each of them has done or ways they help you
that’s critical to your success.
1 Action you can take now to recognize their effort in some ap-
propriate way that communicates to them (and to others in the
organization) how valuable they are to you and why their con-
tributions are critical to your telecommuting success.
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51
Stay in Touch
with Co-Workers
With the time you invest each day in accomplishing your work;
communicating with clients, partners, and your boss; addressing the
technological and administrative issues critical to your work; and
maintaining some semblance of balance in your life, it’s very easy to
find little or no time to stay connected with your co-workers.
Certainly you’ll communicate with them when it’s essential to your
work, but it’s also important to stay in touch with co-workers for
nontask purposes. This not only strengthens the foundation of your
relationships, it also assures your co-workers that you’re present (al-
beit in a virtual way!), available, and aware of them and their issues.
It also helps to minimize any resentment (Tip 53) your nontelecom-
muting co-workers may feel toward you and your telecommuting
work arrangement.
Don’t expect your co-workers to necessarily take the initiative to
keep in touch with you—they’re busy, too! And you have the “out of
sight, out of mind” deficit to overcome as well, so my strong sugges-
tion is that you take responsibility for keeping these connections ac-
tive. Don’t hesitate to incorporate these initiatives into your daily
task list, right along with the other key activities essential to your
success. Otherwise, they will get lost in the flurry of your busy days.
Here are some basic ways you can be sure that your co-workers won’t
forget you:
106 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Talk with them regularly by telephone. (Tip 52)
• Schedule face-to-face meetings periodically.
• Use every available minute when you’re on-site in the main of-
fice to see and talk with coworkers. (Mingle over a cup of cof-
fee, suggest a team lunch or work break, etc.)
• Try to attend social events (retirement parties, baby showers,
promotion celebrations, etc.).
• If getting to your office doesn’t involve a flight or a long com-
mute, schedule meetings periodically in your home office with
individual co-workers or your team.
• Use any other available technology (fax, e-mail, paging, video-
conference, web conferences, etc.) to stay connected and visible.
• Volunteer for project teams or task forces that facilitate your in-
volvement with co-workers.
• Rely on a trusted colleague or two to be your “ears” on the
grapevine.
• Make a point to remember birthdays and acknowledge special
accomplishments of your team members and associates.
✔Review your schedule of meetings, trips to the corporate office,
special company events, etc. to identify easy and natural oppor-
tunities you have to interact with co-workers.
✔List the people you need to maintain a relationship with and
different ways you can interact with them during these opportu-
nities.
✔Also add to your calendar specific steps you’ll take to keep in
touch with co-workers between opportunities for face-to-face
interactions.
✔Be sure you schedule at least two such actions each day and that
you communicate with each key co-worker at least once every
other week.
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Working Well With Your Team 107
52
Be (Creatively) Accessible
by Telephone
The demands of your job, pressures of your life, and distance be-
tween you and team members makes being accessible a triple chal-
lenge. But the sense that you are accessible, in spite of your
telecommuting function, is vital to your success—especially if you
are a team or project leader, supervisor, sales manager, account exec-
utive, or resident expert. No one doubts that live, real-time, face-to-
face interactions generally are superior, but we don’t live or work in
an ideal world. So, you’ll need to find creative ways to overcome
barriers to your accessibility and to compensate for your physical
absence.
The telephone is the primary tool you use for staying connected.
While fax, e-mail, and videoconferencing can be useful supplements,
many telecommuters still depend significantly on the telephone for
communication—it’s easy to use, generally reliable, more comfort-
able for some people than new modes of communication, and has su-
perior quality (clear sound, no delay in transmission, etc.). Since
people will use the phone as a key way to contact you, you’ll want to
be highly accessible via the telephone. Toward this end, keep these
suggestions in mind:
W Have a second line, use call waiting, and/or have voice mail on
your business line to minimize the calls you miss.
W Be diligent about returning calls quickly.
W Use call forwarding to ensure that your calls reach you when
you’re away from your office (Tip 91).
W Use caller ID to know when to interrupt another call or activity
to respond to a critical caller.
Beyond voice-to-voice communication by telephone, you can be cre-
atively accessible and visible in other ways:
• Use teleconferences, videoconferencing, and web conferencing
to participate in meetings and attend presentations real-time—
or even be a “virtual attendee” at a baby shower by asking to
have a speaker phone available.
• Without sending unnecessary or annoying messages, be an avid
108 101 Tips for Telecommuters
user (by accessing these systems many times throughout the
day) of e-mail, voice mail, and paging to accelerate communica-
tion and bolster your responsiveness.
• Encourage team members and co-workers to call you whenever
they need your help or input, with your assurance (followed up
by reality) that you’ll be there or will return the call quickly.
• Have your home office business phone number added to the
corporate speed-dial system so you are a mere few digits away!
Evaluate your accessibility by telephone (or ask some of your co-
workers how easy it is to reach you for live communication). Identify
three improvement steps you can take to improve your accessibility,
and be sure to let your co-workers know about these new and easier
ways to reach you.
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53
Don’t Ignore Those
Who Resent You
If you are a trailblazer in your organization and an “early adopter” of
the telecommuter workstyle, it shouldn’t surprise you to encounter
misperceptions about your work and your life. Even if you and your
organization are fairly savvy with regard to telecommuting, you are
likely to have some colleagues or co-workers who resent your non-
traditional work arrangement. Depending on who these folks are,
how critical they are to your success, how influential they are in the
organization, and how effectively you handle situations, their impact
can range from a mild annoyance to a serious undermining of your
credibility and effectiveness. It’s unwise to simply disregard resent-
ment and assume it won’t affect you or how you’re perceived. Rather,
you should be aware of it and try to eliminate it whenever possible.
You may become aware that someone is making comments about
Working Well With Your Team 109
your “cushy life” or suggesting that you’re always inaccessible. I
worked once with a fellow executive who consistently referred to me
being “at home” when I wasn’t on-site at corporate headquarters.
(My loyal team members assertively corrected him by referring to my
being “in her office in Pittsburgh” and asking if he needed to talk
with me.) Of course, if there’s any truth to the complaint that you’re
not accessible, you’ll want to correct this situation immediately by
being more responsive to voice mail, e-mail, and phone messages.
Letting people know in advance when you’ll have limited acces-
sibility due to travel, meetings, appointments away from the office,
vacation, etc. also minimizes the frustration that can lead to resent-
ment. In reality, you wouldn’t always be accessible even if you
worked on-site, but people tend to forget this and can be much less
forgiving when you telecommute.
The most direct way to address resentment from co-workers is to
confront it head-on. When you hear of persistent comments made by
a key colleague or you think a co-worker is trying to erode your cred-
ibility or effectiveness, you can make great strides in eliminating this
behavior by discussing it directly. Have a specific discussion with
your co-worker about what you’ve seen or heard (being careful to
not compromise confidences or create a problem for another co-
worker) and discuss reasons for the resentful feelings. Listen and re-
flect what you hear; it’s likely to be mostly emotional (anger about
not also being able to telecommute, frustration about the stresses of
commuting, etc.).
You might also learn that your co-worker perceives or actually
experiences some additional work burden resulting from your
telecommuting. If this is the case, explore ways to resolve the situa-
tion (Tip 63), particularly if an unfair burden has inadvertently been
placed on the co-worker.
It’s likely that any effort you make to understand the feelings of a
co-worker (even if nothing changes with the circumstances) will pay
huge dividends in how you are perceived by your colleagues. Being
known as sensitive, concerned, empathetic, open to input and a good
listener will never hurt you and is likely to minimize any barriers
created by expressions of resentment, envy, frustration, or anger
from your co-workers.
110 101 Tips for Telecommuters
☛Identify any sources of existing or potential resentment among
your colleagues and team members.
☛Think about anything you’re doing (or not doing) that might be
contributing to their feelings.
☛Focus on a critical relationship where resentment is a problem
and schedule time to talk with that co-worker during your next
opportunity to meet face-to-face.
☛Discuss reasons for the co-worker’s feelings, steps you both can
take to improve any problems with work flow or load, and any
other actions you can take to minimize the resentment.
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54
Network to Stay
Visible and Informed
Networking usually is positioned as a critical activity for en-
trepreneurs and home-based business owners. While it’s also seen as
an important skill for anyone in business, networking cannot be
overrated for telecommuters (unless, of course, it’s done at the ex-
pense of achieving your goals). To the extent that you should man-
age your career almost as though it were an entrepreneurial venture
(Tip 30), mastering the fine art of networking is certainly in your
best interest.
Entrepreneurs who network effectively:
• Make it a point to meet as many people as they can.
• Create opportunities to be where other successful people are (or
where potential prospects will be).
• Join organizations and participate in activities that keep them
visible and involved in their field.
Working Well With Your Team 111
• Go out of their way to introduce themselves (i.e., work the
room).
• Ask questions to get people talking about themselves (to make
them comfortable and ensure that they remember you).
• Make sure people know their name, what they do, what they
can do for them.
• Exchange business cards with their network contacts and keep
good notes of conversations, potential opportunities, etc.
• Follow up periodically with contacts to keep their network vi-
able, create opportunities to collaborate, exchange information,
etc.
Maintaining active communication with your immediate and ex-
tended team, as well as networking more broadly within your organi-
zation, establishes vital links for you as a telecommuter. Constantly
look for ways to do what successful entrepreneurs do:
• Meet lots of people and know people in other departments/divi-
sions.
• Get involved in projects beyond the immediate scope of your
job.
• Offer to help when your knowledge or expertise would be valu-
able to others.
• Keep in touch with people by briefly “checking in” or exchang-
ing information.
Some telecommuters make a particular point to very actively com-
municate with others in the organization who are well-connected
with the grapevine. To the extent that information and power go
hand in hand, it never hurts to be in the know—and to be known.
Reevaluate your networking strategy and activity level. Look for and
activate:
3 Ways you can get more involved in your organization and meet
more people.
2 Networking contacts added to your daily call list.
112 101 Tips for Telecommuters
1 Agreement with a reliable and well-connected on-site colleague
who is willing to be your “eyes and ears” in the grapevine.
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Stay on Track for Promotions
(and Other Good Deals)
It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of visibility when you
telecommute. Isolation and fear of being overlooked for promotion
are two of the biggest fears telecommuters typically report, and prob-
ably for good reason. Avoiding isolation is somewhat within your
control, and there are clearly steps you can take to deal with this (Tip
26). Staying on track for promotions (or job rotations) holds some
different challenges but is also manageable with a concerted effort
and commitment on your part.
Before fretting over the promotion you might not get, it’s a good
idea to be sure you really want it. What will it involve (greater re-
sponsibility, increased travel, supervision of others, the need to give
up telecommuting)? Will the rewards be worth it (corresponding in-
crease in income, new and challenging work, exposure to other as-
pects of the organization, requisite experience or skills for a future
promotion or job opportunity)? Since you are the ultimate manager
of your career (Tip 30), it’s vital that you ask the questions and find
the answers. If you decide that moving up, sideways, or along in
some other way is best for you, then lay out the track that train needs
to move on. Here are some ways to help you on your journey:
• Staying visible and keeping in touch with colleagues (Tip 51) is
essential to not being forgotten in the far-flung land of telecom-
muting.
• Go out of your way to find opportunities to be involved in pro-
jects, special assignments, task teams, etc. that will expose you
to greater numbers of people and aspects of the organization.
• Schedule a career planning meeting with your manager to lay
out your goals, review your plan, outline your strategy, ask for
Working Well With Your Team 113
input, and obtain your manager’s commitment to help you
achieve your objective.
• Broaden your support network and involve more colleagues in
your projects, sales efforts, proposals for innovation, etc.
• Take classes, seminars, and workshops that will broaden your
skills, expand your knowledge, and introduce you to more peo-
ple throughout the organization.
• Actively network throughout the organization (Tip 54), with
particular emphasis on those people from whom you can learn a
great deal, help on occasion, and benefit by knowing.
• Be known for treating people with respect, including the lower
level support staff (talk about a network!).
• Most important, be known for getting results and consistently
doing so with honesty, integrity, and regard for others.
Revisit your plan for the next career step. Reassess your plan in light
of your true desires, your circumstances, the tradeoffs, and the pay-
offs. Consider any help or input you might benefit from and sched-
ule meetings or activities to make that happen. Revise your plan as
necessary.
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Know When to
Ask for Help
Chances are you’re relatively self-sufficient and independent. Most
telecommuters report these characteristics as areas of strength and
contributors to their success at telecommuting. Sometimes, though,
self-reliance can result in a tendency to manage everything yourself.
One telecommuter I know was, by most standards, technologically
proficient and not reluctant to handle computer-related problems,
114 101 Tips for Telecommuters
software upgrades, or equipment installation. However, the time
these activities consumed was disproportionate to the benefit.
Although she liked the challenge of handling the technological side
of her office, she came to realize that calling the help desk more often
and shipping her notebook computer to corporate for occasional up-
grades and servicing were wiser investments of her time and effort.
Even if you don’t consider yourself to have high control needs,
your ability and desire to function independently can lead to an inor-
dinate (and counterproductive) desire to get things done without the
help of others. There are a few reasons to avoid this syndrome:
1. In spite of your many talents and skills, it’s not likely you’re re-
ally an expert at everything.
2. Some tasks and activities do not offer a reasonable “rate of re-
turn” on your investment of time and energy (that is, you can
make more money or be more gainfully productive by focusing
on other things).
3. Those around you (family, friends, colleagues) soon stop offer-
ing to help, since you appear uninterested in and unappreciative
of their efforts to help you.
4. You will be perpetually tired, frustrated, behind schedule, and
unable to make much of a dent in your endless TO DO list.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably want to directly involve yourself
in tasks and projects if:
• They directly relate to your work goals and/or impacts your pri-
mary source of income.
• Doing so capitalizes on areas of major strength that are unique
to you.
• They are highly critical, visible, or time-urgent matters with se-
rious implications for you, your organization, a key project, or a
significant client.
• They involve an area in which you are truly an expert and you
are the very kind of person people hire for the particular con-
tent knowledge you possess.
• Even if you didn’t have to do them, they’re such a source of en-
joyment, you’d do them for a hobby.
Otherwise, get help!! Delegate (Tip 60), ask team members for
Working Well With Your Team 115
assistance, enlist your boss to help or track down additional re-
sources, tap your network, access the services of suppliers, hire a
contractor, or look for ways your family might pitch in.
Before embarking on tasks and projects you should ask others to do,
ask yourself:
? Do I need to do this myself?
? What’s the impact of me not handling this personally?
? Is this a good investment of my time and energy?
? Is there someone else who could do this better, faster, easier,
cheaper?
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Master Effective (Virtual)
Interaction Skills
Telecommuting will pose some unique challenges for you if face-to-
face interactions seem to be the only way to be truly effective. While
no one would dispute that “live” interactions usually are preferable,
these are fast becoming more of a luxury. Increases in mergers, ac-
quisitions, and global competition have resulted in a geographically
dispersed workforce and growing numbers of telecommuters for
many more organizations. As part of this trend, it’s critical that you
become an expert in the essential communication skills for success-
ful telecommuters.
While you lose some of the communication subtleties gleaned
from eye contact, body posture, gestures, and voice tone, you can
supplement virtual interactions in ways that minimize negative ef-
fects of “distance dialog.” Regardless of the purpose and nature of
virtual interactions, there are some underlying keys to ensuring a
positive and productive outcome. Whenever you dialog at a distance,
remember to:
116 101 Tips for Telecommuters
➢LISTEN! Your ears are also your eyes whenever you’re limited to
audio communication. Without the benefit of seeing gestures,
posture, facial expressions, etc., you must keep your ears fully
attuned to the discussion and be alert to signs of disagreement,
misunderstanding, ambivalence, noncommitment, etc.
➢Confirm that your listening skills are effective by reflecting (re-
peating back) what you’ve heard and confirming that everyone
involved has the same understanding of what’s been said or
agreed to. Summarize throughout the discussion and at the con-
clusion. If necessary, confirm agreements via e-mail, fax, project
notes, or memos to minimize confusion later.
➢Establish a clear purpose and desired outcome for every interac-
tion. Make a habit of knowing and communicating at the outset
why the interaction is occurring, why it’s important, what the
goal is, and how the goal will be accomplished. Verify under-
standing and agreement on these points.
➢Avoid one-way “tell” monologues whenever possible by check-
ing for understanding, asking for input, encouraging involve-
ment and periodically assessing comfort levels with audio
quality, pace, progress toward goal, etc.
➢Eliminate distractions of any type that create communication
barriers for you or your remote colleagues. (Remember that dis-
tance itself is a significant barrier for some people, so be sensi-
tive to the needs of others.) Avoid background noise, snacking,
unnecessary multi-tasking, and poor quality equipment if these
distractions erode your concentration or your ability to be fully
engaged in dialog.
Establish a format for handling virtual interactions you’re involved
in. Include an outline for setting the agenda and note reminders for
effective listening. Keep the guideline near your phone and visible
(or easily accessible in your calendar book or phone directory) and
begin using it whenever you “distance dialog” with colleagues.
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58
Technology Talk: Keys to
Communicating Without Speaking
Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds our ability to effec-
tively communicate without a “live” interaction. Many experienced
telecommuters have even come to realize (and enjoy) the advantages
in efficiency derived from eliminating real-time communication
whenever possible. Notwithstanding the disadvantages of virtual (re-
mote) communication, the successful telecommuter effectively de-
termines the types of communication that can occur without a “live”
interaction (Tip 59), effectively utilizes appropriate virtual interac-
tion skills (Tip 57) and effectively uses the technology available to:
• Save time.
• Broaden the scope of information conveyed.
• Expand the number of people included in the communication
loop.
• Improve communication clarity.
Of course, all of these advantages can become disadvantages if the
technology is misapplied or overused. To avoid having people hit the
DELETE button the moment they hear you on voice mail or having
your name on the DELETE ALL list in their unread e-mail message
box, remember these few critical rules and points of etiquette in the
world of “technology talk:”
• Use whatever technological option is considered appropriate for
the culture of your organization and appropriate for the
medium. For instance, don’t use e-mail for quick schedule up-
dates if people prefer that on voice mail. Avoid using e-mail for
anything sensitive or confidential if having it forwarded without
your permission (or saved to come back and haunt you!) is ei-
ther possible or potentially problematic. Word of warning:
Consider any e-mail you send essentially saved forever since it
may travel through multiple servers that have backup files re-
tained indefinitely.
• Plan or outline in advance your voice mail messages to ensure
that they’re to-the-point, succinct, and clear. Stipulate the num-
ber of topics you plan to cover and say early in the message if it
will be a long one. Make the reply expectations and options
118 101 Tips for Telecommuters
clear and easy to follow. Use the same criteria for attaining
brevity and clarity in your e-mail messages.
• When sending or responding to voice mail and e-mail messages,
include only those people who need to know. Copy a plethora
of groups, hit the “All Company” button, or press “REPLY ALL”
only if the message is truly of interest to such a broad audience.
• Begin your messages with a brief statement of purpose, objec-
tive, and target audience. Anyone not interested or copied inad-
vertently can quickly delete the message.
• If the message is long, complicated, or has complex response
options, review the message prior to sending it so you can edit
appropriately to eliminate any confusion or redundancy. If a
voice mail message you’ve recorded is confusing, rambling, or
full of nonwords (e.g., ah, um, well, you-know), erase it and try
again.
• If your e-mail system has the capability, use a preformatted sig-
nature stamp that automatically attaches to your messages when
you hit the “Send” button. The stamp should include your
name and contact information (phone, fax, voice mail numbers,
e-mail address) so that recipients don’t need to take time to find
this information.
• Don’t use your highly efficient technological talk options when
the best alternative is really talking or meeting with someone
“live.” (Tip 59)
• Be sure that your voice mail greeting (on both the corporate e-
mail system and your home office voice mail) is clear about
when you’ll be accessible “live” or when you’ll be able to return
the call. Follow through on your commitment to return calls
within the promised timeframe. Also, if your voice mail system
provides an option for callers to bypass your message, include
instructions for doing so in the early part of your greeting.
• When leaving a voice mail message for someone who is unavail-
able to talk, specify the purpose, time, and date of your call;
provide the information or pose the question you called about;
provide information about when you’ll be available to talk
and/or when you can call back; and specify any deadline for a
response.
Working Well With Your Team 119
• When fax is the best way to transmit your message or informa-
tion, avoid sending an endless volume of pages. If the document
is very long, consider using e-mail or express delivery. Also, be
sure that the font size on your fax document is large enough to
be legible by the receiver. (Send yourself a test fax to see what
your machine transmits and bear in mind that some fax ma-
chines slightly reduce the size of print on the page.)
• To save yourself time, expand your handy-dandy phone list to
include the following information for your contacts (especially
those you communicate with regularly): telephone number, fax
number, voice mail extension (and message bypass code), e-
mail address, cellular phone number, and pager number.
• Review your voice-mail greeting and make any necessary revi-
sions for it to be clearer or briefer.
• Create a format for e-mail messages that includes sections for
purpose, background, key information, action required, and
deadline.
• Explore the use of a signature stamp that is automatically in-
cluded in your outgoing messages.
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Determine the Need for
“Live” Interactions
Now that you’ve mastered the fine art of virtual interactions and have
discovered the wonderful levels of efficiency you can achieve
through the avid use of technology for communication, you’ll need
to counterbalance this with the occasional need for “live” interac-
tions. Whether these be “live voice” (e.g., phone or videoconference)
120 101 Tips for Telecommuters
or face-to-face interactions, some situations will warrant your invest-
ment of time, effort, and money to connect with people on a real-
time basis. While there are no hard and fast rules about when you
should get involved in a live interaction, it’s clear that neither too
much nor too little emphasis on real-time communication is a good
idea.
Some telecommuters initially lean toward more live interactions
than might be necessary. This can be caused by lack of judgment
about what constitutes a bona fide need, by mixed signals within the
organization about what’s expected, or by the telecommuter’s desire
to see colleagues or fulfill social needs. Other telecommuters can be-
come overly zealous about being efficient, using technology, and
minimizing travel at the expense of other people or critical projects
that demand more personal attention. Generally, you should seri-
ously consider talking or meeting with someone directly if:
• A critical relationship (client, team, organizational) is affected.
• A major revenue-producing opportunity or project is impacted.
• A critical client recovery situation is involved.
• Your boss or team specifically has requested your physical pres-
ence.
• You’re trying to persuade or influence a decision, direction, or
strategy.
• The information to be discussed is highly complex, visual (and
a web conference won’t work), or confidential.
• The situation is particularly sensitive or could become highly
emotional.
• You are establishing a new relationship or building rapport in a
forming relationship.
• A new project is being kicked off and initial planning for scope,
timelines, deadlines, etc. are being set.
Whether you meet face-to-face or have a live discussion depends
upon the significance of factors such as those listed above, as well as
your proximity to the meeting location, time and money available for
travel, the comfort level others have with technology (some people
still dislike speakerphones for meetings, while others can’t imagine
doing business without them), and the culture of the organization.
Working Well With Your Team 121
Like those who work in traditional settings, you will sometimes
have schedule conflicts or other reasons why you can’t talk or meet
with people when necessary. In these cases, you need to balance pri-
orities, make choices, communicate reasons, and explore alternatives
and compromises. Bear in mind, however, that unlike your non-
telecommuting counterparts, there may be slightly less tolerance for
your lack of availability (particularly if it’s perceived that you are
somewhat consistently unavailable). Your commitments, limitations,
and choices might be perfectly rational, but any residual resentment
others feel about your ability to telecommute (Tip 53) may affect
how they react when you’re not available to them. My advice:
Exercise caution in choosing to not talk or meet live, since the need
for your presence (voice or physical) may very well exceed your need
for efficiency. At the same time, think through your decision criteria
in advance so you don’t lose many of the benefits of telecommuting
by constantly being pulled into live interactions and meetings better
handled through technology.
• Review (or create) your decision criteria for determining when
you initiate a live voice interaction and when you participate in
face-to-face meetings.
• Discuss the criteria with your boss and other team members (by
e-mail or during a regular update meeting) to verify agreement
on general guidelines for making decisions about live interac-
tions and meeting participation.
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“Distance Delegation”
that Delivers Results
Unless you work in complete isolation, are an individual contributor
with practically no interaction with anyone in your organization, or
122 101 Tips for Telecommuters
are such a “lone ranger” that you love handling even the most mun-
dane of administrative tasks in your office, telecommuting will afford
you inherent opportunities to delegate from a distance. More than
likely, you’ll find yourself needing to depend on the help of others
(Tip 56) and benefiting tremendously from the use of appropriate
delegation skills.
Delegating tasks and responsibilities can be an unnerving propo-
sition for some people, especially those who like to be in control of
things or on top of details. Telecommuters have the added dynamic
of distance, resulting in the sense of even less control, more frustra-
tion, and elevated worrying. Distance delegation, however, doesn’t
need to be riskier or more haphazard if both the delegation AND the
follow-up are handled properly.
When delegating responsibility or tasks to subordinates, team
members, or staff members who do not report directly to you, use the
following guidelines in handling the delegation discussion:
• Clearly explain the task or responsibility you’re delegating and
explain its importance to you, the organization, the client or
project, etc.
• Ask for input, concerns, or feedback regarding the delegation
assignment, as well as how and when it’s to be completed.
• Discuss any issues and verify understanding of the require-
ments.
• Agree on follow-up actions, monitoring methods, “red flags” to
signal that help is needed.
• Communicate your availability (how, when, where to reach
you) to provide any necessary support or assistance and your
appreciation for the help being provided.
Just as the “proof is in the pudding,” the successful result of delega-
tion is in the follow-up. It’s imperative that your delegated assign-
ments not be lost in a black hole; you have a responsibility to
establish monitoring and follow-up methods and to exercise them at
the designated times. While you might delegate interim reports as
part of the assignment, you’ll certainly want reminders to pop up on
your calendar on the days reports are due.
Many of your technology options—such as voice mail, e-mail,
fax, paging, etc.—are wonderfully efficient ways to monitor dele-
gated work and receive updates on progress. How you track projects
Working Well With Your Team 123
depends on your systems; use your computer-based calendar, your
paper tickler file, a giant deskpad calendar, or a wall calendar that
tracks work in progress. However you choose to track and follow-up
is fine, as long as it works and you use it faithfully. It’s also imperative
that you be relentless about follow-up, or word will get out that your
assignments really don’t need to be completed on time since you’re
not likely to remember anyway. This is deadly to your effectiveness
(not to mention your credibility), and makes delegation a veritable
waste of time.
Review your project tracking method to ensure that it’s an airtight
way to avoid drowning in a sea of delegated tasks. Streamline your
follow-up reminders by creating simple formats in which you easily
can insert the project name and report due. Get in the habit of check-
ing each day, as part of your daily planning, for any reports or up-
dates due and fire off a reminder before the close of business that day.
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Manage the Performance
Management Process
One of the strongest barriers to telecommuting is the lingering per-
ception by managers that it’s impossible to know if people are really
working if they’re not on-site. Of course, these are the same man-
agers who often have little measurable data to verify that on-site peo-
ple are working. (There may also be a corresponding relationship to
the widespread use of computer games and popularity of Internet
surfing during business hours!) The bottom line is this: Managers
don’t know if on-site workers OR telecommuters are getting their
jobs done unless a meaningful performance evaluation process is in
place that measures more than “face time.”
For a performance system to be worth the time, effort, money,
and agony it inherently entails, it must:
124 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Be easy to use (people, after all, tend to avoid complex, cumber-
some, and painful things).
• Establish clear goals that are measurable and attainable.
• Provide for frequent feedback (that doesn’t consume inordinate
amounts of time).
Ideally, performance appraisal systems should also be consistently
used throughout the organization. But we don’t often live in an ideal
world, so my advice is:
• If you are a telecommuter and don’t feel that your goals are
clearly established and understood consistently between you
and your manager, initiate a goal-setting discussion and drive
the effort to negotiate clear goals, tracking methods, and review
dates. Go a step further and try to pin down the relationship be-
tween attainment of your goals and increases in your compensa-
tion and/or other rewards.
• Document and copy your manager on the goals you’ve agreed
to, as well as interim updates on progress toward your goals.
Since goal setting, update, and review discussions may be done
by telephone, it’s critical that telecommuters clearly document
these discussions and agreements. Tracking progress toward
goals may involve using standard documents supplied by the
company or self-designed formats or systems you create. Avoid
complexity and redundant systems—use your monthly report
data, your calendar system, or your project tracking reports to
capture data that document your attainment of key results.
• If you manage other telecommuters, establish a consistent per-
formance management system for your team. Schedule goal-set-
ting meetings with each team member to set goals,
measurement methods, review dates, and rewards. Document
the agreements and manage the process.
Performance review systems tend to be like lots of those other best
laid plans—they can often dissipate, lose steam, get out of focus, and
drop off the “radar screen” of priorities. Whether you are a telecom-
muter or a telemanager, it is absolutely in your best interest to man-
age performance. Don’t be intimidated by the complexity such an
effort can entail. Yes, there are very structured, complicated, time-
consuming ways to monitor and manage performance. On the other
hand, a simple approach is better than nothing at all. And any
Working Well With Your Team 125
telecommuter without some way to establish, monitor, and measure
negotiated performance goals is at risk to:
• Lose or have no focus.
• Invest time and energy in lower priority goals.
• Fall short of expectations (which exist, whether they’re articu-
lated or not).
• Fail.
Assess the status of your performance management process.
✔Is there one?
✔Are goals clearly defined and achievable?
✔Does everyone understand and agree on the goals?
✔Are tracking and measurement methods functional?
✔Are rewards clearly established?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, schedule time to dis-
cuss your concerns and recommendations with your manager. Be
prepared to propose goals, measurement methods, and rewards if
these are not currently in place.
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Reach Agreements that Foster
Commitment and Collaboration
Setting clear agreements regarding accountabilities and commit-
ments with your boss, your co-workers, and your support staff will
help you avoid a plethora of difficult, unpleasant, and time-consum-
ing problems. Without clear agreements, you run the risk of dimin-
ished work standards, missed deadlines, delayed shipments, lack of
follow-through, disappointed customers, and increased stress and
126 101 Tips for Telecommuters
frustration on the part of everyone, as well as declines in your pro-
ductivity and achievement of goals.
As is sometimes typical, however, it seems there’s never enough
time to take care of something properly at the beginning, while we
find lots of time to invest in fixing it later. A major tenet of the qual-
ity movement is DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME, and this is a good
rule of thumb to follow relative to setting expectations and putting
agreements in place with your colleagues. Since telecommuting also
limits your ability to “tweak” agreements and processes via im-
promptu meetings and informal face-to-face discussions, you’ll need
to be more structured and determined about having clear agreements
in place. Both your success and your peace of mind may depend
upon it.
Aside from difficulty in finding time to hold agreement-setting
discussions, there are other reasons we tend to overlook this. Often
we simply assume that everyone has the same understanding, com-
mitment, and objectives we do. There are endless ways people can
interpret language, define roles, and reach different conclusions from
the same data; not all of your understandings will be inherently
shared by others. Commitment and motivation vary greatly among
people, and your priorities may not be embraced enthusiastically by
other people if you don’t make the effort to enlist their support.
Without the help and commitment of others, your own success is
compromised. So make it your habit to establish clear agreements
and ensure that everyone is conscious of the agreements and com-
mitted to working collaboratively to execute them. Whether you’re
meeting face-to-face or facilitating an agreement-setting discussion
remotely, use this process to accomplish your objective:
✔Clearly state the needs and expectations.
✔Explain why they’re important and the consequences of not
meeting them.
✔Describe how the agreement will look when it’s operating as
needed.
✔Ask about issues, concerns, additional information.
✔Listen, reflect, discuss, summarize periodically.
✔Mutually agree to parameters, requirements, resolutions.
✔Document the agreements and distribute to everyone impacted.
Working Well With Your Team 127
✔Establish a follow-up time to review progress and revise the
agreement as required.
☛Review your priorities and the factors critical to successfully
achieving your key goals.
☛Are there any areas of confusion, ambiguity, or wavering com-
mitment relative to the support you need from others to achieve
your goals?
☛Correct these situations or establish clear agreements on new
assignments by scheduling a discussion and using the process
above.
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Resolve Conflicts Effectively
and Proactively
Conflicts are bound to arise in the course of your work with col-
leagues, co-workers, suppliers, and customers. The source of con-
flicts may range from differences in beliefs, perspective, work
methods, and interpersonal style to feelings of anger or resentment
regarding your telecommuting arrangement (Tip 53). Conflict situa-
tions also are exacerbated by stress associated with workloads, time
constraints, resource limitations, and miscommunication. You’re in a
unique situation as a telecommuter to be somewhat of a lightning
rod for conflict due to your remoteness from the workplace, as well
as any negative feelings people may have about your ability to
telecommute.
Sometimes conflict lurks around you and takes form in indirect
ways: deadlines missed, follow-through overlooked, meetings held
without your knowledge, commitments not honored to send re-
quested information or supplies, and a whole host of other passive-
128 101 Tips for Telecommuters
aggressive behaviors. It often manifests itself in flip remarks or body
language you might miss as a telecommuter UNLESS you stay very
tuned in to what’s happening in the main office. You can do this by
staying well connected to your team (Tip 51), actively networking
(Tip 54), and keeping your ear to the grapevine (or relying on some-
one else’s ear). Also, fine-tune your listening skills, since your ears
must “see” so much for you when you work remotely.
Since conflict usually exists and percolates before someone
brings it to your attention (or things blow up at some unfortunate,
high-pressure, and inappropriate time), I strongly advise taking the
initiative to proactively address conflict situations. This allows you
to control how and when the matter is addressed, strengthens your
skills in resolution and mediation (important skills in our world!)
and ensures that the conflict situation doesn’t continue as a detri-
ment to your own projects, accounts, and goals. Also, planning a dis-
cussion to resolve conflict makes for a much calmer environment
and facilitates the necessary objectivity to reach a satisfactory resolu-
tion.
When you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be
proactive about a conflict situation:
• Begin by outlining the concern or conflict.
• Whether you’re in a proactive or reactive mode, handle the dis-
cussion by using the guide below.
• Remember to ask plenty of questions about the circumstances
(e.g., What’s happening? How is this impacting you? How is
this affecting other people and their work?).
• Also ask questions about the feelings that have resulted (e.g.,
How are you feeling about this? What’s your major concern?
What are your biggest frustrations?).
When you become aware of a conflict that’s impacting your work or
team productivity, move quickly to meet with the key players. Prior
to the meeting, think about the solutions you’ll propose and con-
cerns/barriers you expect others to raise. Discuss the conflict by fol-
lowing this guide:
Working Well With Your Team 129
" Clarify the conflict, concern or disagreement.
" Listen and reflect; stay calm; summarize to confirm understand-
ing.
" Encourage sharing of information, feelings, recommendations.
" Discuss proposed resolutions and agree on a solution.
" Summarize actions, commitments, follow-up.
" Document agreements and copy everyone impacted.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
64
Master the Fundamentals of
Productive Virtual Meetings
Meetings usually top the lists of things people hate most about their
jobs (right behind cubicles and obnoxious co-workers!). There are
few things other than meetings that create the illusion of involve-
ment and productivity while wasting tremendous amounts of time,
money, energy, and motivation. As a telecommuter, you’re sometimes
spared the burden of participating in boring and unnecessary meet-
ings by virtue of your absence from the meeting location, although
you also can be dragged into badly planned and poorly led meetings
via a technological connection. Meetings—productive ones—are
sometimes vital to your ability to activate project teams, generate
creative solutions, and efficiently communicate with your team.
Learning how to plan, lead, and participate in productive meetings,
therefore, can serve you extremely well.
As much as people hate meetings, many organizational cultures
encourage the scheduling of a meeting without much thought as to
the real need for a live meeting. Sometimes this is done to perpetuate
the sense of involvement, even if decisions actually are made by a
subset of the meeting attendees and/or made outside of the meeting
itself. If you get the urge to schedule a meeting, therefore, keep these
reminders handy to help you evaluate the real need for a meeting:
• The first rule of productive meetings is to hold a meeting only if
130 101 Tips for Telecommuters
it’s necessary and it’s the best vehicle to accomplish the objec-
tive.
• Use e-mail, voice mail, intranet, or individual discussions if a
larger group meeting isn’t vital.
• Don’t hesitate to hold a meeting if you really need the input of
your team or a cross-functional group of associates (for things
like project planning, project updates, strategy setting, and busi-
ness planning).
• Don’t overlook the basic components of an effective meeting:
agenda, meeting leader, effective meeting management, etc.
As a telecommuter, you’ll often need to combine the use of different
technologies to facilitate productive meetings of geographical dis-
persed teams. Survey participants to determine the best way to get
the agenda to them, use videoconferencing if a visual component is
necessary, use conference calling if voice-to-voice is sufficient, com-
bine Internet conferencing for graphics with a conference call for the
audio link, etc. Remember, also, that introducing meeting partici-
pants to technology for meetings (Tip 65) may require a focused ef-
fort on technical training and procedural issues or basic etiquette for
courtesy, offering input and asking questions. Once people are com-
fortable with the technology and their ability to use it (without look-
ing foolish!), your virtual meeting productivity will be greatly
enhanced.
In preparing for the next regular meeting you have with your team,
your boss, or a project team, implement or suggest ways to improve
the likelihood of a productive meeting:
¯ Plan the agenda and distribute it in advance (via e-mail, in-
tranet, fax, or voice mail, if necessary).
¯ Be clear about who’s responsible for what (meeting leadership,
time keeper, note taker).
¯ Have available the necessary equipment, handouts, resource
documents, and contributors.
¯ Adhere to established times for starting, taking breaks, and end-
ing the meeting.
Working Well With Your Team 131
¯ Schedule follow-up actions and future meetings before depart-
ing.
¯ Distribute meeting minutes promptly.
You might distribute this guideline to attendees in advance of the
next meeting and ask for other ideas to improve meeting productiv-
ity. Be sure that responsibilities are clearly assigned and that meeting
notes are distributed promptly. Suggest a way to use technology to
save time and/or improve the productivity of future meetings.
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65
Make Everyone Skilled and
Comfortable in Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings offer some unique challenges for both meeting lead-
ers and meeting participants. While telecommuting, you’ll find your-
self participating in meetings remotely and connecting to the
meeting via various types of technology. You have a responsibility to
contribute and participate in a way that makes your participation
valuable, justifies your investment of time, and helps other partici-
pants get the most from your contributions. Also, as a telecommuter
(and sometimes as the only virtual participant in meetings), you may
need to be a “champion” for effective skills and techniques necessary
for successful virtual meetings.
Some people are initially uncomfortable with alternative tech-
nologies for conducting meetings. If they’re not busily worrying
about how they look on the videoconference screen, they’re fretting
about how to interject a question during a conference call. As a re-
sult:
®They tend to withdraw and say nothing.
®They completely forget you’re at the other end of the phone line
and start talking about a graphic on the screen only those in the
meeting room can see.
®Everyone talks at once and you’re totally confused about what’s
being said and who’s saying it.
132 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Before using technological applications for meetings, it’s a good idea
to formulate some guidelines and give people some hands-on experi-
ence with the equipment prior to any actual meetings. Some organi-
zations are diligent about this and provide structured training
available on a just-in-time or independent basis. (I can recall creating
a mini training module for users of an early electronic blackboard
system in the early 1980s. Everyone was more comfortable partici-
pating in actual meetings after a brief time of training and practice.)
When participating in a conference call, videoconference, Web
conference, or any other kind of distance dialog involving a group of
people, be sure to:
• Encourage everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning of
the meeting and to identify themselves every time they speak
(unless the video allows everyone to see clearly who’s speaking
or the group is a well-established one and voices are recogniz-
able).
• Establish protocols for encouraging and simplifying involve-
ment by all participants. The meeting leader should pause peri-
odically to summarize and ask for questions, corrections,
clarification, or suggestions. (During one of my corporate
telecommuting jobs, we introduced videoconferencing and used
it extensively for team meetings and executive meetings.
Because of the audio delay, it was difficult to interrupt the con-
versation when multiple locations were connected. So we de-
vised a system of small hand-held cards to hold up which
visually prompted the meeting leader to pass the “floor” to the
location holding up a card. We used visually appropriate cards
to indicate the nature of the comment: question mark for ques-
tions; a light bulb for an idea or suggestion; a smiley face to in-
dicate agreement with the discussion or proposal. We often used
the smiley faces or just a visual “thumbs up” when a vote was
needed, since communicating visually was easier than audio
transmissions because of the delay and faster because we could
see everyone’s vote on the multi-frame screen.)
• Ensure that the use of any visual or graphic resources can be
distributed “real-time” to everyone (via electronic white board,
e-mail, intranet, Internet, fax, etc.).
• Everyone should be reminded to speak slowly, clearly, and in
Working Well With Your Team 133
the direction of microphones or speakerphones. If you didn’t
hear something, ask that it be repeated. This reminds people of
your “presence” and lets them know you’re really interested in
their comments.
Review the various technology methods you use to “attend” meet-
ings. What can you do to help the meetings be more effective, help
others be more comfortable, and improve your own contributions
and level of participation? Identify:
3 Problems you’ve experienced as a virtual meeting participant.
2 Advanced planning or meeting preparation steps you can take
to eliminate these problems.
1 Action you can take during the next meeting to improve effec-
tiveness of the meeting.
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66
Just Say “No”
We’re all surrounded with multiple opportunities to be distracted
from our key focus areas. For many people, it’s a daily challenge to
avoid tasks, events, projects, as well as involvement in interesting
and meaningful activities that will slowly erode energy and focus.
Telecommuters face a unique challenge in this regard and one you
should remain alert to. You’re more vulnerable to requests or expec-
tations from family, friends, and co-workers due to misperceptions
about your availability.
When you telecommute, it’s much easier for family members not
only to interrupt you but to ask for your help, involvement, and
input. After all, you’re right there . . . it won’t take that long . . . and
isn’t more time with your family one of the reasons you’re a telecom-
134 101 Tips for Telecommuters
muter?! Conversely, team members may think that telecommuting
leaves you with lots of spare time on your hands or that you relish
any opportunity for more involvement with your colleagues. While
involvement—with both family and co-workers—is good, it’s critical
that you resist any temptation or pressure to be involved at the ex-
pense of your productivity. At the same time, you must be careful not
to turn down every request for help, especially from co-workers
whose help you may count on at times.
When faced with a request, demand, decision, or opportunity to
involve yourself in anything that may detract from your major areas
of focus, use the following screening guidelines to help you decide
the best course of action:
• If the activity is insignificant in importance and unrelated to
your priorities, just say “No!”
• If the request for your involvement results in time out of your
office during established work hours, just say “No!”
• If the event or activity could occur at a more appropriate or con-
venient time, just say “No!”
• If it’s a classic “nice to do” but not necessary or valuable to ei-
ther your personal or professional objectives, just say “No!”
• If the request or demand is rooted in an intended guilt trip, just
say “No!”
• If someone else is available to do it or can do it better than you,
just say “No!”
• If the investment of your time has no payoff in terms of your
current or future career goals and holds no intrinsic personal re-
ward, just say “No!”
• If you’ll be miserable the whole time you’re doing it, just say
“No!”
• If you’ll hate yourself for agreeing to do it, just say “No!”
Remember to:
• Say “No!” gently and provide reasons why you can’t help.
• Offer suggestions for alternative ways the requester can get
what’s needed.
• Propose a way you might be able to help with a portion of the
request that won’t be especially demanding of your time.
Working Well With Your Team 135
➤Assess the activities or projects you’re involved in and consider
which ones are appropriate, useful, or enjoyable.
➤Reevaluate your willingness to continue involvement based on
your assessment and determine whether any of them should be
cleared off of your plate.
➤Take steps now to begin uninvolving yourself in anything on
the “cut” list.
➤Promise yourself that in the future you’ll commit to a more rig-
orous analysis considering pros/cons and have to/want to/need
to considerations.
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67
Work Productively With Co-Workers
Who Share Your Home Office
Just when you think you’ve finally got an entire office to yourself
now that you’re telecommuting, some huge project or massive back-
log of “administrivia” necessitates the addition of another associ-
ate—who needs to work hand-in-hand with you in your precious
bubble of solitude! The advantages of getting the help you need
might not appear to outweigh the disadvantages and potential diffi-
culties of having someone else in your office (and your home). Or
perhaps you really miss the interaction with co-workers, and having
a real live person right in your office sounds great—until you find
yourself unable to concentrate or become so distracted that your
work begins to suffer. Having an on-site resource can be a real boost
to your time, energy, and focus if you consider the implications and
carefully craft a workable plan.
An on-site team member might be a part- or full-time employee
and have a temporary or permanent assignment. To work most effec-
tively with a co-worker who shares your home office:
136 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Anticipate the space, equipment, and resource requirements
you’ll each need and plan accordingly.
• Provide for convenient access to storage (for coat, hat, purse,
etc.), a refrigerator, a coffee source, a restroom, etc.
• Negotiate clear work hours and any limitations on access to the
office (especially if your co-worker must access the office
through other parts of your home).
• Communicate or negotiate appropriate work standards and pro-
cedures. These will tend to be less formal than in a traditional
office, but don’t forget the bottom line—work still needs to get
done right, fast, and on time.
• Establish a climate of open communication and agree to proac-
tively address concerns or problems with the work environ-
ment, work flow, noise level, distractions, equipment, etc.
• As with other team members, take time to build rapport and es-
tablish a collaborative working relationship.
• Avoid an “all work/no fun” approach—take a lunch break to-
gether occasionally; celebrate a success or completion of a big
project; or throw a little birthday or holiday party.
• Be ever-vigilant of the need to stay focused (while occasionally
having fun), and avoid slipping into highly distracting activities
like too much chatting (about sports, personal problems, main
office gossip, etc.).
• Set in place a structured way to handle performance feedback
and reviews to avoid only “in the moment” feedback. Discuss
and document performance improvement plans when the situa-
tion warrants it. Keep your manager and any required human
resources contact in the loop if you’re moving toward any disci-
plinary or termination action.
• When an on-site co-worker resigns, completes the project or as-
signment, or otherwise terminates employment, be sure to re-
trieve keys to your house and office, keys to your mail box
facility, and any company property in the person’s possession
(don’t forget to change any security codes, passwords, or com-
puter access).
If you need to recruit candidates, interview, and hire your on-site
team member, keep these things in mind:
Working Well With Your Team 137
• For liability and insurance purposes, it’s usually best if the per-
son is employed by your employer rather than be paid directly
by you.
• There may be ordinances or other restrictions in your commu-
nity regarding a work site that includes employees other than
the resident.
• If you need to advertise for candidates, place a “blind ad” or one
with your company name and use a response box at the news-
paper or the post office. Do not print your home address!
• It’s wise to screen very carefully, including background checks
and reference checks, since this person may have access to other
parts of your home. Discuss security and legal issues with your
human resources department, your telecommuting administra-
tor, and/or your attorney.
• To minimize potential difficulties from hiring an unknown per-
son, use your network to recruit referrals who come with per-
sonal recommendations.
• Be sure to clearly explain the home office situation to candi-
dates, since some prospective employees would not be inter-
ested in such an arrangement.
Will there ever be a need for an additional team member to work in
your home office? If so, how would you prepare for and handle that?
If you currently have a co-worker sharing your office, what areas of
difficulty exist? What are the significant areas of opportunity for im-
provement that would contribute to increased effectiveness and sat-
isfaction by everyone involved?
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
138 101 Tips for Telecommuters
139
Working Well with
Your External Partners
u
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68
Know Who Provides Your
Critical Services and Support
You might feel utterly alone on some days, but the reality is that
you’re not—in more ways than you might have imagined. Of course,
there’s your family, friends, and your co-workers. There’s also another
critical network essential to your success: your external partners.
Depending on your situation and the level of support you get from
corporate services, a wide range of service providers may facilitate
your ability to do your job. Here are examples of services you may
need in the course of your work or to support you as a telecommuter:
• Accounting
• Bookkeeping
• Answering service
• Printing
• Personal services
• Administrative support
• Office management
• Research
• Mail/shipping
• Public relations/marketing
• Specialty subcontracting
141
• Conference/meeting management
• Tax preparation
• Graphic design
• Database management
• Equipment maintenance
• Temporary employment
• Security
• Office supplies/equipment
• Cleaning
• Internet service
• Interior designer/office planning
Some of these services may be supplied by corporate resources that
constitute your extended team (Tip 50). Whenever this isn’t the case,
you may need to secure resources externally. Working well with your
external partners can be as critical as the relationships you have with
your team of co-workers. It’s important to assess the degree to which
external partners impact your ability to deliver the results you’re paid
to produce. Once that’s clear in your mind, the importance of these
relationships—how you establish, build, and nurture them—
becomes more significant.
So, you’re not an island after all. Therefore, knowing who helps
you stay afloat makes for friendlier seas and allows you to be more
productive and successful.
Review your work, how you accomplish it, and who supports you.
Identify:
CWhose help is vital.
CWhere you do and do not have back-up options for critical
functions.
CAny gaps in your current support system.
CAn action plan to close the gap in at least two areas where your
support system is insufficient.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
69
Be Your Own
Purchasing Manager
Whether or not you have the support of a corporate purchasing de-
partment, when you telecommute there are likely to be times you’ll
act as the local purchasing agent. At various points as a corporate
telecommuter, I was responsible for the local acquisition of office
supplies, printing services, administrative support, storage space,
and meeting facilities, to name a few. My employers funded these ex-
penditures through either expense reimbursement, a local checking
account for business use, or a procurement credit card.
Your employer may have a sophisticated approach and standard
for providing equipment and supplies to telecommuters. Often, how-
ever, telecommuters are left to their own devices to do this or work
with corporate resources (information systems, accounting, accounts
payable, administration, etc.) to determine what will best meet the
needs of the individual telecommuter. Regardless of your circum-
stance in this regard, it helps you and your employer when you func-
tion with a “purchasing agent” mindset. Toward this end, it will be
necessary that you:
• Know your real needs (Tip 83) and translate them into features
142 101 Tips for Telecommuters
and specifications for performance of equipment, services, and
suppliers.
• Think seriously before purchasing and overloading your office
with unnecessary, overly complex, feature-laden equipment. Be
sure you’ll need immediate access to it on a regular basis and
the capabilities/features are justified by your daily needs and
projected output. Otherwise, lease, rent, or subcontract for
services.
• When considering the purchase of capital equipment, calculate
the complete cost of acquisition and ownership; consider sup-
plies, ongoing maintenance, service, insurance, and operator
time.
• Evaluate the “return on investment” for major purchases in
terms of the improvement you project in your efficiency and re-
sults.
• Whenever possible, request an on-site trial operation period for
equipment that’s expensive and/or highly critical to your work.
• Consider purchasing used furniture and equipment if it’s in
good condition, not technologically outdated, and acceptable
to your employer if you’re charging back the cost.
• Avoid single-source providers whenever possible unless the
product or service is extremely unique.
• Be assertive about driving a bargain and asking vendors/suppli-
ers to match or beat competitive prices or service offerings.
While you should avoid unnecessary or extravagant purchases, don’t
hesitate to purchase (or request approval for purchase) anything that
will enhance your performance, improve your productivity, and fit
comfortably in your office. Consider a few examples:
• If you’ve grown much more dependent on your notebook com-
puter for days you travel or commute to the office, you may re-
ally benefit from having a docking station or port replicator to
use in your home office.
• Don’t buy an expensive, high-end copier if you have only
occasional projects that require its features or your copy count
per month is negligible. Instead, you may want to purchase a
multi-function fax machine that can serve as a copier for your
limited needs.
Working Well With Your External Partners 143
• Don’t buy a postage meter if you use e-mail extensively or pri-
marily require the services of package shippers and express de-
livery providers. Be sure to at least have, though, a postage scale
and stamps in various denominations to use as needed.
• Don’t waste money on a videoconference system if no one else
in your company will have one. If audioconferencing is the pri-
mary mode of team communication in your organization, spend
your money on a phone with all the bells and whistles, along
with a top-quality headset.
Think about the equipment resources in your office:
$ Are there any that don’t have high enough usage levels to justify
keeping them?
$ Should you purchase anything you’re currently leasing?
Regarding services you currently buy:
$ Are there any services (printing, copying, document produc-
tion) you currently buy at such volume that it’s cost-justifiable
to purchase equipment and bring the capability in-house? (Can
your office support that?)
$ Are there any services you’re currently purchasing that should
be re-bid by multiple vendors to be sure you’re getting the best
price and service?
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70
Select Service Providers
that Meet Your Criteria
Articulating your needs for equipment and services has payoff both
initially and over time. Of course, your needs may change as your
telecommuting job changes, your workload increases, or your office
144 101 Tips for Telecommuters
expands. But if you establish the good habit of assessing and docu-
menting your needs, it’s easier to adjust as changes occur. This is crit-
ical to matching those needs with the providers best suited to meet
your criteria.
Aside from the fundamentals of service excellence (quality work,
delivered on time, at a competitive price, etc.), telecommuters
should consider other criteria that may reflect individual needs and
situations:
• Proximity to your home office.
• Free delivery or courier service.
• Ability to purchase in bulk (with a discount) or smaller quanti-
ties (if your storage space is limited) without paying a premium.
• Corporate or commercial discounts.
• Online support (for ordering, technical support, customer
service).
• 24-hour technical support.
• On-site service/maintenance.
• Compatibility with your software and computer systems.
• Ability to bill your employer directly (or offer suitable payment
terms).
• Extended hours of operation.
• Quick turnaround/response time.
• Multiple access options (e.g., phone, fax, e-mail).
• Equipment replacement or loan during service outages.
• Flexibility to handle rush projects (assuming you’re not always
in a rush!).
• Willingness to meet or beat competitive pricing.
• Friendly, service-oriented attitude.
• Positive “can do” attitude.
There may be other criteria unique to your needs; these will get you
started and help you formulate your own criteria for working with
suppliers that best meet your needs. Without clear criteria, you’re
bound to experience disappointment, frustration, wasted cost, and
lost time. And it won’t be the supplier that necessarily is to blame.
Working Well With Your External Partners 145
List several services that you purchase from suppliers. Identify the
most critical one and list the specific criteria you have for the sup-
plier of that service. Are your needs being met? If not, why not?
Decide whether you may need to either:
➤Have an expectation-setting discussion (Tip 71) with the sup-
plier.
➤Communicate your needs, timetable for improvement, and con-
sequences (Tip 73).
➤Request competitive bids for the work and reevaluate your ven-
dor choice.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
71
Set Service Expectations and
Get Your Desired Results
Before you can set expectations for a service provider, you must have
your needs clearly defined and know specifically the results you’re
looking for (Tip 71). This may include specifications regarding time-
liness, material quality, adherence to established procedures, service
orientation and skills, or equipment output levels. With clear crite-
ria, you can begin by identifying potential resources. Use business
listings, phone directories, referrals from your network, the chamber
of commerce, or the Better Business Bureau to create a pool of poten-
tial suppliers. Since having clear criteria without viable vendors is
like having a great job description without qualified candidates,
screen suppliers the way you screen candidates for employment:
• Relevant experience
• Capability and expertise to perform the required work
• Motivation and interest in the type of work
• Affordability
146 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Availability.
Most suppliers appreciate having a clear understanding of the service
or product you’re expecting them to deliver. Printers like seeing a
mock-up of a print job; cellular phone companies need to know your
projected usage in terms of calling minutes per month and range of
call locations; and writers want to know how you want people to feel
or respond after reading their copy. If you run across a supplier that
doesn’t seem appreciative of your specificity, or worse, tries to tell you
what you want, consider it a stroke of luck to get this red flag early,
and don’t waste any time before finding another supplier. Unless pro-
jects are extremely routine, it’s usually a good idea to combine your
written specifications with a “live” discussion. This is true especially
for suppliers that are new to you. Circumstances might not allow you
to meet face-to-face, but a voice-to-voice meeting allows you to:
• Review the printed specifications or written instructions.
• Describe in greater detail the purpose, need, and importance for
the deliverables.
• Describe in detail the outcome, output, or performance stan-
dards you’re expecting.
• Discuss any questions, suggestions, or adjustments to specifica-
tions agreed upon based on input from the supplier.
• Agree on interim checkpoints and deadlines to monitor progress
and quality.
• Review the job contract (if applicable) and stipulate how exe-
cuted copies should be handled.
• Secure a verbal commitment to the expectations and required
deliverables.
• Agree on consequences for missing deadlines or compromising
other quality standards.
It’s also useful to help the supplier by providing information regard-
ing your availability (phone numbers, pager number) or access to
other resources (your assistant, a co-worker). This allows for ques-
tions to be answered or direction provided throughout the project
and helps the supplier avoid unnecessary delays in completing your
work. Having backup options and alternative ways to clarify expecta-
tions and needs is especially important for projects that are critical,
complex, or time urgent.
Working Well With Your External Partners 147
✔Review your supplier criteria and service specifications for a
critical service you’re currently outsourcing.
✔If all aspects of the relationships and the delivered results are
satisfactory, ensure that you’re applying the same level of speci-
ficity in expectations to other outsourced projects.
✔If not, clarify your criteria and expectations, prepare written
specifications, and schedule a meeting with the supplier to es-
tablish expectations, requirements, and consequences.
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72
Negotiate Deadlines
and Details
Depending upon the nature and volume of your subcontracted work,
you may have a wide range of details involved and more than one
deadline to manage. Since telecommuters function somewhat like
entrepreneurs in terms of independence from many corporate sup-
port services, you may secure contracted services in areas such as
photocopying, administrative support, telemarketing, printing, or
technical services. Negotiating the terms for these services is an ad-
ditional responsibility you may have as a telecommuter that your
central office colleagues don’t need to handle for themselves.
Because you can’t assume that service providers, even very expe-
rienced and competent ones, will inherently know what you want
and need, it’s critical that you be clear about expectations (Tip 71).
As part of that process, there will be times that you’ll need to be as-
sertive about deadlines, costs, and quality standards. This is true es-
pecially if your needs are different from what the supplier typically
provides to customers. With deadlines, for example, you should not
hesitate to ask for a shorter turnaround time if you really need it
sooner than the supplier projects. You can ask for suggestions from
148 101 Tips for Telecommuters
the supplier on ways you can make it easier (cleaner copies, different
formatting, samples, prototypes supplied earlier, etc.) for the deliv-
ery date to be earlier. Although you can always find another supplier
(someone else probably would love to have your business!) if there’s
significant resistance to meeting your needs, sometimes you’ll want
or need to negotiate on sticky issues like deadlines and more de-
manding deliverable details. When this is the case, remember to:
• Provide additional information about what’s needed and why it’s
important.
• Listen to the supplier’s concerns, barriers, and suggestions.
• Discuss options, alternatives, and compromises that balance
conflicting needs.
• Offer and request flexibility.
• Agree on a solution and review details (e.g., deadlines, check-
points, revised specifications, nonperformance penalties).
• Be certain that agreements are reflected in the contract or docu-
mented another way.
Beyond agreeing to clear specifications, deliverables, and deadlines,
you’ll need to negotiate penalties (Tip 73) for nonperformance. These
should be tied to key milestone dates and/or quality standards for de-
liverables and are best negotiated along with all other project details.
When preparing for the next supplier discussion you’ll need to have
regarding the assignment of a project:
✔Consider what you’ll need to provide in terms of written specifi-
cations.
✔Plan the discussion by outlining the content you’ll cover and
the process you’ll use.
✔Be certain that your needs and expectations are clear and that
you can define deliverable requirements in detail.
✔Anticipate any areas of barrier or conflict in your negotiations
with the supplier and be prepared to demonstrate and request
flexibility and to propose alternatives that meet your key needs.
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Working Well With Your External Partners 149
73
Establish Consequences for
Unsatisfactory Service Performance
Many of your major equipment purchases will involve preestablished
warranty terms with optional extended warranty or service con-
tracts. You can negotiate occasionally with individual suppliers for
more favorable terms relative to service. These might include a lower
cost for the service contract, supplemental extended warranty at no
charge, free loaned equipment during downtime for repair or main-
tenance, free shipping, and no charge for on-site service calls. As an
individual telecommuter, you’re likely to have some difficulty driv-
ing much of a harder bargain in these situations because you don’t
represent a major purchasing source to the supplier. This is true es-
pecially when dealing with superstores or major suppliers. However,
if you’re buying from a local source that caters to small businesses,
you may have better luck. Of course, you may pay slightly more, but
if you can negotiate some of the benefits and service features vital to
a telecommuter who’s highly dependent on equipment reliability,
you may be better off.
You’re likely to have more opportunities to negotiate the terms of
delivery for services you receive from suppliers, vendors, and con-
tractors. When establishing service requirements and performance
expectations, you’ll want to also include terms that protect you if the
promised service is not delivered. For example, if you contract with
a package and shipping outlet to ship product samples or to fulfill an
order, your contract might provide for express delivery at the ship-
per’s expense if a shipping deadline is missed. Penalties for perfor-
mance below standards can be a huge incentive to a supplier to avoid
anything short of meeting your requirements. You should, therefore,
consider appropriate penalties attached to critical deadlines, quality
standards, and deliverables essential to your ability to meet the ex-
pectations your customers, employer, or co-workers have of you.
Penalties for nonperformance may include:
• Reduced payment on the current contract.
• Additional labor or product supplied at no charge for future
contracts.
• Loss of performance bonuses attached to measurable results or
deadline compliance.
150 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Free loans of replacement equipment.
• Free labor for service or maintenance when response to trouble
calls are longer than agreed to.
• Discontinued use of the service provider for future work.
When possible, attach specific incentives and penalties to definitive
project milestones or quantifiable delivery points. Keep rewards in
mind when negotiating terms, since attractive incentives are often a
more powerful inducement than penalties. Either way, you improve
your odds of obtaining the performance you need and the results
you’re counting on.
®Identify a service you’re receiving currently that isn’t completely
satisfactory.
®Clearly articulate where there are deviations from the required
performance standards and what satisfactory levels of perfor-
mance would involve.
®Consider ways to alter your service agreement with the provider
so there are clear rewards for compliance and consequences for
performance below targets.
®Choose at least two key deliverable measures on which to focus
your action and discussion with the supplier.
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74
Get It In Writing
Your efforts to negotiate favorable terms, establish rewards or penal-
ties, and provide for contingencies may be in vain if the agreements
are limited to a discussion and verbal assent. Beyond that, a hand-
shake is a nice touch but may not be terribly useful when you’re try-
ing to enforce terms of your agreement later on. As a telecommuter,
Working Well With Your External Partners 151
you’re not likely to negotiate service contracts that are highly com-
plex, critical, or involve significant amounts of money. If you do,
however, be sure to secure the support of your corporate legal office
or a local attorney who specializes in contract law (not necessarily
the same attorney that handled your will, your divorce, or a con-
tested accident claim).
While our society has become somewhat litigious, it’s wise to
know when you do or do not need a formal document to secure an
agreement for services. I worked once with two entrepreneurs who
insisted that a contract was unnecessary for a project they were doing
because their contact at a major publishing firm had made a verbal
agreement and sealed the deal with a handshake. These two en-
trepreneurs idealistically believed that their contact was “good for
his word” and the deal was solid. Well, as you might suspect, cir-
cumstances changed in ownership of the publishing firm, the con-
tact seemed to more or less disappear, and the deal vanished into the
same thin air in which it was struck.
Written agreements need not be jargon-filled, legalistic tomes
that require an excessive number of billable hours from an attor-
ney—unless, of course, the situation is complex, the stakes are high,
or the contract is vital to your work. In this case, by all means, get
the help of an attorney. If the agreements you want to document are
simple, straightforward, and do not involve major financial implica-
tions, you can summarize your verbal agreements in the form of a
letter, memo to the file, or a simple contract.
When greater formality or legal protection is wise, there are a
number of software programs and other resources available that
allow you to create agreements by simply plugging in the relevant in-
formation (names, dates, types of services, specific agreements, etc.)
and attaching things like order forms, purchase orders and similar
supporting documents. Agreements such as service contracts, per-
sonal guarantees, leases, service warranties, rejection of goods, etc.,
can be created using templates and then reviewed by an attorney to
ensure they’re properly worded, complete and legally binding. If
you’re contracting for legal services and execute a number of simple
contracts, you may be able to save money by preparing a draft con-
tract using a template and then hire an attorney to review and ap-
prove it. When I use this process with my attorney, it’s very efficient
since I know the details of the contract terms and save time by not
152 101 Tips for Telecommuters
having my attorney deal with them, and it’s cost effective since I use
my attorney’s expertise in a very limited and targeted way.
In most cases, it’s unlikely you’ll need to take legal action against
someone over a dispute covered by a written agreement. More typi-
cally, having the agreement itself will be a major inducement for de-
livery of the service or goods as stipulated in the agreement. Further,
even a simple memo or letter documenting your discussion and
agreements with a service provider can serve to clarify details and
eliminate confusion later when the specifics may be a bit fuzzy to ev-
eryone.
Review the services you purchase from suppliers and the verbal
service agreements you’ve made. Which of these involves enough
importance, complexity, and dependence to justify a written agree-
ment that will afford you greater protection? Discuss these situations
with your manager, your legal counsel, your attorney or a business
advisor. Determine which situations could benefit from a simple
agreement letter and take steps to complete these. If more formal
contracts or agreements are required, access the appropriate legal re-
sources to execute whatever type of agreement is necessary to protect
you, your employer, and your work.
Using whatever method of documentation (e.g., contract, letter, e-
mail, etc.) is appropriate, whenever you need to establish a service
agreement, be sure to include language that clearly specifies:
➤Who will perform the work and what, if any, assignment to oth-
ers can be made.
➤What products or services will be delivered and how the service
is to be performed.
➤What milestones of time or quantifiable output will signify
compliance.
➤How payment relates to milestones, deadlines, quality compli-
ance.
➤How performance incentives and penalties will be determined.
Review your existing service agreements against this template and
determine where changes would be advisable.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well With Your External Partners 153
75
Know When to
Outsource
Expecting to do everything yourself when you telecommute is unre-
alistic. Trying to do everything yourself is undermining—to your
success, your sanity, and your productivity. Let’s face it, you’re:
• Good at some things, lousy at others.
• Enjoy some things, hate others.
• Only one person (with only two hands, 24 hours in a day, and
limits to your personal energy).
Besides the fundamental reality of your preferences and limits, there are
some tasks you certainly can do but shouldn’t do since your time is bet-
ter invested in more productive, focused, revenue-generating or goal-
oriented work. So, when determining what to outsource, ask yourself:
• Are you capable of doing this? Does it capitalize on your exper-
tise, play to your strengths, and minimize your weaknesses? For
example, if you’re employed as a software engineer and need to
upgrade some software on your computer, you’re probably the
best person for the job. On the other hand, if you’re a marketing
writer and need to install the same upgrade, it might be the
right time to call your computer consultant.
• Will you enjoy doing this? Will you find the task to be challeng-
ing, energizing, or useful in developing your skills? If you’re in-
trigued by the intricacies of the tax code and would rather wade
through a tax return than do a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, you
won’t want to bother hiring a tax preparer. However, if the
thought of tackling your tax return raises your blood pressure
or brings on feelings of depression, don’t even consider burden-
ing yourself with the expectation of preparing your own tax re-
turn—invest your time in other important tasks critical to your
work or personal priorities.
• Can you, indeed, accomplish this on your own? Is there enough
time in your day, space in your office, or physical and emotional
energy in your life to tackle this? In spite of being the best per-
son to do something and having a strong interest in it, you may
154 101 Tips for Telecommuters
simply not have enough time to complete it and meet the dead-
line without help.
When the situation warrants it, don’t hesitate to get the help you
need. If you’re not sure it’s cost-justified, calculate your hourly rate
(annual salary + commission + bonuses + benefits ÷ 2040 = your ac-
tual hourly rate). With this in mind, you may realize how foolish it is
for you to undertake some tasks that can be outsourced at a more
reasonable cost. Use this information to make the case for your em-
ployer to pick up the costs of support services that are necessary to
your work but counterproductive for you to complete personally.
Even without your employer’s funding, you may determine that out-
sourcing of some services is a good investment of your own funds.
Reevaluate the tasks you handle personally in addition to the major
focus of your work. Do any of these involve work that:
®You struggle with due to skill deficiency?
®You loathe to do and avoid like the plague (creating a backlog
that frustrates you incessantly)?
®Is consistently done during peak times when you are perpetu-
ally overwhelmed, behind schedule, and missing deadlines?
®Is routine, mundane, time-consuming, and not directly related
to your goals and your critical results? Or someone else is better
suited to handle?
Target areas where outsourced services can help you be more fo-
cused, productive, and less frustrated in achieving your key goals.
Take steps now to identify options and resources for outsourcing.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well With Your External Partners 155
76
Establish a Partner Mindset
and Relationship
The most productive way for telecommuters to approach relation-
ships with service providers is with a partnership mindset. While the
relationship isn’t a traditional partnership in that the parties are not
co-owners or principals, each has an investment in the relationship.
And although you “call the shots” since you’re the buyer, thinking
like a partner gives you a frame of reference to see your vendors, sup-
pliers, and contractors as key members of your broader support
team. Further, you’re in a better position to work with them in ways
that facilitate achieving superior results.
Thinking like a partner in your supplier relationships promotes
the establishment of a long-term relationship mindset and fosters be-
haviors and attitudes that nurture this. The last thing you have time
for as a telecommuter is searching continually for and experimenting
with new service providers. It’s in your best interest to have long-
term relationships with established providers who understand your
needs, support your standards, and are committed to delivering qual-
ity results for you.
While you might not invest the energy and time to build partner
relationships with all of your service providers, doing so with those
who are most vital to your success will have significant payoff. For
example, the consultant who supplies computer support for your of-
fice and functions as your local help desk can be pivotal to your abil-
ity to function if you’re highly computer-dependent. Getting a quick
response to pleas for help is more likely if the consultant feels val-
ued, understands your needs, knows what’s expected, and is re-
warded for performance “above and beyond.” Also, “breaking in” a
new computer consultant could be distracting, time-consuming, and
costly—it’s better to take proper care of the good one you have.
You have a critical role in building a strong alliance of key service
providers. Without a committed and enlightened approach to this,
you will experience turnover, disappointment, and frustration with
your pool of key service providers. To ensure the development and
retention of committed and competent suppliers, be sure to:
• Clearly establish your expectations, priorities, and requirements
(Tip 70, Tip 71)—they can’t “hit the bull’s eye” if you haven’t
told them where it is.
156 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Be available to offer guidance, coaching, support, and clarity to
help suppliers help you— remember the GIGO Theory
(Garbage In/Garbage Out). Suppliers depend on you for clear
instructions, specific measurements, sample products, photos,
color swatches, material samples, prototypes, and legible hand-
writing.
• Be firm in your demands, expectations, and consequences and
fair in all of your dealings with service providers— insisting
that a printing deadline, for example, be met is reasonable un-
less you don’t honor your commitment to produce masters or
disks on time.
• Be proactive and direct in addressing conflict—when there’s a
problem with performance or a disagreement about a billing
matter, don’t delay or be evasive in discussing the issue and ne-
gotiating a resolution.
• Always treat people with respect—being pushy, obnoxious, or
condescending does not elicit any real or long-standing commit-
ment to your success.
• Pay for services in a timely manner—service providers seem to
appreciate this (just as you enjoy receiving your paycheck as
promised).
4 What steps can you take to strengthen the relationship and be a
better partner with one of your key service providers?
4 What areas of difficulty exist in the relationship now (from your
perspective)? What might the supplier’s answer be to this ques-
tion? (Hint: Don’t guess; ask the supplier.)
4 Decide on a plan to foster a stronger partnership with key ser-
vice providers and target one or two critical providers to focus
on for first steps. Schedule time to meet soon with your most
vital supplier to get the ball rolling.
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Working Well With Your External Partners 157
77
Treat People
As People
Something as basic as treating people with respect and courtesy can
get lost amid the pressure generated by work demands, family de-
mands, and feelings of frustration and isolation telecommuters
sometimes experience. This can be true especially in handling situa-
tions with suppliers where performance is below your expectations
and you’re feeling completely exasperated by the need to deal with
the situation, by the time it’s robbing from your work, and by the
anxiety caused by the resulting compromise in your own ability to
hit performance targets. Anticipating that there will be points where
the pressure mounts, the conflicts abound, and your patience runs
thin also will help you anticipate how to handle your interactions
with service providers in those circumstances, as well as during your
day-to-day interactions with suppliers and contractors.
Treating people as people is fairly basic (and calls to mind an-
other maxim from Mom): Treat people the way you’d like to be
treated. While the concept is simple, execution in the moment can
be a challenge when dealing with service providers. Everyone can re-
call fairly readily some recent or amazing “service from hell” experi-
ence:
• Delivery service that fails to get materials to your client on time.
• Express service that extends the concept of “overnight” to mul-
tiple overnights.
• A major printing job done on the wrong paper, bound incor-
rectly, or cut wrong.
• Phone service that’s intermittent at best.
• Technical help desk support that is always backlogged and
rarely helpful or pleasant.
• Luggage that took a much longer trip than you did.
When we’re paying for a service and it’s delivered poorly or with an
abysmal attitude, we are tempted to lose our manners and move to-
ward major ranting and raving behaviors. Once this happens, of
course, tempers flare, defenses go up, everyone gets entrenched, and
nothing good can happen. While your anger, frustration, and disap-
158 101 Tips for Telecommuters
pointment might be completely justified, it won’t make the service
provider feel any more inclined to find a resolution—and it’s likely
you still need the provider’s help and cooperation to solve the prob-
lem.
Additionally, how we treat service providers on a routine basis
provides the foundation for working through more stressful times. In
your work with and interactions with your key external partners, re-
member to:
• Treat service providers as valued members of your team with
unique skills, abilities, and services critical to your success—re-
member them for holidays, send flowers or a fruit basket when
their work was essential to you finishing a big project or closing
a major sale, send a gift certificate for lunch or dinner (or have a
plaque engraved) to mark a significant milestone such as “5
years of great service.”
• Thank vendors and suppliers for ongoing good work and tell
them specifically why their work is important to you and how
they make it possible for you to be effective—give a verbal ac-
knowledgment, a letter, a gift from the trip you won for out-
standing sales results, or a plaque they can display in their place
of business.
• Avoid rude, demeaning, or verbally abusive treatment—this is
unacceptable business behavior and should never be used, espe-
cially if others are present and you embarrass everyone involved
(yourself, in particular).
• Look for ways to reward performance (Tip 78) and show your
appreciation, especially when someone goes that extra step for
you—add a bonus to the next payment you make to them, agree
to send a letter to your network promoting their services, or
send a gift basket or unique gift from a specialty store.
• Ask for suggestions from your suppliers and show that you
value their input by following their advice whenever
appropriate—check with them during the planning of a project
for input about ways to streamline the process or improve the
end result, consult with them on subjective variables like color,
layout, typeface, etc.
Working Well With Your External Partners 159
Decide how you can acknowledge the effort and good work consis-
tently delivered by one of your key service providers. Send a note, a
fax, an e-mail, or plan to personally call or stop by to say specifically
how the service you receive helps you do your job, makes your life
easier, or contributes to your success. Make a point to look for op-
portunities to do this with all your key service providers during the
next few months.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
78
Reward Good Work
The number of creative and meaningful ways to reward the efforts
and results of your service providers is endless, limited only by your
imagination (or your budget). Often a simple and sincere “Thank
you” is far more than service providers expect or typically receive, so
praise (which is essentially free to you) can be more appreciated than
gifts or other tangible rewards. Assuming you’re a telecommuter with
a network of critical service providers, minimal time to take from
your work, and a limited budget for things such as supplier rewards,
consider these alternatives for letting your suppliers know how
much you value their contributions to your success:
• Just say, “Thanks!”
• Take your supplier to lunch.
• Create your own “You Done Good” award certificate and send it
when appropriate (just don’t overuse it).
• Send a letter (or fax or e-mail) explaining what was done well
and why it was important.
• Have a plaque inscribed with the vendor’s name and a “Service
Excellence” notation.
160 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Have breakfast or lunch catered for the suppliers’ staff.
• Send a gift unique to the supplier’s line of work or personal in-
terests.
• Ask your manager or CEO to send a letter of thanks.
• Deliver a tray of cookies or bag of bagels and cream cheese
(with a balloon and note or sign with a thank-you message).
• Send flowers or a fruit basket or a balloon bouquet (or a tin of
cookies, popcorn, or mixed nuts).
• Bring a gift back from vacation or an award trip you earned (es-
pecially if the superb service is related to work done in your ab-
sence).
• Present a gift certificate for dinner at a great restaurant, for a
round of golf, or for a massage.
• Offer to promote the supplier’s services within your network.
• If you know the supplier enjoys it, give a bottle of champagne
or case of beer.
• Give tickets to a ball game, the theater, the zoo, a museum, the
circus.
• Give phone calling cards or discount buying cards at a local re-
tail store.
• Present a monogrammed shirt, briefcase, golf club covers, sweat
suit.
• Offer to help or contribute some of your expertise to the sup-
plier.
• Send Thanksgiving cards instead of holiday cards and include a
note saying why you’re so thankful for the supplier.
• If you know or can find out the supplier’s birthday, send a card
or fax or a bouquet of balloons.
• Present a trophy when the effort was herculean.
• Give an airline ticket earned with your frequent flyer miles.
• Present a book (autographed by the author is always nice) or
books on tape, when more suitable.
• Give gifts of electronic items, office equipment, or jewelry when
you know it will be valued and appreciated.
Working Well With Your External Partners 161
Someone you know deserves a reward. Decide what’s appropriate
and take steps now to have it sent or presented as soon as possible.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
79
Bartering for
Best Results
Bartering, or the exchange of services, is generally a lost art and not
one that most telecommuters consider in accessing services for a rea-
sonable investment. But if your funds are limited, you have valuable
skills to exchange, and your network of associates and suppliers is
extensive, bartering may be a reasonable alternative for you. Let’s say
you’re a marketing specialist who needs the services of a local
printer, a computer consultant, and mail house. Each of these busi-
nesses may very well need the services of a marketing specialist, cre-
ating an opportunity for the cash-free exchange of services through
bartering.
Before entering into a bartering arrangement, determine the fair
market value for your skills and services and be sure to price your
time and deliverables accordingly. Bartering does not mean someone
gets a huge bargain by accessing the services of someone at a ridicu-
lously low value. Rather, it’s a fair exchange of needs for skills that is
mutually beneficial to both parties. Because both parties realize a
good value without incurring direct costs, it allows you to obtain ser-
vices you might otherwise not be able to afford. Since there may be
tax considerations if you participate in a bartered exchange of ser-
vices, don’t forget to check with your tax advisor about how to han-
dle the reporting of services rendered and received.
You can find bartering opportunities by searching your network,
as well as professional associations and civic groups you belong to.
Other ways to uncover barter potential include:
162 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• List your skills on your business card.
• Offer bartered services on a small flyer you can give to people at
meetings.
• Post an offer on your web site.
• Send a mailing or e-mail announcement to suppliers, associates,
friends, and colleagues.
• If your skills are relevant to their needs, expand your network
to include start-up businesses and home-based businesses.
• Join or create a barter network.
Even though bartering is not a cash-based transaction, it should still
be negotiated in a way that provides structure and specificity to the
arrangement. And, as with other agreements you make for services,
be sure to put your barter deal in writing (Tip 74). This ensures that
everyone is clear about who will provide what deliverables in ex-
change for which services. Additionally, a written agreement will
help you track the value of your time, as well as the value of services
received.
While bartering may not be a major source of contracted services
and support for your needs as a telecommuter, it should not be over-
looked as an alternative. Think about bartering when you have a lim-
ited budget, pressing needs and something of value to offer to
someone in a similar situation; bartering can be used very cost- and
time-effectively by telecommuters.
What skills and abilities would you be able to trade in a barter? What
service needs do you have that aren’t being addressed due to bud-
getary or time constraints? What sources are available to you in your
network of contacts and resources to locate a potential barter oppor-
tunity that can meet your needs? What initial steps can you take to
establish areas of bartered services?
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well With Your External Partners 163
80
Network Your
Partner Network
Once you build a wide and reliable network of external partners who
are your trusted service providers, you can capitalize on and
strengthen this network by:
• Providing referrals within your service network.
• Connecting your service network contacts to your broader net-
work of associates and colleagues.
• Tapping your external partner network for information about
resources and services you may need.
• Depending upon your line of work, possibly tapping your exter-
nal partner network for business prospects and sales leads.
You’re in a unique position to provide referrals to your external part-
ners regarding the other service providers you use. If, for example,
you learn that your computer consultant is suffering from an office
(or life) in a complete state of chaos, it helps both the computer con-
sultant and the organization consultant you’ve worked with if you
suggest to each of them that they should talk or meet. Your computer
consultant will trust your first-hand referral and appreciate your in-
terest in her or his success, while the organization consultant will be
grateful for the prospective business opportunity and the regard you
have for the value of the services you were provided. When you serve
as a “clearinghouse” of information, connections, and contacts, you
enhance the value of your external partner network and provide a
cost-free reward (Tip 78) to your suppliers of excellent service.
Another way to reinforce and reward your supplier network is to
connect these external partners to your business and professional
network. Look for opportunities for your suppliers such as: print the
membership directory for your professional association, make pre-
sentations to civic groups, provide meeting planning services for
your trade association, provide telemarketing services to your peers,
obtain a low-cost ad in a civic association newsletter. Connecting
your supplier partners with your network contacts in mutually ben-
eficial ways can be highly valued by your partners, a useful service to
your contacts, and helpful to you in strengthening the loyalty your
partners feel to you.
164 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Your partner network also can help you by providing informa-
tion and referrals for other services and products you need. When
you need to purchase a new printer, for example, ask your local
printing partner, your administrative service partner, and your mail
drop/quick print partner; all probably have a wide range of experi-
ence with multiple pieces of equipment and can help you assess the
best option for your needs. Or when you need bookkeeping services,
a referral from your tax preparer is a more viable option than re-
sponding to a listing in the yellow pages.
While you might leverage your partner network for business
leads, this would be useful only if your business is targeted to the
types of products and services used by businesses. In this case, you
might selectively pursue leads or barter (Tip 79) for prospects within
your partner network. In the spirit of partnership, of course, you’d
want to offer to provide corresponding business leads for your part-
ners. Your service partner network can be a rich source of informa-
tion, referrals, resources, and potential business. Knowing how to
mine your partner network can be productive for you, your partners,
and your entire business network.
☞Look throughout your external partner network for opportuni-
ties to help your service providers connect with each other and
with your extended network.
☞How can you access information and opportunity within your
partner network that can make your work more productive,
cost-effective, and successful?
☞Identify at least one opportunity to help one of your key service
partners, and one opportunity to benefit from your partner net-
work.
☞Take steps to quickly act on these opportunities by making a
call, sending an e-mail, or scheduling a meeting.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well With Your External Partners 165
81
Follow-Up for
Best Results
As a telecommuter, you are a prime candidate for developing abso-
lutely superb follow-up skills. Since you need to work with and
through so many other people—colleagues, vendors, co-workers,
suppliers, team members, contractors, managers—to accomplish
your goals, expert follow-up skills can be essential to your ultimate
success. When you hone these skills for use, especially with your ex-
ternal partners, it conveys a sense of significance to their work, com-
municates its importance to you, and clearly establishes a standard of
excellence for the way in which you manage and value your work.
Well-planned and consistent follow-up behavior is not a license
to micro-manage. Nothing will frustrate and demoralize your exter-
nal partners faster than excessive hands-on management from you
that feels and looks like high-control interference in their work.
Rather, your project planning should establish clear expectations
(Tip 71) regarding milestones and checkpoints. Your role is to use
these checkpoints as guideposts for your follow-up. Doing so should
ensure (provided the project planning is sound) that you have ade-
quate opportunity to monitor progress toward goals without over-
burdening yourself with the minutiae of a project or task. For
example, checking in with a program developer who’s designing a
training program for you is useful if you do so at key milestones such
as:
• Review of key learning outcomes that serve as the program
mandate.
• Review of the design document that establishes the program
blueprint.
• Review of first draft learner materials, leader materials, and
video scripts.
• On-site observation and support during video shoots.
• Review of off-line video segments and final draft of print materi-
als.
Calling the program developer daily would be unnecessary, distract-
ing, and certainly annoying. It’s more productive for everyone in-
166 101 Tips for Telecommuters
volved to have key checkpoints agreed to in advance and to establish
contingency plans for discussing problems or seeking clarity during
the interim between checkpoints.
With key milestones and checkpoints agreed to, along with the
agreement that follow-up is part of the plan, you should focus your
effort on adhering to the follow-up plan and making your follow-up
activities appropriate. Use your calendar, a tickler system, or a com-
puterized project management system to make your follow-ups as
scheduled. Even if the supplier is scheduled to deliver a draft docu-
ment to you by a specified time, it’s your responsibility to monitor
whether it’s received and to follow up with a reminder about it if it’s
not received. Otherwise, without your evident management of fol-
low-up milestones, the seriousness of deadlines is called into ques-
tion—and this bodes badly for the outcome of the project, contract,
or assignment.
Your follow-up may include a number of methods for monitor-
ing the status of delegated work or projects in process:
• Regular update meetings included in the project plan
• Periodic project status reports
• Conference calls
• Face-to-face meetings
• E-mail
• Voice mail
• Fax
• Videoconferences
However you manage the follow-up on projects, assignments, dele-
gated work, team efforts, or action steps agreed to by your manager,
it’s essential that you manage your own ability to adhere to follow-up
schedules and commitments. Being vigilant about this is particularly
critical for you as a telecommuter, since you will often be remote
from those doing the actual work, and you’re not in a position to use
less formal methods of “How goes it?” discussions over the water
cooler. With a firm follow-up plan and schedule, you will feel more
relaxed and confident about goals being achieved, and your service
partners will appreciate knowing the structure and timing of check-
points.
Working Well With Your External Partners 167
Evaluate the follow-up plan on a major project, assignment, con-
tract, or account:
EDoes everyone know when checkpoints occur?
EIs the information to be provided at key points detailed in the
project plan?
EARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT WORK WILL BE DELIVERED
AS YOU ENVISION IT?
If you answered “No” to any of these questions, send a fax, e-mail, or
voice mail now to the service provider and schedule a meeting or
phone conference to renegotiate milestones and checkpoints. Be sure
that your time and task management system includes all the dates
and follow-up points you need to manage and execute.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
82
Get the Most Out of Business
and Professional Associations
Association membership can be extremely beneficial to telecom-
muters. Your memberships in business, professional, trade, industry,
and civic groups can help you feel less isolated and more connected
to people on both a business and a personal level. Associations also
are good resources for information about trends, regulations, and dy-
namics affecting your business. Further, your involvement in busi-
ness and professional groups can be a real boon to your networking
efforts.
Like everything else, though, you get advantages out of your as-
sociation memberships in fairly direct proportion to the effort you
put into them. Joining associations for the sole purpose of accessing
the mailing list for prospecting purposes is likely to have limited pay-
168 101 Tips for Telecommuters
off. Rather, you can maximize the benefits of association member-
ship and multiply your networking dividends by:
• Becoming active (e.g., attend meetings, at a minimum) in tar-
geted associations (those that hold the greatest interest, rele-
vance, and reward in terms of your work and industry).
• Accepting a leadership role in the association (e.g., hold elected
office, chair a committee, convene a meeting, coordinate a con-
ference or workshop).
• Forming a special interest group that focuses on your industry,
on your area of expertise, or on telecommuting.
• Volunteering for a special project (such as coordination of a na-
tionally sponsored teleconference with a satellite link in your
city) or a high-visibility assignment (such as editor of the
monthly newsletter).
• Volunteer to host a regular association meeting or present the
program for a special workshop or seminar where you can share
some unique knowledge, skill, or experience you have that
would be of interest to other association members.
• Co-sponsor or co-present a workshop or seminar with one of
your key external service partners to showcase a unique project
or major effort you tackled together to achieve superior results
(for example, a major client project you were involved in that
required extraordinary response from one of your package de-
sign vendors—describing the need, the urgency, the collabora-
tion, and the strategy to accomplish the work on time, on
budget, and to the complete satisfaction of your client could be
an intriguing case study to members of your association).
Any of these levels of involvement in an association will help you
feel more active and connected, be more visible, expand your net-
work of contacts, and derive much greater value from the investment
of time and money you make in your membership. Connecting your
association network with your external partner network has, there-
fore, greater advantage to each of them and helps you leverage the
goodwill you’ve built across both networks.
Working Well With Your External Partners 169
➜If you have been procrastinating on joining a valuable business,
trade, or professional association, call or e-mail them now to
process your membership application.
➜Otherwise, identify the most valuable association you currently
belong to and list three ways you might become more involved
to increase the value of membership to you and your business.
➜Take steps now to move forward on one of the ways you listed;
make a call, jot a note, send an e-mail to move the idea to ac-
tion.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
170 101 Tips for Telecommuters
171
Working Well with
Tools and Technology
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83
Assess Your Real Needs and Choose
the Best Technology for You
If you love technology, are exceedingly comfortable with the occa-
sional ambiguity of computer use, and can’t imagine an electronic
gadget that would intimidate you, you’re likely to embrace the no-
tion of acquiring and integrating technology into your office and
your work. If, on the other hand, you telecommute for reasons other
than the love of technology (or, as a former colleague referred to
himself, you’re a “techno-twit”), the whole technological realm may
annoy, frustrate, or depress you. It’s unlikely you can telecommute
successfully without it, so you’re wise to find ways to see technology
as your friend and learn how to be comfortable with technological
equipment and products.
My advice is to read, ask questions, try out products in the store,
search the Web, have a fellow telecommuter show you her or his
techno-tools, field-test products, experiment with different equip-
ment at business service centers, and get into a “hands-on” mode
whenever possible. (After all, it’s not like dabbling in a chemistry lab;
there’s little chance anything will blow up in a way that causes major
damage!) To avoid being overwhelmed by the constantly changing
array of choices, features, options, interfaces, and gadgets that bom-
bard (and perhaps offend) your sensibilities whenever you need to
select a technological product, it’s a good idea to first carefully deter-
mine your needs and define the specific requirements you have in
terms of size, output, capability, compatibility, etc. Consider the:
¯Tasks you need to accomplish.
¯Tools required to complete those tasks.
¯Skills you have and will need to appropriately use the equip-
ment you choose.
Of course, cost is usually a factor to be considered as well. What you
must or would be willing to invest, however, should be determined
by the overlap between these three factors relative to your personal
use of the equipment and how it integrates into your work and your
office.
Approach decisions regarding the selection and purchase of
equipment by following this process:
173
✔Define how you will use the equipment and the specific perfor-
mance requirements to meet your needs. For example:
• Will you need your computer for word processing, spread-
sheets, fax capability, graphic design, data analysis, database
management, planning/scheduling, project management,
etc.?
• Will your fax machine have a dedicated line, high-volume
demand? Will you need to retain fax documents and require
plain paper?
• What are your copying requirements in terms of volume,
speed, size?
✔Research the options designed to meet your needs. Don’t forget
to:
• Discuss your detailed specifications with a knowledgeable
sales associate.
• Survey your external network to learn about equipment
that’s working well for colleagues and suppliers.
• Access information and assistance from corporate computer
support resources.
• Check with co-workers and peers who also telecommute to
learn about equipment they use satisfactorily.
✔Test, retest, and field-test your options. It doesn’t hurt to:
• Experiment with equipment in the store.
• Visit the office of a friend or colleague to try out his or her
equipment.
• Ask for a trial period during which you use the equipment in
your office and can return it if you’re not completely satisfied
(get this promise in writing).
✔Make a final decision to purchase only if you’ve had a chance to
“road test” the equipment and/or it can be returned (usually
within 30 days) with no problem. Don’t forget to:
• Use the equipment as much as possible and as soon as possi-
ble for various tasks. If you’re counting on your fax to also
function as a copier and scanner, test these functions fully.
174 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Return anything that falls short of your expectations, doesn’t
work well within your office, is difficult for you to use, or is
uncomfortable in any way.
A final, but important, note about the technology and equipment
that support your work as a telecommuter: Taking the time and mak-
ing the effort to clearly articulate your needs will help you get the
best resources. And when it comes to technological resources, don’t
settle for anything short of the best match of equipment to your
needs. Shortchanging yourself on technology is a ticket to short-
changing yourself on success.
´Prepare a “spec sheet” for a piece of equipment you need to ac-
quire that will allow you to telecommute more effectively or ef-
ficiently.
´Define your needs clearly in terms of how you will use the
equipment, the level of usage you project, how it needs to work
with your existing technology, any constraints (such as size,
weight, power supply) within your office.
´Use your specifications to guide your review of options, evalua-
tion of need versus capability, consideration of safety factors,
and assessment of price versus payoff.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
84
Know Your Backup Options
(Before a Crisis Occurs)
In deciding what equipment you need to support your telecommut-
ing arrangement, you’ll typically plan for ideal operating conditions
(your computer functions properly, the fax machine just keeps
Working Well with Tools and Technology 175
humming, your printer is not hopelessly jammed, and your phone
service is uninterrupted). Life being what it is at times, however, it’s
also useful to consider what backup options you may need to con-
tinue being productive even when your equipment fails you (because
it will, you know!).
This is where having a “Chicken Little” mindset is not a bad idea.
Imagine that the sky is falling . . . or worse—WHAT IF your com-
puter crashes?
• Do you have a spare computer easily accessible that you can
switch to? Does it give you access to the key capabilities and
software you need, including Internet and e-mail connections?
(In a real pinch, you might borrow the computer from your
kids!)
• Is there an external option you can access fairly quickly (a
nearby business center, your local quick-print, a computer
rental outlet)?
WHAT IF your printer goes haywire?
• Do you have a spare printer that’s handy, loaded with the critical
fonts you’ll need, and capable of printing what you might need?
(That 7-year old laser printer collecting dust in the closet might
still produce dynamite word processed images but give you an
uncooperative ERROR message if you ask it to print a spread-
sheet.)
• Does your fax machine have multi-function capability and com-
patibility with your computer to serve as your backup printer?
• Can you save your urgent documents on disk and race to a
neighbor’s house or local business service center to access a
printer? Is the service center available during the hours you
may be having a crisis?
WHAT IF your phone service is disconnected by a careless driver six
blocks away who wipes out a utility pole?
• While you might miss incoming calls during the phone down
time, do you have a cellular phone readily available (and spare
batteries always charged) to let your key co-workers, project as-
sociates, or clients know to call you on your cell phone? You
also can use your cell phone to check voice mail while your
176 101 Tips for Telecommuters
land lines are out of service and to make any outgoing calls that
will keep you productive and connected until phone service is
reestablished.
WHAT IF your e-mail capability disappears (due to a problem with
your software, the corporate network, or some server in between)?
• First, you (almost) cry.
• Second, pat yourself on the back for being prepared with an al-
ternative. You may rarely access the Internet through your AOL
account (or another Internet service you have for your kids),
but it may be a critical resource for exchanging files and mes-
sages if your corporate e-mail and/or Internet services take an
extended vacation.
• As a last resort, request that the sender (who’s insisting that you
read her or his e-mail ASAP) print and fax it to you on your reli-
able fax machine.
WHAT IF your fax machine goes on the blink?
• Here’s a good reason to hang on to that relic of a fax machine
with that annoying thermal paper on a continuous roll. If it still
works, it might come in real handy if the power supply in your
new one gets fried.
• Are you familiar with and easily able to set up your computer to
send and receive faxes? Interestingly, this is a capability many
computers have and some computer operators never master
(probably the same people who don’t know how to program
their VCR). Quickly configuring your computer (or a spare
computer) to both send and receive faxes can be a lifesaver for
you.
• Can you divert any critical faxes to a local business service cen-
ter? This would likely involve a commute for you to send and
receive faxes, but it’s better than being fax deprived!
Multi-function fax machines offer flexibility and can provide great
back-up options in a telecommuting office, provided you have other
primary equipment options. However, if you rely solely on your
multi-function fax machine for faxing, printing, copying, and scan-
ning, you’re in a boatload of trouble if these multi-functions become
nonfunctioning.
Working Well with Tools and Technology 177
You get the idea—think ahead, consider your options, ask lots of
WHAT IF questions, be prepared for the worst, and plan for the best
in any number of potentially bad scenarios.
Make a long list of “what if” questions regarding possible equipment
failures and potential disasters for your productivity. Consider what
resources you have currently or would need to have available as
back-up options for your critical equipment and functions. Prioritize
the list of additional options, alternatives, resources or tangible
pieces of equipment you need to have available.
And don’t forget the Murphy’s Laws applicable here:
❢ If anything can go wrong, it will.
❢ If multiple things can go wrong simultaneously, they will.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
85
Be Prepared With the
Basic Tools, Too
Even if you pride yourself on having the most wired, leading edge,
technologically advanced home office, you know there are a plethora
of low-tech, unexciting, but vital things you just need to have to
telecommute and survive. We’re not talking about the latest gadgets
technology companies are dreaming up to simplify the lives of
telecommuters (like scanners that work in the shower, fax machines
that also fold your laundry, videophones that will attend meetings for
you, and voice-activated software that gives you feedback on your
ideas and will write all your reports and memos for you). No, these
tools and supplies are much more mundane that this! But don’t think
about trying to telecommute without equipping yourself with these
basics:
• The perfect desk (Tip 88)
• The perfect chair (Tip 93)
178 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• A great phone and phone accessories (Tip 89, Tip 92)
• Rolodex
• Fax, copier, scanner, etc. (Tip 88)
• Extra toner
• Bookcases
• File cabinets
• Power strips, with surge protection (Tip 86)
• File folders and labels
• Storage cabinet (or an alternative)
• Carpeting that’s suitable for office use and wear (and is static-
free)
• Chair/floor mats to protect carpeting and keep you on the move
• Lamps, task lighting, ambient lighting
• Trash cans —close to your desk, the copier, the printer, wher-
ever you prepare the mail (don’t forget to separate recyclables)
• Spare batteries
• Staplers—standard ones wherever you might need one handy,
along with specialty types you might need, such as electric,
heavy-duty, long-neck (don’t forget the staples and stapler re-
movers)
• Rulers, yard stick, tape measurer
• Tape—transparent, double-sided, shipping, masking, correcting,
and the ever-important, will-fix-anything roll of duct tape—tape
dispensers
• Hole punches—standard for 3-ring binders, adjustable as re-
quired, 5- or 7-hole punch if you use a paper-based calendar
binder
• Binders and folders
• Pens, pencils, water-based markers, hi-liters—in a variety of col-
ors, sizes, points; for a wide variety of needs/preferences, along
with refills and erasers
• Scissors—located in all the places you might need them: your
desk, near the copier if you cut and paste, etc.
Working Well with Tools and Technology 179
• Clocks
• Paper cutter
• Disk and CD holders
• Variety of rubber bands, paper clips, binder clips, push
pins/tacks and other assorted clips/fasteners in various sizes to
hold things together
• Paper towels/tissues
• Supply of various papers, such as copier, laser, bond, card stock,
notepads, lined, unlined, drilled for binder use, multiple colors
• Calculator
• Self-stick notes in various sizes (how did we function before
these were invented?!) and an assortment of self-stick ‘flags’ for
a multitude of purposes
• Labels—in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors for shipping,
file folders, report or proposal covers, etc.
• Letter opener and utility knife
• Easel, flip chart, corkboard wall, dry erase board or large bul-
letin board—making ideas visible
• Rubber stamps—for date stamping received mail, quickly han-
dling bank deposits, return addressing; use self-inking when
possible
• Postage scale or meter and stamps in various denominations
• Electric pencil sharpener
• Flash light
• Calendars—posted in various locations and viewable from every
work station
• Desk accessories to keep everything handy (within arm’s reach
and to minimize the need to open drawers
For your personal needs, it’s convenient to keep these basic things
handy:
• Manicure set (or clippers and a nail file)
• Tooth brush and tooth paste
180 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• First aid kit (plastic bandages, at least)
• CD/tape player
• Hand lotion
• Water-free, sanitizing hand cleanser
• Cleaning supplies for eye glasses or contact lenses
• Stress-relief toys, e.g., something to squeeze or fidget with
• Pitcher or large bottle of water
• Small supply of your favorite healthy snack
• Coffee pot and supplies
• Small refrigerator (if it saves you trips to the kitchen and does
not become the keeper of things that are bad for you!)
You’re likely to identify a few additional MUST HAVE basics for your
office (or eliminate some on the list above), depending upon your
business, your working style, your office design, and your personal
needs/preferences. Since successful telecommuting requires more
thoughtful planning and preparation than simply buying a desk, a
chair, and a computer, you’ll be more productive sooner if you antic-
ipate your needs and carefully prepare your office so that it’s “ready
to go” when you are.
If you’re just preparing to telecommute, make a thorough list of the
resources, tools, and supplies you’ll need. While being prepared is
smart, don’t overdo it; equip yourself with things you’ll need on a
regular basis. For resources you’ll need only occasionally, consider
options like rental, lease, or subcontract. Also, don’t overstock sup-
plies that may have a limited shelf life (toner-based products, ink
pens).
If you’re already telecommuting, make a list of resources you
don’t have readily available that you need on a regular basis, things
you run low on, things you make special trips out of your office to
get. Replenish and expand your supplies, tools, and resources to im-
prove your productivity.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well with Tools and Technology 181
86
Get Wired—Electrify Your
Telecommuting Experience
Inherent in the well-connected, high-tech office of the modern
telecommuter is a fundamental reality: wires, cords, and all things
electrical. The degree to which you require adequate electrical ser-
vice cannot be overemphasized from both a capacity and a safety per-
spective. Without anticipating your electrical needs, it’s likely your
demand for outlets, extension cords, and power strips will soon
overwhelm the electrical system in your house (or at least the cir-
cuits supporting your office area). This is a particular concern for
older homes and any dwellings not designed for extreme electrical
usage in a concentrated area.
Having been one of those telecommuters who added the addi-
tional circuits and outlets after demand had far exceeded the original
outlet capacity in my office, I speak with experience (and eternal
gratefulness for the fire I miraculously avoided in my office!). Even I
was amazed, however, when I thought to count the number of cords
and wires behind my desk. Bear in mind that 4 additional computers,
2 printers, 1 Zip drive, 1 CD-rom drive, 1 transcription machine, 4
lamps, 1 typewriter, 1 electric pencil sharpener, and 1 cassette/tape
player are also located in the office but are not on or near the wires
behind my desk. Even so, I was stunned to count 39 separate cords
and wires flowing off and behind my desk! No, I don’t do video pro-
duction and editing with a massive wall of audio, video, and engi-
neering equipment. These 39 wires support my basic computer
system, fax machine, multiple phone lines, videoconference com-
puter, and lighting.
So, keep in mind (I’m living proof, apparently!), those wires can
add up and, though it may seem so, they’re not multiplying while
you sleep. To keep yourself, your office, and your equipment safe,
keep some key guidelines in mind so that your wired office doesn’t
exceed the capacity of your electrical system.
• Unless you’re an electrical engineer or a certified electrician, re-
member that being a highly-skilled home handyperson does not
qualify you to run wire, add outlets, and expand the number of
circuits feeding your office. This is definitely a time to spend a
182 101 Tips for Telecommuters
few dollars, protect the safety of your family and your office,
and avoid problems with insurance claims filed in connection
with work performed during your “temporary electrician” stint!
Electricity is great, but it’s nothing to mess around with unless
you really know what you’re doing.
• Avoid extension cords wherever possible. If you must use them,
use high-grade extension cords or power strips.
• In spite of having plenty of outlets, you’ll probably still need
some power strips. Use only those designed for use with sensi-
tive electronic equipment (like your computer) that provide
maximum protection against power surges. Be aware that power
surge protection may not be effective against electrical surges
that enter your home through phone lines connected to your
equipment. Therefore, for maximum protection, use high-end
surge protectors that include connected equipment warranties.
• And don’t forget to UNPLUG (not just turn off) your equipment
during a storm and avoid using the telephone during electrical
storms.
! If you have any doubt about the excessive demand your equip-
ment may be making on your electrical system, pick up the
phone right now and schedule a visit by the electrician.
! In the meantime, be sure that all of your critical equipment has
appropriate power surge protection.
! And to avoid confusion at critical moments, be sure you know
which breakers or fuses support which electrical lines. These
should be clearly marked in your breaker or fuse box.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well with Tools and Technology 183
87
Computer Choices
and Conundrums
When you telecommute, your computer is typically a tool that’s vital
to your ability to accomplish work. Unless your employer provides a
standard-issue machine with supporting hardware (this can certainly
simplify your life!), you’ll need to determine the best equipment for
your individual situation. Once again, begin with determining your
needs:
• What are the primary purposes for your computer?
• What software applications will you require?
• Therefore, what will you require in terms of speed, memory, and
storage capacity? (Never underestimate here; buying more ca-
pacity initially is usually the best course of action.)
• Which operating system is most appropriate (or required) to
communicate with co-workers?
• What demands will you be making on the modem for high-
speed transmission of data?
• What type of keyboard, monitor, mouse, and Zip drive will you
need to support your primary applications and future needs?
• Will you travel frequently? Would a notebook computer and
docking station or port replicator be a better alternative for you?
• What needs do you have for a primary (and secondary) printer?
• How likely is it that you’ll need to upgrade the equipment or ex-
pand its capacity?
• Do you have the required electrical capacity in your office? (Tip
86)
• Do you have an appropriate work station in your office (a com-
puter table or desk with space for the monitor and keyboard at
appropriate heights and the printer within easy reach)?
• What level of technical support will you require for installation
and ongoing needs?
Once you’ve formulated your specifications based on your needs, re-
view them with:
184 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• The computer support team that best knows the systems and
applications used by your company. Ask for input, recommen-
dations, directives, or constraints you should know about. Also
confirm the level of support they will be able to provide you.
• A knowledgeable sales associate at a major computer retail out-
let.
• A computer consultant, whom you also may secure to do the
legwork involved in evaluating equipment options, reviewing
current price offerings (in stores, from catalog distributors, on
the Internet), and making a purchase recommendation to you.
Don’t hesitate to get the help you need in sorting through the maze of
options, features, bells, and whistles. At a minimum, unless you’re
very savvy with regard to computer technology and equipment, find
someone (or hire someone as part of your equipment purchase) to
handle the setup and installation of your new system and to train
you on the basics. When I bought a new computer and printer sev-
eral years ago, I got the help of a high-tech young man who thought
that spending a day buying and installing my whole system was the
highlight of his spring break. (And, of course, the “ready to go/just
pop it out of the box” promise from the manufacturer did not mate-
rialize into reality, so I was able to be very productive doing other
things while my young consultant spent hours on the phone with
technical support folks.) Again, unless it’s a hobby for you or you are
extremely challenged by such things, get some help with installation,
setup, and any time-consuming loading or transferring of software
and files. If you’re really a focused telecommuter, you should have
lots of other higher priority ways to invest your time and energy.
¯If you’re in the market for a new computer and/or peripheral
equipment, use the process described above to define your
needs and explore the best match in terms of equipment and
services.
¯If you already have your computer system in place, consider any
enhancements or peripherals you need to improve your produc-
tivity or your use of the computer’s capabilities. Define your
Working Well with Tools and Technology 185
needs (Tip 83) for any additional hardware, software, or services
that might benefit you and “shop your specs” in the most ap-
propriate and time-efficient way for you (hire a consultant,
search the Web, peruse catalogs, do one-stop shopping at your
favorite computer superstore, etc.).
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
88
Beyond the Computer:
Essential Tools (and Toys) for the
Well-Connected Telecommuter
One of the long-standing myths about telecommuting is that it’s so
simple to do; just stay home, flip open a wireless notebook computer,
grab your cell phone, and hang out at the pool. Let me be clear (did
I harp on this once before?!): Nothing could be further from the
truth about serious telecommuting. Of course I’ve taken my cell
phone to the pool, but usually it’s because I’m still working when ev-
eryone else is playing! Telecommuting effectively requires concen-
trated effort, dedicated time, and all the right tools.
Since you usually won’t be working poolside, having a great desk
is an excellent idea. As with other equipment you’ll need, first deter-
mine your needs and preferences.
☛How do you plan to use your desk?
☛Will your computer be located on or in it? What type of work
will you be doing at your desk?
☛Will you need to have a wide expanse of flat work surface? Or
will you require easy access to drawers full of files?
☛Would you prefer a stand-up work surface rather than a tradi-
tional desk?
☛How much space do you have available for the desk of your
dreams?
Take your needs and preferences to an office furniture store and
start-field testing different desks and desk arrangements. Be sure to
186 101 Tips for Telecommuters
check into modular designs, as well as traditional desks. As with
other major purchases, be sure you can return the desk if it proves to
be the wrong choice.
Aside from your desk, you’ll probably need a fax machine, unless
you plan to let your computer function as the fax machine. Of
course, you’ll need to have a dedicated line and computer that stays
on all the time, which is a problem if it’s the notebook computer you
take on the road. Other considerations in determining your needs for
a fax:
± While other technology still is marketed, plain paper machines
(with plenty of capacity in the paper tray) is by far the easiest
option.
± Multi-purpose fax machines are useful if your copying, printing
and scanning needs are not excessive or you have other equip-
ment for these purposes and the multi-purpose fax provides
your back-up options (Tip 84).
± Look for other valuable features like delayed transmission (fax
while you sleep!), speed dial, automatic redial, activity reports,
memory capacity, resolution, transmission speed, image size ad-
justment, integration with your computer, service warranties,
and ongoing maintenance and ink replacement requirements.
You may or may not have copying needs that justify having a copier
in your office. In many cases, a multi-purpose fax will suffice. Or
using the services of a local quick-print will be more than adequate.
However, if external copying sources are not convenient and/or your
copying needs exceed more than a handful of copies per day, an on-
site machine that you buy or lease may be best for you. Consider
your needs and evaluate features such as:
¯Projected copy volume
¯Ease of operation
¯Speed
¯Paper requirements
¯Paper tray capacity
¯Image size adjustment
¯Types of documents copied (e.g., size of paper, books, magazine
articles, etc.), color versus black-and-white
Working Well with Tools and Technology 187
¯Routine maintenance, table or stand required, storage of sup-
plies, toner replacement, and ongoing service/technical support.
Since everyone’s definition of “essential” will vary somewhat, there
isn’t one standard list of required equipment for telecommuters.
Depending on your needs, your office arrangement, your line of
work, and your personal work habits, there are any number of other
items that may be either essential tools or gotta-have-’em toys for
you:
➧ Personal pager
➧ Notebook computer
➧ Personal digital assistant
➧ Microcassette recorder
➧ Personal dictating/transcription machines
➧ Paper shredder
➧ Postage meter
➧ Adapters for your computer (to use with car cigarette lighter
and cellular phone)
Depending on your need to travel as part of your telecommuting
agreement, your list of mandatory “road warrior” tools may get
longer. If you do travel more than occasionally, don’t forget the ut-
terly low-tech but very important briefcase or backpack or rolling
luggage in which to transport all of your high-tech gizmos.
And finally, cool as all the gizmology may be, avoid gadgets that
are unnecessary, don’t interface well with your primary equipment,
are not proven in terms of effectiveness and reliability, take more
time to use than they save, and do little more than appeal to your
bias for “gee-whiz-bang” gadgetry.
±What additional technology resources might help you be more
effective and productive?
±What tools (or toys) do you have currently that are not proving
to be very useful?
188 101 Tips for Telecommuters
±Reevaluate your needs for additional tools that can help you be
a more successful telecommuter and take steps to match those
needs with appropriate and cost-effective choices.
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Rarely Is a Phone
Just a Phone
With so much of your telecommuting technology dependent upon
telephone lines, what you need and require from your phone service
provider(s) differs significantly from your needs in the not-too-dis-
tant past. Likewise, what you need in terms of capabilities in your ac-
tual phone equipment has changed dramatically. Not too long ago, a
phone with 10 speed dial numbers and a hold button was fairly so-
phisticated. Now a telecommuter would compare the benefits of in-
tegral phone systems versus Web phones versus wireless technology.
Depending upon your needs, your budget, the level of technol-
ogy sophistication of your employer, and the capacity of the phone
wiring in your home, you may have the opportunity to utilize some
of these advanced technologies. In the meantime, though, the cau-
tiously or budget-constrained innovators who also telecommute
probably will still use telephones. Thankfully, your telephone can be
far more advanced than a basic phone and make important contribu-
tions to your productivity. Evaluate your requirements for telephonic
technology by considering your need for features such as:
☎ Multiple lines. You’re likely to have multiple phone lines coming
into your home to support voice, fax, and data transmissions.
Don’t limit your ability to access all of these lines when you
need them for additional voice calls or conference calling by
using phones that don’t support multiple lines. You can easily
accommodate up to four lines on an individual phone without
the expense of an advanced telephone system. Using more than
one 4-line phone allows you to establish a basic office system
Working Well with Tools and Technology 189
with features such as intercom/paging, transferring, do not dis-
turb, and monitoring. If you’re trying to integrate business and
home lines, this can be a big help.
☎ Voice mail. Some phones come equipped with advanced voice
mail systems that save you the expense of monthly voice mail
charges from your phone company. With some of these you can
also establish individual voice mail boxes, so these systems offer
a very professional image.
☎ Caller ID. This feature might be of interest to you if want to pri-
oritize specific callers or avoid interrupting a call in progress for
a nonessential incoming call.
☎ Speed dialing/memory dial. For frequently dialed numbers, this
can be a critical time saver. Some telephones also will integrate
with auto-dialing capability through your computer. Even with-
out the computer connection, however, make sure the primary
phone that sits closest to your work area has a generous capac-
ity for numbers in memory.
☎ Automatic redial. Like speed dialing, this is a convenient and
time-saving feature. It’s especially useful for numbers you don’t
have programmed into memory. When you dial the number and
get a busy signal, your phone will continue to periodically dial
the number (for a set number of attempts or a specific length of
time) until the call is answered—all the while, you’re busy
doing other productive things.
☎ Speakerphone. While some people just despise being relegated to
your speakerphone, this feature can be very helpful to you for
hands-free telephone time (especially during long conference
calls). On the flip side, however, a speakerphone in a one-room
office in your home (or anywhere for that matter) would be
very annoying if others also were working there. Some of the
advantages of having a speakerphone can be achieved by using a
headset (Tip 92).
☎ Call waiting. If you use multiple voice lines for business, this fea-
ture may be unnecessary. And some people find it very annoying
or distracting. However, it may be convenient to have on days
you’re expecting an important call. On other days, you can ig-
nore the call waiting signal and let the call roll over to voice mail
if you’re already involved in a call you don’t want to interrupt.
190 101 Tips for Telecommuters
☎ Conferencing. Many basic business phones come equipped with
three-way calling for establishing conference calls. You may find
the audio quality lacking on some phones when the third caller
is added. If conferencing is a critical feature for you, test this
feature thoroughly on your new phone, establish conference-
calling capability through your phone company, or schedule
conference calls through your long distance carrier (also a more
viable option if you need to connect multiple people and loca-
tions).
☎ Call forwarding. This is usually a feature available through your
phone company and can be an important one for telecommuters
who are committed to staying well connected to co-workers,
clients, and colleagues (Tip 52). If you need to leave your office
for errands, a meeting, a networking lunch, or travel, you can
forward your phone to wherever you go.
☎ Mute. This comes in handy during long conference calls or
when your spouse stops in with a quick question. And it cer-
tainly is a handy feature if you have an unexpected visit from a
well-intended but somewhat loud child!
☎ Call timer. If you need to track your calls for billing purposes,
you’ll appreciate this feature. Otherwise, it’s also useful to keep
yourself aware of the length of calls.
☎ Number dialed and time display. On really hectic days, this fea-
ture is nice in case you forget who you were calling in the space
of time between dialing the call and hearing it ring! Also, since
your phone is probably fairly convenient, this gives you a quick
look at the time of day.
☎ Volume control. Depending on your voice, the connection qual-
ity with your caller, and the effect that a headset may have on
the audio level on your phone line, volume control is a useful
feature for achieving the best connection possible within the
constraints of your equipment and the quality of the line pro-
vided by your carrier.
☎ Cordless. Adding a cordless phone to one of your extensions
gives you flexibility to move around for accessing files, informa-
tion, or other computers in your office. During long (or less ex-
citing) calls, you also can roam to the kitchen for a quick snack
or to the back yard to enjoy your flower garden.
Working Well with Tools and Technology 191
Other accessories you might find useful:
☎ Answering machine. If you don’t have voice mail or want to
screen calls, a separate answering machine might be the best
choice for you.
☎ Cord detangler. An absolute must if tangled cords make you
crazy. (When they get really out of control, save yourself the
frustration and buy a new cord.)
☎ Extra long cord. If you don’t have a headset or cordless phone
but want to roam, this will surely help.
☎ Video phone. Really fun—if you need it, of course, and if you
call other people who have one.
Your phone can do even more to help you be productive if your local
phone company offers additional capabilities you need. Since your
phone is so integral to your work as a telecommuter, don’t hesitate to
let it work for you to get the most it can give.
✆ Check your existing phone capabilities against a list of ideal fea-
tures to maximize your productivity.
✆ Prepare a spec sheet to evaluate the cost versus the benefits of
investing in a new phone.
✆ Check to be certain there aren’t any features on your existing
phone that you haven’t activated or don’t use.
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Make Your Phone Calls
Chase or Wait for You
In your quest to stay well connected while telecommuting, you’re
likely to find numerous ways to get information to and from people
with great efficiency. Also, you’re likely to find that you feel bom-
barded by the influx of voice messages, calls, faxes, and e-mail mes-
192 101 Tips for Telecommuters
sages. In reality, however, the volume of calls and demand for your
attention is probably no greater than what you’d experience work-
ing in a traditional office. Only the nature of some interruptions dif-
fer in that people usually can’t just “drop in” on you. (Beware,
however, if your employer launches a videoconferencing system and
you keep your system turned on constantly. Based on my experi-
ence, people will begin “dropping by” virtually. This is especially in-
trusive if you set your videoconference or videophone system on
“auto answer.” You may hear a phone ring and suddenly find people
staring at you!)
Of course, you’ll often want to be accessible to people—regard-
less of where you are—and to be almost as available as if you were
physically present in the main office or at the client site. And at other
times you’ll need to defer your calls to voice mail or some other an-
swering system. Whichever option is appropriate for a given situa-
tion or time, be certain to handle it in the most suitable way for
capturing the information people need to give you.
When you want to be connected and highly accessible by phone,
having multiple business lines for voice transmission is useful.
Otherwise, your calls will be greeted with either call waiting, an an-
swering machine, answering service, or voice mail (or, God forbid, a
busy signal!). So, look for ways to increase the opportunity to answer
a call “live,” even though you might need to return the call if it will
take longer than you have available. If you do need to defer your calls
to one of your answering systems due to a client meeting, conference
call, personal appointment, or during nonwork hours, be sure to:
✆ Be as specific as possible about when you’ll be available or when
you’ll be able to return the call.
✆ Check for messages frequently.
✆ Return calls promptly.
When you are out of the office but don’t want to miss any calls, acti-
vate your call forwarding feature. (With the advent of new rate plans
for cellular calling that provides hundreds of minutes per month of
calling time without roaming or long distance charges, there may be
an increase in telecommuters using cellular phones as their primary
business phone. Also, the future promises the eventual opportunity
for you to have one number that rings everywhere—in your office, in
your home, on your cellular phone wherever you are, etc.) Calls can
Working Well with Tools and Technology 193
easily be forwarded to your cell phone and, with a reliable cellular
provider, your calls will follow you just about anywhere.
If for some reason your cellular service is unavailable, another
option is to forward your calls to the voice mail on your personal
pager. If you need to receive calls at home, forward your business
line to your home phone. (For a nominal charge, your phone com-
pany might offer an identifying ring capability for your home line to
differentiate business calls from personal calls.) You also can forward
your business line to other office locations where you’ll be working
for the day or week. This might be at your corporate office or a client
site. Clearly, being “out of sight” when you telecommute never needs
to mean being “out of touch.”
Review the way your calls are handled when you’re away from your
office.
☎ Is your current answering or voice mail system the best avail-
able option? Are you receiving prompt, clear, and thorough
messages? Are you retrieving messages in a timely fashion and
responding quickly enough?
☎ Do you need to be more accessible when you’re out of the of-
fice? Are you experiencing delays in receiving critical informa-
tion, frustration from co-workers, or dissatisfaction from
clients? What alternatives can you employ or acquire to im-
prove your access to timely information and your accessibility
to people who need to contact you?
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91
Manage the Madness of Multiple
Machines that Ring or Beep at You
Once you’re functioning as a well-connected telecommuter with
multiple ways for people to contact you and for the exchange of in-
194 101 Tips for Telecommuters
formation, you also may begin to feel a sense of intrusion. Depend-
ing upon the degree of connectivity you have with the “world” be-
yond your office, there can be a wide assortment of equipment
interrupting the serenity of your telecommuting space and demand-
ing your immediate attention:
~Multiple phone lines ringing and flashing.
~Voice mail signals and greetings announcing the accumulation
of an astronomical number of messages in your voice mail box.
~Flashes and incessant beeps from the answering machine.
~The pager that beeps or vibrates with demands that you call
your answering service for messages.
~E-mail messages that land in your in-box with a loud “ker-
plunk” sound (programmed into your computer by some well-
intentioned but humorless computer technician).
~The cellular phone that rings (with a unique ring you selected
from an almost endless array of options), flashes, or vibrates
to announce the arrival of a call, a page, or even an e-mail
message.
How do you manage it all without pulling out your hair (and/or all
those wires)!? First of all, simplify. If you have one of those wonder-
ful new cell phones that will deliver voice calls, data, e-mail mes-
sages, and pages, perhaps it’s time to discontinue using your personal
pager. Keep the pager if you really need to receive pages during
flights, if your cellular service is unreliable in some areas where you
work, or if you’re occasionally on-call for some extremely urgent
purpose (such as performing emergency brain surgery). Also, unless
you’re using your cellular phone as your primary business line, think
twice about keeping your cell phone on when you’re in the office
(unless it’s a “hot-line” for access to you by critical clients or you re-
ally enjoy juggling yet another ringing phone during the workday).
Finally, be selective about when you accept incoming calls and
messages. Voice mail and e-mail messages may drop into your in-box
constantly, but if you respond to them as they arrive, you’ll compro-
mise your ability to manage your work in a planful and proactive way.
Set aside specific time throughout the day to read faxes and e-mail
messages and to listen to voice mail messages. Do this frequently and
respond to them promptly, with as much brevity as possible. Without
Working Well with Tools and Technology 195
planning and exercising control over how you respond to everything
that rings or beeps, you’ll be relegated to days of incessant interrup-
tions demanding reactive and frantic responses. This will not only ex-
haust and frustrate you, it will also compromise your success as a
telecommuter and undermine your attainment of the personal and
business goals you chose to pursue as a telecommuter.
And it should go without needing a mention (except that an-
other reminder probably won’t hurt), it remains your responsibility
to either shut everything off or close the door to your office or ignore
anything in your office that rings or beeps when it’s time to set work
aside. The eternal quest for balance (Tip 6) gets no easier as the tech-
nology to access you improves. Only now, you need to manage both
your need for balance and the technology that can threaten it.
➠Review the various ways your work flow is interrupted by calls,
messages, and other electronic demands for your attention.
➠Can you streamline the number of incoming sources of beeps
and rings?
➠Reevaluate how and when you respond and look for increased
ways to protect your focus.
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92
Skip the Massage—
Get a Headset
Unless you telecommute with minimal need to interact by telephone
with co-workers, customers, or associates, having a headset is some-
thing you should seriously consider. I know no one who’s tried using
a headset and decided to go back to the neck-killing phone on the
shoulder routine. At the same time, I know any number of people
who’ve been disappointed with a headset they purchased for one rea-
son or another. If your phone usage justifies it, a headset is an in-
196 101 Tips for Telecommuters
valuable tool for a telecommuter, but there’s great variability among
headsets in terms of comfort, audio quality, and operating flexibility.
So, put a headset on your list of essential tools and evaluate these fea-
tures when selecting one:
• Weight (the lighter the better)
• Adjustability (to accommodate your unique configuration and
combination of personal features: head, ear, hair, glasses, ear-
rings)
• Range (depending upon your need to access files and reference
material or your need to pace)
• Volume control (to accommodate variations in voice level of
callers and clarity of phone lines)
• Microphone (get the best you can afford so you don’t sound as if
you’re calling from Mars)
• Wireless (provides the greatest mobility, with compromises in
sound quality unless you’re willing to not go cheap)
• Service, warranty, and maintenance (ask for comparisons of
durability and typical projected useful life of various models).
As with other key tools and equipment for your telecommuting suc-
cess, purchase a headset only if you have the option to return it.
Since it spends long hours hanging on your ear or strapped to your
head, you want to absolutely love it and be extremely comfortable
with it as an appendage. It’s rather like a pair of shoes: If it doesn’t
feel great, you won’t use it. If you can’t return it for a more suitable
one, you’ve wasted your money. Even worse, you’ll have that phone
locked between your ear and your spasm-riddled neck.
✆ If you’re currently using a headset, check out newer models and
consider whether upgrading would improve your comfort and
productivity.
✆ If you’re still using a hand-held telephone, spending lots of time
on it, and suffering from neck and shoulder pain, add “GET A
HEADSET” to the top of your TO DO list. Check options avail-
able through your local office superstore, catalog companies
Working Well with Tools and Technology 197
that specialize in these products (such as Hello Direct!), and
Internet sources. Order more than one type or model to give
yourself a choice of features and the greatest degree of comfort.
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93
Which Chair to Buy (When You’d
Really Rather Have a Recliner)
The closest thing to you (literally) when you telecommute is your
chair. Since you might sometimes feel that you live in your office
chair (and in a way, you do), invest in a superb one; you’ll never re-
gret it. In spite of an abundance of seldom-used chairs sprinkled
throughout your home, don’t be tempted to opt for convenience by
grabbing one of these. And certainly don’t target aesthetics among
your primary criteria. How your chair looks in your office and inte-
grates with your design scheme is fairly insignificant (unless win-
ning decorating awards is a key objective) compared with the other
features you should evaluate when buying a desk chair:
• Well-constructed and provides excellent support. Look for high-
quality materials, solid but comfortable support in the seat and
back, and a fabric that won’t cause you to perspire (there are
enough other things to sweat over!) or slide off the chair as you
roll from one task to another.
• Ergonomically designed for your body. Not all chairs fit all body
types, so ask questions, read the manufacturer’s specs, road-test
different styles, and, if you still can’t find the perfect chair, have
one custom-built (it will probably be the last desk chair you’ll
ever need to buy, so the investment will be worth it).
• Provides adjustability, flexibility, and mobility. At a minimum, you
need to adjust the seat height, back tilt, and lumbar support to
accommodate the different tasks you’ll undertake in a given day.
Aim for flexibility that allows you to swivel, tilt, recline, and
rock, while riding on a five-star base with self-locking, dual
casters. Consider the type of flooring your chair will rest on in
determining the specific type of caster you need.
198 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Offers you a high degree of comfort. The chair makes your body
feel supported, relaxed, and ready to work. Consider a chair
with armrests if they add to your comfort, support your arms at
the appropriate heights, and don’t interfere with your desk or
computer work station.
• Option to purchase on a trial basis. Be sure to learn the proper
way to sit in the chair, and adjust it to your body and the tasks
you perform in your office. Use it in your office for several typi-
cal work days before making a final decision to purchase.
Return it in a flash if it doesn’t fit you or your desk in a comfort-
able and productive way.
A top-quality desk chair will not be inexpensive. On the other hand,
it’s a great investment compared to the time and money you’ll end up
spending with a chiropractor if you shortchange yourself on the
quality you deserve (and need) in a first-rate chair. Don’t overlook
your need for additional chairs, as well. An experienced telecom-
muter I know thought this was the best tip in this book! He’s a big
advocate of having an excellent chair, but also of having a different
one for different activities. Therefore, he has, in addition to his desk
chair, a task chair for use when he’s working at his computer, and a
reading chair (not a recliner!), since his work involves heavy doses
of reading. If your office is large enough, consider investing in addi-
tional chairs for multiple needs.
And finally, even if it’s a great chair and you spent a small fortune
on it, your body (and your mind) will still benefit from periodic
respites from a sitting position. Intersperse all that productivity
you’re achieving as a result of using a fabulous chair with standing,
walking, and stretching for at least 30 seconds every 30 minutes.
Visit an office furniture store sometime soon to evaluate the choices
in quality desk chairs. Carefully select one that meets your needs and
is suited for your body and office. If you already have a desk chair,
compare yours against those that may offer far greater comfort and
productivity.
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Working Well with Tools and Technology 199
94
Learn to Love Voice Mail
(and Other Impossibilities)
Voice mail is a much-maligned technological advance. It’s a bit like
the annoyance we feel about having to empty the dishwasher, com-
pletely overlooking the utter convenience and time savings we derive
from not needing to hand-wash all those dishes! Voice mail suffers a
similar lack of respect and appreciation. However, the flexibility and
productivity you gain from voice messaging enables, in part, your
ability to telecommute, so I wouldn’t be too annoyed about its exis-
tence.
Without voice mail you would spend far more time in the com-
pletely unproductive game of telephone tag. True, now you play
voice mail tag. But, used effectively, voice mail can drastically mini-
mize the level of “tag time” and the number of interruptions in your
day. Additionally, voice mail is a critical communication vehicle for
people who work remotely, are in “road warrior” mode, are in widely
distant locales around the globe, or have limited time between meet-
ings to exchange information.
Voice mail is the first widely used and now commonly accepted
technology that helped pave the way for telecommuting. It estab-
lished initial experience (and growing comfort) with virtual interac-
tions. Some people have even come to prefer voice mail for its
efficiency and its complete flexibility to be used anytime of the day
(or night). For example, I once worked with a woman who was im-
plementing a client project for my sales team and with whom I
needed to exchange up-to-the-minute information regarding the pro-
ject. Even though she generally called it a day and was asleep by 9:30
PM (when my “second wind” was just picking up), we successfully
completed our work together thanks to voice mail. I typically left
project update messages by 2:30 AM, which she retrieved and re-
sponded to when she woke up around 4:30 AM; I picked up her mes-
sages when I awoke (at a more civilized hour). Voice mail provided
the medium by which we communicated with relative speed and ef-
fectiveness. More people now realize that voice mail can facilitate a
great deal of communication that would otherwise be very difficult.
E-mail has replaced some uses of voice mail since it offers the ad-
vantage of being more tangible (at least you can see it!) and can be
200 101 Tips for Telecommuters
saved or printed for future reference. Also, when documents must be
exchanged or messages are lengthy, e-mail is certainly superior.
Otherwise, voice mail is clearly advantageous for messages that are:
• Brief (“I’m working on a prospective sale and would appreciate
your input on a few issues. When are you available to meet to-
morrow?”)
• Time-urgent (“I’m running 20 minutes late for our lunch meet-
ing, but I’ll meet you there.”)
• Appropriate to the technology (Don’t leave messages regarding
sensitive, confidential, or performance-related issues. Rather,
leave a voice message requesting a voice-to-voice or face-to-face
conversation for such matters.)
Voice mail is particularly effective if there’s a bias throughout the en-
tire organization for checking messages frequently and responding
with promptness, completeness, and brevity. Leaving a time-urgent
message is safer if you can count on the recipient to check messages
often. (Otherwise, have the person paged or leave a message with a
“live” human who agrees to relay the message quickly.) When voice
mail is seen not as one more thing to get through during the day (or
late at night), rather than one more way to improve our efficiency
and timeliness in communicating with co-workers, clients, and col-
leagues, its value is diminished and its utility greatly compromised.
It’s a valuable telecommuting tool, and one you should employ fre-
quently and skillfully.
Review your voice mail greeting to confirm that it provides thorough
information about when you will:
✆ Check messages
✆ Return calls
✆ Be available to talk with the caller
Also, verify that your greeting requests thorough messages from your
callers: name, time/day of the call, information or action requested of
you and by when, voice mail or phone number you’ll need for re-
sponding to the message.
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95
Videoconferencing: The Next
Best Thing to Being There?
Yes, videoconferencing probably is the next best thing to being there,
but that doesn’t mean it’s as effective or can be used without some se-
rious planning (and a not-so-minor investment). While the promise
of picturephones has never quite been fulfilled at a reasonable cost,
videoconferencing is an emerging technology application that will
further revolutionize and strengthen the telecommuting trend. It’s
probably also the tool that generates the highest degree of discom-
fort, primarily because of weaknesses inherent in affordable systems
that exacerbate the anxieties people feel about using the technology.
Many people, if they’re honest, aren’t really comfortable in front
of a regular old camera that shoots prints. Imagine the anxiety these
folks have in the presence of a video camera that captures their every
move, doesn’t necessarily offer them an image of how they appear to
other participants, and transmits their image to multiple sites in dis-
tant locations. Further, anyone the least bit technophobic tends to be
rendered practically nonfunctioning at the very thought of speaking
into a camera while perhaps needing to simultaneously control
screen image, camera projection, audio levels, and a computer. It’s
not a great formula for accelerated growth in use of the technology,
wouldn’t you agree? However, as travel costs increase along with pe-
ripheral costs associated with face-to-face meetings, the decreases in
cost in videoconference equipment and services inevitably will result
in more videoconferencing. Telecommuters naturally will be on the
forefront of this trend, so anticipate more “on camera” time in your
future.
Videoconference systems range from low-end versions using spe-
cial software and a camera mounted to your computer to more so-
phisticated, stand-alone systems with a dedicated computer,
high-speed modems, and ISDN or T-1 lines. There’s also a corre-
sponding range in video quality, audio reception, and, of course,
cost. For example, supporting a videoconference system with a slow
modem or single ISDN line will produce choppy video with obvious
audio delays. This can be so distracting and uncomfortable to some
people that videoconferencing loses its appeal and is seen as inferior
to audio-only teleconferencing or text-based Web conferencing.
202 101 Tips for Telecommuters
While the notion of real-time videoconferencing as an integral
part of telecommuting has great appeal, it is viable only if transmis-
sion speed is appropriate. Additionally, equipment and software
compatibility is critical. Videoconferencing is essentially an applica-
tion of computer technology, and you know how badly things work
when incompatible software or hardware is being used. While there
are some standard videoconferencing protocols, there is not a com-
monly used standard throughout the industry that ensures your abil-
ity to establish a videoconference link with just anyone (as you can
do almost universally with fax technology, in spite of great variation
in equipment and manufacturers).
If you will be using videoconference technology in spite of its lim-
itations, it offers many advantages over audio-only connections.
Provided the video quality is good, you can observe gestures, facial
expressions, and body language, all of which can enhance communi-
cation and strengthen distance relationships. To achieve this, how-
ever, you’ll need to be clear about how and with whom you’ll use
videoconferencing; and be careful to use a technology platform that’s
consistent with the equipment and software located at the sites you’ll
be connecting to. Once you have the appropriate software, hardware,
and transmission vehicle (e.g., ISDN, Internet) in place, be sure to
prepare people to effectively use this tool (Tip 65). Videoconferencing
promises to play an important and growing role in the life of a
telecommuter, so stay tuned!
¯If you’re currently using a videoconference system, consider
ways you can improve your use of the system and the effective-
ness of the videoconferences in which you participate. Talk to
your manager and the appropriate technology resource for your
company to explore equipment enhancements that will improve
the caliber of the videoconference system.
¯If your employer currently is not using videoconferences as a
way to connect telecommuters to other team members, initiate a
task force to investigate alternative systems, costs, and benefits.
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Working Well with Tools and Technology 203
96
Meet the Challenge of
Internet Connections
On some days, zooming along the Internet is more fiction than fact.
You may simply chug along because of:
• An antiquated modem that’s nowhere near ready to wear out,
but it’s still woefully outdated.
• Some kind of problem (that resembles something like a person-
ality clash) between your software and your computer.
• Access problems of unknown origin—you know only that the
phone company is sure that your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
is the cause and your ISP is certain it’s a problem at the phone
company.
Either way, you’re stuck and going nowhere fast. This is an unaccept-
able and exasperating situation for a telecommuter, since so much of
your connection to the world beyond your home office is likely to de-
pend on speedy navigation of the Internet. If you access your corpo-
rate e-mail, network, and Internet via the Web, you must have the
equipment, software, and services necessary to achieve speed and reli-
ability for your Internet connections. You also may rely on the Internet
for accessing resource information, news retrieval services, bulletin
boards, newsgroups, listserves, personal e-mail, and a wide range of
professional and industry sites and contacts that are critical to your
networking efforts. Therefore, reliable access to the Internet is vital to
your success (and ability to minimize stress) when you telecommute.
If you’re experiencing problems with your equipment and don’t
know (or want to know) the intricacies of modem performance specs,
consult your computer consultant, your corporate network team or
help-desk, or a knowledgeable resource in your network to get the
help you need. If you’re caught between your phone company and
your ISP, don’t count on them to work it out. When faced with similar
problems, I’ve arranged and mediated conference calls on several occa-
sions between technicians at my phone company and technicians with
other providers that access my phone lines. I didn’t always understand
everything (or, sometimes, much!) of what they were discussing, but I
made sure they talked voice-to-voice, I made sure everyone under-
stood how the problem was being experienced, and I didn’t let anyone
hang up until we reached “Eureka!” and found a solution.
204 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Unless you specialize in Internet access or happen to be an ex-
pert in Web technology, the range of alternatives available for access-
ing the Internet will make your head spin: broadband, asymmetrical
digital subscriber line (ADSL), integrated services digital network
(ISDN), cable modems, and anything else introduced between the
writing and reading of this information. The availability, cost, and
service offerings of ISPs varies widely. Therefore, you need to re-
search what’s available in your area, compare services against your
needs, evaluate initial and ongoing costs against your budget, and
choose the option that provides the best solution for you. If you are
not accessing the Internet through an ISP contracted by your em-
ployer, reference the following criteria when selecting an ISP:
• Local access so you’re not incurring toll charges from your
phone company.
• Plenty of access lines during peak usage times so you do not en-
counter busy signals.
• Reasonable cost (based on current prevailing rates) with unlim-
ited access.
• 24-hour (or close to it) technical support provided by real peo-
ple (no voice mail menus or automated fax services).
If your ISP is not delivering on the service commitments it made,
reevaluate your choices and get another one. At the same time, if the
limitations of your own system are keeping you off the high-speed
lanes, seriously consider upgrading your capabilities and equipment
to improve your ability to navigate the Internet with speed and skill.
¯Look for ways to achieve major or incremental improvements in
your access to the Internet.
¯Consider how your ISP, your equipment, and your own knowl-
edge and skills might be limiting your effectiveness and effi-
ciency with the Web.
¯Take steps to eliminate barriers and implement improvements.
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Working Well with Tools and Technology 205
97
Have Technology,
Will Travel
In the not-too-distant past, when you left your office to travel on
business, you pretty much “unplugged” from your normal activities
and communication. (You might remember how agonizing it was to
“catch up” after some of those extended road trips.) I can recall peo-
ple referring to themselves being “out of pocket” for the days they’d
be gone, and the implication was that regular work would cease,
voice-to-voice contact would be minimal at best, and mail would
simply pile up in in-baskets until the trip was over. Enter onto the
business scene a series of innovations to improve our access to infor-
mation and connectivity to everyone regardless of where we are: tele-
phone calling cards, lower longer distance rates, telefax technology,
and increasing access to readily available public fax machines, voice
mail, cellular phones, e-mail, notebook computers that continue
shrinking in size and weight, wireless Internet access, personal digi-
tal assistants, etc. It’s a whole new ball game, and road warriors run
the bases between on-line, real-time, and waste-no-time technology
solutions that make you feel as if you never really left home after all.
Most telecommuters have opportunities (some occasional, some
extremely frequent) to venture forth from their home-based offices
to join the ranks of road warriors who definitely are “plugged in”
while traveling, though the age of wireless technology is making the
reality of plugs in outlets increasingly obsolete. Travel is no longer a
reason (or an excuse) to miss a call, delay responses to voice mail,
overlook e-mail, or be a “no show” at a regular staff meeting. Of
course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t at times feel as if all this
technology is not only intrusive but a burden, as well.
While it’s great to have the ability to be so connected, anyone
who’s done any serious time as a road warrior knows you’re often
slogging through e-mail messages between a business dinner and
your much-needed night’s rest to prepare for your 6 A.M. departure
on yet another flight to another day of meetings . . . interspersed with
voice mail checks while walking to your airline gate . . . conference
calls during your lunch break . . . connecting to e-mail during breaks
from your meeting . . . so you can read all that e-mail during your
flight back home that night and transmit them from the e-mail link
the airline conveniently has added to the airphone service . . . allow-
206 101 Tips for Telecommuters
ing you to walk into your office the next morning completely caught
up . . . except for the 17 new voice mail messages and 34 new e-mail
messages that landed in your electronic in-boxes while you slept!!! If
you resonate with this scenario and/or feel a little weary just reading
it, you know it’s not much of an exaggeration.
Using technology when traveling should help you be more pro-
ductive, more connected, better informed and, hence, more effective.
If you let it overwhelm you or run amok in your attempts to manage
it all, you’ll be frustrated, tired, and resentful. So here’s my advice:
• Carry the minimum amount and lightest weight equipment nec-
essary.
=Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) can be a wonderful way to
streamline the information and technology essential to your
travels. If you don’t need the data or capacity of your note-
book computer, leave it.
=If you haven’t yet upgraded to a lightweight () 6 oz.) cellular
phone, talk to your cellular provider about how to do so. Get
one with a pager included and leave the pager on your desk.
=Do you really need that portable printer? Unless you’re going
someplace where the latest in technology innovation is an
electric toothbrush, it’s likely you’ll find a printer to plug
into at your hotel, at the airport business center, or at the
local printing/copy center (such as Kinko’s).
• Set aside specific times to process new (and critical) voice mail
and e-mail messages.
=Plan your day (even when your schedule is at the mercy of
the airline or train schedule) so you have designated times
blocked off for checking messages.
=Use any filtering mechanisms your systems offer for priori-
tizing messages by urgency or by sender.
=Delete anything that you don’t need to read.
=Be brief (and use minimalist courtesy).
• Give yourself a break from it occasionally.
=If you’re really tired, go to bed. (Your terse and insensitive e-
mail will only come back to haunt you.)
Working Well with Tools and Technology 207
=Set a goal to process a targeted number of e-mail messages
during your flight. If you hit your target before you’re re-
quired to stow your electronic equipment, go ahead . . . play
a game of solitaire or chess if it helps you relax or keep it all
in perspective.
=Allow the intrusion (and expense) of communication by air-
phone only when it’s really necessary. One of the few nice
things about being cooped up in an airplane for hours is the
relative detachment you have from all the madness on the
ground. Whenever you can, give yourself just a bit of seren-
ity for a little while. You might even benefit from time spent
cloud gazing!
·Pull out that well-worn travel bag and reevaluate what you stuff
into it when you travel.
·Is there a lighter way for you to go?
·Consider ways to downsize, eliminate, streamline, and simplify.
·At a minimum, evaluate your need for a PDA if you don’t have
one and think about what you really need versus what you auto-
matically just schlep along unnecessarily.
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98
If Talking to Yourself is Interesting,
Try Faxing to Yourself
When you find yourself in a situation where access to a printer is
limited or nonexistent, don’t forget the fax capability that may be res-
ident in your computer. This is often true when you’re in the “road
warrior” mode—at a hotel where the business center is closed or the
reception desk charges exorbitant rates to print a few pages. If your
208 101 Tips for Telecommuters
computer has the necessary software and modem (most machines
used by the typical road warrior have this function), simply fax your
document (from the comfort of your room) to yourself at the hotel
fax number. Most hotels do not charge for incoming faxes, and these
days hotels that cater to the business traveler often have top-quality,
plain-paper fax machines. (Many such hotels also have fax machines
in guest rooms; so, if you’re lucky enough to snatch one of these
rooms, you can use the same strategy without involving anyone from
the lobby.)
Voilà! Shortly after sending a fax to yourself, the message light
on your phone starts blinking. If you’re like some of us who work
into the wee hours of the morning, this is a particularly convenient
way to get your documents printed in the middle of the night. (By
the way, if you need multiple copies, send multiple faxes!) And if you
happen to be staying at an especially service-oriented hotel, someone
from the reception desk will gladly hand-deliver your printed docu-
ment to your room. When you’re frantically preparing for an impor-
tant meeting at 8 A.M. or you’re desperate to see the printed layout of
a report you need to e-mail before going to sleep, receiving faxes in
your hotel room at 2 A.M. will seem like a special treat. Trust me, it
can be better than 24-hour room service!
As most users of standard remote technology are aware, the capabili-
ties of our equipment (hardware and software) far exceed our typical
access of features and capabilities. (It’s somewhat analogous to the
vast capacities of the human brain that remain untapped.)
You can probably easily identify any number of capabilities of
your equipment that, if you took the time to activate these capabili-
ties, could make your life simpler or more efficient. So, find at least
two such capabilities (program the speed dials on your phone or fax,
learn how to send/receive faxes from your computer, install software
you’ve been meaning to install, learn how to use the scanning feature
on your fax machine, commit to using one of the database manage-
ment programs you have access to, etc.).
Select the two capabilities that could be most advantageous to
your work, and begin to let those capabilities work for you.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Working Well with Tools and Technology 209
99
Protect Your Equipment
(and Your Livelihood)
After hours of research, comparison shopping, poring over manuals,
installing equipment, talking with help-desk technicians, finding and
installing lights, rearranging furniture, working with the telephone
company, and coordinating with the electrician, you will have amassed
a significant investment in capital equipment and personal energy to
create the optimal office solution for your telecommuting needs. And
it’s an investment you need to protect from loss, damage, and down-
time, since your ability to work productively undoubtedly depends on
the continued availability of your technology tools and other valuable
equipment and resources. Beyond the inconvenience and impact on
your business, the cost of replacement may be quite significant for
many of the items in your office. With this in mind, be proactive about
protecting your investments, and don’t be lulled into complacency or
avoidance with “I don’t have time to think about it” or “It could never
happen to me” thinking. Go beyond thinking about it and do some
planning, followed by some quick action, on the following:
• Warranties. Always investigate the warranty options with your
equipment purchases. In cases where the equipment is critical
(such as your primary computer or the high-end color printer
without which your output drastically diminishes), consider ex-
tended warranties that may include on-site service and/or
equipment replacement within one business day.
• Power supply. All valuable equipment should operate on batter-
ies, circuits, or power strips that guarantee surge protection.
• Fire protection. At a minimum, install fire and smoke alarms.
Sprinklers may be cost-prohibitive, but you could consider a
compromise with fire/smoke alarms connected to your security
system (which automatically signals a fire alarm and gets emer-
gency services rolling). Don’t forget about fire avoidance: use of
extension cords, overloading circuits, old wiring that you may
be overworking, stacks of paper, use of portable heaters, etc.
(Tip 17). Also, buy a fire extinguisher for your office, especially
if you smoke or use flammable materials for your work.
• Security. Depending on the value of your business assets, the lo-
cation of your office (in terms of visibility and access from the
210 101 Tips for Telecommuters
street), and the crime rate in your neighborhood, it may be ad-
visable to install a security system in your office. Systems range
from motion detectors that sound a local alarm to hard-wired
motion and intrusion sensors that send a signal to a central se-
curity facility or directly to your local police. Don’t forget the
basic security measures you should take (whether or not you
have an installed security system): lock doors and windows; use
internal lights on timers and external lights activated by motion;
and don’t let mail, newspapers, and packages pile up at your
door when you’re away.
• Insurance. In the event that other protection measures fail, an
act of God blows the roof off your house, or that wonderful old
shade tree just outside your window falls through your office, it
would be handy to have property insurance for the contents of
your office. Your employer may be able to easily provide cover-
age against certain perils for the company-owned equipment in
your home office. Otherwise, talk with your insurance agent re-
garding a rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy; most
such policies will not cover business equipment and property
without a special provision. The additional cost is likely to be
worth the investment in light of the value you stand to lose in
the event of any unexpected unpleasantness. (Don’t forget to
also investigate additional insurance coverage you may require
for liability, especially if you have co-workers, clients, or sub-
contractors visiting your home office.)
! Evaluate the security of your office and take immediate steps to
retrofit locks on any doors or windows without adequate locks.
! Think about how your office (and your home) looks when
you’re away: Does it invite interest from potential intruders?
! Request a security audit by your local police department (often
available at no expense) to get a professional and objective per-
spective.
! Consider investing in a security system to provide the level of
protection you need.
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Working Well with Tools and Technology 211
100
So, Do You Really Need a
Speakerphone in the Bathroom?
There was a cartoon published a few years ago that depicted the typ-
ical “wired” businessperson on vacation at the beach, completely
tethered to all the equipment we thought would free us: telephone,
computer, fax machine, printer, etc. Now, of course, cellular phones,
PDAs, and computers are wireless, so you can still be technologically
tethered on vacation, in your car, during time with your family, on
airplanes, in your home, at social events, on the weekend, or just
about anywhere (if you’re not careful). How do you determine when
technology threatens your work/life balance? For all the advantages
we gain from the gizmology that makes telecommuting possible,
there are some downsides you should be aware of and manage proac-
tively.
What are the warning signs that you may be overdoing the use of
technology in your work and your life? The key indicator is you.
Here are some warning flags to look for:
¦You’re in a restaurant or other public place and a cell phone or
pager starts signaling. It’s not unusual for several people to
begin checking their pockets or briefcases to see whether the
signal is coming from their equipment. If you’re scrambling to
determine which of your multiple pieces of wireless technology
it is, you’re probably packing too much technology for one per-
son.
¦You have a growing awareness of knots in your stomach or
barely perceptible waves of anxiety activated by sounds of your
technology interrupting you when you’re supposed to be away
from work, relaxing, spending time with friends or family, etc.
While occasional interference (during the closing of the fiscal
year or the critical phase of a major project, for example) might
be expected, the persistent and increasing level of interruptions
could demotivate, discourage, or eventually depress you.
¦If you find yourself yearning for the days when no one could
communicate with you while you were on board an airplane,
train, or ship; commuting to work; on vacation; shopping; at a
sporting event; or enjoying an evening of Monopoly with your
kids, you may need to re-establish some new boundaries that
212 101 Tips for Telecommuters
are “technology proof.” For example, turn off the pager and cell
phone at the end of the work day, do not carry your PDA to the
PTA meeting, and have at least one vacation a year that’s “com-
puter-free.”
Your family or friends might wave a few warning flags of their own.
If you’re a highly motivated, goal-focused, and driven type of person,
you may just love having so much instant connection with your
work, your clients, your co-workers, and your income opportunities.
However, it may be “overload” for those who love and care about you
and a source of stress and anger for them. If the intrusion of technol-
ogy in your life becomes detrimental to your personal relationships,
it’s time to take note, reevaluate your priorities and readjust your
behavior.
On the other hand, if technology will truly help you, go for it!
Case in point: If you need a speakerphone in the bathroom, don’t
hesitate to install one! Yes, I have one. It’s a vestige of my last corpo-
rate telecommuting stint when a member of my team persisted (in
spite of requests and coaching to the contrary) in leaving inordi-
nately long and detailed voice mail messages. I finally realized that:
(1) this person’s behavior was not likely to change without some type
of personality change; (2) I wasn’t in the personality counseling busi-
ness and needed the contributions of this team member; (3) it was
up to me to find a way to work around this obstacle. The speaker-
phone in my bathroom was the solution. After installing it, I produc-
tively completed my teeth/hair/make-up routine each morning to the
accompaniment of those lengthy voice mail messages that were out
of my in-box by the time I reached my office. Of course, I don’t have
speakerphones in every bathroom in my house, nor is it a technology
tool necessary for most people under most circumstances.
All of this is very much a delicate balance in that your comfort
with and acceptance of technology as an integral part of your work
life is critical to your success as a telecommuter. And unless you
completely compartmentalize your life (not terribly feasible any-
way), technology really becomes part of your entire life. By all
means, use whatever technology makes your life simpler, more inte-
grated, more efficient, or more fun. Just be certain those technologi-
cal tools that enable your success as a telecommuter do not also
compromise your balance, peace of mind, sense of satisfaction or pri-
mary relationships.
Working Well with Tools and Technology 213
Are you using technology to its best advantage in your life? Are there
new or upgraded tools you can acquire (e.g., integrated digital
phone/pager, PDA) that will simplify your life, lighten your load
when you’re away from the office, or save you precious time?
If you haven’t done so for a while, browse through some catalogs,
magazines, Web sites, or retail outlets that cater to the technological
needs of telecommuters, virtual offices, or road warriors. Assess your
current technology needs and consider how new technology tools
(or new ways of using your existing tools) can help you.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
101
Make Telecommuting
Work Well for You
When I reflect on why telecommuting has been so valuable to me—
to my happiness, sense of balance, emotional and psychological well-
being—several thoughts come to mind. Initially, though, I’m struck
by the reminiscent feeling of leaving my house early in the morning
before the sun crested the horizon, knowing I wouldn’t return to my
little sanctum of serenity until it was dark again. In those days BT
(before telecommuting), I didn’t consciously yearn to:
• Eliminate the commute (it’s something you just get used to and
accept);
• Spend more time in my home, which seemed (when office days
were combined with my travel days) more like a hotel than a
place to nurture a full, balanced, enriched and more multidi-
mensional life.
• Give up wearing the corporate “look” (in spite of the expense
and hassle of it all).
No, it was more subtle than that. Slowly I began to tire of the utter
inefficiency of:
214 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• My morning routine (hair, make-up, suit/dress, jewelry).
• A fairly nonproductive commute time (although I made the best
of it as I honed my mobile multi-tasking skills!).
• LONG days in the office that seemed consistent primarily for
the excessive number of meetings, interruptions and working
lunches that left minimal time for handling the growing
mounds of mail, messages, and assignments that required fo-
cused time.
At some indiscernible point, I moved from (1) growing dissatisfac-
tion with the way work was integrated into my life (or, more point-
edly, the way work consumed my life), to (2) an awareness that
something needed to change, to (3) a determination to make a
change and to craft a life that more appropriately integrated and bal-
anced work with other priorities. This all led to my conviction that
working from home was the solution, and I moved in a direction that
was more open to possibilities and opportunities for telecommuting.
Was it easy? No! (Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!) I learned
how to make telecommuting work for me through trial and error.
I’ve also learned that you don’t have to make the mistakes and false
starts I did. Many of the secrets of telecommuting success can be
shared, and that led to the reason for this book. You, too, can find
ways to work from home successfully IF you have a determination to
achieve telecommuting success and a plan to ensure your effective-
ness.
I believe the determination it takes emanates from a clear focus
on what’s important in your life (Tip 2), as well as a clear under-
standing of how to be successful in your job (Tip 3). Other skills,
tools, systems, processes and procedures (Tips 4–100) enable your
ability to support your determination and vision. The combination
of all of these is the key to your success as a telecommuter!
A small sign sits on the windowsill next to my desk. It has trav-
eled with me through many jobs and has always been visible from
the desk of any office I’ve occupied. My little sign summarizes my be-
lief about your potential success as a telecommuter if you apply the
knowledge available to you:
ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE
Working Well with Tools and Technology 215
Use the following TELECOMMUTING IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE
according to your individual needs and circumstances. Remember
that few great things ever occur without a plan!
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E
216 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Use the Telecommuting Implementation
Guide as a:
• Tool to help you assess the steps you’ll
need to take and resources you’ll need to
become an effective telecommuter.
• Start-up guide to “jump start” your
telecommuting success.
• Template by which you can evaluate your
current telecommuting practices and
identify any areas of concern, need or op-
portunity for improvement.
If you are:
• Thinking about
becoming a
telecommuter.
• Ready to begin
telecommuting.
• Already a
telecommuter.
Telecommuting Implementation Guide
This guide is designed to help you achieve telecommuting efficiency
and effectiveness. It will assist you in identifying factors that con-
tribute to your success as a telecommuter and in designing a plan to
accelerate your move from telecommuting novice to being a high-
performing, competent, and confident telecommuter. If you have al-
ready begun telecommuting, this guide will help you fine-tune your
ability to become more focused, effective, efficient, prosperous, and
satisfied as a telecommuter.
E Your Telecommuting Success Potential
=Use the Telecommuter Self-Assessment Checklist (Tip 1)
to identify any potential barriers, areas of concern, or
possible difficulties for you as a telecommuter (Personal
Traits/Preferences) or in connection with your job (Job
Appropriateness).
=Evaluate the impact any obstacles may have on your effec-
tiveness and satisfaction as a telecommuter.
=Take measures to eliminate barriers and take action to ensure
that all success factors are thoroughly addressed.
E The Telecommuting Agreement
Whether you are persuading your employer to support your
telecommuting arrangement (Appendix A) or you’re part of a
corporate initiative that’s mandated the telecommuting program,
agreements between you and your employer should be thor-
oughly discussed and clearly documented. Issues that should be
covered by the agreement include:
217
= Terms & Conditions
· Nature and scope of the telecommuting arrangement.
· Limitations and rights associated with the telecommuting
arrangement.
· Clarification of the employee’s job function, title, compen-
sation and benefits, as well as a statement specifying that
these are not altered by the telecommuting arrangement.
· Costs (e.g., telephone installation and service, equipment,
Internet/cable connection fees, post office box, or mailbox
fees, etc.) the employer will and will not reimburse in
connection with telecommuting.
· Insurance coverage the employer will provide, as well as
any coverage the employee is expected to purchase.
· Rights and limitations of workers’ compensation coverage
for accidents in the home office.
· On-site office inspections the employer will have the right
to make.
= Employee Expectations
· The employee’s specific and measurable accountabilities,
including measurement methods and projected review
dates.
· Number of days the employee will telecommute.
· Specific days or number of days in an established time-
frame that the employee will be in the main office or in a
satellite office.
· Hours of availability the employee will maintain in the
off-site office.
· Frequency with which the employee will be in contact
with the office via e-mail, voice mail, etc.
· Any minimum standards regarding office configuration,
safety, and security features.
= Communication Plans
· Alternative methods by which the employee will maintain
communication with co-workers and others.
· Frequency with which the employee and supervisor will
talk, meet face-to-face, review results.
218 101 Tips for Telecommuters
· Type and frequency of meetings the employee will attend
as a remote or on-site participant.
· The plan for communicating the telecommuting arrange-
ment to and securing commitments of cooperation from
co-workers and support teams.
· Projected timeframe and process for review of the
telecommuting arrangement and for making any neces-
sary adjustments to the agreement.
= Equipment
· Specific equipment the employee will purchase, provide
and maintain at his/her own expense.
· Specific equipment the employer will provide, service,
and maintain, including how such equipment should be
procured.
· Restrictions on the personal use of company equipment or
supplies located in the employee’s home office.
· Ownership rights the employer maintains over equip-
ment, software, reference materials, supplies, etc. and how
such property will be returned in the event of termination
of employment.
E Your Family Agreements (Tips 31, 35, 42, 44, 47)
Meet with your family to discuss reasons for your telecommuting
arrangement, the nature of your work and your need for their co-
operation, flexibility, and support. Specifically, be sure to have
clear agreements regarding the issues listed below. Also, discuss
issues in a way that establishes openness in sharing feelings, ask-
ing for and responding to concerns, seeking input and sugges-
tions, asking for agreement and commitment, and making a
specific commitment to have follow-up discussions.
= The reasons and need for telecommuting
= Acceptance of the in-home office
= Location of the office
= Need for privacy and absence of distractions
= Handling of childcare
= Limitations on use of company equipment and materials
= Support for the telecommuting arrangement
Telecommuting Implementation Guide 219
= Acceptance of the telecommuter’s presence in the home
throughout the day
= Justification and process for interruptions
= Answering of phones
= Process for handling disagreements and concerns
E Office location and layout (Tips 12, 13, 15, 16)
= Consistent with zoning or lease limitations
= Adequate space
= Room to expand
= Adequate storage
= Separate from home area
= Sufficient distance from distractions and noise
= Comfortable and pleasant
= Excellent lighting
= Sufficient ventilation
= Adequate number of electrical circuits
= Layout to promote efficiency and smooth work flow
E Equipment, furniture, and supplies (Tips 83, 85)
Not all items listed below are applicable in every situation. Use
this guide to select those tools and resources you need to support
your job, your office, your efficiency, and your personal work
style.
E Technology Resources (Tips 87, 88)
= Computer, desktop
= Monitor
= Glare filter
= Mouse or trackball
= Port replicator/docking station
= High-speed modem
= Adapters (for car lighter or cell phone)
= Document holder
= Personal pager
= Fax machine (dedicated or multi-purpose)
220 101 Tips for Telecommuters
= Computer, notebook
= Keyboard
= Printer(s)
= Scanner
= Zip drive
= External disk or CD-rom drive
= Surge protection/power strips
= Copier
= Personal digital assistant
= Calculator
E Equipment—Miscellaneous (Tips 89, 92)
= Telephones & accessories
= Lamps and lights
= Hole punch
= Pencil sharpener
= Disk and CD holders
= Flashlight
= White board or paper easel
= Rolodex
= Utility knife
= Paper shredder
= Headset
= Microcassette or small recorder
= Transcription machine
= Label maker
= Typewriter
= Paper cutter
= Letter opener
= Postage scale or meter
= Clocks
= Rulers
E Furniture (Tips 88, 93)
= Desk
Telecommuting Implementation Guide 221
= Computer work station
= Shelves
= Storage cabinet
= Carpeting
= Trash cans
= Chair
= File cabinets
= Bookcases
= Printer/fax/copier stands
= Chair/floor mats
= Cork, bulletin, or white board
E Supplies (Tip 85)
= Toner and ink cartridges
= File folders and labels, varied colors
= Labels (shipping, filing)
= Pens, pencils, markers
= Tape, various types with dispensers
= Rubber bands
= Paper weight
= Trash cans
= Paper towels/tissues
= Spare batteries
= Stamps
= Paper (various sizes and colors)
= Envelopes, varied sizes
= Scissors
= Staplers, staples, and staple remover
= Paper and binder clips
= Self-stick notes (various sizes and colors)
= Rubber stamps
= Desk accessories and organizers
= Calendars
= Binders/folders
222 101 Tips for Telecommuters
223
Appendices
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“Make a Case for Telecommuting”
Guide
You may be interested in telecommuting and ready to experiment
with it before your employer has given it much consideration. While
this circumstance is not uncommon, you certainly can increase your
odds of gaining approval for telecommuting by being uncommonly
prepared in the way you propose and plan your telecommuting ar-
rangement. Depending upon your company, your job, your boss, and
the current state of business at your company, you may need to have
several meetings with people from various departments, as well as
numerous discussions with your boss.
Bear in mind, also, that while your boss may be very supportive,
you may need to supply additional information for your boss to use
in persuading other managers or executives to approve your pro-
posal. This may involve meetings, presentations, and written (as well
as rewritten!) proposals. To streamline and focus your effort, use the
following guidelines for exploring and initiating an implementation
of telecommuting for your job. (Consult the addendum to this
Appendix for additional information on the telecommuting trend.)
1. Plan and prepare with corporate benefits in mind
Your “frame of reference” for your approach, rationale, and spe-
cific plans should be based on what’s in the best interest of your job,
your manager, your company, and your customers. Therefore, while
many of your reasons for wanting to telecommute might be personal
and relate to advantages you and your family will realize, it’s critical
that you focus on the numerous advantages telecommuting also of-
fers your employer, such as:
• Increased productivity
• Lower real estate space costs
225
Appendix A
• Reduced equipment/furniture costs
• Reduced employee turnover
• Reduced absenteeism
• Increased customer satisfaction
• Improved morale
• Improved work/life balance
• Legislative compliance
• More recruitment options
• Results-oriented management
• Effective use of meetings
• Increased flexibility
• Increased employment of women
• Increased employment of disabled workers
• Reduced travel costs
• Access to part-time or retired employees
• Competitive advantages
• Access to additional labor pools to address skill shortages
Tailor the benefits you present to the specific needs of your em-
ployer, citing corporate initiatives and “hot buttons” that are ad-
dressed by telecommuting. Where possible, provide specific
examples of projected cost savings, comparative advantages realized
by similar organizations, or detailed examples of ways productivity
measures will improve as a result of telecommuting for your job. If
there are particular problems your company currently is facing (e.g.,
shortage of space) that telecommuting can impact immediately and
directly, be sure to highlight these. At a minimum, you should be
able to cite specific improvements in productivity that will result and
translate these into a dollar amount your employer can expect to
save. (Consult Appendix B for research resources available through
various Web sites.)
2. Explain why you will be an effective telecommuter
Provide a list of personal traits for telecommuting success (Tip 1)
and review how you meet the criteria. Explain in detail why you are
226 101 Tips for Telecommuters
a good candidate for telecommuting. You can include some of your
personal reasons for wanting to telecommute, although your primary
emphasis should remain on the business reasons and advantages
telecommuting offers the business enterprise.
3. Explain how you will make telecommuting work
Describe in detail how you will handle your:
• Major job accountabilities
• Daily tasks
• Key co-worker relationships
• Interactions previously handled as face-to-face
Provide a detailed summary of your:
• Projected daily schedule
• Measurable results and methods to report achievement of goals
on a routine basis
• Alternative methods for keeping in touch and maintaining your
accessibility to co-workers, managers, vendors, and clients
• Support from other departments and functions from whom
you’ve secured commitment (e.g., information systems/com-
puter support, telecommunications, real estate, human re-
sources/ personnel, marketing, accounting)
• Location and layout of the home office space you will use
• Plan for handling childcare, family care and other family-related
issues
• Projected equipment needs (and estimated costs for equip-
ment/supplies to be provided by your employer)
4. Suggest a telecommuting pilot
If your boss or others are not ready to “take the plunge” and ap-
prove your permanent transition to telecommuting, propose a
telecommuting pilot to gather more information, uncover unex-
pected problems, and identify additional ways to enhance productiv-
ity. For example, you might suggest that you telecommute one day
each week for two months. Be sure, however, to have the pilot details
“Make a Case for Telecommuting” Guide 227
clearly documented, as well as an agreement on the criteria for eval-
uating success of the pilot. Your pilot proposal should include any
projected costs (e.g., phone line installation or phone expenses for
use of your home phone line, purchase or loan of a notebook com-
puter, etc.).
Bear in mind that any pilot program, while measures may be
clearly established, may give you less than stellar results. While it
may be appropriate for your employer not to make any major invest-
ments in equipment, systems, training, or communication, this also
will negatively impact the pilot results. For example, remote access
to your corporate network or server may be cumbersome and may
negatively impact your projected productivity improvements.
Consider these factors when evaluating pilot results and use them as
instructive points in the proposed design for your proposed telecom-
muting plan.
At the conclusion of the telecommuting pilot, present the results
by reviewing the established criteria and measurements, any obsta-
cles or concerns, and any unexpected results. Revise your original
proposal and plan to resubmit or re-present it with the inclusion of
pilot results. If the pilot achieved acceptable results and/or affordable
solutions to overcome obstacles can be proposed, make a formal
request for approval of an expanded or permanent telecommuting
arrangement.
228 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Addendum to Appendix A
The Telecommuting Trend
As a telecommuter, you’re part of one of the most significant and ex-
citing trends impacting the workplace. A wide range of organizations
are actively utilizing telecommuting as both an alternative and an en-
hancement to traditional approaches to conducting business. The
number of people who telecommute continues to increase each year.
Organizations, both large and small, throughout the United States
employ more than 11 million telecommuters. Recent studies esti-
mate there are now more than 50 million home-based workers, in-
cluding full-time and part-time home-based business owners, as well
as telecommuters.
What Is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting redefines the workplace to enable people to work
from home or from other locations during a portion of the work
week. There is a continuum of options available to individuals and
organizations that want to realize the benefits of telecommuting.
This range of options takes into consideration amounts of time spent
working in an office, at home or other remote locations.
229
T E L E C O M M U T I N G C O N T I N U U M
Informal
Telecommuting
Part-time
Telecommuting
Hoteling Telecenter Telecenter/
Telecommute
Full-time
Telecommuting
If you’re an informal telecommuter, you may work at home oc-
casionally (e.g., when you need to be there to meet a service
provider, tend to a sick child, avoid a major traffic or weather obsta-
cle, etc.). Also, many people routinely work at home in the evenings
or on weekends just to “catch up” or keep on top of time-sensitive
projects. The expanded use of voice mail, e-mail, laptop computers,
and cellular phones has facilitated this dynamic (or this intrusion, as
some might think). Nevertheless, there’s an undeniable increase in
work-related activity occurring in our homes during nonwork hours.
Part-time telecommuters blend their on-site work days with
work-at-home days, usually telecommuting only a day every week or
two. These arrangements can be structured to involve specific
telecommute days (e.g., every other Friday) or can be variable, de-
pending upon individual and organizational needs.
Your “on-site” time as a telecommuter can involve a range of op-
tions that may include work days in the corporate office, a field of-
fice, a client site, a vendor site, a conference room at an airport, or
some other remote location. There may be a dedicated office space
for you in the traditional workplace, such as your “cube” at corpo-
rate. However, with the increase in telecommuting and the impera-
tive to curtail spiraling real estate costs, many organizations are
opting to utilize hoteling or other alternative officing arrangements
to support telecommuters. With hoteling, telecommuters have a
temporary office available for their use while in the office. The range
of services may include personalized phone extensions to which
your calls are automatically transferred, personal files that are moved
into your temporary office on the days you’re scheduled to be there,
and assistance from a “concierge” for scheduling and coordination of
on-site support.
Some organization and branches of the federal government have
established telecenters, which often serve as regional or suburban-
based work hubs. These afford workers the opportunity to minimize
commuting time to corporate offices while offering the advantages of
shared facilities, team interaction opportunities, and less reliance on
a home-based work arrangement. Some telecommuters combine
their work-at-home days with on-site days at the telecenter, provid-
ing even greater flexibility by blending the telecenter/telecommute
options.
Although the balance between on-site work days and home-
230 101 Tips for Telecommuters
based work days may find some telecommuters working primarily
from home, full-time telecommuting is very rare and difficult. Few
jobs are conducive to practically no on-site time or interaction op-
portunities with co-workers. In reality, full-time telecommuters are
typically those for whom the home office is their primary work loca-
tion (that is, where they typically do their work; receive mail, faxes,
phone calls, and voice mail; participate in virtual meetings and, per-
haps, some face-to-face meetings). These telecommuters, along with
others who work from home less frequently, don’t function in isola-
tion. On-site meetings and face-to-face interactions are still a neces-
sary part of work, and telecommuters are simply more selective
about when such “live” interactions are essential. Telecommuters
and the organizations with which they work take advantage of avail-
able technology to supplement face-to-face meetings with other cre-
ative ways to meet the needs of the organization, employees, and
customers.
Who Telecommutes?
The types of job areas conducive to telecommuting are varied and
continually expanding. While there are hundreds of corporate job ti-
tles that are applicable, the positions or job categories most typically
involved in telecommuting include: computer professionals, writers,
administrative support, customer service, writing/communications
specialists, sales representatives, trainers, management, professional
line staff, research analysts, and data processing staff.
Beyond identifying the right JOBS for telecommuting, successful
telecommuting programs ensure that the right PEOPLE are selected.
Those who successfully telecommute have a unique combination of
motivation and skills that are critical to their success as telecom-
muters. Determining who the right people are and developing their
skills for telecommuting are the key differentiators in a highly suc-
cessful telecommuting program.
According to the experiences of numerous organizations, suc-
cessful telecommuters typically possess the following characteristics,
traits, and skills:
• Planning and organizing abilities
• Time management skills
Addendum to Appendix A 231
• Independence (works successfully without close supervision)
• Low affiliation needs
• Strong communication skills (written and verbal)
• Supportive family/home environment
• Self-motivated
• Self-disciplined
• Strong performance record
• Technical ability/high job knowledge
• Strong work ethic
• Computer proficiency (hardware, software, peripherals)
In addition to fitting this typical profile, prospective telecommuters
should think twice about telecommuting if they:
• Have high affiliation needs
• Must be in an “office” to be motivated to work
• Are easily distracted by household demands (tasks, family, etc.)
• Do not have a supportive/cooperative family situation
• Do not have reliable child care arrangements during work hours
Wherever there are telecommuters, there are usually telemanagers.
Distance managing requires so many of the skills and abilities that
are critical to the evolving role of manager/supervisor to
leader/coach. If you are functioning as a telemanager, keep in mind
the following characteristics, traits, and skills that will contribute to
your effectiveness:
• Performance management based on results
• Effective interpersonal communication (face-to-face and via
technology)
• Honor commitments (face-to-face or phone meetings)
• Effective coaching/feedback skills
• Relationships built on mutual trust
• Planning and organizing
• Openness to change
• Computer proficiency
232 101 Tips for Telecommuters
• Ability to effectively telecommute or understand the basic crite-
ria for successful telecommuting
Making Telecommuting Work
Telecommuting, supported by the phenomenal increase in availabil-
ity of cost-effective technology, is a workplace alternative that is here
to stay. The convergence of economic, legislative, social, and family
imperatives will foster the expansion of telecommuting as a viable
work option. Therefore, organizations that want to prosper and peo-
ple who want to maintain their proficiency will learn how to make
telecommuting work well.
Addendum to Appendix A 233
Telecommuting Resource Guide
Inclusion of resources and information in this guide does not imply
an endorsement by either the publisher or the author.
E Associations
American Telecommuting Association
www.knowledgetree.com/ata-tai.html
yourATA@aol.com
800.282.4968
Home Office Association of America
www.hoaa.com
HOAA@aol.com
800.809.4622
10 Gracie Station, Box 806
New York, NY 10028-0082
International Telework Assocation and Council
www.telecommute.org
TAC4DC@aol.com
202.547.6157
204 E. Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
Canadian Telecommuting Association
www.Ivc.ca
info@ivc.ca
613.225.5588
52 Stonebriar Drive
Nepean, Ontario, Canada K2G 5X9
234
Appendix B
Newsletters/Magazines
Home Office Computing
www.smalloffice.com
Home Office Connections
www.hoaa.com
Telecommuting
www.telecommuting.about.com
Telecommute
www.telecommutemagazine.com
info@telecommutemagazine.com
The Telecommuting Review
www.gilgordon.com
Conferences
alt.office Conference & Exposition
www.altoffice.com
prusso@mfi.com
800.950.1314
International Telework Association & Council (ITAC) Conference
www.telecommute.org
800.942.4978
Telework America
www.telecommute.org
TAC4DC@aol.com
202.547.6157
On-line Resources and Web Sites
For telecommuters and home-based workers:
ALLearnatives
®
www.allearnatives.com
info@allearnatives.com
724.934.9349
The Disability Connection
www.apple.com/education/k12/disability
Telecommuting Resource Guide 235
Fleming LTD
www.mother.com/dfleming
dfleming@mother.com
530.756.6430
Gil Gordon Associates
www.gilgordon.com
gilgordon@compuserve.com
732.329.2266
Goin’ SOHO!
www.chiefhomeofficer.com
jeff@goinsoho.com
954.346.4393
JALA International, Inc.
www.jala.com
jala@ix.netcom.com
310.476.3703
June Langhoff’s Telecommuting Resource Center
www.langhoff.com
Telecommuting Safety & Health Benefits Institute
www.gilgordon.com/telecommutesafe
rijohnso@orednet.org
Telecommuting Success, Inc.
www.telsuccess.com
info@telsuccess.com
303.660.8135
TELEWORKanalytics international, inc
www.teleworker.com
tai@teleworkers.com
888.353.9496
Working Solo, Inc.
www.workingsolo.com
office@workingsolo.com
914.255.7165
236 101 Tips for Telecommuters
For road warriors:
efax.com www.efax.com
Mobile Computing www.mobilecomputing.com
Mobile Insights www.mobileinsights.com/mobileletter.html
Road Warrior International www.warrior.com
For telecommuting job seekers:
Telecommuting Jobs www.tjobs.com
The Mining Co. www.telecommuting.about.com/msub3.htm
Office Supplies/Services
Kinko’s www.kinkos.com 800.2KINKOS
Mailboxes Etc. www.mbe.com 800.789.4MBE
Office Depot www.officedepot.com 888.GO-DEPOT
Pitney Bowes www.pitneybowes.com/soho 800.5Pitney
Office Equipment Outlet www.oeo.com 800.553.2112
OfficeMax www.officemax.com 800.283.7674
Staples www.staples.com 800.3STAPLE
Express/Shipping Services
Airborne Express www.airborne.com 800.AIRBORNE
Federal Express www.fedex.com 800.GoFedEx
U.S. Postal Service www.usps.gov
DHL Worldwide Express www.dhl.com 800.CALL-DHL
United Parcel Service www.ups.com 800.PICK-UPS
Information Services
Federal government statistics www.fedstats.gov
Information Please www.infoplease.com
Virtual Reference Desk www.refdesk.com
Roget’s Thesaurus www.thesaurus.com
Hoover’s www.hoovers.com
OneLook Dictionaries www.onelook.com
Internet Service Providers www.thelist.com
Telecommuting Resource Guide 237
E Additional Reading About Telecommuting
and Home-based Work
Digital Nomad, by Tsugio Makimoto, et al. (John Wiley & Sons,
1997)
Flexible Work, by Edna Murphy (Prentice Hall, 1996)
Home but Not Alone: The Parents’ Work-At-Home Handbook, by
Katherine Murray (Jist Works, 1997)
Home Office Know-How, by Jeffery D. Zbar (Upstart Publishing,
1998)
The Home Office Solution: How to Work at Home & Have a Personal
Life Too, by Alice Bredin, et al. (John Wiley & Sons, 1998)
The Joy of Working from Home, by Jeff Berner (Berrett-Koehler
Publishers, Inc., 1994)
Managing Telework : Strategies for Managing the Virtual Workforce, by
Jack M. Nilles (John Wiley & Sons, 1998)
An Organizational Guide to Telecommuting, by George M. Piskurich
(American Society for Training & Development, 1998)
Organizing Your Home Office for Success, by Lisa A. Kanarek (Blakely
Press, 1998)
Telecommute! Go to Work Without Leaving Home, by Lisa Shaw
(John Wiley & Sons, 1996)
The Telecommuter’s Advisor: Working in the Fast Lane, by June
Langhoff (Aegis Publishing, 1996)
Telecommuting: A Manager’s Guide to Flexible Work Arrangements, by
Joel Kugelmass (Lexington Books, 1995)
Teleworking: In Brief, by Mike Johnson (Butterworth-Heinemann,
1997)
Tips for Your Home Office (Enhancing Your Life at Home), by
Meredith Gould (Storey Books, 1998)
The Ultimate Home Office Survival Guide, by Sunny Baker, et al.
(Peterson Guides, 1998)
Work-at-Home Balancing Act: The Professional Resource Guide for
Managing Yourself, Your Work, by Sandy Anderson (Avon Books,
1998)
Working Smarter from Home: Your Day—Your Way, by Nancy J.
Struck (Crisp Publications Inc., 1995)
238 101 Tips for Telecommuters
Index
239
absence, leave of, 81–82
accessibility
communicating your, 119–120,
122
distance delegation, 123–124
privacy, 195–196
service providers, 147–148
telephone options, 193–195,
206–208
tools for improving, 108–109
accounting, bartering, 162–163
acknowledgments
co-workers, 107
good performance, 159–162
service providers, 151
support staff, 104–106
activities
assessing rate of return, 115
entertaining children, 77
“isolation busters”, 56–57
learning to say “No”, 135–136
activity creep, distractions, 19–20
address, official office, 35–36
administrivia, controlling, 27–28
ADSL (asymmetrical digital sub-
scriber line), Internet access,
205
advertising, office security, 138
agent, purchasing, 142–146
agreements
bartering, 163
conflict resolution, 130
establishing clear, 126–128
family negotiations, 67–69
legal assistance, 152–153
live interactions, 122
office sharing, 137
performance goals, 125–126
performance measurement,
15–16
service providers, 147–151
shared office space, 95
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 217–218
airphone, accessibility, 208
analysis
computer system, 184–186
Internet options, 205
office equipment, 173–175
office systems, 142–146
telephone systems, 189–192
answering systems
messages, 91–92
telephone equipment, 192
appreciation
good performance, 159–162
service providers, 151
support staff, 104–106
assessment, self, 6–9
associations
isolation, 168–170
networking, 111–112
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
234–235
asymmetrical digital subscriber line
(ADSL), Internet access, 205
attire, office, 41–42
attorney, contracts and agreements,
152–153
automatic redial, telephone fea-
tures, 190
240 Index
back-up
childcare arrangements, 74–75
e-mail, 118
file locations, 28
office systems, 175–178
service providers, 147–148
support services, 142
balance
accessibility and privacy,
195–196
children and work, 79–81
energy patterns, 47
guilt feelings, 89–90
isolation, 55–57
technology use, 212–214
work breaks, 52–53
work and other priorities,
214–215
workaholism, 20–22
barriers, identifying, 7–9
bartering, services, 162–163
benefits, corporate, 225–226
boss, communication with your,
103–104
boundaries
between life and work, 89–90
technology proof, 212–213
breaks
distractions, 71–72
energy patterns, 47
motivation, 23
multi-tasking, 54
personal health, 51–53
snack, 45–46
broadband, Internet access, 205
calendaring
delegated projects, 123–124
follow-up, 167
tracking systems, 25–26
call forwarding
accessibility, 193–194
telephone services, 191
call timer, telephone features, 191
call waiting, telephone services, 190
caller ID
interruptions, 108
telephone features, 190
career, management, 62–64,
113–114
cellular phone
accessibility, 193–195
business calls, 91
telephone system back-up,
176–177
travel technology, 207
chairs, office, 198–199
characteristics
telecommuter, 231–232
telemanager, 232–233
checklist
family expectations, 68
follow-up, 168
office safety, 40–41
self-assessment, 7–9
“Chicken Little”, back-up options,
175–178
children
childcare options, 74–76
in the office, 77–81
telephones, 91
clothing, office attire, 41–42
co-workers
distance dialog, 116
office sharing, 136–138
relationships, 106–107
resentment resolution, 109–111
communication
airphone, 208
boss, 103–104
co-workers, 107, 137
family, 84
“How Goes It” meetings, 96–97
improving accessibility, 108–109
interruptions, 73
isolation, 56
phone lines, 90–92
real-time, 120–122
resentment resolution, 109–111
support service providers, 145
Index 241
technology talk, 118–120
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 218–219
videoconferencing, 203
virtual interaction skills,
116–117
virtual meetings, 130–132
voice mail, 200–201
compatibility, videoconferencing
equipment, 203
computer
auto-dialing, 190
back-up options, 176–177
compatibility, 60
evaluation, 143–146
power supply, 183
selection, 38–39
system analysis, 184–186
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 220–221
conferences
networking, 168–170
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
235
conferencing
equipment, 144
telephone services, 190–191
conflict
resolution, 86–88, 128–130
service providers, 157
consistency, trust relationships,
101–102
consultants
computer, 185–186
interior designers, 36–37
organizational, 24, 27
outsourcing, 154
service providers, 156–157
continuum, telecommuting,
229–231
contracts, legal assistance, 152–153
copiers
evaluating, 143–146
requirements, 187–188
cordless phones, telephone equip-
ment, 191
cords
electrical, 182–183
telephone, 192
costs
office technology, 173–175
outsourcing, 154–155
service providers, 148–149
crisis, proactive expectation setting,
83–84
data, organization, 27–28
deadlines
follow-up, 167
service providers, 148–151
delegation, distance, 122–124
deliveries
office address, 35–36
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
design
office, 36–39
pilot proposals, 228
desk, selection, 186–187
details
service providers, 148–151
telecommuting proposals, 227
diet, eating habits, 44–46
disputes, handling agreement, 153
distractions
minimization of, 71–72
office location, 33–34
shared office space, 95
telephone calls, 93
time management, 19–20
virtual interaction, 117
documentation, performance mea-
surement criteria, 15–16
documents
back-up options, 176
retention, 28, 57–59
e-mail
back-up options, 177
242 Index
e-mail (continued)
technology talk, 118–120
traveling, 207–208
eldercare, planning for, 81–82
electricity
office safety, 182–183
surge protection, 210
employees
recruiting, 138
terminated, 137
energy, patterns, 46–48
entrepreneurs, networking,
111–113
environment, evaluation checklist
for office, 9
equipment
capabilities, 209
evaluation, 143–146
maintenance and protection, 210
office, 179, 221
technology, 173–175
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 219–222
See also tools
ergonomics, office chairs, 198–199
erranding
efficient, 48–49, 60
multi-tasking, 54
etiquette, technology talk, 118–120
evaluation
performance, 124–126, 137
required services, 144–146
See also systems
exercise, health, 50–51
expectations
employee, 218
proactive crisis management,
83–84
expenses
bartering, 162–163
reimbursable, 142–144
tracking office, 57–59
tracking shared office, 95
express services
office address, 35–36
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
extended care, options, 81–82
family
childcare, 74–79, 81
eldercare, 81–82
evaluation checklist, 9
negotiating agreements, 67–69
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 219–220
Fast Company, “The Brand Called
You”™, 63
fax machine
alternative printer, 208–209
back-up options, 176–177
equipment selection, 187
faxing, technology talk, 120
filing systems
efficiency, 60
office, 27–28
fire safety, office, 210
focus
interruptions, 134–136
maintaining your, 13–15
follow-up, skills, 166–168
full-time telecommuter, isolation,
231
furnishings, office, 221
furniture
office, 31–32, 37, 178–181
office chairs, 198–199
office desk, 186–187
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 221–222
gadgets, electronic tools, 188
gifts
for good performance, 159–162
service providers, 151
support staff, 104–106
goal setting
systems, 17–18
work focus, 15–16
goals
Index 243
communicating your, 117
establishing, 125–126
grapevine
conflict situations, 129–130
staying connected, 112–113
guide
“Make a Case for
Telecommuting”, 225–228
Telecommuting Implementation,
216–222
Telecommuting Resource,
234–236
guidelines
children in the office, 77–79
computer system analysis,
184–186
conflict resolution, 129–130
evaluating office technology,
173–175
hiring on-site team members,
137–138
“How Goes It” meetings, 97
interaction with co-workers, 107
Internet services provider
choices, 205
learning to say “No”, 135–136
meetings with your boss, 104
office power safety, 182–183
office sharing, 136–138
performance evaluation,
124–126
real-time communication,
121–122
relationships with service
providers, 156–157
virtual meetings, 133–134
See also rules
guilt, minimizing, 88–90
habits
eating, 44–46
establishing trust, 102
work, 43–44
headsets, telephone equipment,
190, 196–198
health
eating habits, 44–46
energy patterns, 47–48
family care responsibilities,
81–82
office environment, 38–41
Rule of Mom, 50–51
work breaks, 51–53
hell, service from, 158
help
asking for, 114–116
learning to say “No” to requests
for, 135–136
wanted ads and office security,
138
home office. See office
hoteling, alternative office space,
230
“How Goes It?”, scheduling meet-
ings, 96–97
ideas, capturing your, 25–26
incentives
celebrating successes, 61–62
motivational rewards, 18, 20
service providers, 151
informal telecommuter, defined,
230
information, management, 27–28
information services,
Telecommuting Resource
Guide, 237
installation, computer system, 185
insurance
home office, 41
office contents and liability, 211
shared office space, 138
integrated services digital network
(ISDN), Internet access, 205
integrity, trust relationships,
101–102
interaction, virtual, 116–117
Internet
access options, 205
service reliability, 204–205
244 Index
Internet Service Provider (ISP), reli-
ability, 204–205
interruptions
accessibility, 195–196
caller ID, 108
focus, 134–136
rules for justifiable, 72–73
shared office space, 95
telephone calls, 93
work and privacy, 212–214
ISDN (integrated services digital
network), Internet access, 205
isolation
associations, 168–170
balance, 55–57
full-time telecommuter, 231
ISP (Internet Service Provider), reli-
ability, 204–205
job
categories, 231–232
checklist for appropriateness,
8–9
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
legal, contracts and agreements,
152–153
liability, insurance, 211
life, focus, 13–15
litmus test, perception, 89
magazines, Telecommuting
Resource Guide, 235
mail
equipment, 144
erranding, 49
office address, 35–36
procesing, 29–30
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
management
avoiding crisis, 83–84
career, 62–64, 113–114
follow-up, 166–168
information, 27–28
performance, 124–126, 137
telecommuting employees, 218
See also time management
marketing
bartered services, 162–163
workshops as tools for, 169
measurement, job performance,
15–16
meetings
“How Goes It”, 96–97
virtual, 130–134
with your boss, 103–104
memory dial, telephone features,
190
messages, answering machine,
91–92
modems
Internet access, 204–206
options, 184
motivation
maintaining your, 22–23
office location, 32
multi-tasking, productivity, 53–55
Murphy’s Law, office system relia-
bility, 178
MUTE
multi-tasking, 54
pets in the office, 86
telephone features, 191
using, 77
negotiations
bartering, 163
family, 67–69
service providers, 148–151
networking
associations, 168–170
career management, 114
effective, 111–113
partnerships, 164–165
recruiting employees, 138
newsletters, Telecommuting
Resource Guide, 235
“No”, learning to say, 134–136
Index 245
“no surprises”, meetings with the
boss, 103
notes
erranding, 49
family agreements, 69
systems for taking, 25–26
number dialed display, telephone
features, 191
obstacles, early identification of,
7–9
office
address options, 35–36
administrivia, 27
alternative spaces to the tradi-
tional, 230
back-up systems, 175–178
chairs, 198–199
childcare at work, 76–77
childproofing the, 78–79
design, 36–37
equipment, 38, 221
equipment analysis, 173–175
evaluation checklist, 9
expense tracking, 58–59
furnishings, 178–181, 221
furniture, 31–32, 37, 178–181,
186–189, 221–222
government restrictions, 138
grapevine connections, 112–113
insurance, 211
interior design, 60
location, 21, 30–34
organization, 24–25
purchasing agent, 142–146
safety, 38–41
security, 137–138
services/products expectations,
146–148
sharing, 94–96, 137
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 220–221
telephone rules, 90–92
work schedule, 101–102
office supplies, Telecommuting
Resource Guide, 237
online
support services, 145–146
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
235
organization
information, 27–28
office, 24–26
organizations
networking, 111–112
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
234–235
OSHA, safety standards, 39–41
outsourcing, assessing your need
for, 154–155
pagers
accessibility, 195–196
travel technology, 207
part-time telecommuter, defined,
230
partners, external, 141–142
partnerships
associations, 169
networking, 164–165
service provider relationships,
156–157
passwords, protecting your data, 28
patterns, energy, 46–48
PDA (Personal Digital Assistant),
travel technology, 207
penalties, nonperformance,
149–151
performance
evaluation, 124–126, 137
measurement of job, 15–16
service providers, 149–151
unsatisfactory service, 150–151
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA),
travel technology, 207
personality, self-assessment check-
list, 8
Peters, Tom, 24
pets, working with, 85–86
246 Index
pilot, telecommuting proposals,
227–228
planning
career, 62–64, 113–114
daily action, 17–18
erranding, 48–49
family and work, 69–70, 74–76,
81–82
follow-up, 166–168
job, 15–16
life-focus, 14–15
office furnishings, 178–181
office space, 32
office system back-up, 175–178
pet ownership, 85–86
service providers, 159–160
shared office space, 137–138
success, 215–216
support services, 142
telecommuting proposals,
225–228
videoconferencing, 133–134
virtual meetings, 131–134
postage meters, evaluating need for,
144
power supply
office safety, 182–183
surge protection, 210
printer
back-up options, 176
fax machine as alternative,
208–209
portable, 207
priorities
balancing work and other,
20–22, 214–215
children and work, 79–81
daily, 17–18
establishing trust, 101–102
identification, 13–15
mail processing, 29–30
tip reading, 4–5
privacy, accessibility, 195–196
problem solving, “How Goes It”
meetings, 96–97
procedures, telephone answering,
90–93
procrastination
associations, 170
avoiding, 22–23
productivity
learning to say “No”, 135–136
multi-tasking, 53–55
office attire, 42
telephone equipment and acces-
sories, 189–192
work habits, 43–44
profile
telecommuter, 6–7, 231
telemanager, 232–233
projects
follow-up, 166–168
learning to say “No” to requests
for special, 135–136
promotions, staying on track for,
113–114
proposal, “Make a Case for
Telecommuting” guide,
225–228
providers, support service, 143–146
publications, Telecommuting
Resource Guide, 235
purchasing
acting your own agent, 142–146
choice of source, 150–151
evaluating office technology,
174–175
reading, mail, 29–30
recognition
co-workers, 107
service providers, 151, 159–162
support staff, 104–106
records, retention schedule, 57–59
recruiting, employees, 138
referrals, external partner network,
164–165
refrigerator
eating habits, 44–46
office, 181
Index 247
relationships
boss, 103–104
co-workers, 106–107
family and work, 69–70
office sharing, 137
partnerships with service
providers, 156–157
shared office space, 95–96
suppliers, 158–160
support services, 141–142
support staff, 104–106
with technology, 173–175
technology intrusion, 213
trust, 101–102
videoconferencing, 203
reliability, trust relationships,
101–102
reminders, systems, 25–26
resentment
accessibility, 122
resolution of co-worker,
109–111
resolution, conflict, 86–88,
128–130
resources
equipment requirements, 144
support services, 141–142
technological tools, 188–189
using outside, 115–116
respect
career management, 114
establishing, 92–94
responsibility, distance delegation,
123–124
retention, documents, 28, 57–59
rewards
celebrating successes, 61–62
family participation, 70
for good work, 160–162
motivational, 18, 20
network referrals, 164–165
new habit, 44
performance management, 126
performance measures, 16
service providers, 151, 159–162
work breaks, 23
rituals, end-of-day, 34
road warriors
technology for, 206–209
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
rules
in-office behavior of children,
78–79
interruptions, 72–73
of moderation, 43–44
of Mom, 50–51, 158
for productive meetings,
130–132
simplification and time-saving,
59–60
telephone use, 90–92
See also guidelines
safety
childproofing the office, 78–79
office, 38–41
office fires, 210
power supply, 182–183
schedule
document retention, 28, 57–59
energy patterns, 47–48
expense reports, 58
“How Goes It” meetings, 96–97
interim reports, 123–124
mail pick-ups, 49
resolving conflicts in your, 122
systems, 25–26
work, 92–94
screening
potential office mates, 138
service providers, 144–148
security
e-mail, 118
shared office space, 137–138
systems, 210–211
service providers
partnerships with, 156–157
performance standards, 150–151
quality standards, 148–149
248 Index
service providers (continued)
rewards, 151
selecting, 144–148
services
bartering, 162–163
legal, 152–153
outsourcing, 155
support, 141–148
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
sharing, office space, 94–96,
136–138
shipping
office address, 35–36
Telecommuting Resource Guide,
237
signature stamp, e-mail, 119–120
skills
bartering, 162–163
communication, 116–117
conflict resolution, 129–130
delegation, 123–124
development, 62–64
follow-up, 166–168
promotion opportunities, 114
stress reduction, 84
telecommuter, 231
telemanager, 232–233
virtual meeting, 132–134
snack
breaks, 45–46
office supplies, 181
software, legal documents, 152–153
soundproofing, office, 33–34
space
alternatives to traditional office,
230
evaluation checklist, 9
interior design, 36–37, 60
office, 31–32
office layout, 220
office sharing, 136–138
utilization, 25
speakerphones
special locations, 213
telephone equipment, 190
speed dialing, telephone features,
190
standards, quality of service
providers, 148–149
storage, record retention, 28
storms, electrical, 183
stress
disagreement resolution, 86–88
minimizing, 83–84
success
assessing your potential, 217
keys to, 215–216
suppliers
external partner network,
164–165
relationships with, 158–160
specifications, 147–148
supplies
office, 37, 179–181
Telecommuting Implementation
Guide, 222
support, family, 69–70
support services
bartering, 163
expectations, 146–148
outsourcing, 155
providers, 141–142
support staff, appreciation, 104–106
surge protectors, power supply
safety, 183
systems
answering, 91–92
back-up office, 175–178
calendaring, 25–26, 123–124
computer, 184–186
expense tracking, 57–59
filing, 27–28
follow-up, 167
office equipment and supplies,
142–146
office organization, 24–25
office power supplies, 182–183
office technology, 173–175
performance review, 124–126
Index 249
scheduling, 25–26
security, 210–211
telephone, 189–192
tracking, 22–23
videoconferencing, 193,
202–203
work simplification, 59–60
taxes, bartering, 162–163
teamwork
accessibility, 109
co-worker resentment resolu-
tion, 109–111
hiring on-site team members,
137–138
networking, 111–113
service providers, 156–157, 159
support staff, 104–106
trust relationships, 101–102
virtual meetings, 131–132
technology
accessibility and privacy,
195–196
balancing use of, 212–214
meetings, 131–132
your relationship with, 173–175
telecenters, alternatives to tradi-
tional office space, 230
telecommuter, profile, 231
Telecommuting,
“Make a Case for”, 225–228
Implementation Guide, 216–222
Resource Guide, 234–236
telemanager, profile, 232–233
telephone
accessibility via, 108–109
accessories, 189–192
answering procedures, 92–93
answering rules, 90–92
back-up options, 176
cellular phones, 91
children in the office, 76–77
equipment, 39, 144
erranding, 49
multi-tasking, 54
MUTE button, 54, 77, 86
shared office expenses, 95
in special locations, 213
system analysis, 189–192
tests, perspective litmus, 89
“The Brand Called You”™, Fast
Company, 63
theories, “no surprises”, 103
time display, telephone features,
191
time management
calendar systems, 25
daily plan, 17–18
distractions, 19–20, 71–72
efficiency, 60
energy level patterns, 46–48
mail, 29–30
office organization, 24–25
work breaks, 52–53
for workaholics, 21
TIP
2
, using, 3–4
to do list, daily, 17–18
tools
basic office, 178–181
electronic specialty, 188
headsets, 197
for improving accessibility,
108–109
marketing, 169
note taking, 26
office furnishings, 186–189
telephone equipment, 189–192
See also equipment
tracking
delegated projects, 123–124
efficiency, 60
expenses, 57–59
performance evaluation,
125–126
shared office space expenses, 95
training
skills development, 62–64
videoconferencing, 203
traits
personal, 226–227
250 Index
traits (continued)
telecommuter, 231
telemanager, 232–233
travel
computer equipment, 184
expense tracking, 58
technology that keeps you con-
nected, 206–208
videoconferencing, 202–203
trends, workplace, 229
trust
career management, 114
establishing, 92–94
relationships, 101–102
videoconferencing
systems, 193
training, 202–203
virtual meetings, 133–134
video phone, telephone equipment,
192
visibility, maintaining, 113–114
voice mail
communication tools, 200–201
technology talk, 118–120
telephone equipment, 190
while traveling, 207
volume control, telephone features,
191
volunteering, associations, 169–170
wardrobe, office attire, 41–42
warrantees, equipment, 210
web sites, Telecommuting Resource
Guide, 235–237
West, Mae, 43
“What If”, office system back-up
options, 176–178
work
checklist for appropriateness,
8–9
childcare and, 74–75
children in the office, 76–81
energy patterns, 47–48
interruption rules, 72–73
leave of absence, 81–82
schedule, 92–94, 101–102
simplification, 59–60
workaholism, balance, 20–22
workshops, as marketing tools, 169
About the Author
Debra A. Dinnocenzo is a veteran telecommuting executive with
nearly 10 years of firsthand experience as both a telecommuter and
telemanager. Her involvement in remote work and distance learning
has spanned 20 years and involved work with groundbreaking tech-
nologies such as the electronic blackboard to more sophisticated
videoconference applications. Ms. Dinnocenzo has managed sales
forces and marketing departments in both traditional corporate set-
tings and as a telemanager. While telecommuting, she was senior
vice president of marketing for Learning International, a worldwide
sales performance and training company and a division of Times
Mirror.
Her experience in telecommuting led Ms. Dinnocenzo to found
ALLearnatives
®
, a learning and development firm specializing in
tools and resources to improve the productivity of telecommuters,
telemanagers, and other home-based workers. In 1997 she was
awarded runner-up honors in the Home Sweet Home-Office Contest
sponsored by Sales & Marketing Management magazine.
Ms. Dinnocenzo resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her
husband (who also is a telecommuter) and their daughter.
For more information about the services and capabilities of
ALLearnatives
®
, please contact us:
Web site: www.TipsForTelecommuters.com
E-mail: info@allearnatives.com
Telephone: 724.934.9349
Fax: 724.934.9348
Address: ALLearnatives
®
10592 Perry Highway, #201
Wexford, PA 15090 USA
How To Get (and Give)
More Information
For additional information about telecommuting or for additional
tips for telecommuters, please visit the Website:
www.TipsForTelecommuters.com.
Additional information is also available at the address and phone
number below.
To order additional copies of this book, visit the Web site:
www.bkconnection.com.
If you would like to contribute to the next publication in
the Tips for Telecommuters series, we would appreciate
hearing from you. Please send:
• Your own telecommuting tips that have helped you be a
successful telecommuter.
• Your best and worst experiences as a telecommuter.
• Suggestions for topics or tips you’d like to see in a future
edition or publication for telecommuters.
Be sure to include your name, job, organization, and
contact information so we can acknowledge your contribution.
Here’s how to reach us:
Web site: www.TipsForTelecommuters.com
E-mail: info@allearnatives.com
Telephone: 724.934.9349
Fax: 724.934.9348
Address: ALLearnatives
®
10592 Perry Highway, #201
Wexford, PA 15090 USA
Thanks!

More praise for 101 Tips for Telecommuters
“101 Tips for Telecommuters is much, much more than the title implies. Yes, there are 101 extraordinarily valuable tips, and each one will significantly improve your effectiveness and efficiency. This is, however, not only a book for the increasing number of us who commute down the hall to our work space. It’s really a field guide for all people who want to take control of their own lives, and work and live with a sense of mastery. 101 Tips for Telecommuters will help you get your work organized, your life back, and it will make you and your employer (if it’s other than you) very, very happy.”
Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge and Encouraging the Heart, and Chairman Emeritus, Tom Peters Companies

“101 Tips for Telecommuters is packed full of practical ideas that can be applied immediately and are described in an easy-to-use format. This book is destined to become a ‘must have’ resource for current and aspiring telecommuters, as well as for organizations who have telecommuters within their workforce.”
Richard Y. Chang, CEO, Richard Chang Associates, Inc. and 1999 Chair of the Board for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)

“Whether you love it or hate it, telecommuting is part of our new reality. This book is an extraordinary collection of useful insights for both the telecommuters and their managers on how to get the maximum benefits from this new way of working. It is chock-full of practical wisdom on all of the issues that a telecommuter faces. Beyond that, it is a useful collection of personal productivity tips for everyone who ever works at home.”
Jack Zenger, President of PROVANT Inc. and co-founder of Zenger Miller

“This book is unique in that it puts the technology of telecommuting in its proper role, that of the enabler. In the end, it’s really all about the people, and Debra Dinnocenzo skillfully tackles those critical success factors of telecommuting.”
Connie Bentley, President, PACE (A Sylvan Learning Company)

“This book is extraordinarily timely and absolutely on target. It is so valuable I have assigned it as orientation material for all of our telecommuters.”
Dave Erdman, President, Behavioral Technology®

“Very readable and engaging—the BIBLE for telecommuters!! Add it to your ‘must read’ list whether you’re already telecommuting or just making the transition to working remotely.”
Steve McMillen, Director of Leadership Development & Performance Improvement, Hillenbrand Industries, Inc. and co-author of Building Community: The Human Side of Work

“101 Tips for Telecommuters is an extremely valuable resource for anyone seeking to successfully telecommute or work effectively from a home office. Readers will learn how to plan for the most effective use of their workdays and to avoid pitfalls which can lead to failure. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is considering telecommuting, operating a home office or attempting to improve their efficiency.”
Stephen M. Paskoff, President, Employment Learning Innovations, Inc.

“Telecommuting is hard work. This is the first practical set of advice for the new generation of distributed workers. Wonderfully, it addresses all aspects of surviving and thriving while working from home. A great read!”
Elliott Masie, Editor of TechLearn Trends and President of The MASIE Center

“101 Tips for Telecommuters is the right book for those who want to telecommute rather than starting their own home-based business. Every company considering telecommuting should be passing out a copy of this book to each of their telecommuters.”
George M. Piskurich, Technology consultant and author of An Organizational Guide to Telecommuting

“Use this book to convince your boss that you can telecommute successfully— everything you need is here!”
Deborah Dumaine, President, Better Communications and author of Vest Pocket Guide to Business Writing

“If I only had this guide when I opted to telecommute ten years ago! I learned by trial & error. This book covers it all, read it—overcome obstacles and reap the benefits!”
Patricia Bruns, Senior Account Executive, Development Dimensions International

“Every telecommuter will gain tremendous insight from the author’s first-hand experiences of living and managing the telecommuting process. Increased productivity, effective resource management, generating more income and understanding the key human factors for success will result.”
Jim Welch, Principal, Welch & Associates

“A practical and fun book. I found many ideas to use in my own work as a telecommuter. The style and content make it feel like a very helpful ‘distance learning’ experience.”
David M. Kolb, Senior Associate/National Accounts, Ridge Associates, Inc.

“A superbly practical guide to telecommuting resonating with the voice of experience. Some books explain what to do, others explain why to do it— Dinnocenzo’s book does both. It’s a goldmine of information with an application step for each tip, making it a must read if you want to telecommute or want to be a more effective telecommuter.”
Dr. Jim Dupree, Professor of Business and Communication, Grove City College

“Anyone who is considering working at home, either part time or full time, will find invaluable resources in this book. The telecommuter gets checklists and tips that lead to productive work from home, along with keys to avoiding pitfalls. As a human resource director, I can use this book to persuade our executives to support and encourage telecommuting.”
Dan Hupp, VP Human Resources, Blattner Brunner, Inc.

“An invaluable resource not only for telecommuters but also every manager who faces the decision of providing employees with the opportunity of ‘working from home’ some portion of their time. Debra’s expertise in this subject matter becomes clear right from the start and her mindful approach of connecting tips and ideas to the practical business realities of telecommuting puts this book on my short-list of must read for managers.”
Richard V. Michaels, Managing Partner, Michaels McVinney, Inc.

101
TIPS
for

Telecommuters
Successfully Manage Your Work, Team, Technology and Family

Debra A.Dinnocenzo

101 Tips for Telecommuters
Copyright © 1999 by Debra A. Dinnocenzo All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 235 Montgomery Street, Suite 650 San Francisco, California 94104-2916 Tel: (415) 288-0260, Fax: (415) 362-2512 www.bkconnection.com Ordering information for print editions Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, contact the “Special Sales Department” at the Berrett-Koehler address above. Individual sales. Berrett-Koehler publications are available through most bookstores. They can also be ordered directly from Berrett-Koehler: Tel: (800) 929-2929; Fax: (802) 864-7626; www.bkconnection.com Orders for college textbook/course adoption use. Please contact Berrett-Koehler: Tel: (800) 929-2929; Fax: (802) 864-7626. Orders by U.S. trade bookstores and wholesalers. Please contact Ingram Publisher Services, Tel: (800) 509-4887; Fax: (800) 838-1149; E-mail: customer .service@ingrampublisherservices.com; or visit www.ingrampublisherservices.com/ Ordering for details about electronic ordering. Berrett-Koehler and the BK logo are registered trademarks of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. First Edition Paperback print edition ISBN 978-1-57675-069-8 PDF e-book ISBN 978-1-60509-710-7 2010-1 Interior design by Detta Penna. Cover design by Brenda Duke.

while working overtime as Mr.Dedication To my husband. Mom/Head Chef And to my daughter. Jennimarie who consistently inquired about the progress of my “story” and volunteered to contribute the special foreword. written on behalf of telecommuter children everywhere . Rick Swegan who cheerfully reviewed drafts and provided helpful feedback.

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Get and Keep Your Office Organized 9. Stay Motivated (Manage the Slouch Within) 8. Focus Your Day 5. Maintain a Healthy Balance (Manage the Workaholic Within) 7. Keep the “Administrivia” Under Control 11 13 15 17 19 20 22 24 25 27 v . Assess Yourself for Telecommuting Success 1 4 6 7 Telecommuter Self-Assessment Checklist Working Well in Your Home Office 2. Avoid Time Wasters 6.v 101 Tips for Telecommuters Contents Foreword xi Special Foreword xiii Preface xv Acknowledgments xvii How to Use This Book Where to Begin 1. Focus Your Work 4. Focus Your Life 3. Get and Keep Your Day Organized 10.

vi 101 Tips for Telecommuters 11. Determine the Best Address for Your Home Office 15. Take Breaks to Relax. Negotiate Expectations and Agreements 32. Manage the Maddening Mounds of Mail 12. “Take Your Children to Work” Guidelines . Design Your Office for Efficiency 16. Make a Habit of Avoiding Bad Habits 20. Re-energize. Determine the Best Location for Your Home Office 13. Take Care of Childcare 36. or Recover 25. Take Responsibility for Developing New Skills and Managing Your Career 29 30 33 35 36 38 39 41 43 44 46 48 50 51 53 55 57 59 61 62 65 67 69 71 72 74 76 77 Working Well with Your Family 31. Establish Clear Interruption Rules 35. Track Expenses and Expenditures 28. Multi-Task to Maximize Your Productivity 26. Draw a Clear Line Between Your Work and Living Space 14. Design Your Office for Good Health 17. Get Your Family on Your Team 33. Stay Fit and Healthy 24. Work During Your Peak Energy Times 22. Reject the Refrigerator that Beckons You 21. If You Mix Childcare and Work (God Help You!) 37. Reward Yourself and Celebrate Successes 30. Simplify and Improve Continuously 29. Be Your Own OSHA Inspector 18. Making “The Rounds” for Efficient “Erranding” 23. Dress for Success (According to the New Rules) 19. Manage and Minimize Distractions 34. Avoid the (Real or Perceived) Isolation Trap 27.

Know When to Ask for Help 57. Know and Nurture Your Team 51. Resolve Disagreements Promptly 43. Meeting the Challenge of Eldercare or Family Care 40. Answering Phones: Decide Who and How 45. Technology Talk: Keys to Communicating Without Speaking 59. Stay in Touch with Co-Workers 52. Stay on Track for Promotions (and Other Good Deals) 56. Don’t Ignore Those Who Resent You 54. Establish a Rock-Solid Foundation of Trust 49. Minimize Household and Family Stress 41. Master Effective (Virtual) Interaction Skills 58. Manage the Performance Management Process 62. Keep Your Boss Informed 50.Contents vii 38. Network to Stay Visible and Informed 55. Working With and Around Your “4-Legged Children” 42. Determine the Need for “Live” Interactions 60. Be (Creatively) Accessible by Telephone 53. The Happy Marriage Partnership Guide to Office Sharing 47. “Distance Delegation” that Delivers Results 61. Reach Agreements that Foster Commitment and Collaboration . Schedule Periodic “How Goes It” Meetings 79 81 83 85 86 88 90 92 94 96 99 101 103 104 106 108 109 111 113 114 116 118 120 122 124 126 Working Well with Your Team 48. Accept the Guilt—and Move On 44. Get the Respect You Deserve (How to be sure you and your work are taken seriously) 46. The Shift to Home-Based Work with Older Children 39.

Treat People As People 78. Work Productively With Co-workers Who Share Your Home Office 128 130 132 134 136 139 141 142 144 146 148 150 151 154 156 158 160 162 164 166 168 Working Well with Your External Partners 68. Negotiate Deadlines and Details 73. Bartering for Best Results 80. Establish a Partner Mindset and Relationship 77. Master the Fundamentals of Productive Virtual Meetings 65. Set Service Expectations and Get Your Desired Results 72. Select Service Providers that Meet Your Criteria 71. Establish Consequences for Unsatisfactory Service Performance 74. Make Everyone Skilled and Comfortable in Virtual Meetings 66. Network Your Partner Network 81. Resolve Conflicts Effectively and Proactively 64. Just Say “No” 67.viii 101 Tips for Telecommuters 63. Know Who Provides Your Critical Services and Support 69. Be Your Own Purchasing Manager 70. Know When to Outsource 76. Reward Good Work 79. Get It in Writing 75. Get the Most Out of Business and Professional Associations . Follow-Up for Best Results 82.

Computer Choices and Conundrums 88. Try Faxing to Yourself 208 100. Telecommuting Resource Guide . Be Prepared With the Basic Tools. Make Telecommuting Work Well for You 171 173 175 178 182 184 186 189 192 194 196 198 200 202 204 206 210 214 217 223 225 229 234 98. Will Travel 99. If Talking to Yourself Is Interesting. Have Technology.Contents ix Working Well with Tools and Technology 83. Too 86. Skip the Massage—Get a Headset 93. Rarely Is a Phone Just a Phone 90. Assess Your Real Needs and Choose the Best Technology for You 84. Know Your Backup Options (Before a Crisis Occurs) 85. Manage the Madness of Multiple Machines that Ring or Beep at You 92. Protect Your Equipment (and Your Livelihood) 101. So. Get Wired—Electrify Your Telecommuting Experience 87. Beyond the Computer: Essential Tools (and Toys) for the Well-Connected Telecommuter 89. Do you Really Need a Speakerphone in the Bathroom? 212 Telecommuting Implementation Guide Appendices A. Videoconferencing: The Next Best Thing to Being There? 96. “Make a Case for Telecommuting” Guide Addendum to Appendix A B. Make Your Phone Calls Chase or Wait for You 91. Learn to Love Voice Mail (and Other Impossibilities) 95. Meet the Challenge of Internet Connections 97. Which Chair to Buy (When You’d Really Rather Have a Recliner) 94.

x 101 Tips for Telecommuters Index About the Author How To Get (and Give) More Information 239 251 252 .

pondered her observations. The flexibility that is essential to your success as a telecommuter or telemanager has been carefully designed into this text. She has captured her telecommuting experience and expertly packaged it into a book structured with great flexibility and containing a wealth of resources for people who want to work smartly from home. from first to last page. she deliberately developed her career through a wide variety of business environments. This book will serve as an essential tool in helping you discover where to best begin your personalized journey into the world of xi . she is an applied researcher who recorded her experiences. telecommuting has made the transition from an exotic fad to a business imperative. 101 Tips for Telecommuters demonstrates and models the traits so critical to telecommuting success. Emphases on employee empowerment. selfdirected work teams. Unlike the flood of “how to” books currently filling bookstore shelves. 101 Tips for Telecommuters is a toolbox of practical ideas and solutions for both employees and employers who intend to succeed. In this age of the global community. and techniques for improving productivity have been simultaneously preparing us to participate in a workplace exposed to continuous change. Additionally. from multinational to transnational. The versatile design accommodates your needs. from national to international. whether you are an experienced telecommuter or are unsure of what telecommuting really means— and if it’s appropriate for you.Foreword Telecommuting will be a major part of the 21st century’s global environment. The landscape of business has moved from local to regional. Debra Dinnocenzo is not only a bright thinker who has great business savvy. and learned from her results. The workplace has been preparing for telecommuting for the past two decades.

project managers.or part-time employees. Telecommuting opportunities exist in large and small organizations. for full. Further. Nova Southeastern University . practical tools. time savers. wellthought-out business strategies and day-to-day common sense business advice. Any organization looking to increase productivity. retain talented employees. you won’t find a more useful and experience-based resource for achieving great success with telecommuting. as well as those who prefer to stay home in their cozy den. Those who are preparing to move into telecommuting won’t want their people to be without this valuable resource to help “kick start” their telecommuting success. this book is for you. home-based businesses. as well as for nontraditional workers such as independent consultants. Ph. Those already implementing telecommuting should make this book required reading for their telecommuters and telemanagers. Fetzer.D. If you currently telecommute or aspire to be a telecommuter. and cottage industry enthusiasts.xii 101 Tips for Telecommuters telecommuting. shortcuts. and gain competitive advantage in the 21st century can’t overlook telecommuting as part of its strategy. Ronald C. Workers who love to travel. Debra Dinnocenzo has done an insightful job of describing the world of telecommuting. productivity enhancers. subcontractors. will find creative ideas. As an 11-year veteran of telecommuting—for one of the largest distance education institutions of graduate degree programs in the world—I discovered that everything I needed as a telecommuter instructor and administrator over the years is conveniently presented in this book. The bottom line is this: If you spend any amount of time working at home or think that you might. not knowing how to telecommute effectively is sure to become a liability for anyone who wants to maintain his or her individual competitive advantage in the evolving workplace.

they don’t have to drive at all!) Moms and Dads don’t have to have very many meetings and eat lunch at the same time. I get to meet Mom’s work friends on the (videoconference) computer.Special Foreword Why It’s Good to Work at Home contributed by Jennimarie Dinnocenzo Swegan (age 5) It’s good to work at home because: All the kids get to spend more time with their families. Dad has enough time to practice basketball with me. xiii . (In fact. The Moms and Dads don’t have to drive as far to get to their offices.

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Much of the early coverage of the telecommuting trend focused on the increased availability of cost-effective computer and telephone systems. As we look beyond modems and multimedia. desktop videoconferencing. But from all that I’ve seen and experienced.Preface It’s been difficult during recent years to avoid noticing the increased coverage that telecommuting has received in the business press.g. Stories about the challenges and rewards of telecommuting are especially visible during times of natural disasters (e. People telecommute. As a seasoned telecommuter. floods. I envisioned this book as a succinct. and vital levels of corporate computer network connectivity. roadway reconstruction. the Olympics). bridge collapses. and (if you’re like the rest of us) your eternal xv . blizzards) and other traffic traumas (e. I’ve seen firsthand the factors that make telecommuting prosper or fail. we’re beginning to understand the importance of the human side of telecommuting. computers and telephones are tools that facilitate the telecommuting process. while competently handling the technical realm. While these advances in technology have given us the proliferation of notebook computers. is essential to your success as a telecommuter. Understanding these human factors and learning how to effectively manage the nontechnical aspects of telecommuting. I have found that telecommuting can have a predominantly positive impact on your quality of life. a broad range of human factors impact the success of telecommuting. easy-to-use guide for current and aspiring telecommuters. earthquakes.g. I’ve also witnessed the significant impact telecommuting can have on one’s quality of life—both good and bad.. your peace of mind. your productivity..

and mindset. With the right information. you will discover ways to open doors to telecommuting success that enable you to prosper—both personally and professionally—by achieving whatever goals you have for your telecommuting venture. though. Until now.xvi 101 Tips for Telecommuters quest for the much-sought-after balance between work and the rest of your life. some of those goals were only dreams. skills. are contingent on your ability to telecommute wisely. All of the advantages. It is my fervent hope that. in reading this book. Pennsylvania. In writing this book. my goal is to help you learn some of the secrets to effective telecommuting. you can now transform those dreams into reality! Debra A. Dinnocenzo Pittsburgh. USA 1999 .

• The team that comprises Berrett-Koehler Publishers. or experience. frustration and exhaustion would have overtaken me long before the manuscript was completed. and Pat Anderson. or brewed tea for me. however. Inc. my editor. the love and light of my life. He and our daughter. but their help was. a kindred marketing soul whose insight and vision make all the difference. I’m left only with the final (and delightful) task of giving thanks. I offer you both. insights. for her patience and guidance. invaluable. Special thanks to Steven Piersanti. My sincere thanks and appreciation to: • Anne Palmer. Naturally. my deepest thanks. have been patient beyond reason and enthusiastic in spite of my all-too-frequent absences from them. who persisted in asking me. Jennimarie. More than that. all of whom are very busy people. • To my colleagues and friends. determination. for not tossing my proposal in the circular file. No one else cooked. Rick Swegan. Their collective feedback sharpened the focus of the book and added to the xvii .Acknowledgments At the end of the long journey I’ve taken to complete this book. who saw the opportunity and voted to accept my book for publication.. ran errands. and skill. Every author should be so fortunate to have a literary agent with Anne’s energy. vision. Valerie Barth. “How’s that book coming along?” so many times that I finally decided to write it. creativity. but who still made the time to help by reviewing my manuscript or offering their guidance. was the unexpected reminder of just how wonderful people can be. there’s a long list of people whose help made this a better book. nonetheless. ♥ Without the love and support (and occasional reminders to get some sleep) provided by my husband.

The book is what it is thanks to the help of: Lynn Arkan. Dan Hupp.xviii 101 Tips for Telecommuters “real life” examples throughout. Jerry Noack. Ron. Deborah Dumaine. Terry Broomfield. I’m amazed—and grateful—for the care they took and the detail they provided in their feedback. so much would have been so unattainable. His enthusiasm for the book was evident when he reviewed the manuscript and provided pages of ideas and suggestions. not only for this book but for the next one he’s convinced I must write! Further. he agreed to provide the Foreword to the book and did miraculous work. Thanks. Alice Pescuric. and Jim Welch. David Kolb. Gordon Myers. J. Steve Pascoff. • For every telecommuter. . George Piskurich. I offer my sincere appreciation to Rich Wellins. John Hayden. Ray Bard. Jim Dupree. Jody Ellis. Without the vision and support of three such leaders. for your energy and vision. and Dave Erdman. in spite of an impossible deadline. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to acquire the experience I did as a telecommuter. • I owe a debt of gratitude (and I’m sure he’ll collect!) to Ron Fetzer. Mark Little. there’s usually a boss who also believes in telecommuting or is willing to take the gamble to support an innovative way of working. Without their support. Patricia Bruns. Bill Byham.

How to Use This Book T 1 .

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Therefore. trainers. the good/bad/ugly. With an emphasis on the relationships and interpersonal interactions critical to telecommuting success. • Reading the tips without taking the time to apply the TIP2 to your work or your life will diminish the value of the tip and the 3 . others who work from home (e. the book is designed so that tips can be read in any order. It provides information. insights and glimpses of reality from the “trenches of telecommuting” based on firsthand experience..) will find value for significant portions of their work-at-home needs and issues. Refer to the next section. However. frustration. and the critical criteria for successfully and enjoyably working from home. salespeople.101 Tips for Telecommuters is designed for current and prospective telecommuters or home-based workers who want to increase their level of skill and effectiveness.” Each TIP2 offers action guidelines to help you apply the recommendations presented in the context of the tip. guidelines. Where to Begin. many of the issues and challenges faced by telecommuters are strikingly similar to those of other home-based workers who may not refer to themselves as telecommuters. This book is focused primarily on the issues and needs of telecommuters—those who regularly work from home during some portion of their work week. While reading the book from cover to cover is an option. or anxiety. et al. this book offers readers a unique and practical view of the pros and cons. consultants. interest.g. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E • Each tip includes an addendum referred to as the TIP2 which suggests you should “Transfer It Promptly To Improve Performance. suggestions. for suggestions on the tips most appropriate for you as starting points. You can derive the greatest benefit from the book by selectively reading tips that align with your areas of greatest need.

4

101 Tips for Telecommuters

book. Reading the tip and taking the action in the TIP2 section will get you the best result. • Therefore, I suggest that you read a tip each week or every few days, providing ample time to apply what you’ve learned or take the action steps suggested. This is far more critical than the specific order in which the tips are read, so prioritize them according to your needs. In this way, the information and action steps are relevant to you and to your specific needs as a telecommuter. This is a sure-fire way to ensure you’re getting a great return on your investment of the money to purchase this book and your time to read and apply it.

Where to Begin
Relax! Unlike how so much of the rest of your life feels, it’s okay not to digest this entire book now by reading it from cover to cover without a break. As a matter of fact, this is definitely not the way to derive the greatest benefit to you and your work (see the preceding section, How to Use This Book). To help you determine where it’s best for you to begin, use the following guide. Prioritizing the tips and reading them according to your specific needs will provide more immediate and relevant results. Statement most appropriate for you: Begin with these tips: I’m thinking about becoming a telecommuter. 1, 2, 12, 13, 26, 32, 33, 35, 36, 48, 68, 83, 85, 86, 88, 101 I want to telecommute and am ready to begin discussing this with my family and boss 1, 2, 3, 31, 35, 40, 48, 49, 61, 83, 85, 88, 101 I’m ready to start telecommuting, but need to plan/prepare my: • self 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 101 1, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 86, 101 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 24, 25, 27, 101

• office • work processes

How to Use This Book

5

• family • work relationships • equipment/supplies

1, 2, 13, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 40, 42, 44, 46, 47, 101 1, 2, 3, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 67, 68, 101 1, 8, 9, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 92, 93, 99, 101

I’ve started telecommuting and on some days I think I’ve made a big mistake! 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 13, 19, 21, 24, 26, 29, 31, 32, 33, 40, 42, 48, 51, 56, 62, 66, 67, 84, 91, 94, 101 I’ve been telecommuting with some success, but I’m still encountering a few “bumps in the road” with regard to: • family conflict/demands • 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42, 47 mixed signals or unclear expectations from my boss 48, 49, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64 uncooperative co-workers 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67 distance communication/meetings 48, 57, 58, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65 priorities and productivity 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 61, 75 disorganization and distractions 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 33, 34, 61, 75 loneliness 7, 23, 26, 30, 32, 48, 51, 54, 56, 57, 82 overworking (again!) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 15, 21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 32, 47, 56, 66, 68, 75, 91, 100 unreliability of others 31, 32, 42, 45, 47, 48, 50, 51, 60, 62, 68, 71, 72, 73, 74, 78, 81 technology snafus and crashes 17, 83, 84, 86, 91, 97, 99

• • •

• • •

6

101 Tips for Telecommuters

1

Assess Yourself for Telecommuting Success

Telecommuting is not for everyone: • You can get lonely and miss being with people every day. • You may feel isolated and invisible. • You might lose sight of goals and not feel motivated. • You could detest some of the mundane aspects of working from home. • You might experience more conflict with your family. And it’s not easy: • You may find yourself working more hours than before you telecommuted. • You could be frustrated by the hassles of technology when it fails. • You can run into problems with co-workers who resent your telecommuting. • You might experience breakdowns in communication with your boss or your team. • You could find yourself spending more time than you imagined serving as your own maintenance person, computer technician, electrician, office designer, furniture mover, and filing clerk. But the rewards are tremendous! As other telecommuters will tell you: • “I’m so much more productive than when I commuted to the office everyday.” • “Now I can actually concentrate and think clearly without all the distractions and interruptions I used to deal with in the corporate office.” • “I love telecommuting . . . and my kids like having me closer to home. We see more of each other now, and that’s worth any trade-offs that come with telecommuting.” • “It’s helped me increase my output, be more responsive to customers, have more time for exercise, and eliminate much of the stress I felt from my long commute everyday.”

How to Use This Book

7

You’re certainly not alone if you find yourself wanting to telecommute or have already jumped on the telecommuting bandwagon. But before I learned how to telecommute successfully, I discovered that there are distinct skills, attitudes, and behaviors essential to that success. Many can be learned, developed, reinforced, and honed once you’re aware of them and understand your own strengths and weaknesses with regard to the criteria for successful telecommuting. Using this book as a guide will help you address many of the critical aspects of effective telecommuting. It’s important, however, that you begin by identifying those areas that are of particular importance to you and your needs. By doing so, you’ll gain greater insight to your own ability to succeed working from home and can focus your ongoing learning and development efforts to ensure your continued prosperity as a telecommuter.

Use the following “Telecommuter Self-assessment Checklist” to identify areas of concern and strength for you as a telecommuter. To enhance the usefulness of this process, also give the checklist to: • Your boss • A trusted co-worker who knows you well • Your spouse or significant other • A close friend Ask for their perspective on any obstacles to your success and compare their responses. Use the insight gained from the checklist to guide your decisions about whether, when, and how to use telecommuting to your best advantage.
T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E

Telecommuter Self-assessment Checklist
Put a check mark next to all those that apply to you. If you are thinking about becoming a telecommuter, consider whether items you do not check will create a barrier to your success as a telecommuter or will require extra effort on your part to overcome a potential obstacle.

8

101 Tips for Telecommuters

If you are already telecommuting, use this checklist to identify any areas of difficulty that are detracting from your productivity or satisfaction as a telecommuter.

Personal Traits/Preferences
I believe I: ■ enjoy working independently. ■ like to think through and resolve problems myself. ■ am a high initiative person. ■ am not a procrastinator. ■ can set and stick to a schedule. ■ like to organize and plan. ■ am a self-disciplined person. ■ am able and willing to handle administrative tasks. ■ can balance attention to major objectives and small details. ■ do not need constant interaction with people. ■ can work effectively with little or no feedback from others. ■ enjoy being in my home. ■ do not need frequent feedback or coaching. ■ have the required level of verbal and written communication skills. ■ can pace myself to avoid both overworking and wasting time. ■ can resist a refrigerator that’s only a few steps away.

Job Appropriateness
My job: ■ requires minimal face-to-face interaction. ■ involves many responsibilities that can be met by phone, fax, or modem. ■ allows for accountabilities to be quantified, measured, and monitored.

Family Support My family: ■ is supportive of my desire to telecommute and will react positively. ■ is quiet enough to allow me to concentrate. . ■ has adequate lighting. ■ has sufficient ventilation. ■ would provide opportunities for future expansion. ■ has a safe number of electrical circuits. ■ has an adequate amount of storage space. ■ does not require frequent interaction with work associates. ■ is stable and has no relationship conflicts that would be distracting. ■ is a pleasant and comfortable space I’d enjoy working in. ■ can accept my need to focus on work during business hours. 9 Home Office Space/Environment I have a space for my home office that: ■ has an adequate amount of work space for my current needs. ■ has adequate insurance coverage to protect business equipment. ■ has no zoning or lease restrictions that preclude telecommuting. ■ is willing to minimize distractions and interruptions. ■ provides appropriate separation from home/family distractions. ■ involves co-workers who are supportive and collaborative.How to Use This Book ■ affords me the freedom to manage my work as I see best. ■ is a reasonable distance from needed business services. ■ will not require care or involvement from me during work hours.

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Working Well in Your Home Office c 11 .

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buzzing doorbells. The vision to which you calibrate your achievements. chatty friends. I moved toward opportunities and learnings that allowed my vision to transform—and I started telecommuting! 13 . impatient bosses) contribute to our occasionally taking our “eye off the ball” with regard to our true focus. Once I embraced a vision of myself telecommuting. A quick scan of the dictionary definition of focus produces words and phrases such as: ➡ convergence ➡ adjustment ➡ positioning ➡ clear image ➡ central point ➡ sharpness ➡ concentrated Focus serves as: Your guiding light. etc. crashing computers. incoming faxes. whining children. The clear and unambiguous ultimate objectives or goals that justify your effort. the purpose underlying your actions. demanding clients. Achieving focus is at the core of success in nearly every enterprise. The myriad distractions that bombard a telecommuter (ringing phones. it is also applicable to your overall life focus. But a lack of it can be particularly detrimental to the telecommuter whose continued success is tied to achievement of results.) along with the ever-present demands of the moment (looming deadlines.2 Focus Your Life Few things will undermine your telecommuting effectiveness as swiftly and significantly as a lack of focus. frustrated co-workers. While this is certainly true for focusing your job in general as well as the details of your daily work. The underlying reason for my foray into telecommuting is attributable to focus: the priorities in my life became clearer and my desire to telecommute evolved from those priorities.

14 101 Tips for Telecommuters Somewhere there must be estimates of the huge amounts of money spent on goal setting. etc. life planning. balancing your various life roles. Schedule a life-focus planning session with and for yourself. your commitment and discipline to use whatever process you choose is the real key to a focused life. isn’t essential to a well-lived life? But. You’ll soon figure . Who wouldn’t agree that having a life plan isn’t a good idea? Who wouldn’t agree that clarifying your values. In the spirit of simplicity. establishing your life priorities. and 20-year plan—but don’t procrastinate on the major points until you have time for the detailed version. write your eulogy. abandon the system if necessary (or begin to use it properly). and find an appropriate place where you can commit some undisturbed time to contemplate and create. your daily priorities and work goals soon become empty means to a dissatisfying end. refine. do we have the discipline to follow through. like so much else in the life of a telecommuter. 10-. Most important. identify your life roles and define the priorities in each role. So. begin by defining the: 4 most important things in your life 3 most important values you hold 2 most important things you want to accomplish before leaving the planet 1 thing you want people to most remember about your life Get more detailed if you want—write a life mission. map out a 5-. and implement our plan on an ongoing basis? Just how many (well-designed and well-intentioned) day planner/timer/runner systems have been abandoned and added to the accumulation of stuff we think there isn’t enough time to do?! Be careful not to let a time-consuming or misused planning system become a barrier to your life-planning efforts. how many of us actually do this type of life planning? And if we attempt it. Block off time on your calendar. and values-clarification systems and programs. update. time management. but don’t abandon your focus! Without a clear definition of your life focus.

there’s a risk that evaluations of your performance will be based on subjective criteria or— even worse—on what’s seen by your manager versus what you . positioning of your business relative to the industry. As a telecommuter.Working Well in Your Home Office 15 out that the “big picture” represents the most critical aspects of your life focus. You and your manager must have a crystal-clear agreement on how your effectiveness and success will be measured. levels of service to customers. it would be useful to sort this out sooner rather than later. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 3 Focus Your Work Bringing focus to your work is critical to defining your job purpose and accountabilities. For example. especially when you telecommute. But if you think your job purpose is to expand marketplace awareness and your boss thinks you were hired to increase sales. the details will fall into place naturally. Your job purpose states why your particular position exists and how it supports the mission. growth. and the competition or perceptions of the marketplace or your customer base. If you work remotely. clarity regarding your job and your accountabilities is a fundamental communication tool between you and your manager. be certain you clearly define your: • Mission • Job purpose • Key measures • Rewards Your mission should relate to the mission of your organization and should express objectives in areas such as market share. Without such performance measures. the corporate annual report might provide a clear mission. Specific key results and measures are absolutely critical. with a strong orientation to achievement of results.

Finally. advancement benchmarks and timeframes. clarify. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . Otherwise. and job dissatisfaction. it’s essential that you take steps to clarify agreements between you and your manager to ensure that your job focus is clear. resentment. I’ve consistently supplemented my telecommuting agreements with more specific job performance measures documented through the performance management process (Tip 61). disappointment. rewards (merit increases. there’s a huge risk of confusion. assumptions. if your organization doesn’t utilize a structured telecommuting agreement or performance management system. and your future (Tip 30) and for determining on a day-to-day basis how best to ensure that your goals are realized. and document the terms of your role and your relationship with whoever evaluates your performance and influences your future. Remember that ultimately you are responsible for managing your performance. with specific measures by which your results are made visible. Discuss/review this with your manager and document your agreements. However it is handled. Therefore. create one and negotiate the details with your boss. Take the initiative when necessary to discuss. anger. In my telecommuting work arrangements. second-guessing. bonuses. Create a job plan that includes the following items: 1 Purpose statement for your position with a clear statement of the added value you bring to: • • • Your organization Customers Other stakeholders 2 Identify at least five key results you’re expected to achieve. be sure it’s addressed. your work. other perks) should be clearly tied to performance measures. When you telecommute.16 101 Tips for Telecommuters deliver in terms of results.

you must maintain your focus without the benefit of co-workers. team members. For example. Your game plan includes a list of “to do” items that support the accomplishments you’re targeting for the day. your priorities may relate to things like closing sales. What you need to accomplish on a given day would be more specific and clearly measurable: complete a sales proposal. the energy and visible signs of progress that may exist in a team work area or a project “war room” won’t exist in your home office. documents you need to write. • What the rewards are for accomplishing your goals for the day (the immediate payoffs to you personally and professionally). While clarifying priorities and tasks to be accomplished are important to anyone who values productivity. or other more traditional workplace influences that may contribute positively to focus. however. completing articles. • What you need to accomplish (be certain you can quantify. Aside from distractions and demands of the day.Working Well in Your Home Office 17 4 Focus Your Day Regardless of the goal setting or time management system you use when telecommuting. if a team is pulling together a major presentation or finalizing a project design. you should begin each day knowing: • What your priorities are (and why they’re critical). Your daily priorities are based on your job focus (Tip 3) and are the “call to action” for your day. telecommuters can be especially vulnerable to factors that diminish daily focus. feedback to be reviewed and discussed with . conference calls with team members who are collaborating with you on a project. or complete the development of a change-management survey. Since you’ll need to maintain the same focus. • What your game plan is for achieving the needed results (this includes both the “how” and “when” components of your daily action plan). you’ll also need to be clear about what must be done when you leave your office at the end of the day (hopefully. These items could involve anything from phone calls with clients. or designing strategic change plans. or otherwise clearly define this). finish another phase of research. measure. at a civilized hour!). For example.

a sales executive may note in her/his schedule for the day that one of the “must do” items in connection with a major proposal is the completion of the pricing plan. It’s a simple step. 2 actions you must take to complete your accomplishments.M. On a few days (or nights) when deadlines were approaching. at a minimum. but all the great journeys begin with one! To get more specific. visit a favorite chat room on the Internet) and keeps you focused on the things that contribute to your success in your work and your effectiveness as a telecommuter. and how. 3 specific accomplishments targeted for your next work day. 1 reward you’ll attach to completion of targeted accomplishments. If you’re not sure. start. the sales executive also would plan the reward for completing and faxing the proposal (and completing other work targeted for that day). with a blank piece of paper (or a new document on your computer). Your game plan would detail the importance of each task. deadline. so it can be faxed to the client to meet the 4:00 P. Rewards (Tip 29) can be anything that provide incentives and motivate you (take a snack break with the kids. meetings with your manager.M. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . etc. Of course. For example. Be sure to put in writing your prioritized “to do” items for your next work day. determine the: 4 top priorities in your current work.18 101 Tips for Telecommuters colleagues. Specific daily goals and associated rewards were vital to my ability to complete this book. when you need to complete it. and then I could leave the office and/or finally get some sleep! Decide which daily planning process is best for you. head out to the gym. to be accomplished by calling the marketing manager for input on the discount schedule and reviewing the draft plan with the sales manager before 2:00 P. my reward was fairly basic: complete the tips that had to be written for that day.

But when you telecommute from home. It’s likely you’ve already calculated the time you are or could be saving by telecommuting.Working Well in Your Home Office 19 5 Avoid Time Wasters Being a advocate of telecommuting. Here are just a few distracters that. • Watching television • Answering the door or home telephone • Taking snack/refreshment breaks • Talking on the telephone (personal chatting) • Surfing the Internet • Reading/filing personal mail . may be a drain on your time and ability to achieve results: • Reading the newspaper • Playing computer games • Exercising • Visiting with neighbors • Cleaning/light housekeeping • Talking with family members • Laundry • Doing filing • Running “quick” errands • Organizing papers. While thinking through all of this is helpful. this “stuff” simply lingers in the back of your mind and is annoying. etc. you’re likely to appreciate the value of time and ways to utilize it efficiently. it’s very much an “in your face” kind of annoyance that results in the waste of that precious time you so much wanted to save. When you work in a traditional workplace. beware of “activity creep”! “Activity creep” is the slow emergence into your day of “stuff” that needs to get done but is not essential to achievement of your key daily goals. files. Perhaps you’ve also identified all the things you can accomplish with the extra time telecommuting will provide. closets. drawers. in excess.

True. incentives. it’s possible to rack up great savings in . 3) on the essence of your work and your key accomplishments for achieving your goals. pool table. or consequences that keep those time wasters at bay. Or make little signs with a key word or symbol to remind you of a critical work goal (such as your sales goal for the month/quarter/year). Make a commitment to yourself to use your time wisely and keep yourself focused each day (Tips 2. Think about and list the major time wasters that create “activity creep” in your day. “Is doing this activity right now the best use of my work time?” T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 6 Maintain a Healthy Balance (Manage the Workaholic Within) A great myth of telecommuting is the inherent—or automatic—attainment of balance.20 101 Tips for Telecommuters • Paying personal bills Of course. refrigerator. If the threat of failure isn’t enough to motivate you. Right now—make a commitment to yourself to eliminate (or better manage) two of them this week. be sure to give yourself other rewards (Tip 29). Great! Use them as rewards or activities during work breaks (Tip 24). For example. Post your reminders near opportunities to waste time (on the file cabinet. telephone). you could make a big sign or poster on which you write the time waster with a big red circle around it and red line through it. The point is to ask yourself in the moment. some of these distracters may be on your list of fun things to do. Make your commitment visible. The easiest way to avoid time wasters is to be conscious of the ones that plague you.

avoid checking e-mail or voice mail. hard-charging workaholic—you’ll begin to feel as though you never really leave work. or more work! So. . In many cases. relaxing . operates the same way in your home office as it does in your living room: same software. One of my telecommuter friends considers this to be the biggest obstacles he had to overcome—until he finally got his office out of a corner in his family room. here’s a simple rule of thumb: If you were a workaholic before telecommuting.Working Well in Your Home Office 21 commute time which. a pie chart. you’ll have a greater tendency to continue that pattern after telecommuting. recreating. same hardware. let the answering machine respond to a call—in general. too. Use a daily schedule format. in theory. high-initiative. need to turn out lights. Actually write out a daily schedule for your ideal day. ▼ How does it compare to ways you are currently investing your time and energy? (You may need to track your schedule for a few days to be more objective about how your time is spent. . can be redeployed as more time for family. Otherwise—especially for the typical goal-oriented. plan ways you will ensure that the balance you seek is indeed achieved.) ▼ Now find that prioritized plan for tomorrow and be sure that some of your vision for a balanced life is reflected in your plan. Only then did he have a more tangible way to distance himself from work during nonwork hours and thus achieve some of the balance he needed. getting a big proposal out the door. or responding to a client crisis). close doors. ▼ Visualize your ideally balanced life. . you didn’t get a frontal lobotomy! The situation is a bit like your computer. which. The reasons for this are simple—you’ve only changed the location of work. same performance. If you were desperately seeking balance before telecommuting. you’ll need to maintain the same—or stronger—commitment to achieving it as a telecommuter. You. or whatever tool helps you make your ideal plan specific and visible. this means setting reasonable limits to your work hours (except during peak times like end-of-month billing. loaded with the same software.

daily to-do tasks) in mind AND visible. And when all the forces of the cosmos and the dynamics of your universe converge in perfect harmony.22 101 Tips for Telecommuters Do at least one thing tomorrow that moves you toward the balance you’re seeking. Those forces and dynamics don’t just occur. high-achieving. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 7 Stay Motivated (Manage the Slouch Within) You’re undoubtedly a highly motivated. Be sure it’s easy to use (not another time-consuming excuse to avoid your real work!) AND visible. How do you minimize factors that compromise your motivation and productivity? An important key to staying motivated is to avoid procrastination. exercise equipment. even for highly motivated telecommuters. etc. you make them occur or respond to them in ways that keep you motivated. this is likely to be the case. and productive. So. One telecommuter I know insists that he nurtures his sense of progress with a simple TO DO list. focused. But let’s talk about reality. since many of the contributors to procrastination are ever-present in the telecommuting workplace (such as household chores.). Other telecom- . use these guideposts to maintain your motivation and keep the “slouch” at bay: • Keep your focus (major goals. This is a particular challenge. personal tasks. Beyond the sense of achievement. family distractions. The important aspect of this for him is that he diligently crosses out each item as it’s completed. • Establish a system for tracking your accomplishments. self-starter type of person with unbounded confidence that you will achieve high levels of performance and output as a telecommuter. television. it also serves as a method to track results.

however. (It’s debatable. • Be sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions: ✓ Do you have a workable. • Do the hard stuff (probably also the important stuff) FIRST. especially in connection with accomplishing a task that was previously in your procrastination file! T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . • Set deadlines for accomplishing tasks. (Remember to limit your time commitment to reenergizing or rewarding activities.Working Well in Your Home Office 23 muters use computer-based systems that accomplish the same objectives. using this technique as a way to either capitalize on your energy patterns or reward yourself for accomplishing a critical task. Too much of a good thing can be both wonderful and destructive to your best-laid work plans!) Bottom line: Plan your work and work your plan—and do so relentlessly. • Take breaks and/or switch activities periodically. visible plan? ✓ Is your tracking system functional and visible? ✓ Do you know your priorities and have deadlines attached to action items? • Make a list of at least 10 activities you can do or things you can give yourself when you need a short break or have earned a reward. if one gains more satisfaction from vigorously crossing out an item on paper or hitting the delete button on the computer!) • Organize your work into chunks that you can tackle in manageable pieces (remember that journey of a thousand miles and the one-step strategy).

customized system in a box! You need to create your own systems. hire an organization consultant to do it for you. consider it a warning sign. If you’re not good at creating systems. move essential work tools and resources under furniture. on the walls. and individual style. It’s not even open for debate. It’s essential that you analyze your work requirements and design systems that keep you organized. Does this mean you must have a clean desk when you leave your office each day? No. a phone number.24 101 Tips for Telecommuters 8 Get and Keep Your Office Organized Tom Peters has written eloquently about thriving on chaos. someone’s business card. this is nonnegotiable. buy the components required to create workflow and organization systems that allow you to eliminate clutter on your desk. But only you can keep the system working well. a truism. You can. Unfortunately. priorities. onto shelves. your supply of sticky notes. (Based on how my desk looks at the moment. Remember. you can’t run to the local office superstore for your complete. based on your needs. a purchase order. or anything critical to your work (and your efficiency). . an unalterable fact of telecommuting life: lack of organization will doom you. not necessarily. But you need a context in which to manage the “stuff” of your day. you need better systems. into cabinets or lateral desktop files. an old proposal. and this context is created by systems and structure. hate doing it. I’m certainly relieved to know there are no hard and fast “clean desk” rules!) But if you continue to find yourself wasting precious time looking for things in all those stacks of paper. it’s a given. or store items used less often in containers that provide easy access when you do need them. your favorite scissors. and efficiently processing the mounds of mail you receive (Tip 11) is vital. but it’s an organizational state of mind—not the way you want to approach telecommuting. of course. type of work. so it’s vital that you have systems tailored to your needs and style. overhead. Managing the tons of paper (weren’t we fantasizing about the paperless office just a decade ago?!) is inherent in your ability to be organized (Tip 9). Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you spend more than 10 minutes every day looking for a file. or don’t think you have time.

Successful telecommuting could not be further from this misperception. And all of the daily activities of the successful telecommuter are based on and driven by priorities (remember focus!). phone work. (Now move them to a more appropriate file drawer or box. easy-going way of working. (Now move them. But. This doesn’t mean they overlook the need for flexibility. (Add it now to your running list of things to order for delivery by your office supplier.) T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 9 Get and Keep Your Day Organized Just as important as systems is the structure or routine of your day. . it’s not a free-for-all in the way the day is approached—as much as possible there are set times for planning. (Now find a new storage space for them.) 2 Areas where you have space that’s not being utilized most effectively. Telecommuting has the appearance—and misconception—to others of being an unstructured. (Now rearrange them. as with any typical workday. Most successful telecommuters have a fairly structured routine they follow daily.) 3 Files in your closest file drawer or desktop files that haven’t been used in at least a month. meetings.) 1 Thing you can buy that improves the organization of your office.) 4 Things in your closest desk drawer that aren’t used frequently enough to keep them there. project work.Working Well in Your Home Office 25 Quickly scan your office and identify: 5 Things on your desk that you can relocate to a smarter place. etc.

commitments and other to-do items. so it’s important to avoid trusting any more to memory than necessary. (I’m sure my neighbors are somewhat curious about what I’m saying into my recorder as I dictate along my power walk route!) Do the same in your car if you travel or commute periodically—talking is safer than writing while driving! And if solutions to the world’s great problems come to you in the shower. resources.a. supplies information.p. near your bed. along with a to-do list or tickler system that functions as a central input and output point for all of your tasks. you’re still bound to have a cluttered mind. in your car. ✎ Confirm that you have paper and pen near every phone in your house. Therefore. In spite of the best organized calendar and to-do list. binder-based calendar. AND events.). keep a microcassette recorder handy. wall calendar. computer-based calendar and scheduler. in the bathroom. This can be a pocket calendar.s. Don’t forget to be flexible when necessary—if you think great thoughts while exercising. waterproof writing board for your shower. ✎ Get in the habit of gathering those notes and reminders so you can quickly integrate them into your central calendar and planning system. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . and anywhere else where you typically think of things that you need to do. ✎ Think about the other places where you want to capture your thoughts and create a way to do so even if the paper method won’t work (microcassette recorder in your car. it’s just as your mother always told you: a place for everything and everything in its place. etc.26 101 Tips for Telecommuters It is also essential to manage with a solid “calendaring” or scheduling system. install a writing board and grease pencil on your shower wall. discipline yourself to write EVERYTHING down when you think of it—and then transfer it a. to your main scheduling system. This applies to all of your tools. notebook with prioritized action lists—whatever works well for you and your business. tasks. To get and stay organized.

consider bartering for the services (Tip 79). your budget. your limitations. so it must be customized to your needs and to the way you manage your work. Buy good equipment—sturdy file cabinets and plenty of them. anything that compromises your ability to manage. Therefore. Get help from a consultant that specializes in office organization or data management if you’re not an organizational genius about such matters. a fabulous rolodex or a great business card scanning software package—whatever choices are most suited for your specific requirements. there’s no easier way to begin feeling that your work is taking over your entire house than to have file boxes stashed in corners and closets well beyond your office. If you can’t afford a consultant. but nowadays the more dangerous devil probably lurks in your data. Whether you do this electronically or with traditional paper files (and usually it’s a combination of both). portable file bins (on wheels) for easy access to a current project or client files..Working Well in Your Home Office 27 10 Keep the “Administrivia” Under Control The devil is in the details. At the very least. (Note: My husband assures me that I’m living proof that achieving perfection on this suggestion may be a fantasy!) Otherwise. your needs. ultimately. One important rule: PITCH IT if you can. But.g. your preferences. the things you hate. and retrieve information is a serious villain and a major threat to your success as a telecommuter. your success. attend a workshop or read a few books that focus on data organizing systems. how you do it. Your future needs should also be a consideration since your filing system should be designed to expand as your needs change and your archived data grow. you must be passionate about organizing the current and archived information relevant to your work. file. as they say. once again. and your time constraints. More pointedly. As for your tendencies to be a pack rat. A good consultant (e. a few hints: . how you individually work with the system is essential to its success. how you manage information greatly impacts your efficiency and. track. what you do. one that will install a system that will work for you) will ask lots of questions about your work. Don’t go cheap here—invest in filing and/or data management systems that are first-rate. how you access information.

that young grandchildren in your office apparently can identify and activate the delete key on the computer faster than you might realize. with much angst. consider other options such as moving them to a corporate records retention facility or a local storage facility that provides a dry. He discovered. contents. garage. • Keep noncurrent files that must be retained someplace other than your office.) kept at a reasonable distance from your desk. while this minimizes your electronic storage demands. sales or marketing material. So. climate-controlled. • Establish specific time frames for reviewing current files so they can be moved to storage as soon as possible.28 101 Tips for Telecommuters • Keep current project or client files as close to your work space as possible. lighted indoor environment. if possible (such as the basement. etc. Update it religiously whenever any file is moved or altered. and location. The time investment required to do this will pay off handsomely whenever you quickly search your master list to locate a needed file. If these files require a significant amount of storage space. One experienced telecommuter I know insisted that I include a reminder about protecting yourself against the hazards of your files being discarded without your consent. provide discard date on archived files so they’ll automatically be destroyed when no longer needed. closet). with other information (topical files. frequently used forms. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . the judicious use of passwords might be advisable under some circumstances! Maintain a master file list in your computer (print a hard copy for backup) reflecting file name.

) I vividly recall times when I was locked in meetings for days or out of touch due to travel or had taken a few days of vacation only to face upon my return 147 e-mail messages. . • Handle the *Act Now items immediately. *Read. remember the feelings of dread. 63 voice mail messages. followed by the seemingly endless end-of-day processing of mail. Set aside specific times during the day to deal with all forms of mail. Overcome the temptation to read that fax when you hear the fax machine humming or switch to e-mail when your computer signals the arrival of a message. how? Processing your mail quickly doesn’t mean you handle it as soon as it appears. (The plumber can unclog your pipes.) • Prioritize the items you’re keeping into folders. (Unless. files or piles: *Act Now. You. (Also delete from e-mail anything sent by an unknown addressee and avoid being on lists for automatic distribution of e-mail messages or new releases unless they’re essential to your business. and swear to yourself right now that you’ll never let it happen again. but only you can flush out the mail that awaits you. since now you have three inbound sources of mail instead of one! And. and “normal” work. *Do Later. Don’t worry—they’ll still be there when it’s time to read them! For all types of mail you receive. boxes. and you saved time. too? Recall those times.Working Well in Your Home Office 29 11 Manage the Maddening Mounds of Mail You may recall feeling burdened in the not-too-distant past by the volume of paper that filled your in-basket. you feel as if you’re drowning in it all. of course. But. right? Not likely. It seemed that days would be filled with meetings. How can you stay afloat? The overriding guide on handling mail is to do it as quickly as possible BEFORE it backs up badly. and a huge box of mail. travel. no doubt. you stuffed it in your extra brief case and took it all home to read!) Then the enlightened age of technology brought us the time-saving (and supposedly paperless) wonders of voice mail and e-mail . remembering to be as brief as possible and respond to only those items that require a . following these simple steps: • Do an initial sort and quickly trash anything of no value. . *File.

If you don’t have clearly designed places for different types and priorities of mail. your mother said to always say “Thank you. Review your system for processing mail and your sorting system. • Use drive time to keep on top of voice mail (following “safe cellular” guidelines.). there are a few factors to consider first: . of course). during lunch. check the size of your trash can—you probably need to order a larger one.” but she didn’t realize that doing so would someday clutter someone’s e-mail box!) • Deal with the *Do Later and *Read items as time permits.) As you consider options within your home. (Actually.30 101 Tips for Telecommuters response. deciding where to locate your office in your home is a critical issue. (Yes. Also. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 12 Determine the Best Location for Your Home Office Once you’ve decided to work from your home-based office. always looking for creative uses of snippets of time (while on hold for a caller. you should have given this some thought before pursuing the telecommuting option to ensure you indeed have appropriate space and work conditions essential to telecommuting success. and always leave your office with something from your *Read file should you encounter a delay or reading opportunity (when your vehicle is NOT in motion!). in the bathroom. set up the appropriate places now. Be sure that your *Read items are easily accessible near your office door (so you can grab them quickly on your way out when you may have opportunities to catch up on your reading backlog). etc.

consider yourself blessed. This type of solution also can work as a customized built-in arrangement in a closet. you can consider the options your home provides. be sure to use a partition of some sort . Obviously. Sharing a space in a room such as a family room or living room is usually less desirable. files. if you must have an arrangement like this. If you absolutely must use a section of your bedroom or another room with a primary purpose other than housing your office.) • What access will others need to have to your office? (Will you have meetings in your office? Will an assistant work with you?) • How much psychological or symbolic distance will you need between your office and your family and your living space? • How much physical separation will you need to give yourself to minimize the distractions presented by your family and the rest of your home? • What security requirements will your office have? Once you’ve assessed your space requirements. provided it meets other requirements for your efficiency. Look carefully—there may be alternatives you hadn’t seen before. and other materials. Using a section of your bedroom for your office is usually an undesirable option. Some telecommuters share space in a seldom used room. the necessary access to supplies. the furniture and equipment you’ll require. there are some great furniture solutions that provide an efficient “office in a box” that closes neatly when not in use and can easily be mistaken for an armoire.Working Well in Your Home Office 31 • How much space will you need? (Base this on: the type of work you do. Otherwise. providing the dedicated office you need for working within the confines of limited space and with the advantage of having it “gone” when you close the door. However. since the mingling of work and sleep are not conducive to doing either one very well. such as a guest room or even the dining room (unless you entertain frequently or don’t have a table in the kitchen). look for creative ways to work with what you’ve got. since these rooms usually are used by other people in your house and maintaining separation can be difficult. and the realization that you’ll fill the space faster and need more of it than you expect. If you are so fortunate as to have a separate space to transform into an office. a gigantic spare (and conveniently empty) room would be ideal.

access. necessary separation. security. ✓ Based on the space options in your home. supplies. (Tip 101). windowless. cavernous basement may appear to provide more space than you’ll ever need. make a list of everything you need. such as furniture. A final thought to consider: Wherever you decide to locate your office. organization. etc. So. however. resource materials.32 101 Tips for Telecommuters (or an “office in a box”) so you provide the necessary separation between your professional life and your personal life. systems. and support for your telecommuting success will be undermined by an office that you hate. suitable convenience. or gives you the creeps. ✓ If you’re already ensconced in your home office. ✓ If you’re just establishing your home office or need to reevaluate the location of your existing office. it certainly won’t beckon to you and contribute to your motivation. and personal comfort. etc. be sure it’s in a place where you WANT to work. equipment. damp. separation. if it’s dark. files. create an office in your home that balances and combines requirements for appropriate space. Everything else you do to create focus. A large. The same is true for a cozy attic office—if you feel claustrophobic and always on the verge of a panic attack or heat stroke. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . ✓ Create an office layout and determine your space requirements. Consider a change or enhancements if your office is not all you thought it was cracked up to be. consider the pros and cons of each option in light of the factors discussed above. reassess how well it’s working for you in terms of needed space.

empty room (with a bathroom. If. small kitchen. assuming someone else is managing their care) but still lets you hear sounds that are important to your work (like the doorbell when an express delivery arrives). This alerts you to the doorbell . To whatever extent possible. One way to stay connected while removed from the epicenter of activity in your home is to use an intercom or room monitor. • Add additional soundproofing with cork board on your walls (very functional. (3) have a former carriage house on your property that lends itself perfectly to your needs. multiple telephone jacks. If none of these scenarios describes your situation. Be sure that your soundproofing blocks out distracting sounds (like your children. as well!). your office should be removed from the activities and distractions of your home and family.) that yearns to function as an office.) in a separate location so your office is clearly a work-related space only. • Use carpeting that’s different from the rest of your house (and functional for use with office furniture and equipment: thick or shag carpeting was not designed for use with casters on office chairs). you’re using a spare bedroom or other location that’s not in a separate wing of your mansion.Working Well in Your Home Office 33 13 Draw a Clear Line Between Your Work and Living Space More than likely. however. lots of windows. plenty of electrical outlets. files. checkbook. or (4) you have a huge house and a large. etc. you have lots of company—and need to improvise! Situating your office within your home with a clear demarcation between office and home is one of your biggest challenges and most critical requirements for successful telecommuting. • Keep your personal business matters (mail. etc. you won’t have an ideal location for your home office unless you: (1) are fortunate enough to have designed your home with this in mind. consider a few steps to promote real and psychological separation: • Install a solid (versus hollow) door to buffer distracting sounds. (2) have the luxury of renovating or remodeling to create an ideal work space.

2 Things about your office that make it hard for you to concentrate or get started with work. • Have a snack. nonwork reading). as well. One way to draw a psychological line between work and home is to end your workday with a ritual that signals you to focus on the rest of your life. you may benefit from learning ways to psychologically separate your work life and your home life. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . you have a door you can close. Because your office is ever-present in your home and so easily accessible. Hopefully. • Change clothes. or your family. • Head out to the gym for a workout. • Make a small dent in your *Reading in-box (or treat yourself to some light. • Spend a few minutes of “how was your day” sharing time with your spouse or kids. • Take a walk. Other end-of-day ritual and techniques successful telecommuters use to transition to a nonwork mindset include: • End the workday with a 15-minute planning session for the next day’s work. Consider ways to overcome these obstacles and implement solutions for at least two of them today.34 101 Tips for Telecommuters or a true family emergency that would demand your attention whether you were telecommuting or in an office 10 miles away. 1 Major barrier to your ability to “close the office door” in your mind at the end of your work day. discipline yourself to leave it closed until the next workday. your personal life. Identify: 3 Sources of distraction that come from your home.

(3) an executive suite location with ship-and-receive services. If you live in an apartment. condominium complex. etc. Etc. and packages left on your doorstep easily are accessible. If packages can be delivered directly to your doorstep. or gated community. (2) post office box for mail and home address for packages (do you have room on your business card for two addresses?). Additionally. your mail reaches you more directly if it’s dropped in your home mailbox. (4) a full-service ship-and-receive location (e. Some telecommuters prefer to keep their home address out of their business dealings for other reasons. However. A package delivered to the property management office on Friday afternoon might not be accessible to you until Monday if you can’t retrieve it before the office closes. there are several options: (1) a post office box—although this is problematic for most express or package delivery needs since many shippers will not deliver to post office boxes. You might not want your home address to be public information. tracking and storage for your mail and packages. if you receive your mail at home... delivery services sometimes face delivery restrictions in these situations. as well. mail might not be delivered directly to your door. e-mail or fax cover page. business card. If you need to include your mailing/shipping address on your letterhead. you’ll probably need to ask someone to retrieve it or ask the post office to hold it when you’re out of town.). The Package Store. Mailboxes. envelopes. This can prove to be a big nuisance if you travel more than occasionally. as well as . If you opt to use an address other than your home address. they often will be left there for days if you’re traveling or away on vacation—and the mail can begin spilling out of your mailbox in a short period of time while you’re away. your home address inherently becomes public information. Should this be unacceptable for any reason. True.Working Well in Your Home Office 35 14 Determine the Best Address for Your Home Office Just because your office is in your home doesn’t mean your home address also should serve as your business address. So.g. you may elect to use an entirely different address. there are several disadvantages that you should consider. The off-site ship-and-receive alternatives should offer staffed facilities that provide signatures.

etc. as well as your individual work style. It’s unlikely you’ll get what you need if you attempt to abdicate completely and trust anyone else to design an office that will work for you. So whether you’re planning to work with a design expert or pull together the components of an efficient office on your own. check the yellow pages for options (Mailbox Rental and Receiving) or create a new version of your home address. you’ll need to give careful consideration to a few key issues: • What type of work do you do. must you typically access throughout your work day? • What equipment is critical to your successfully and efficiently accomplishing your work? . T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 15 Design Your Office for Efficiency If even the thought of designing your office makes you panic or begin fantasizing about hiring an interior designer to make it magically appear. resources. however. files. occasional packages and express shipments. how does your work flow. necessary work flow and requirements. references.36 101 Tips for Telecommuters after-hours access to your mail. how you receive them and problems you encounter. space limitations. this might be an area where you do need some expert assistance. Do you need a change of address? Review the types of mail and packages you receive. what does a typical day consist of in terms of work activities? • What information. Keep in mind. and varying degrees of travel. Dedicated ship-and-receive services seem to provide the best combination of options and flexibility for a telecommuter with mounds of mail. If you need to change your address. that you ultimately must think through your equipment and furniture needs.

box. tape. and shred any of that output in the paper shredder! While sitting for hours isn’t such a great thing (Tip 24). Look around for “dead” space—on the walls. retrieve output from both my laser printer and my fax machine. operate a four-line telephone. grab current project files. Without an office that promotes efficiency. under/on/above/behind your desk—that you can use more effectively to hang. however. efficiency in the design of your work space is fundamental to your success as a telecommuter. the stapler. you know that assessing your needs and designing an office plan sometimes results in reconsidering your office location.. how much space it will require. information. Design (or redesign) your work space to make all of those things easily available. dictate a quick thought or letter. equipment. a U-shape or L-shape design often promotes wonderful efficiency and access to equipment and information. I can—without leaving my chair—use my computer. participate in a videoconference. With limited space. stack. supplies) you access in a typical day. If you’ve already created a floor plan (Tip 12). reach for paper clips. you’re likely to either fail or make yourself crazy—or both! Make a list of all the things (e. the calculator.. From where I currently sit. If you have more space available. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . a modular furniture system might be best. and how it will best be placed in your office. or file the things you need.Working Well in Your Home Office 37 Answering these questions leads to a determination of the type of furniture and storage space you need. files. Once you’ve settled on the location. shelve. etc. writing implements.g. you want to achieve the most efficient use of the available space.

consider a stand-up work surface. too little or too much humidity can be uncomfortable and should be avoided. you’ll spend a lot of time in your office. If possible. look for work surfaces that adjust to different heights and angles. Let’s focus here on how the design of your office can support your sustained good health and continued productivity. While your notebook com- .38 101 Tips for Telecommuters 16 Design Your Office for Good Health Any way you cut it. and design your office layout: • If you don’t have plenty of natural. expense. and pain for you—and your employer is not likely to be thrilled with a workers’ compensation claim that is avoidable. To begin. a proper fitting chair is essential (Tip 93). And be sure your monitor is large enough and clear enough to avoid eye strain. • Carefully select a computer keyboard and mouse that is suited to your needs and minimizes the pitfalls that come with computer territory. indirect light for the room) and task (direct light on your work space) lighting. • Work at a temperature that keeps you alert and comfortable while ensuring a good supply of fresh air (just open the window!—or install a ceiling fan). Also. northern light streaming into your office. Keep these key things in mind when you select your office space. This is desirable since unhealthy situations and habits can lead to inconvenience. choose your equipment. there are any number of steps you can take personally to ensure that you stay healthy (Tip 23) and that your office is safe (Tip 17). • If your office design is highly efficient and you’re sitting a lot. or bright light directed at your eyes. lighting directed at your computer monitor. Aside from the adjustability you’ll want in your chair. Your list of essential office equipment may need to include a humidifier or dehumidifier. Avoid bright sunlight. provided you can access the needed equipment and information to maintain efficiency. supplement with a good balance of ambient (bright. So it behooves you to make it not only a safe and pleasant place but also an environment that promotes good health.

Many of the basic safety guidelines applicable to corporate offices are relevant to your home office. light) and one aspect of your equipment that can be changed to improve the health level of your work space. The savings in neck strain and raging headaches will make your headset one of the most cost-effective investments in your entire office. or schedule execution of your improvement ideas as quickly as possible.Working Well in Your Home Office 39 puter is great for traveling. it’s not the best option for significant office use. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 17 Be Your Own OSHA Inspector The local OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspector may not be on your list of external partners and is not likely to ever visit your home office. If your notebook is your primary computer and you like having everything in one machine. adjust your chair height). While your employer may provide guidelines to guard against liability challenges and worker compensation claims. consider a docking system or port replicator that enables you to use a more appropriate monitor and keyboard for extensive office computing. security. too. you should monitor compliance with office safety standards to protect your personal well-being and to . don’t even debate with yourself—buy a headset that gets that telephone off of your shoulder and frees your hands for other productive work (Tip 92). office safety should not be an issue you overlook. Select one aspect of your environment (air. or design standards. Implement it now (open the window. • Assuming you spend any amount of time on the telephone. And though your employer may not conduct an on-site check of your office for conformance to safety.

full drawers on top). or excessive numbers of extension cords. contact . books not stored on top of cabinets. utility knife. etc. ❏ Boxes of papers. ❏ Appropriate ventilation for good health and to vent fumes from equipment or materials. ❏ Equipment turned off when not in use.40 101 Tips for Telecommuters guard against damage to your property. ❏ Flammable liquids stored properly. files. ❏ Electrical equipment located away from water source. files. ❏ Pencils pointing down in pencil holders. empty drawers on bottom. ❏ Phone numbers for local emergency services posted on each phone. ❏ Fire extinguisher easily accessible to office and in working order. ❏ Restricted access to equipment (paper cutter.. ❏ No use of unnecessary. ❏ Files not top-heavy (e. chairs.) potentially harmful to children. inappropriate. window sills. ❏ Adequate lighting for type of work performed. ❏ Electrical cords in good condition (not frayed). ❏ All electrical equipment and appliances grounded (use of threepronged plugs). Exercise diligence with regard to safety in your home office and monitor how your office stacks up against these basic guidelines: ❏ Aisles/walkways clear of boxes. etc. ❏ Electrical cords located away from heating sources and working/walking areas. ❏ First aid kit easily accessible. equipment.g. For additional information or more detailed guidelines. ❏ Availability of ladder or appropriate step stool. wastebaskets. ❏ Use of appropriate power-surge protection equipment. Compromising either objective potentially results in situations that preclude you from working.

Working Well in Your Home Office 41 your local Department of Labor or OSHA office. This could not be more true than for telecommuting. or access OSHA online at www. And until videoconferencing and videophones are more prevalent in the telecommuting workplace.osha. ■ Take immediate steps to correct any dangerous conditions in ✓ your office by relocating offending materials or by calling an appropriate service provider to correct the situation. ■ Use the checklist above to evaluate the “safety correctness” of ✓ your office. ■ Are there any areas of vulnerability? Pay particular attention to ✓ areas of potential significant hazard (fire risk. etc.gov. (Good news: Even if you utilize video communication. ■ On a related issue. when you’re working at home. chemical exposure. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 18 Dress for Success (According to the New Rules) With the advent of casual dress. dressing for success certainly has evolved over the last decade. you’re dressing for you and you alone.). review your homeowner’s insurance or ✓ renter’s policy to ensure you have adequate coverage for losses of structure or contents associated with your home office (Tip 99). where dress for success rules are driven by what works best for you—what makes you feel best and what helps you work best. it only matters how you look from the waist up!) The media continue to publish articles about telecommuting with fanciful pictures of telecommuters wearing bathrobes and .

If it helps you work more productively. Make your choices based on NEED (any meetings today?). In any case. Are your choices contributing to your overall productivity? If not. Consider your wardrobe options. shorts. dressing appropriately for such meetings might determine your daily wardrobe. or colleagues may be part of your day. and professional. sensible shoes). decide now on ways to improve your focus.42 101 Tips for Telecommuters bunny slippers or floating in a swimming pool with a drink and a notebook computer. shaved. energized. such as shaving and wearing makeup. so for them donning a shirt and tie or a dress contributes to a productive workday. T-shirts. and time efficiency when you get dressed and prepare for work each day. and dressed (the equivalent of business casual). otherwise. do it. laid-back adventure in relaxation with only occasional interruptions of work. Do not be misled by these unrealistic images! Most telecommuters find the relaxation/interruption equation to be completely reversed. chances are I will do sloppy work”). if this wardrobe choice helps you feel focused. One telecommuter I know really feels there’s a connection between how he looks and how he works (“If I feel sloppy. effectiveness. Along the wardrobe continuum from bunny slippers to business suit. save the time for more critical activities. STYLE (can you take yourself seriously in your bathrobe?). More frequently. Remember. Unfortunately. effective telecommuters choose comfortable attire (sweats. As for the bathrobe and slippers. you should dress once and avoid outfit changes midday. whatever works for you is the right solution for you. suppliers. If meetings with clients. The same issues of individual style and psychological need influence other choices. a range of options are available to you. this perpetuates the myth that telecommuting is an informal. Some telecommuters use dress to help establish a mindset for work. by all means do it. since this is a waste of precious time. and COMFORT (what feels both relaxed and energizing and isn’t a barrier to your work?). however. so he won’t start his work day until he’s showered. jeans. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E .

Also. Of course. Much as you might believe Mae West’s maxim “Too much of a good thing is wonderful!”. relaxing. Keep in mind (something else your mother may have mentioned!) that the “rule of moderation” applies here—even a strength in excess becomes a weakness. moderation is the rule. The successful telecommuter makes it a habit to plan. ✖ Watching TV when you should be working. organize. filing. ✖ Not regularly reviewing your priorities and updating your action list. . feeling—and working—like a slob (generally. Internet surfing. organizing. Once again. ✖ Looking. ✖ Working constantly. networking. shopping. exercising. none of these habits is innately bad unless it becomes extreme enough to be a detriment to your effectiveness. and—eventually—degrade motivation. meditating. All of these factors are exacerbated for the telecommuter because of the independence and isolation characteristic of remote work. remember that you shouldn’t try to transform all of your bad habits to good habits at once. or snoozing activities). or life: ✖ Sleeping longer and starting your work day later than you should. since they erode productivity.Working Well in Your Home Office 43 19 Make a Habit of Avoiding Bad Habits Poor work habits are a problem for anyone. or unhealthy food during the workday. Do bad habits plague you? Consider whether any of these have crept into your work. ✖ Longer work breaks or lunch breaks than are necessary (or breaks that evolve into social. ✖ Consuming alcoholic beverages. compromise effectiveness. eating. leave pajamas and bunny slippers in the bedroom—and don’t let your personal hygiene completely lapse!). it’s not likely she was referring to work issues or habits. day. drugs. ✖ Excessive or insufficient amounts of planning. and execute work so that bad habits are avoided.

T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 20 Reject the Refrigerator that Beckons You One of the biggest struggles some telecommuters face is the refrigerator—it seems.44 101 Tips for Telecommuters Make a list of the habits you want to change. Don’t overwhelm yourself. analytical. the reasons are varied—some . all semblance of these fine traits may dissipate when you walk within 20 feet of your refrigerator (or any other place where delectable edibles are stashed). at times. Rather. Analyze the process or precipitating incidents that activate the bad habit. Select one to change today: Think about what causes the bad habit or what keeps you from changing it. or planful you may otherwise be. Visualize the new habit and imagine how you’ll feel and behave. Eliminate obstacles to the new habit (get the futon out of your office!). Provide interim rewards to yourself as you progress to full integration of the new habit. Note on your calendar when you plan to implement this change process for other bad habits on your list. and be anxious to dispense its contents. Identify the steps that will provide a different response to what’s activating the bad habit. Why is this? We’re not all a bunch of undisciplined telecommuting food junkies. but be dogged in your determination and attack the most counterproductive ones first. However reasonable. be needy of your attention. to call out your name.

So. These folks aren’t as fat. or drink a glass of juice while doing your on-line banking. procrastination. any sources of unhealthy foods in your kitchen (or your office. wherever possible. ❥ Don’t eat randomly—schedule your snack breaks or snack only when you’re hungry. Have lunch on your deck. or maintain your supply of excess Halloween candy right through the Christmas cookie season until the onslaught of Easter candy). but to eat badly. decide on meal choices and snack options. here are a few ways to remind yourself about the virtues of planful and controlled eating: ❥ As part of your weekly planning. Your refrigerator is like so many other things in life—you get out of it what you put into it. or so it seems). within a range of preestablished guidelines and limits. munch on carrot sticks while you take a short walk. You probably need a change of scenery. ❥ Don’t hang around the kitchen while you eat (food seems to yearn for more food!). the need for a break. Purchase the healthy foods you’ve chosen and eliminate. decide on the types of healthy foods that (1) you enjoy and will eat. prepackaged entree cooked for 3 minutes in the microwave is easier than just about anything healthy. taste-pleasing variety of meal and snack options. post a picture of your larger self on the refrigerator. ❥ If you’re a recovering overweight person. This is more often a result of poor planning (nothing healthy in the refrigerator) or laziness (a high-fat. the temptation is not just to overeat. And then there are the workaholic telecommuters who simply let the day fly by without eating much of anything. and—sometimes—as a response to hunger. (3) will provide a nutritionally balanced. Giving yourself choices. (2) are not excessively time-consuming to prepare.Working Well in Your Home Office 45 overeat out of nervousness. Knowing that tempting foods may be impossible to completely eradicate from your home (if you live with other people. start your “refrigerator control” program by committing to a healthy lifestyle and diet. but nor are they any healthier. anyway. From there. occasionally receive yummy gifts. Remembering how hard you . won’t make you feel so regimented and restricted. However. if you’re one of those who stockpiles goodies like a squirrel preparing for winter!).

❥ Cover your refrigerator with clippings from magazines and catalogs of people whose bodies you.46 101 Tips for Telecommuters worked to achieve the new. while all of this emphasis on healthy eating may be good for you. you would work only when there is a harmonic convergence of time. and need. But since you must sometimes deliver your services at the convenience or demand of others. too. inspiration. it may also be essential to your satisfaction and success as a telecommuter. slighter you will dissuade you from overindulging. Make a commitment to healthier eating and having more control over your snacking. spit it out!” Bear in mind that a number of former telecommuters decided to return to a traditional office because they attributed their weight gain to working at home.) ❥ Post friendly (and large-print) reminders on the refrigerator: “Over the lips—straight to the hips!” “If it tastes good. (This also will encourage you at a subconscious level to stay in better shape through exercise. Begin by adding: 4 Healthy meal options to your grocery list 3 Healthy snack choices to your approved snack list 2 Motivational quotes or photos to your refrigerator door 1 Unhealthy item currently in your refrigerator to the trash bin T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 21 Work During Your Peak Energy Times In an ideal world. energy. can have if you avoid overeating. the timing of your work might not always align with the . So.

Whenever possible.Working Well in Your Home Office 47 peaks in your motivation and energy levels. however. Telecommuting often offers a range of options and degrees of flexibility with regard to how and when you complete your work. you’ll need to manage your work and your energy with this in mind. it’s helpful (to you and your employer/colleagues/clients/ partners) to work during your phases of high energy and to minimize certain types of work during dips in your energy level. and look for ways to leverage your patterns to maximize your productivity. don’t forget about ways you can enhance your energy. the limitations on your ability to work during times of peak energy. there will be certain times you’re expected to be available (and coherent!). begin by knowing the patterns of your energy level. when you feel that talking on the phone is the most challenging task you can undertake. develop a profile of your energy and work patterns. Unless your job is completely flexible or you are an individual contributor with minimal external contact. when you find yourself tackling complex tasks. if you have lots of flexibility. if you work with people or support operations across multiple time zones. etc. also. while taking appropriate breaks throughout the day (Tip 24) can make a real difference in extending energy peaks for top performance. On the other hand. If you’re not certain when you’re more inclined toward certain types of work. Staying fit and healthy (Tip 23) will contribute to your overall energy level. As you balance the demands of your job with the reality of your energy patterns. If your circumstances provide any degree of flexibility on the timing of your work. keep a log for a week or so to track what work you do when. Consider. From this log. you may have committed to availability during specific hours of business operation. it’s much easier to accommodate those bursts of energy at unusual hours. To determine your energy patterns. think about how you currently work: when you feel highly energized. you may join those of us who are natural-born night owls and able to accomplish enviable amounts of work through the night. Also. when you feel that you’d love to (or you do!) just nod off for a nap. And without the commute. Certainly if you’re providing customer service or support by phone. If you negotiated a telecommuting agreement with your employer. . it’s likely you’ll have some constraints on how you manage your work and your energy.

A reality of telecommuting life. Add at least three action items to your schedule for specific activities at certain times based on your anticipated energy levels and the requirements of your job. so your ideal work schedule and pattern may seem a bit like a pipe dream.48 101 Tips for Telecommuters It’s not likely that the events of your typical day are ever completely within your control. knowing when it’s best for you to do different types of work and using this knowledge as a guide will allow you to achieve the best output for the energy you invest each day. ordering office supplies on-line and having them delivered. Consult . Instead. But. is that some “erranding” is unavoidable and may in fact increase. plan your route carefully by arranging stops geographically. using courier or express delivery services whenever possible. avoid any face-to-face encounters where you can by banking electronically. The following guidelines will help you incorporate efficient erranding into your day. and using your phone and fax whenever those walking fingers can save you time. it’s wise to avoid procrastination or inefficiency in your erranding and focus on accomplishing what you must in a minimum of time and with a minimum of effort. With this reality accepted. since you are likely to be remote from corporate services. When you must get in your car and run errands personally. however. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 22 Make “the Rounds” for Efficient “Erranding” Being a telecommuter. Avoid the temptation to ease your sense of isolation by socializing while running errands. Determine the discretionary time available in your daily schedule and consider the best use of the time based on your energy patterns. you’re likely to resist unnecessary time in your car or any other mode of commuting.

Working Well in Your Home Office 49 a map if necessary and look for alternative routing that minimizes your time out of the office. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . and know the backup option you’ll exercise if your first choice is unavailable (which will happen only when you’re operating under an incredibly tight deadline for a major project!). (or in my case.. be familiar with the options in your area and their times of operation. memos. Keep a list of key phone numbers handy in any vehicle you might use for errands (since you might not always remember your day planner. Make a list of your typical stops when you run errands. Review the list for at least two stops you can eliminate or minimize by using other options. etc. Also. keep a microcassette recorder handy to record ideas that occur to you during mindless driving or to dictate letters. (Even better—have express items or packages picked up at your office whenever possible. Use your cellular phone to make calls that require minimum concentration (and very minimal notetaking!). monthly reports. word processing. etc.) If you frequently need other business services such as printing. copying. Use your drive time as productively as possible. Call either your local or central post office to locate the closest mailboxes with the latest pick-up times. Be familiar with alternatives and options for your most common erranding needs. to dictate another tip!). Toward this end. and accessing a phone number from your computer is a tricky task while driving). know where the latest pickup times are for the mailboxes within a 10-mile or 10-block radius of your home (your local post office does not necessarily provide the latest pick-up time). know or keep a list of the express service drop boxes and pick-up times in your area. Consider how you can improve the order in which you make your rounds to save time. If making calls isn’t an option. Keep a pad of paper and pen or pencil in all of your vehicles so you always have at least a low-tech way to capture a thought and make your drive time as productive as possible.

self-management. so I’ll leave it to you to find the best culinary solutions for your health needs. don’t forget to exercise. however. So. try this instead: A: No—great! Q: Are you tired? A: Yes—you probably need to get more sleep. whoever invented the concept of siesta was brilliant. successful entrepreneurship. if you need to sleep more. etc. So. including a specific amount of water to . They include long explanations of the value of sleep. and you’ll need to be conscious of the effect your work has on your food consumption. the “Rule of Mom” is the operational guide to staying fit and healthy: get plenty of rest. Entire libraries can be filled with books about diet and healthy meals. and take a multiple vitamin everyday. If you’re wired this way. But. Of course. Some people can take a 15-minute catnap midday and reenergize for the second half of a long day. drink plenty of water. you know all the benefits of sleep to your body and brain. so read on! I love the sections on sleep you find in any number of books about health. Of course. Mom didn’t explain the specifics of making this work for telecommuters. Putting aside everything you might read on this topic (and foregoing all the fancy equipment or the expensive health club membership). that telecommuting easily can result in either not eating (the workaholic reigns and won’t stop to eat!) or overeating (Tip 20). give thanks for the good fortune of your telecommuting blessings. and probably in tune with rhythms of the human body. with cute little self-quizzes to help you determine if you’re getting enough sleep. eat a balanced diet. use part of your lunch break for that quick nap. Be aware. it’s an easy enough thing to do. certainly. because Mom was right also about our inability to stockpile those sleep hours! As for naps. then just do it—everyday. Neither is a good idea. like other things.50 101 Tips for Telecommuters 23 Stay Fit and Healthy Once again. and avoid compromising any of your commitments to availability during scheduled work hours. In the spirit of efficiency. it requires discipline. As for water consumption. it really comes down to the fundamentals from Mom. be creative: Add it to your daily task list.

RIGHT NOW! Stand up. and only you can make the commitment to creatively fit exercise into your day. stretch your arms. More likely.Working Well in Your Home Office 51 consume. AND your work. as I recall. you’ll probably find there are few interruptions if you’ve taken steps to manage this (Tip 34). quick visit with your kids. and drink a large glass of water. seems to involve a long series of interruptions between which you try to complete your work. or to make a transition out of your work day. whereas in BT (before telecommuting) days. therefore. or Recover Working in a traditional office. Additionally. People without telecommuting experience simply do not comprehend how focused and task-oriented a telecommuter can become. how easily an entire morning can fly by without even . you can integrate exercise into your day by doing isometric exercises at your desk or using quick breaks for stretching. you’ll need to create opportunities for breaks from your work. Reward yourself— select an incentive (food. short phone call to a friend. Get a water cooler for your office that’s either easily accessible to your desk or provides you a good reason to get out of your chair to stretch and walk across the office (not to mention the exercise you’ll get walking to the bathroom so often!). take three deep breaths. As a telecommuter. Re-Energize. you had constant breaks in your work flow. it won’t happen. to provide a midday break. it you don’t plan it. Feel better? T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 24 Take Breaks to Relax. Of course you should exercise daily. etc. your mind. and. This is good for your body.) you can earn for hitting water intake targets. Whether it’s an invigorating way to start your day. And don’t forget to breathe—take several deep breaths periodically throughout the day.

➢ Catch headline news on radio or TV. And. and avoid breaks for the brain! Taking breaks is essential to good health. ➢ Have a romantic interlude. ➢ Take a catnap. 3-minute breaks or several hours in length—for your sanity and for your survival as a productive telecommuter. ➢ Call a friend. many of the activities you might choose for your breaks can transform (if extended unreasonably) into time wasters. or surprise your kids with a quick hug.). balance and discipline are critical. ➢ Read a nonbusiness magazine. ➢ Take a musical interlude (play the piano. compromise liquid intake. ➢ Send a electronic card to an e-mail buddy. Because we typically work in high-productivity work cultures and because telecommuters are prone to workaholism. of course. As delightful as this sounds from a productivity perspective. the notion of taking and enjoying breaks requires moving beyond the sense of guilt often wired into our thinking. So. Remember that you take these breaks—whether they are quick. let the dog outside for a few minutes. and the achievement of the much-sought-after balanced life (remember why you wanted to telecommute!). . etc. With this in mind. learn to appreciate your breaks as an essential part of your balanced life and expand the following list of break activities to rejuvenate your mind and spirit: ➢ Take a walk (or take the dog for a walk). have a quick juice break with your spouse. You also can use other activities to prompt a break—refill your water glass. Who would imagine that you might need to schedule a break?! If that’s the only way you can be sure to fit breaks into your day. You might set a timer or plan a break at the end of a scheduled conference call or ask your spouse to retrieve you from your office at a designated time. listen to a favorite CD. ➢ Surf the Internet (nonbusiness related). clear thinking. it’s really not healthy or ultimately productive to sit for extended periods of time. take your designated 3-minute stretch break each hour. throw a load of clothes in the washer. then do what it takes to make it happen.52 101 Tips for Telecommuters the thought of a break.

➢ Have a healthy snack. . Decide now how you will spend your break times. 53 Schedule two breaks today. Your work and the rest of your life must integrate and work well together to achieve ultimate success. rather. Make a list of five other break activities you plan to enjoy during the next week.Working Well in Your Home Office ➢ Write a quick note you’ve wanted to send. . but also that your life is not one-dimensional (or shouldn’t be!). do nothing . This requires maintaining a focus on your work that is not singular but. afford you the flexibility to manage the competing demands on your time if you’re open to approaching these demands creatively and learning how to integrate the many facets of your life. ➢ Meditate. Nor will it eliminate the time and focus you must invest to achieve high performance levels in a demanding or challenging job. ➢ Visit your garden to enjoy the view. ➢ Spend a few minutes with your pet. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 25 Multi-Task to Maximize Your Productivity Telecommuting will not save you from workaholic tendencies that rob you of the balance you need to be both professionally and personally successful. It will. however. . ➢ Meet a friend for coffee or lunch. encompassing—allowing for the reality that your work is important/vital/critical/primo. ➢ Sit . water plants. . . just be (and breathe). or dig in the dirt.

➔ When a conference call is long.54 101 Tips for Telecommuters The first step toward integration is a handy little tool you can learn from your computer. picking up your groceries midday when you’re in the same area to pick up your mail may be very sensible if an evening trip to the grocery store will involve much more time due to an additional commute. somewhat unproductive and not necessarily demanding of your complete intellectual capacities (unfortunately. too. you’re more than likely to devote the available time in the evening to a work-related activity. inefficient. etc.g. There’s a reason you’re not still using a computer that does only one function at a time—it’s slow. schedule an appointment with your doctor. increased crowds.) ➔ Use some of your work breaks to make brief personal calls that aren’t purely social (e. My computer is persistently trying to access my email service while I’m inputting these words. There are lots of opportunities throughout your day to get more efficiency out of precious time. (For example. You should constantly look for. set up a new desktop lateral file system. unless you master some basic skills in multitasking—the fine art of doing more than one thing at a time. backup your computer files. hair stylist. Your life will be. Assuming your schedule allows for this degree of flexibility during the day. One word of caution: Be sure that your multi-tasking is essentially silent (or use the Mute button on your phone).). etc. ➔ Combine quick personal errands with your business errands if they’re in the same vicinity or can save time. these virtual meetings still exist!). combine it with other office tasks that are not very distracting and not too noisy (e. I don’t have time to just sit while waiting for a response that isn’t a busy signal—and you probably don’t have that kind of time to waste either. get the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. reorganize your desk drawers.) or to do quick household tasks (make the bed.g. and terribly frustrating. anticipate. . etc.. put postage on outgoing mail)—or tackle a personal task like trimming your nails.. and leverage these opportunities: ➔ Have simple tasks or quick-read materials easily accessible during telephone “wait” times when you’re stuck on hold. reshelve the kids’ toys. since obvious multi-tasking can be distracting or insulting to callers.

While everyone operates on a continuum of affiliation needs. and ultimate success. Challenge yourself everyday to find just one more way to multitask and integrate the demands of your life. Pick three opportunities to combine with the “gotta do” list and watch your output and efficiency begin to improve. physical health. you must balance the advantages of solitude with the potentially damaging affects of isolation and avoid a major threat to your effectiveness. Isolation is a major complaint of telecommuters. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 26 Avoid the (Real or Perceived) Isolation Trap If you willingly chose to telecommute. If telecommuting is an option you didn’t voluntarily elect. and some of us need more or less of the types of interaction provided by a traditional office. You must determine the right balance to meet your needs and proactively implement isolation avoidance techniques. mental health. Either way. these elements— along with the inherent isolation of telecommuting—are the reality of your world. everyone needs some amount of it. Make another list of the tedious. time-consuming.Working Well in Your Home Office 55 Make a list (or keep a log for a week) detailing the tasks or activities you perform that have potential multi-tasking opportunities. low brainpower tasks that need to get done. even those who love the solitude. There are specific ways you can stay connected and involved with your team in . Keeping actively in touch with co-workers (Tip 51) is an important first step in managing your sense of isolation. you undoubtedly yearned for the solitude and focus telecommuting would afford you. emotional well-being.

• Schedule face-to-face meetings (breakfast or lunch meetings. Internet. fax. changes and information beyond your team and your company. it’s important to stay in touch with the broader world (Tip 54) to stayed informed and to maintain a sense of connection to people. playing tennis or golf. • Join industry. recognize the negative impact of isolation on your life and your work. keep informed.) with co-workers. colleagues. • Enroll in classes. and isolation. events. stay visible. and relevant trends that affect your work. frustration. Here are a few key ways to help maintain those connections and overcome isolation: • Use all the technology available to you—telephone. trade. technical. industry. seminars. etc. associates. videoconferencing. and world.56 101 Tips for Telecommuters spite of being remote from them. country. and actively plan activities and techniques to avoid the worst. • Read professional and trade publications to keep abreast of developments in your field. • Volunteer for a service association in your community—it’s hard to feel isolated when you’re helping others. web conferencing. or professional associations in your community. community. electronic bulletin boards or conference rooms—to maintain communication. teleconferencing. • Take frequent work breaks (Tip 24) to avoid the sense of solo plodding that leads to feelings of overwork. Besides your team. . e-mail. Regardless of your level of comfort with solitude. and other professional development opportunities to keep yourself connected and to avoid lapses in your skill development (Tip 30). technological changes affecting your industry and your job. walking or exercising together. trends. and friends on a regular basis. • Teach a class or lead a seminar to keep you current in your field and keep you in tip-top shape for making sharp presentations. • Participate in groups that support telecommuters and other home-based workers. paging. company.

. it’s important to be clear about which documents you will need to retain. Of course.Working Well in Your Home Office 57 Review your schedule for the next two weeks to assess the level of “isolation buster” activities on your calendar. Some of the guidelines associated with record retention will be provided by your employer. etc. with people other than your team).. etc. there are some of the more typical types of expense tracking requirements: mileage. (Can you share these with someone?) 2 Opportunities to meet face-to-face with either your boss or a coworker. Your telecommuting agreement may stipulate certain types of records you’re required to maintain. supplies. tolls. entertainment. 4 Networking events (meetings. Be sure your schedule reflects at least: 5 Work breaks throughout each day. (The FedEx and UPS drivers do NOT count!) T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 27 Track Expenses and Expenditures After you’ve cured yourself of the tendency to keep everything and you’re more inclined to effectively manage the administrivia (Tip 10). phone calls.. services. easily accessible. travel. Other expense items. you’ll want to establish a streamline tracking and retention method that is easy to use. etc. and relatively automatic. 0 Days that hold the promise of no face-to-face human interaction. In addition. such as telephone. 3 Exercise opportunities each day. equipment. 1 Professional development activity.

box. be aware of how easily you can lose track of the money you spend on your employer’s behalf. $ If not required by your employer. be sure to consult with your tax adviser as to the appropriateness of this for your circumstances and the proper way to document these expenses. Unless you have reliable systems that you use consistently. If you’re shelling out the money and submitting receipts for reimbursement. You also may want to track expenses associated with the use of a portion of your home for your office.58 101 Tips for Telecommuters may be directly billed to your employer or will require that you apply for reimbursement. more often if you incur significant expenses. set up a regular schedule for yourself for submitting expense reports to your company—no less frequently than once a month. you’ll want to avoid any unnecessary “flagging” of yourself as a candidate for an IRS audit. . as well as any unnecessary (and time-consuming) scrambling for documentation during the tax season. $ Establish a file. I’ve always tried to discipline myself to summarize expenses or prepare expense reports during my return flight or as an A-1 priority when returning to my office. At a minimum. folder. At a minimum. or envelope in which all businessrelated receipts can be dropped in each day (this.or paper-based system (whichever you’ll actually use) for tracking expenses and preparing reimbursement requests. $ Use either a computer. have a file or envelope where you accumulate everything until you’re back in the office. assumes you will be certain to get a receipt for everything!). it’s likely you’ll come up short on reimbursements (and not even know it!). $ Devise a tracking system for business expenses and receipts to use when traveling. If you’re deducting these nonreimbursed home office expenses on your tax return. take a few key steps to ensure that your business expenses are reimbursed: $ Keep a business mileage log in your vehicles and faithfully record any miles you drive and tolls you incur for business. So unless you feel you’re overpaid or want to consider your employer a charity to which you make donations. of course.

procedures. processes. clarify. documenting for tax purposes. Periodically assess how your systems. therefore. business goals. Also look . as well as to re-evaluate strategic issues such as focus. tools.? Revise (or create) the systems you need to ensure that all your expenses are captured and your expenditures reimbursed. cause more frustration. simplify.) Then analyze how you handle those tasks and how the related support systems. etc. submitting reimbursement requests. you’ll be stuck implementing any changes you envision. “If it ain’t broke. etc. don’t fix it!” Because there’s usually no one else around to handle improvements to systems. uncomplicate. This can be a major time drain and focus detractor and should. . etc. retaining associated receipts. uncloud. processes. unless something really is in need of change. (One of my telecommuting colleagues uses his personal “annual retreat” as a time to review systems and processes in his office. your effort should be directed toward solutions that truly simplify your work and your life. and information are aligned. and work flow are working by asking yourself which tasks take more time. you should be constantly looking for ways to streamline. .Working Well in Your Home Office 59 List the types of reimbursable and/or tax-deductible expenses you incur. How are you currently tracking these expenses. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 28 Simplify and Improve Continuously It’s critical to the efficiency and effectiveness of telecommuters to remember the simplification and time-saving rule. And while you shouldn’t wile away your day redesigning the color coding of your files or reorganizing your library according to the Dewey Decimal system. In this case. consume more energy.. or result in more cursing than you’d like. be avoided . and unencumber your work and the way you do it.

backlogged. • Tendencies on your part to complete tasks to a state of perfection. you just can’t find them) on your computer or on backup disks. boxes. Identify—and act on: 3 Critical tasks that you know could be simplified—schedule on your calendar time to create and implement simplification steps to address these situations. etc. • Outdated software that causes incompatibility problems with the systems and documents used by other people with whom you work. (Do you really need to keep it all?) • Any amount of time spent looking for things (in drawers. • “Lost” files (e. • Continual rework on specific functions or tasks. or on your desk) that you need to access routinely and should be able to put your hands on instantly. 1 Pile or drawer of cluttered.g. • Huge backlogs of filing. labels. briefcases. that are nice but not essential. closets. or unread items that you keep stumbling over—get rid of it now! T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . • The use of fancy files. files.60 101 Tips for Telecommuters for signs of simplification and improvement opportunities if you observe: • Clutter on your desk or surrounding your work area. packaging. • Unnecessary redundancies in your tracking or documentation systems.. 2 Areas in your office that should be redesigned to improve your efficiency—decide how and when you’ll take care of these. • Extra errand running for “one-off” or forgotten items.

Your continued motivation. here are a few ways other telecommuters gives themselves kudos: ! A nice dinner at a new or favorite restaurant ! Tickets to a concert or the theater ! A new book (and the time to read it) ! An afternoon off for a round of golf. Without distracting yourself with a long. a tennis match or pampering at the spa ! A new outfit (or sofa. protracted process to devise a reward scheme for yourself. And if you do remember to acknowledge. determination. etc. 3. thank. perseverance and psychic energy will be greatly enhanced. in a remote fishing camp. hitting a significant milestone. devise ways to celebrate your successes—a little bit of celebration along the way makes the daily grind tolerable and will help you feel as if it’s all worth while.) ! A long weekend at a resort. camping with the kids . But to help you get started. begin by making a brief list of rewards that are appropriate for different types of achievements and are meaningful to you. attaining a goal. Your list of rewards and celebration rituals will be uniquely yours. retaining a critical customer.Working Well in Your Home Office 61 29 Reward Yourself and Celebrate Successes It’s easy to forget about the value of rewards. etc. surviving a really stressful week. case of wine. and reward those who help you. sailing. It’s essential that you find appropriate and meaningful ways to celebrate your successes and provide incentives and rewards because: 1. You’re human and need these things. 2. landing a major new account. Combined with that. time at the beach or a museum. But inherent in the solo work of a telecommuter is the need to be cognizant of self-management issues to include rewards— for completing a major project. hiking. piece of art. it’s easy to forget YOURSELF in the process. skiing. Others may not be aware of your accomplishments—at least “in the moment”—and won’t be in a position to provide a virtual pat on the back.

T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 30 Take Responsibility for Developing New Skills and Managing Your Career As a telecommuter. with the rate at which people are changing jobs. locate resources. While the amount of money corporations spend on training and investing in their human capital generally is increasing. and employers and are being caught in merger/acquisition situations. beyond being a champion to access corporate resources.62 101 Tips for Telecommuters Create your own list of wonderful rewards for good work and ways to celebrate your successes. it’s no longer wise to trust your professional development plans and career management to your “employer du jour. and purchase what you need on your own. Keep your longer list of rewards and celebrations wherever you document and track your goals. no one has as great a vested interest as you. you may very well need to identify development needs. So. As for the management of your career. your skill development and career management may suffer if you do not champion your own cause. Post your performance targets and the corresponding rewards/celebrations in a visible place in your office. this seems to be concurrent with an increased emphasis on self-responsibility for skill development.” Finally. careers. This is very consistent . Further. Learn to use rewards and incentives in the way that best motivates and sustains you. the unique skills you require to successfully telecommute (Tip 1) may necessitate specific skill development efforts you might need to locate and/or fund at your own initiative. Decide now how you’ll earn at least three rewards (be specific about the achievements to justify the rewards) and pinpoint the next success milestone that will earn you a specific celebration activity. so don’t entrust this important task to anyone else.

So what are your needs? ✔ Begin first by looking at the job you’re currently doing—what skills and competencies are essential for success? ✔ How do you stack up against those requirements? ✔ What problems are you experiencing. . Or you could be planning a fairly stable job picture for the foreseeable future and simply want to ensure that you remain competitive. Make a list of your weaknesses relative to the skills needed for your current job and your ability to function well as a telecommuter. a line position.Working Well in Your Home Office 63 with the growing trend toward self-responsibility for learning and career management. marketable. or what skill deficiencies have you identified for the telecommuting role you’re in currently? ✔ What additional skills must you develop to achieve the level of success you desire? ✔ Beyond your current job. you entrust your future and your prosperity to someone else. you may find yourself on some company’s payroll. Without a plan that you manage. Either way. an individual contributor role or is a complete job change. Fast Company magazine refers to this as “The Brand Called You”™. an industry switch. This is always a risky course of action. or challenged by your work. sales. INC. what do you expect to be doing (or want to do) for the next five years? ✔ What skill deficits or barriers currently compromise your ability to move in that direction or be successful? Whether it’s a move to management. Regardless of how your income reaches you. you’re likely to have some deficiencies that are obstacles. for a time. This thinking is based on the philosophy and attitude that you’re always self-employed and. knowledgeable. you remain ultimately responsible for addressing your skill and career development needs—both for your telecommuting function and for the job-specific aspects of your position. or a move to self-employment. identifying your needs will help you craft a development plan and strategy for YOU.

64 101 Tips for Telecommuters What developmental resources can close any gaps you’ve identified? To identify appropriate resources for eliminating any skill deficits. contact the executive development division of a local university. talk to your boss or someone in human resources. or search the Internet for training options you can access through your company or on your own. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E .

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If. when that can occur. you’re likely to stumble through misunderstandings. You may have fairly firm work hours or require some flexibility for meetings. conference calls. While you may have more structured. should you begin a project 67 . as well as spontaneous. As much as possible. opportunities to participate with your family.31 Negotiate Expectations and Agreements The first thing you and your family should be in rock-solid agreement on is your decision to telecommute. If your decision is more of a directive than a choice. Without clear agreements established at the outset. etc. When you will require dedicated work time is another important issue that necessitates a clear agreement. this simplifies things. For example. international calls. hurt feelings. however. feelings. you’ll need to be even more careful in formulating agreements and dealing with issues. This may be a major change to the lifestyle and day-to-day routine in your household. Access others will have to your office. and how the space (and anything in it) can be used by your family will need to be discussed in detail. so don’t underestimate the impact telecommuting will have on everyone involved. concerns—those of your family and your own. your presence in a home office can send confusing signals regarding your availability or accessibility. Being diligent about addressing potential conflict proactively and reaching agreements productively will serve you well in your quest to be a successful telecommuter. and unnecessary stress.. fears. Being clear about where and when you’ll work are fundamental issues to be agreed upon initially. your “squatter rights” won’t necessarily eliminate conflict regarding use of the space. productivity drains. If your office occupies a space separate from the rest of your home. anticipate your requirements so you can have agreements in place—along with agreements to renegotiate as your needs and circumstances change. your office will occupy some space that is or previously was shared by other family members. Many of the joys and advantages of telecommuting quickly dissipate when the expectations of your family are not aligned with either your expectations or your work requirements. declines in marital bliss. during nontraditional work hours.

concerns. and negotiate agreements in advance. Remember—sometimes it’s those who care about you who will be the reminder (not so subtle. be sure to: ✔ Explain clearly what you need or expect and why it’s important to you or your work. Anticipate this. ✔ Listen to and discuss your family’s input. Everyone will benefit from the clarity and frank discussion of needs and limitations. As with negotiation and goal-setting discussions you may have with your manager and colleagues. but vital!) of your commitment to balance and good health. children. whenever possible. you may require extensive phone time with another part of the globe at some unusual (or inconvenient) times for your family. how it’s used. loud disagreements. . or household employees. fears. You need to balance this concern with the realities of your work to ensure that both are recognized and reconciled. guidelines and options. conflict. for what types of things) • Work space (if it’s share space. significant other.68 101 Tips for Telecommuters that involves international associates. or unspoken fear of impending disaster!) Using the checklist above. feelings. how it’s maintained and organized) • Household tasks (who does what and when) • Childcare (who is responsible for what and when) Consider where clear agreements are lacking with regard to your telecommuting arrangement. how. (Warning signs include sources of stress. ✔ Ask about issues. schedule a time to negotiate an issue that requires a clear agreement. don’t hesitate proactively to have corresponding discussions with your spouse. agree on where it starts/stops. Follow the same process for other areas where clear agreements will contribute to your telecommuting success. To secure clear agreements with your family. Be clear about some basic things as a starting point: • Work hours (established times or required flexibility) • Interruptions (when. dos and don’ts. Do yourself and those who share your life and space a big favor.

your work world is inherently more apparent to your family than with more traditional work arrangements. your family is likely to be high on the list. . Therefore. More important. As part of establishing (or renewing) your telecommuting arrangements. and proactively enlist their support. The increased visibility and additional opportunities for involvement with your family has a down side—family members might like being with you and may make demands for involvement that are detrimental to your work. share your lunch break with your spouse. When you telecommute. if you’re a new parent. and it’s better by far to have them working with you. 69 ✔ Schedule a follow-up time to confirm its working or revise the agreement if necessary. understand the dynamics of family support. This is when setting expectations and negotiating agreements (Tip 31) is helpful. or. And the reality is that if you want to realize some of the personal benefits of telecommuting. you must consider and incorporate your family in your planning.Working Well with Your Family ✔ Mutually agree to a workable solution. your proximity and presence cannot be forgotten completely. you will be more visible at times (you might take a break to say hello to your kids when they get home from school. Even if you have a clearly delineated work area that’s removed from common areas in the house and you are very disciplined about maintaining separation from family during the work day. As you identify the members of the broader support team that contributes to your success. Be conscious that your office occupies space in your home and the environment that others call home. take a break to feed a newborn). ✔ Take notes on agreements and give everyone involved a copy. it’s wise to acknowledge this. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 32 Get Your Family on Your Team Your family can work with you or against you when you telecommute.

unpacking supplies. operating the copier. time limits on hours in your office). 1 Way they can help you celebrate a recent success. collating papers. filing.. A few techniques you might use: • Find aspects of your work in which you can involve your family by getting their help (e. organizing reference material. call targets. • Share the rewards and include your family in celebrations of your success (an end-of-day “office party” when major milestones are reached. sales results.g. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . Identify and share with your family or significant other the following about your work-at-home arrangement: 3 Things that are positive for the relationship between you and them. Beyond the framework of your family’s stated commitment to be supportive. yourself. a special shared meal to celebrate achievement of your quota for the month/quarter/year. or a special trip or vacation for the family when that big bonus check arrives).. • Empower your family to help you monitor your track record relative to key professional and personal performance measures (e. a “brag board” where you post letters from customers or acknowledgments from your employer. and them. running errands. This is a key step in securing your family’s commitment to be supportive members of your team. or just sharing problems and challenges and asking for ideas and input). life balance goals.g. 2 Things that you need their help with.70 101 Tips for Telecommuters involving them in your planning ensures that they understand your commitments to your work. stuffing envelopes. exercise goals. your employer. look for ways to actively engage family members as bonafide teammates.

pets. Aside from the self-discipline you must have to avoid involvement in family or household matters during work hours. Negotiating agreements in advance (Tip 31) is a wise step.). or bad work habits (Tip 19). Your family. and undermining your telecommuting success. let the dog out. . visitors. prevention is the key—and only you can prevent these types of distractions from wrecking your day. • Don’t answer the home phone (or screen calls using caller ID) and ignore the door bell (unless you’re expecting an express shipment that requires your signature). remind yourself that no one will be visiting today—does it really matter if the bed isn’t made or the sink is full of dishes?) until you’ve either completed your established work hours or accomplished all of your goals for the day. destroying your productivity. • Ignore the household chores (close doors. in particular. low motivation (Tip 7). etc. • Evaluate interruptions from the perspectives of seriousness and urgency—stop working only if the issue rates high on both scales or the matter of urgency demands immediate attention on your part. but managing distractions seems to be a challenge requiring on-going attention. there are other strategies you can use to manage distractions: • Establish specific rituals to begin your workday that clearly put you in a focused-on-work frame of mind. friends. The same results can occur if you don’t manage or minimize distractions caused by others (family. hide the laundry basket. • Establish a sign or signal to your family when interruptions must be avoided (Tip 34). they’re caused by lack of focus (Tip 4).Working Well with Your Family 71 33 Manage and Minimize Distractions Some distractions are self-initiated. • Use some of your scheduled work breaks to touch base with your family. so these do not become in-the-moment distractions. check messages on the home phone. As with some forest fires. has a unique ability to distract you from your work due to your presence and proximity. etc.

as you may .72 101 Tips for Telecommuters • Turn the TV off. the stereo down. Because your presence is so apparent. and time. especially for their children (“Call me only if the problem involves fire. loss of blood. the temptation for your family to capitalize on your accessibility can disrupt your concentration. Otherwise. Schedule time to talk with whoever else is responsible for distractions from your work and negotiate agreements (Tip 31) that will resolve the problem. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 34 Establish Clear Interruption Rules The proximity you have to your family while telecommuting greatly enhances opportunities for communication. or you’ve already called 911 for any other reason!”). Basic guidelines regarding what constitutes a justifiable interruption is a good beginning. it’s important to specifically address the issue of interruptions with your family. Formulate a plan to manage the distraction you cause by identifying the source. experiences. diagnosing the cause. 1 Distraction that is caused by others. This has clear advantages in terms of increased sharing of information. the tendency to interrupt is understandable. and committing to a change NOW. For the same reason. compromise your productivity. and erode your patience. Even people who work in traditional offices often establish such guidelines. clarifying a measurement and reward system. However. Decide today to minimize or eliminate three sources of distraction for you: 2 Distractions that you directly control due to lack of focus or motivation. and ensure that sounds of shrieking/screaming/crying children (or spouse) cannot be monitored in your office.

Review how interruptions to your workday currently are made and/or how you would like them to be made. set a clear method whereby whoever desperately needs you can communicate it. Set aside time on your schedule to discuss and reach agreement with your family. Establish two guidelines for when you can be interrupted and create a reasonable. how the interruption is made is another point upon which to reach agreement. To promote the notion of a gentle intrusion and the need for a possible delay in my response. A sudden. remind everyone that it’s there to be knocked on (quietly!). Even small children and a variety of service providers use my little bell quite consistently—and it’s cheaper than installing a doorbell. I placed a little bell (like you might find on a counter in a small country store) on a shelf outside of my office. loud—or tearful and whimpering—demand for your immediate attention may create an embarrassment to you and great frustration to the needy interrupter if you’re in the midst of a conference call or negotiating a contract with an important prospect. However. and provides a reasonable balance between immediate interruptions and a long-delayed response. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . your lack of distance should not be a reason to become involved in domestic situations that are better handled in other ways. obnoxious siblings.Working Well with Your Family 73 have experienced. If you don’t have a door. So. If you have a door to your office. Once you’ve established groundrules for a justifiable interruption. an incessant series of phone calls can result in an incessant litany proclaiming boredom. familyfriendly (or child-appropriate) method for how your attention can be captured when necessary. It’s often useful to provide similar guidelines for spouses who can become inordinately needy of your involvement in matters you wouldn’t even know about if you weren’t there. use some other visible method to convey that you’re working (buy or make a “OPEN/CLOSED” sign to indicate when your virtual door is slightly ajar or closed tight). or other problems completely unresolveable from a distance. less annoying than keeping the monitor on constantly.

this is a great myth of telecommuting that still prevails (primarily among uninformed nontelecommuters). combining two full-time jobs will produce dismal results for both. have a very flexible work schedule. This option also provides for clear transitions into and out of your workday. Other telecommuters find that the distractions of children at home are too problematic and opt for out-of-home childcare. but about telecommuting there is one undeniable. The options are the same as those for nontelecommuters: daycare. don’t be surprised if people comment about your having more time with your family or being able to raise your children while working (a perception particularly held about women who telecommute). in-home nanny service. child-rearing requires a full-time commitment. So. nondebatable. Some telecommuters find it easier (but certainly costlier) to have in-home nannies. And unless you have a part-time job. Unfortunately. While you may have more time with your family (assuming you manage your workaholic tendencies and discipline yourself to stay out of your office when you should be with your family). multiple baby-sitters. Most corporate telecommuting agreements address the issue of childcare and will secure the telecommuter’s commitment to provide adequate childcare arrangements. The best option for you is a function of • Your budget—what can you afford? • Your choices—is there a grandparent or other relative you can rely on and trust? • Your psychological needs—do you need a work environment .74 101 Tips for Telecommuters 35 Take Care of Childcare There are few unalterable truths about much of anything. Anyone who has children knows that in most cases and when done properly. nearly universal truth: Telecommuting is not a substitute for childcare. a grandparent or other relative. since this avoids a commute to a childcare facility. combination of school and childcare. etc. the additional family time you have is derived primarily from your former commuting time. and/or you require practically no sleep.

you’re bound to face situations where a sick child or baby-sitter requires that you be at home with your children.Working Well with Your Family 75 that is free of any distracting sounds from your kids. every telecommuter with children requiring full-time care needs a full-time and permanent childcare solution. it’s much easier for you to creatively integrate the demands of work and home on a short-term basis and keep your work flowing to some extent. • What changes must you make to address the concerns you’ve identified? T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . In these cases. Even with full-time childcare and the best-laid backup plans. assess how well your current or projected childcare situation meets your needs. As for the long-term. however. or does it comfort you to know they’re close by? • Your work environment—is your office removed enough from activity centers in your home so that it’s feasible to have family and work under one roof? • Your job—can you run the risk of a screaming child being overheard while you’re on a conference call or negotiating a contract with a client? • Your employer—is there a clear mandate that you provide fulltime childcare during work hours? One situation in which childcare and work may intersect is at times when your co-workers in a traditional office might otherwise need to take the day off. • If you have young children who require the attention of a care provider. What current or potential problems are created by your childcare arrangements? • How does your childcare solution support achievement of your job targets? How does it detract from your ability to be successful at work? • Imagine some “worst case scenarios” and determine if you have adequate back-up arrangements in place to meet the demands of your job and your needs for childcare.

can be fraught with problems.76 101 Tips for Telecommuters 36 If You Mix Childcare and Work (God Help You!) One of the great myths of telecommuting is that it eliminates the need for childcare. Assuming someone is paying you to do a full-time job via telecommuting. Some home-based business entrepreneurs are more inclined to combine childcare with a business enterprise. type of business. etc. it’s a downright foolish venture. it’s likely you’d miss the entire day of work if you commuted to a traditional office. Although this. it’s not likely you’ll handle either your job or parenting very well if you try to do both at the same time. . Also. One advantage you have as a telecommuter is that you can (depending on the age of your child. energy. it’s certainly not easy. etc. in spite of all of the warnings. financial pressures. severity of the illness. on days that you have a sick child or you’re both stranded at home due to a weather (or traffic) obstacle. you are likely to share more waking hours with your family if you telecommute.) continue to be productive on such days by keeping a few guidelines in mind: • Avoid making or taking critical phone calls while children are in your office (unless they’re old enough to honor commitments to keep quiet). But it’s important to remember (and sometimes remind others) that caring well for children—especially young ones—is a demanding undertaking. client expectations. it behooves you to learn ways to minimize the difficulties of doing so. exasperating and potentially counterproductive venture. And if your employer has a specific policy (or implicit assumption) against it. you undertake to juggle your job and your kids (and your employer supports this). and it extracts a high price in terms of focus.) may justify some integration of work and childcare. The bottom line: Combining work and childcare is a risky. And you may be fortunate enough to have the flexibility (and necessary self-management) to adjust your work hours to participate in more of your children’s activities and special events. If. too. True. it is the clear (and reasonable) expectation of most employers of telecommuters that childcare arrangements are in place. Still. and productivity. Further. the circumstances (independence.

• Have toys. be sure you either disclose the situation to your caller or you are highly skilled in the lightningspeed use of the MUTE button on your phone. and other creative play activities readily available. you should do so without the distraction of children. At the same time.Working Well with Your Family 77 • If you must be on the phone. a spare computer (Tip 37) in the office for kids to use. if possible. If you have children or have occasion for children to visit your office. • If your child still takes naps. along with his trusty assortment of Disney videos for times when his children are in his office. whiteboard and markers. If your current options are limited. check your inventory of resources and activities you can make available quickly to keep little people entertained/distracted in your office. paper. Involve your kids in some age-appropriate activity that enables them to help you or feel that they’re helping. utilize this quiet time to the greatest extent possible for phone time or focused work time. it’s important that you manage your balance between work and family so that you devote a reasonable amount of time to each of these important priorities in your life. you’re likely to really thank yourself at some point in the future. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 37 “Take Your Children to Work” Guidelines When you’re working. telecommuting affords you the flexibility to integrate your family and your work on rare occasions. games. When there does need to be some . crayons. and remember that even toddlers love to sort and organize. One of my telecommuting friends keeps a VCR in his office (since he’s a trainer). put together a KID box now. • Designate a dedicated space and. However.

). put locks on drawers and cabinets. there are some creative techniques for incorporating children into your office so that it’s a happy experience for all concerned. access to supplies. by bolting them to the floor if your children are still in the climbing phase. familiarizing your children with your office and your work can minimize any resentment they may feel toward your work and enhance their understanding of and respect for what you do when you’re ensconced in your office for hours at a time. and other age-appropriate office items. lamps. get dangerous equipment out of reach (paper cutter. (My 4-year old consumed huge amounts of time playing with an old 3-ring calendar binder containing all my unused pages and tabs. noise levels. including a desk area. . knives. secure electrical cords to avoid tripping or shock hazards. that your children are safe. etc. While this can be a fun time for your children and a life-saver for you. Additionally. computer. take them with you when you can (on errands or deliveries or meetings. be careful to ensure that you’re not trying to achieve the impossible. • Designate a work space for your child. shredder. show them what you do. and that everyone avoids any unnecessary frustration. staplers. along with unused checks from canceled accounts. writing tools. scissors). if appropriate) and let them help you in any way that’s age-appropriate and fun. • Be realistic about the need to childproof your office—make important documents inaccessible. and brochures gathered at tradeshows. lock or password-protect any computer equipment with critical files or software. sticky notes.78 101 Tips for Telecommuters overlap. etc. • Remove small items and plants from view if your child is still in the chewing/choking phase. etc. use of phones. shelves. • Involve your children as much as possible in your work—talk about what you do and why you enjoy it. • Secure bookcases. Having children in your office with you is likely to occur outside of your regular work hours (when you’re desperately trying to get some critical work done or catch up on office chores during evening or weekend time). cabinets. Here are some ways to do this: • Set some office rules and expectations for in-office behavior— consistent with the age of your children—regarding things like interruptions. letter opener. calculator.

So. and it made her feel VERY important and involved!) T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 38 The Shift to Home-Based Work with Older Children Children who are born to telecommuters tend to grow up understanding and accepting the inherent rules of telecommuting for families. they’d scream just as loudly if you were leaving to drive to an office). however. • Consider whether there’s a way to designate or improve a dedicated work area for children. Except during phases of great attachment or separation anxiety (remember. • Where are the places that hold potential for harm (but might look like fun)? Take steps immediately to eliminate these before letting your child spend time in your office again. . Beyond that. most young children like their parents and want to be with them. These children have learned from earlier experiences that having a parent around means that “kid time” is in full force.Working Well with Your Family 79 Look around your office and think with the mindset of a child (the age of your child/children). these children seem to take for granted that they have a parent working at home who cannot be disturbed during working hours. And note. setting expectations and ground rules with these children is important to your telecommuting success and the happiness of both you and your children. if you begin telecommuting when your children are beyond the baby stage and have different expectations of parental presence and proximity. these children also seem to have an internal clock that tells them when you should be done working! The dynamics are different. It doesn’t take much space or need to be fancy. (I created a nameplate for my daughter to place on her “desk” in my office.

. be open to discussing your child’s questions and concerns as they emerge at unexpected times. If you have been a full-time parent and are introducing a new child care arrangement to your child in conjunction with your new full-time job and your telecommuting situation. Regardless of the ages of your older children and the level of involvement and cooperation you can reasonably expect from them. They’ll tolerate (perhaps grudgingly at times—but. however. you’ve undoubtedly discovered by now that since children are constantly changing and evolving. so don’t overlook ways to get your children on your team (Tip 32) and feeling that they have a role in your success. limitations and agreements. your work. and listen for opportunities to re-explain and reinforce your messages of support and love. and your telecommuting arrangement if your work/life balance becomes unbalanced in favor of work. they’re kids!) a fair amount of the downside of your demanding. As a parent.80 101 Tips for Telecommuters Begin by talking with your child about your home-based office. School-age children are better able to understand the role of work in your life and the need for separation. It’s easier to negotiate agreements in these cases (Tip 31) and employ consequences and rewards where appropriate. so are the issues you need to deal with. the benefits to both you and your child. distracting job as long as they understand and benefit from the upside. More important. Let them know often that you occasionally have time conflicts but that you never have priority conflicts. what you’ll be doing there. So. Involvement of older children tends to be easier. consider it an ongoing discussion and take cues from your children about what to discuss and when they need to talk. and why you’ll be working at home. encourage questions. they certainly will resent you. take great care to explain the reasons for this change. Letting your children help you with some simple organizing tasks (such as sorting files folders by color) helps them become familiar with your office and comfortable with where you’ll be. (And kids have an amazing detector for this malady!) You can’t tell them too often that they are what’s most important to you— your top priority and a major driver for your desire to telecommute. hey.

your family. . it’s still a job and you still have important work to do. Be realistic about the time and energy you’ll need to devote to your family situation and plan accordingly. And while you may have done an admirable job of setting boundaries and ensuring that your work is respected (Tip 45).Working Well with Your Family 81 Make a list of five things you can do to let your children know that they are your #1 priority. The pressures of a demanding family situation may make it difficult to maintain the appropriate separation and focus you need. extenuating family circumstances can cause people to lose all semblance of rational thinking. you may face pressure and expectations from other family members who work in more traditional environments and who may have misperceptions about the degree of flexibility your work affords you. Plan to do at least one of them today and add the others to your schedule for the near future. Ask your child to tell you two reasons why it’s good that you work from home. If you have a bona fide family care situation that requires additional attention from you for a period of time. Additionally. you may be eligible for time off from work and should talk to your employer about this. you may need to take a leave of absence from work. While it may be tempting to continue working since your office is at home. don’t short-change yourself. In this case. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 39 Meeting the Challenge of Eldercare or Family Care When unique or urgent family situations confront you. or your work. it’s important to remember that while your job may provide extraordinary flexibility.

You also must clearly assess the level of care the dependent family member requires and determine how much of that you can provide while continuing to meet the demands of your job. Having this clear in your mind before a crisis occurs is useful. jot down your thoughts to keep in a safe place and refer to it should you ever need the guidance of a rational mind. you’ll also need to bear in mind that being forthright and assertive with family members may be necessary to ensure that the realities of telecommuting and the demands of your work are clearly understood. the factors that impact you and your handling of this situation are similar to those of childcare (Tip 35). as-needed companion care. As with childcare. Clearly articulate in your own mind what is and is not feasible with regard to family care and your availability of time and energy to help. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E .82 101 Tips for Telecommuters If you’re involved with an extended care situation. keep in mind that telecommuting (in spite of its inherent flexibility) is not a substitute for family care or elder care services you may truly need. elder daycare. such as a disabled child or spouse or an ailing parent that resides with you. If you’re blessed enough to be free of such pressures now. Whatever your situation is or may become. And while this might be clear to you. It’s unwise (and ultimately unhealthy. or nursing home care. since clear thinking may not abound in the midst of a family crisis. unproductive. This may involve part-time or full-time in-home nursing services. and potentially unprofitable) for you to let yourself and your work be taken advantage of when a family situation demands increased attention. Think about how you would present your position and parameters in such a case. you may find it necessary to secure the services of a care provider.

At the same time. it is certainly not a stress-free mode of working. Rather than wait for an issue to fester into a crisis (or to undermine your success with telecommuting). your family may be much more aware of and feel the tension and stress associated with some of your on-the-job issues and challenges: • Deadline pressures • Relationship problems with co-workers • Unrelenting demands (from a nonstop phone. an overloaded e-mail box) • Falling short of goals • Isolation and detachment from co-workers • Being disorganized and feeling constantly “behind the power curve” You and your family also will experience elevated levels of stress if there are unresolved problems within the home that are created by your telecommuting arrangement.Working Well with Your Family 83 40 Minimize Household and Family Stress While telecommuting eliminates some of the stress associated with commuting to and working in a traditional workplace. which can be an added source of stress you take with you to your office. Certainly you’ll be more attuned to the problems and issues of your home and family. much of the typical stress telecommuters experience within their home and family can be averted by proactively setting expectations (Tip 31) on issues such as: • Work time and space • Interruptions • Noise • Orderliness and cleanliness • Telephone protocols • Visitors (during business hours) Many telecommuters (and their families) also experience stress . Some of the advantages of increased proximity to your family and your office are offset by disadvantages that can be stressful to you and members of your household. an overflowing in-box.

take great care to discuss and agree in advance who will handle responsibilities such as: • Child care and family care • Lawn maintenance/gardening • Cleaning • Laundry • Lunch preparation/cleanup • Answering the phones/door • Cooking • Shopping • Errands • Household financial management Since a great antidote for telecommuting stress is proactive and open dialogue. • An area of stress you experience that your family can alleviate (be sure to be specific and clear).84 101 Tips for Telecommuters because of misunderstandings with regard to household responsibilities. Your presence and proximity do not constitute an inherent promise to take on additional household tasks. although it might be a natural assumption some people will make. Using effective issues resolution skills (Tip 42) is key to keep the focus on the problem while avoiding defensiveness and anger. block off time on your calendar today to discuss and implement action steps to eliminate: • A source of stress you create for your family (be sure to listen carefully). T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . Therefore.

think about how you’ll manage this with your pet. If you’re just getting a dog. it will reinforce misperceptions about telecommuting. and frustrate your pet if you continue to ignore those persistent pleas for attention. incessant barking or meowing while you’re on the phone with colleagues or clients is not likely to enhance your image as a serious professional. it’s very comforting to have your pet with you during the workday. Unlike older children with whom you can negotiate. So. consider a puppy kindergarten class for you and your pet to instill good habits and establish roles (you ARE in charge and the pet needs to know this!). if you have a pet in the house. Having a pet can have many positive benefits—companionship. advance planning is imperative. If you’re just beginning your telecommuting experience. will you/can you give up telecommuting? Or are you willing to find a new home for your pet? Those who telecommute with pets at home have found a few ways to make it work: • Obviously. etc. distract you and your caller. there is such a thing as pet daycare!)? • If it proves to be problematic. reason or bribe. To help you enjoy the benefits of pet ownership while minimizing potential problems when you telecommute. Rather. don’t hesitate to do this if it makes you and your pet happy. • Do you have a telecommuting-friendly pet? • Do you have another room to move the pet into while you’re working? Or are you willing to spend the money to find a pet sitter (yes. You might also benefit from reading books on pet care or talking with other telecommuters who also own pets. pets are not always so cooperative. And while they won’t scream like a baby.Working Well with Your Family 85 41 Working With and Around Your “4-Legged Children” With or without children. . you have some unique parent-like considerations to address when you telecommute. if you have a quiet pet and one that doesn’t like to sleep on your desk or someplace that requires you constantly step over it. exercise opportunities.

Decide: When and how you’ll implement the solutions. or to another home). (A telecommuting friend of mine simply apologizes for the interruption of her “security alarm” when her dog barks. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 42 Resolve Disagreements Promptly Making the transition to telecommuting can be a stressful and difficult process for everyone impacted by it. a conference call. needs. they’re VERY quiet..) Or you might be able to evoke complete silence immediately by having a plentiful supply of pet treats readily available. • If your pet is unpredictably or constantly noisy. remember the numerous advantages of having fish (e. demands. or some other task that requires focus and concentration on your part. fun to watch. the pet has to go (to another room. a delivery truck stops by. You may only need to relocate the pet if you have a critical phone call. etc. roles. Create: Solutions to any pet problems you have (or anticipate). to a pet sitter.) you’ll need to quickly hit the MUTE button on your phone.86 101 Tips for Telecommuters • If your pet occasionally is noisy (when the doorbell rings. • If noisy pets continue to plague you. perceptions—these are all influenced by your telecommut- . and can contribute immensely to your meditative time). your pet must be willing to stay outside your office without destroying the room or creating such a racket that it still hinders your work.g. Of course. Expectations. Identify: Any ways that your pet compromises your ability to work effectively and efficiently.

Since they both work and both have unexpected demands creep into their schedules. a shift in responsibilities. it will be facilitated greatly and strengthened by the increased openness and communication you’ll achieve with a positive process for resolving conflict. disagreements may arise. Whether you share your home with a stay-at-home spouse or someone who is a full-time employee commuting to a traditional workplace or a partner who also telecommutes (Tip 46). You may find that the solutions involve either more or less time together. Whatever the resolution. In spite of establishing clear expectations and negotiating agreements (Tip 31). changed parameters regarding time and space. They talk “in the moment” about how to resolve the immediate problem. there are likely to be some points of conflict. deal with it promptly and proactively. anger. conflicts can arise unexpectedly.” Sometimes circumstances necessitate that you acknowledge the conflict situation and defer the discussion to resolve it. or increased flexibility. resentment. how to be more flexible or creative the next time. This allows you to minimize the negative emotions and sources of stress that can undermine your telecommuting effectiveness and vital personal relationships. This is fine. etc. provided you set a specific time to have the discussion and then be sure to follow through. be proactive about identifying the conflict and creating an opportunity to quickly work through it to a resolution. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily stop working to discuss the conflict “in the moment. The resolution you reach is a function of the type of conflict and is dependent upon your unique situation. establishment of clear boundaries or expectations. Is your telecommuting causing any conflicts or lingering sources of stress between you and the people in your home? If so. or whenever a conflict does arise. . It’s wise to be alert to these conflicts and to address them quickly and effectively.Working Well with Your Family 87 ing arrangement and can result in tension. One of my telecommuting colleagues occasionally runs into conflict with his wife regarding who is available to transport their young children to and from school or to extracurricular events. and they have a commitment to each other to follow-up later in the day or evening about how to avoid same problem again. When a conflict arises. and conflict. anxiety.

☛ Work together to discuss proposed solutions. blissful. ☛ Ask for input regarding ideas. ☛ Reflect (repeat back) what you’ve heard to confirm you understand both the facts and the feelings expressed. needs. possible solutions. ☛ Agree on action steps and any further discussion or follow-up required. feelings parameters. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 43 Accept the Guilt— and Move On It seems sometimes that we’ve become so conditioned to feeling guilty that we’ve forgotten how to enjoy moments of delight without some angst about something. feelings. And if you’ve been at it for a while and are wondering why .88 101 Tips for Telecommuters When discussing a problem or conflict. If only telecommuters had the perfectly balanced. be prepared to: ☛ Stay calm (emotions can run high. so be conscious of remaining cool). ☛ Share your own thoughts. perspective. ☛ Ask for additional information regarding the problem. the quest for balance and bliss is an ongoing one. unstressed and guilt-free life that nontelecommuters think we have! But. frustrations. don’t expect a miracle. ☛ Listen carefully and respond with empathy to concerns. suggestions. While you may be better off than when you spent 21⁄2 hours of your life everyday commuting. it’s not likely. So if you’re contemplating or just beginning a telecommuting venture.

you’re bound to find the wisdom to make choices that are right for what you value now and for what will keep you guilt-free down the road when you look back on your life. take heart—you’re not the only one. It also makes you more vulnerable to their requests for your time and attention. let’s fast-forward to the bottom line—you can’t be in two places at once (or if you can. your commitment to boundaries between work and the rest of your life. For some telecommuters.Working Well with Your Family 89 nirvana eludes you. AND feeling guilty when you are spending time with the kids or involved in their activities and you’re not working. have an extended lunch with an elderly parent). and balancing the conflicting top priorities of work and family is just part of the equation (so we’ll just have to deal with it). In spite of admirable self-discipline. Well. especially in connection with their children. The perspective litmus test is also useful when you’re psychologically gnashing your teeth over a decision to defer work to do something important with your family (accompany someone to the doctor’s office. focus. . Working at home should allow you to see more of your kids and participate more actively in their lives. attend a program at your child’s school. when you feel that you’ve just subjected your child to the most disastrous disappointment. organization. But if you maintain a balanced perspective between the pressures of immediate demands and the long-term rewards of the choices you make. and it’s probably not anything you’re doing wrong. I’ve always found it useful to consider these choices and decisions in light of “the grand cosmic scheme of things. and commitment to balance. “Will this really matter 10 years from now?” Children are so resilient that sometimes a trauma you’ll agonize over for hours won’t bother them for more than 10 minutes. as well as your commitment to limit any workaholic tendencies (Tip 6) you’re prone to. please e-mail me immediately with your secret!). Another technique is to interject a bit of perspective into your view of things. with constant vigilance. many telecommuters experience feelings of guilt.” Realize that guilt is a natural response to some of the choices you make. this translates into a double-edged sword of guilt: feeling guilty when you’re at home working and not spending time with the kids. Ask yourself. One way to deal with it is to maintain.

Consider how to minimize guilt so you can move forward with the confidence that your choices are the best ones for now and for the future. completely separate from your home telephone. be sure to assess your needs and negotiate with your employer to secure an adequate number of business lines for your purposes. Ideally. While you might not require this many lines. Take some time to contemplate the values behind the feelings. provided you can control who and how the phone is answered if you . Therefore. it’s important for you to have well-established and communicated phone procedures. I had five separate lines installed (the phone company loved me!): 2 lines for voice. Once your business voice line is established. While your phone lines may also be used for fax. It’s likely that you’ll want or be required to have a dedicated phone line for voice communication. your business line should be restricted to ringing in your home office. While a ringing phone has become quite a commonplace event in our everyday life. the ringing of your business phone should elicit a much more attentive and thoughtful response than usual. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 44 Answering Phones: Decide Who and How Your telephone is a primary link between you and the rest of your business world. you may want the flexibility to answer the business line in other parts of your home. For one of my corporate telecommuting stints.90 101 Tips for Telecommuters Think about decision points in your life that evoke feelings of guilt. and 1 ISDN line for videoconferencing. and video transmission. 1 for fax. data. you’ll need to think about where it rings and how it will be answered. This is fine. 1 for the computer modem. the voice contact you have with others is vital. Depending on your circumstances.

If you must have business calls follow you from your home office into other parts of your home: • Install an extension of your business line in your home and locate it someplace where young children can’t reach it (and teenagers know to never touch it). and do not let your children answer your office phone. . Review your telephone situation to assess: How messages are recorded on your business phone line and any improvements you can make in this procedure. it’s not likely that your callers really want to talk with anyone in your house other than you. or an answering service to take messages when you can’t answer your business phone yourself. Unless your business is unique.Working Well with Your Family 91 don’t manage to grab it on the first ring. this rarely is appropriate for corporate telecommuters. If either of these conditions is present in your home. your employer extremely flexible. use an additional phone number with a special identifying ring on your home line so you can forward your business line to this number—and don’t let your children answer the phone when this ring sounds. You may experience some difficulty with business calls coming into your home if you have young children just discovering the delights of answering the phone or teenagers who are convinced that every call simply must be for them. The opportunity your family has to answer your business calls and the appropriateness of this. • Forward your business calls to your cellular phone and keep the cell phone on your person at all times. consider doing the following: • Do not let your business calls ring outside of your office. and your clients graced with inordinate understanding. • Use voice mail. While some books about home-based offices provide guidelines for training family members to answer business calls and take messages professionally. • If available from your phone company. an answering machine.

All of your effort to focus your energies. Additionally. some of the people in your world will feel compelled to bother you. The perception others have about someone “at home” is that the person is not really or seriously working (since they perceive home is not a real or serious workplace). It also helps if you maintain established work hours—and be sure to let everyone (immediate family. • Always refer to your workplace as your office. they just might be unable to restrain themselves. you must take yourself and your work seriously. This conveys the message that you’re talking from your office and you don’t have time for chit-chat. it’s sometimes difficult for other people to take you and your work seriously. neighbors) know what those hours are. Always answer your phone (even the home line if you happen to answer it during work hours) with your name and/or your company name. relatives. The burden for achieving the regard. Oh.92 101 Tips for Telecommuters The degree of access your calls have to you when you are not in your home office and any need to alter this. So. plan your day. organize your work. sound like it also. it’s not that they (consciously) intend to sidetrack you. (“I’ll be in my of- . In spite of these efforts. and monitor your progress are major contributors to a self-perception of seriousness. For you and your work to be taken seriously by others. friends. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 45 Get the Respect You Deserve (How to be sure you and your work are taken seriously) Since many myths and misunderstandings still exist regarding the life of a telecommuter. you’ll need to arm yourself with a few weapons to keep these people (and their inherent distractions) at bay: • In addition to looking the part of the serious home-based professional. it will help convey a sense of purpose and seriousness if you conduct yourself seriously (another good reason to get out of your robe as soon as possible). and seriousness you’ll need rests squarely on your shoulders. respect.

and make you feel not very neighborly. Be alert to the temptation by your neighbors to take advantage of your availability. and work demands. Recently. The accumulation of these intrusions on your time and focus will erode your productivity. water someone’s plants while they were on vacation. time constraints. so I’ll have to talk with you later. When the situation is approaching an emergency.” “I’ve got a conference call waiting for me. my neighbor’s children arrived home from school one day and found their door locked. Be reasonable about helping when the circumstances justify it. absolutely avoid initiating any contact with neighbors or social interactions that are not essential. right after I offered them milk and cookies. it’s probably appropriate to help. I returned to my office to continue working. A telecommuter I know has been asked at various time to watch a neighbor’s child. What’s a good time for you to talk after work?”) • If you use a headset or have a portable phone handy. along with access to either the library or the television. the number is…”) Referring to your workplace as home sends the wrong message and confuses people about your need to delineate between work and home. No one will understand why they can’t simply reciprocate whenever the spirit moves them (which will always be at a time when you don’t have or shouldn’t have the time to spare). and serve as a pick-up point for Girl Scout cookies. never answer the door without one of them attached to your ear—few things convey an urgent sense of “work in progress” as well as these.” “Why don’t you call me at my office.”) • Make it clear to everyone who calls you. increase your annoyance. So they rang my doorbell. (“I’m in the middle of writing a proposal and need to get it expressed out today. . but I can return your call in the evening. (“I need to meet a deadline on a client project and can’t talk now. sign for an express package. give a key to a service technician. • Does it go without saying? During work hours. stops by. for example. and I wouldn’t have thought of not welcoming them into my home to wait for their parents. feed a neighbor’s pet. or rings your doorbell that you need to focus on your work during business hours and defer nonwork matters to nonwork times. Of course. • Be clear and assertive with people about your needs.Working Well with Your Family 93 fice until 5:30.

etc. minimal commuting. let them know that you’ll be busy at work (in a phone meeting. of course. . DO NOT DISTURB!” message. sharing an office with a life partner has lots of advantages in terms of time together. as well.94 101 Tips for Telecommuters However. awareness of the ups and downs you each experience. etc. such as security watch and baby/house/pet/plant sitting. Otherwise. If you happen to also share your home office with a spouse or partner who telecommutes. and involvement in the challenges and rewards of each other’s work. act. and talk differently to communicate a strong “WORK IN PROGRESS. Select at least one thing you can change immediately with regard to how you handle nonwork visitors or phone calls that interfere with your work day. Consider how you might dress. that you happily and productively manage the shared office arrangement. There are lots of ways to transform this into a recipe for disaster.) and won’t be available. Review your approach to your work and evaluate how effectively you convey a sense of focus and professionalism to those around you. you’ll become the local “drop-off/pick-up/central” as well as headquarters for neighborhood services. but on your relationship. when neighbors make intrusive or inappropriate requests for your help. on a conference call. independence. That assumes. True. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 46 The Happy Marriage/Partnership Guide to Office Sharing Many of your traditional office-bound colleagues are fairly convinced that telecommuters enjoy the best the work world has to offer—a decent wage. And the disastrous consequences are multiplied because of the impact not just on your work. you’ll be the envy of just about everyone you know (except those people who can’t imagine that much proximity to a loved one).

So. avoid interrupting with a thought. etc. etc. cleaning. suggestion. • Position desks and work areas so that sound from equipment and voices moves in a direction opposite from each other’s work space. consider a shared telecommuting arrangement only if your relationship is strong and your ability to separate your relationship from your work is well honed. fax.” success celebrations. question. or news flash unless you’ve asked permission to disrupt your partner’s work or concentration. avoid loud talking. as with any partnership.. tools. you’ll probably experience added strain to the relationship and additional stress on your work that prevents you from being successful on either front.Working Well with Your Family 95 It all begins with the relationship. and resources. Ask permission for or have clear agreements regarding the use of things that belong to the other. “erranding. mundane office chores (such as filing. etc. • Respect not only each other’s space but also equipment. mail metering.). On the foundation of a strong personal relationship. don’t use speaker phones. negotiate these issues (Tip 31) in advance and check periodically (Tip 47) to be sure that things are working well for both of you. there are several steps you can take and agreements you should reach to establish a productive working relationship: • If your office is an open work environment (like the cubes you tried to escape!).). computer. Internet. .). Whenever possible. etc.) so that reimbursements can be handled appropriately. supplies. • Take time out to be together when you can by sharing work breaks. maintain a not-too-slovenly work space. respect the designated space of others. If your relationship is shaky. lunch breaks.. Rather. • Take great care to track expenses associated with any shared equipment or services (e. • Avoid “stream of consciousness” babbling. how messages are to be handled. it’s not likely that telecommuting together will improve things. • Decide on phone procedures (who answers phones.g. follow basic open office etiquette guidelines (e.g.

there may be just a few bumps in the road you take to telecommuting bliss. I suggest doing this during regularly schedule “how goes it” meetings with your family. less critical. Schedule a meeting or a working lunch to discuss ways to more effectively work together.96 101 Tips for Telecommuters When you’re ready to discuss shared office issues. 39). Having a predetermined time to discuss problems. eliminate obstacles. annoying. revisit. first check to see if it’s a good time to interrupt your office/life partner. resolve issues. In spite of these efforts. or nagging situations should be deferred to a desig- . revise. helps you avoid more highly charged. overly emotional “in the moment” discussions. While urgent matters may call for an impromptu discussion to resolve a problem. Think of one thing that you can suggest to improve the productivity of each of you. 33). and renegotiate regularly. Since few things stay constant and people need continual attention and nurturing. • Make necessary arrangements for family care (Tips 35. • Manage the logistics of your home and office (Tips 13. be prepared to review. Why? Mostly because of two things: all of this involves people and change. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 47 Schedule Periodic “How Goes It” Meetings Your commitment to work well with your family may include a number of focused efforts: • Set clear expectations with family and friends (Tip 31) • Reach agreements and resolve conflicts (Tip 42). etc. • Make time to celebrate milestones together (Tip 32).

Use the following “how goes it” meeting guideline to keep lines of communication open and to minimize conflict situations: Review solutions and agreements discussed during previous meetings or discussions and assess their effectiveness. You’ll find also that the little bumps and molehills along the way don’t seem like such mountains to circumnavigate when people know there’s a time.Working Well with Your Family 97 nated time with a structured process for handling them. issues. Exchange ideas about things being handled successfully and discuss keys to success. and way for charting a resolution to problems. It’s helpful to also agree on the format for these meetings. Don’t forget to use effective dispute resolution skills (Tip 42) when handling concerns or discussing conflict. you and your family’s tolerance for stress. and location of the next “how goes it” meeting. Discuss a timeframe and structure that addresses the concerns and needs of various family members. When to hold your “how goes it” meetings depends on several factors: how new you and your family are to telecommuting. time. Also share successes/good news regarding achievement of work goals. obstacles you’re experiencing and ask for input. Ask for input regarding any new or unresolved problem areas. place. Confirm the date. ambiguity. and delayed gratification. improvement ideas. and the degree of change occurring within your family and your work demands. It’s useful to establish the frequency for “how goes it” meetings during the early discussions with your family members when you establish expectations (Tip 31) and ask for their help as part of your team (Tip 32). T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . Share any concerns. Agree on action. next steps. and proposed solutions. You might use an initial meeting with your family to propose the “how goes it” meeting concept as a way to channel issues for discussion. and/or any follow-up required.

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while you’re just one person in the whole intricate array of people and relationships in your organization. dejected leaders. Be available to people on a consistent basis by establishing your home office work hours and maintaining those hours routinely. The fundamental ingredients of trust in the working relationships that are critical to your success include reliability. people become suspicious. So. This further leads to unpleasant work environments. disgruntled workers. A good rule of thumb here: undercommit and overdeliver. noncommittal. As a telecommuter. don’t make a promise on your voice mail greeting to return calls by the end of the day if you can’t be certain you will. show up. undermining and jaded—all of which leads to deteriorated and nonproductive relationships. So. Everyone gets unnerved if your essential availability and your ability to honor commitments is perceived as unreliable. and unprofitable organizations. people remote from you can begin to wonder if you remember them or care about their concerns if you don’t follow through on your commitments to them. frustrated customers. establishing unwavering trust in relationships with colleagues and your boss is particularly vital. it’s exceedingly wise for you to make trust-full relationships a major priority. Reliability essentially means that people have confidence that you will honor the commitments you make.) Avoid not being available when you’ve scheduled time for a specific phone call or videoconference.48 Establish a Rock-Solid Foundation of Trust Underlying every successful relationship is trust. Trust is also strengthened by consistency. take steps to be accessible (Tip 52). and integrity. consistency. If you won’t be in your office as scheduled. (Remember that you’re not the only one who worries about being forgotten. Additionally. since distance and the absence of day-to-day interactions can create pressure on relationships that will erode trust. Knowing how these factors affect trust and how your behavior affects perceptions and beliefs is important to your success while telecommuting. try to be consistent in your temperament and tone when speaking with 101 . uncaring. Without it. If you commit to attend on-site meetings or to participate in conference calls.

trust is lost. truthful in your encounters.102 101 Tips for Telecommuters people. People may not always like what you say or believe. your team involvement. and participating within your team. • Identify three immediate steps you can take to improve your reliability. Once your honesty is compromised. your interactions with colleagues. • Treat sensitive material appropriately. and trust will suffer. Being unpredictable emotionally (a screaming maniac one day and happy-go-lucky the next) makes it very difficult for people to be comfortable with you. and teasing in your distance interactions. responding to voice mail and e-mail. Integrity is vital to trust. since it reflects how people perceive your ability to be honest in your dealings. indirectness and hidden agendas in work relationships. or blurt out in a conference call can be misinterpreted without you ever having the chance to know. • Avoid sarcasm. So much of what you say on voice mail. but at least they won’t have to wonder about it. it’s important that you avoid these negative dynamics when you telecommute. Do this by remembering to: • Be honest in everything you do. • Look at your work habits. • Be truthful and forthright (without being obnoxious about it). • Consider steps you can take to be more reliable and consistent. joking. also think about any feedback you’ve received regarding any concerns about your availability and follow through on commitments. and respectful of the rights of others. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . send in an e-mail. • Maintain confidences so that you’re not perceived as a “highly networked grand-central-station” of gossip or confidential information people have entrusted to you. respond. or recover. Don’t send group broadcasts on voice mail or forward to the entire team an e-mail meant for your eyes only. While there’s plenty of confusion.

and secure the necessary support of colleagues and subordinates. and maintains your visibility on your boss’s “radar screen. you have the responsibility and the greatest vested interest in relentlessly keeping your boss updated on your results. and communication styles. Don’t be fooled by the expressions of envy from your friends and nontelecommuting associates who think lots of “space” between you and your boss is a dream come true. challenges. Be conscious of communicating with your boss daily—by e-mail. page.). While you’ll want to maintain visibility in the organization. Telecommuting is facilitated greatly by the range of alternatives for communication (telephone. problems. it’s a real challenge to overcome the obstacles to effective communication with your boss. so you’d be wise to overcommunicate whenever possible. keep your network active. . travel commitments.Working Well With Your Team 103 49 Keep Your Boss Informed “Out of sight. Regardless of the barriers. Also. however. fax. With differing schedules. discuss and agree on this. and. voice mail. This keeps dialog active. e-mail. Too little contact with your boss can be very damaging to this critical relationship. information needs. are you clear about how much time your boss feels is appropriate for face-to-face and phone meeting time? If not. don’t overlook the critical relationship between you and your boss. and achievements are visible enough to your boss. depending upon the working style of your manager. The “no surprises” theory is a good rule of thumb here: Never let your boss be surprised by anything about you or your work that you should or could have communicated promptly. time zones. groupware. even from a distance. opportunities. it may be a bona fide fear. voice mail. out of mind” is a major fear of telecommuters. problems. These options in no way eliminate the effort and time still required to ensure effective communication in critical areas.” Ask yourself periodically if you feel your issues. etc. Even with your best intentions. you may find that your boss is unreliable about keeping appointments or is sorely lacking on follow-through—all of which brings it squarely back to you. or telephone. and need for her or his support.

there’s likely to be an array of other colleagues who constitute your total virtual team. 2. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 50 Know and Nurture Your Team The relationships and interdependencies you have with your formal team members (e. however.. and communication tools evolve. and interaction skills in order to function effectively as a virtual team member. Beyond the scope of your formal team. 3. What action or input you need from your boss. What the topic is that you’re addressing. or functions that you do) are inherent in the structure of your organization and the processes whereby work is accomplished. Beyond the support staff that works with you directly. and efforts to strengthen them should be ongoing as your team develops and evolves.g. Also.104 101 Tips for Telecommuters Use interaction opportunities with your boss either to provide an update or seek input. your success is contingent upon the work and commitment of any number of . guidance. The degree of urgency or seriousness the situation represents. The relationships certainly require nurturing. or opportunity is. accounts. Focus your communication so that your boss clearly understands: 1. communication. you need effective relationship-building. those co-workers with whom you work directly and/or who focus on the same projects. What the problem. need. When that action or input is needed. these relationships and interdependencies also reformulate. or other assistance from your boss. Identifying these colleagues and realizing their value to your attainment of goals is essential to your success. marketplace pressures increase. As a telecommuter. as work processes change. 4. 5.

Knowing who they are and taking steps to recognize their efforts will be invaluable in ensuring their ongoing support (especially during the “crunch” times when you most need it). e-mail. Not forgetting who makes you successful will ensure that those people don’t forget you when you’re really counting on them. you have a long list of associates throughout your organization working with and for you. These might include: • Billing/collection agents • Editors/proofreaders • Consultants • Proposal developers • Salespeople • Shipping and receiving • Audio-visual technicians • Executives • Maintenance staff • Customer service representatives • Graphic designers • Installers • Peers • Managers • Receptionists • Library/information services • Dispatchers • Travel coordinators • Computer systems specialists • Help-desk technicians The members of your broader team. If you’re typical. And especially in your telecommuting role. are often overlooked when considering who comprises your team. or voice mail to thank someone for their help. a memo to someone’s manager praising him or her for some extraordinary effort. page. Begin with a commitment on your part to stay connected to these remote but critical resources through simple efforts: a call. . nominating someone for an award for continued excellence in his or her work or attitude. while they might not be taken for granted. you’re even more dependent on these resources and their commitment to your success. Identify: 3 Resources or associates who are not members of your formal team.Working Well With Your Team 105 other resources that you may access throughout the organization.

it also assures your co-workers that you’re present (albeit in a virtual way!). but it’s also important to stay in touch with co-workers for nontask purposes. 1 Action you can take now to recognize their effort in some appropriate way that communicates to them (and to others in the organization) how valuable they are to you and why their contributions are critical to your telecommuting success. so my strong suggestion is that you take responsibility for keeping these connections active. addressing the technological and administrative issues critical to your work. right along with the other key activities essential to your success. Don’t hesitate to incorporate these initiatives into your daily task list. it’s very easy to find little or no time to stay connected with your co-workers. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 51 Stay in Touch with Co-Workers With the time you invest each day in accomplishing your work. out of mind” deficit to overcome as well. they will get lost in the flurry of your busy days. too! And you have the “out of sight. and your boss. Don’t expect your co-workers to necessarily take the initiative to keep in touch with you—they’re busy. This not only strengthens the foundation of your relationships. Otherwise. and aware of them and their issues. communicating with clients.106 101 Tips for Telecommuters 2 Specific things each of them has done or ways they help you that’s critical to your success. and maintaining some semblance of balance in your life. partners. It also helps to minimize any resentment (Tip 53) your nontelecommuting co-workers may feel toward you and your telecommuting work arrangement. Here are some basic ways you can be sure that your co-workers won’t forget you: . available. Certainly you’ll communicate with them when it’s essential to your work.

• Volunteer for project teams or task forces that facilitate your involvement with co-workers.). • Make a point to remember birthdays and acknowledge special accomplishments of your team members and associates. ✔ Review your schedule of meetings. etc. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . • Rely on a trusted colleague or two to be your “ears” on the grapevine. • Use any other available technology (fax. etc. etc. • If getting to your office doesn’t involve a flight or a long commute. videoconference.Working Well With Your Team 107 • Talk with them regularly by telephone.) to stay connected and visible. to identify easy and natural opportunities you have to interact with co-workers. trips to the corporate office. special company events. etc.) • Try to attend social events (retirement parties. baby showers. schedule meetings periodically in your home office with individual co-workers or your team. suggest a team lunch or work break. promotion celebrations. e-mail. • Use every available minute when you’re on-site in the main office to see and talk with coworkers. ✔ Be sure you schedule at least two such actions each day and that you communicate with each key co-worker at least once every other week. (Mingle over a cup of coffee. ✔ Also add to your calendar specific steps you’ll take to keep in touch with co-workers between opportunities for face-to-face interactions. (Tip 52) • Schedule face-to-face meetings periodically. ✔ List the people you need to maintain a relationship with and different ways you can interact with them during these opportunities. web conferences. paging.

No one doubts that live. you can be creatively accessible and visible in other ways: • Use teleconferences.108 101 Tips for Telecommuters 52 Be (Creatively) Accessible by Telephone The demands of your job. Since people will use the phone as a key way to contact you. or resident expert. and has superior quality (clear sound. videoconferencing. sales manager. e-mail. be an avid . keep these suggestions in mind: Have a second line. you’ll want to be highly accessible via the telephone. Beyond voice-to-voice communication by telephone. While fax.). real-time. and distance between you and team members makes being accessible a triple challenge. and web conferencing to participate in meetings and attend presentations real-time— or even be a “virtual attendee” at a baby shower by asking to have a speaker phone available. many telecommuters still depend significantly on the telephone for communication—it’s easy to use. Be diligent about returning calls quickly. account executive. generally reliable. more comfortable for some people than new modes of communication. and/or have voice mail on your business line to minimize the calls you miss. Use caller ID to know when to interrupt another call or activity to respond to a critical caller. • Without sending unnecessary or annoying messages. etc. but we don’t live or work in an ideal world. supervisor. The telephone is the primary tool you use for staying connected. use call waiting. So. Use call forwarding to ensure that your calls reach you when you’re away from your office (Tip 91). and videoconferencing can be useful supplements. But the sense that you are accessible. Toward this end. face-toface interactions generally are superior. in spite of your telecommuting function. you’ll need to find creative ways to overcome barriers to your accessibility and to compensate for your physical absence. no delay in transmission. pressures of your life. is vital to your success—especially if you are a team or project leader.

it shouldn’t surprise you to encounter misperceptions about your work and your life. and paging to accelerate communication and bolster your responsiveness. voice mail. It’s unwise to simply disregard resentment and assume it won’t affect you or how you’re perceived. You may become aware that someone is making comments about . T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 53 Don’t Ignore Those Who Resent You If you are a trailblazer in your organization and an “early adopter” of the telecommuter workstyle. Rather. and how effectively you handle situations. • Encourage team members and co-workers to call you whenever they need your help or input. • Have your home office business phone number added to the corporate speed-dial system so you are a mere few digits away! Evaluate your accessibility by telephone (or ask some of your coworkers how easy it is to reach you for live communication). how influential they are in the organization. their impact can range from a mild annoyance to a serious undermining of your credibility and effectiveness. with your assurance (followed up by reality) that you’ll be there or will return the call quickly. Even if you and your organization are fairly savvy with regard to telecommuting. and be sure to let your co-workers know about these new and easier ways to reach you. how critical they are to your success. Depending on who these folks are. you should be aware of it and try to eliminate it whenever possible. you are likely to have some colleagues or co-workers who resent your nontraditional work arrangement. Identify three improvement steps you can take to improve your accessibility.Working Well With Your Team 109 user (by accessing these systems many times throughout the day) of e-mail.

) Of course. In reality. Listen and reflect what you hear. Have a specific discussion with your co-worker about what you’ve seen or heard (being careful to not compromise confidences or create a problem for another coworker) and discuss reasons for the resentful feelings. If this is the case. empathetic.). e-mail. but people tend to forget this and can be much less forgiving when you telecommute. it’s likely to be mostly emotional (anger about not also being able to telecommute. etc. and phone messages. appointments away from the office. When you hear of persistent comments made by a key colleague or you think a co-worker is trying to erode your credibility or effectiveness. I worked once with a fellow executive who consistently referred to me being “at home” when I wasn’t on-site at corporate headquarters. etc. if there’s any truth to the complaint that you’re not accessible. envy. particularly if an unfair burden has inadvertently been placed on the co-worker. It’s likely that any effort you make to understand the feelings of a co-worker (even if nothing changes with the circumstances) will pay huge dividends in how you are perceived by your colleagues. The most direct way to address resentment from co-workers is to confront it head-on. you can make great strides in eliminating this behavior by discussing it directly. You might also learn that your co-worker perceives or actually experiences some additional work burden resulting from your telecommuting. meetings. Letting people know in advance when you’ll have limited accessibility due to travel. you wouldn’t always be accessible even if you worked on-site. open to input and a good listener will never hurt you and is likely to minimize any barriers created by expressions of resentment. explore ways to resolve the situation (Tip 63). (My loyal team members assertively corrected him by referring to my being “in her office in Pittsburgh” and asking if he needed to talk with me. frustration about the stresses of commuting. you’ll want to correct this situation immediately by being more responsive to voice mail. also minimizes the frustration that can lead to resentment. . frustration. concerned. vacation. Being known as sensitive.110 101 Tips for Telecommuters your “cushy life” or suggesting that you’re always inaccessible. or anger from your co-workers.

networking cannot be overrated for telecommuters (unless. mastering the fine art of networking is certainly in your best interest. it’s done at the expense of achieving your goals). While it’s also seen as an important skill for anyone in business. Entrepreneurs who network effectively: • Make it a point to meet as many people as they can. • Join organizations and participate in activities that keep them visible and involved in their field. ☛ Think about anything you’re doing (or not doing) that might be contributing to their feelings. To the extent that you should manage your career almost as though it were an entrepreneurial venture (Tip 30). of course. . T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 54 Network to Stay Visible and Informed Networking usually is positioned as a critical activity for entrepreneurs and home-based business owners. steps you both can take to improve any problems with work flow or load. ☛ Focus on a critical relationship where resentment is a problem and schedule time to talk with that co-worker during your next opportunity to meet face-to-face. • Create opportunities to be where other successful people are (or where potential prospects will be). ☛ Discuss reasons for the co-worker’s feelings.Working Well With Your Team 111 ☛ Identify any sources of existing or potential resentment among your colleagues and team members. and any other actions you can take to minimize the resentment.

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• Go out of their way to introduce themselves (i.e., work the room). • Ask questions to get people talking about themselves (to make them comfortable and ensure that they remember you). • Make sure people know their name, what they do, what they can do for them. • Exchange business cards with their network contacts and keep good notes of conversations, potential opportunities, etc. • Follow up periodically with contacts to keep their network viable, create opportunities to collaborate, exchange information, etc. Maintaining active communication with your immediate and extended team, as well as networking more broadly within your organization, establishes vital links for you as a telecommuter. Constantly look for ways to do what successful entrepreneurs do: • Meet lots of people and know people in other departments/divisions. • Get involved in projects beyond the immediate scope of your job. • Offer to help when your knowledge or expertise would be valuable to others. • Keep in touch with people by briefly “checking in” or exchanging information. Some telecommuters make a particular point to very actively communicate with others in the organization who are well-connected with the grapevine. To the extent that information and power go hand in hand, it never hurts to be in the know—and to be known.

Reevaluate your networking strategy and activity level. Look for and activate: 3 Ways you can get more involved in your organization and meet more people. 2 Networking contacts added to your daily call list.

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1 Agreement with a reliable and well-connected on-site colleague who is willing to be your “eyes and ears” in the grapevine.
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Stay on Track for Promotions (and Other Good Deals)

It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of visibility when you telecommute. Isolation and fear of being overlooked for promotion are two of the biggest fears telecommuters typically report, and probably for good reason. Avoiding isolation is somewhat within your control, and there are clearly steps you can take to deal with this (Tip 26). Staying on track for promotions (or job rotations) holds some different challenges but is also manageable with a concerted effort and commitment on your part. Before fretting over the promotion you might not get, it’s a good idea to be sure you really want it. What will it involve (greater responsibility, increased travel, supervision of others, the need to give up telecommuting)? Will the rewards be worth it (corresponding increase in income, new and challenging work, exposure to other aspects of the organization, requisite experience or skills for a future promotion or job opportunity)? Since you are the ultimate manager of your career (Tip 30), it’s vital that you ask the questions and find the answers. If you decide that moving up, sideways, or along in some other way is best for you, then lay out the track that train needs to move on. Here are some ways to help you on your journey: • Staying visible and keeping in touch with colleagues (Tip 51) is essential to not being forgotten in the far-flung land of telecommuting. • Go out of your way to find opportunities to be involved in projects, special assignments, task teams, etc. that will expose you to greater numbers of people and aspects of the organization. • Schedule a career planning meeting with your manager to lay out your goals, review your plan, outline your strategy, ask for

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input, and obtain your manager’s commitment to help you achieve your objective. • Broaden your support network and involve more colleagues in your projects, sales efforts, proposals for innovation, etc. • Take classes, seminars, and workshops that will broaden your skills, expand your knowledge, and introduce you to more people throughout the organization. • Actively network throughout the organization (Tip 54), with particular emphasis on those people from whom you can learn a great deal, help on occasion, and benefit by knowing. • Be known for treating people with respect, including the lower level support staff (talk about a network!). • Most important, be known for getting results and consistently doing so with honesty, integrity, and regard for others.

Revisit your plan for the next career step. Reassess your plan in light of your true desires, your circumstances, the tradeoffs, and the payoffs. Consider any help or input you might benefit from and schedule meetings or activities to make that happen. Revise your plan as necessary.
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Know When to Ask for Help

Chances are you’re relatively self-sufficient and independent. Most telecommuters report these characteristics as areas of strength and contributors to their success at telecommuting. Sometimes, though, self-reliance can result in a tendency to manage everything yourself. One telecommuter I know was, by most standards, technologically proficient and not reluctant to handle computer-related problems,

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software upgrades, or equipment installation. However, the time these activities consumed was disproportionate to the benefit. Although she liked the challenge of handling the technological side of her office, she came to realize that calling the help desk more often and shipping her notebook computer to corporate for occasional upgrades and servicing were wiser investments of her time and effort. Even if you don’t consider yourself to have high control needs, your ability and desire to function independently can lead to an inordinate (and counterproductive) desire to get things done without the help of others. There are a few reasons to avoid this syndrome: 1. In spite of your many talents and skills, it’s not likely you’re really an expert at everything. 2. Some tasks and activities do not offer a reasonable “rate of return” on your investment of time and energy (that is, you can make more money or be more gainfully productive by focusing on other things). 3. Those around you (family, friends, colleagues) soon stop offering to help, since you appear uninterested in and unappreciative of their efforts to help you. 4. You will be perpetually tired, frustrated, behind schedule, and unable to make much of a dent in your endless TO DO list. As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably want to directly involve yourself in tasks and projects if: • They directly relate to your work goals and/or impacts your primary source of income. • Doing so capitalizes on areas of major strength that are unique to you. • They are highly critical, visible, or time-urgent matters with serious implications for you, your organization, a key project, or a significant client. • They involve an area in which you are truly an expert and you are the very kind of person people hire for the particular content knowledge you possess. • Even if you didn’t have to do them, they’re such a source of enjoyment, you’d do them for a hobby. Otherwise, get help!! Delegate (Tip 60), ask team members for

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assistance, enlist your boss to help or track down additional resources, tap your network, access the services of suppliers, hire a contractor, or look for ways your family might pitch in.

Before embarking on tasks and projects you should ask others to do, ask yourself: ? Do I need to do this myself? ? What’s the impact of me not handling this personally? ? Is this a good investment of my time and energy? ? Is there someone else who could do this better, faster, easier, cheaper?
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Master Effective (Virtual) Interaction Skills

Telecommuting will pose some unique challenges for you if face-toface interactions seem to be the only way to be truly effective. While no one would dispute that “live” interactions usually are preferable, these are fast becoming more of a luxury. Increases in mergers, acquisitions, and global competition have resulted in a geographically dispersed workforce and growing numbers of telecommuters for many more organizations. As part of this trend, it’s critical that you become an expert in the essential communication skills for successful telecommuters. While you lose some of the communication subtleties gleaned from eye contact, body posture, gestures, and voice tone, you can supplement virtual interactions in ways that minimize negative effects of “distance dialog.” Regardless of the purpose and nature of virtual interactions, there are some underlying keys to ensuring a positive and productive outcome. Whenever you dialog at a distance, remember to:

If necessary. you must keep your ears fully attuned to the discussion and be alert to signs of disagreement.Working Well With Your Team 117 ➢ LISTEN! Your ears are also your eyes whenever you’re limited to audio communication. etc.) Avoid background noise. Make a habit of knowing and communicating at the outset why the interaction is occurring. progress toward goal. ➢ Avoid one-way “tell” monologues whenever possible by checking for understanding. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . and poor quality equipment if these distractions erode your concentration or your ability to be fully engaged in dialog. confirm agreements via e-mail. Include an outline for setting the agenda and note reminders for effective listening. ➢ Eliminate distractions of any type that create communication barriers for you or your remote colleagues. so be sensitive to the needs of others. Keep the guideline near your phone and visible (or easily accessible in your calendar book or phone directory) and begin using it whenever you “distance dialog” with colleagues. and how the goal will be accomplished. pace. Establish a format for handling virtual interactions you’re involved in. Verify understanding and agreement on these points. noncommitment. unnecessary multi-tasking. Without the benefit of seeing gestures. snacking. why it’s important. facial expressions. etc. what the goal is. asking for input. ambivalence. or memos to minimize confusion later. (Remember that distance itself is a significant barrier for some people. posture. etc. ➢ Confirm that your listening skills are effective by reflecting (repeating back) what you’ve heard and confirming that everyone involved has the same understanding of what’s been said or agreed to.. fax. Summarize throughout the discussion and at the conclusion. ➢ Establish a clear purpose and desired outcome for every interaction. misunderstanding. project notes. encouraging involvement and periodically assessing comfort levels with audio quality.

• Plan or outline in advance your voice mail messages to ensure that they’re to-the-point. To avoid having people hit the DELETE button the moment they hear you on voice mail or having your name on the DELETE ALL list in their unread e-mail message box. remember these few critical rules and points of etiquette in the world of “technology talk:” • Use whatever technological option is considered appropriate for the culture of your organization and appropriate for the medium.118 101 Tips for Telecommuters 58 Technology Talk: Keys to Communicating Without Speaking Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds our ability to effectively communicate without a “live” interaction. don’t use e-mail for quick schedule updates if people prefer that on voice mail. For instance. • Broaden the scope of information conveyed. Many experienced telecommuters have even come to realize (and enjoy) the advantages in efficiency derived from eliminating real-time communication whenever possible. effectively utilizes appropriate virtual interaction skills (Tip 57) and effectively uses the technology available to: • Save time. succinct. Of course. • Expand the number of people included in the communication loop. Avoid using e-mail for anything sensitive or confidential if having it forwarded without your permission (or saved to come back and haunt you!) is either possible or potentially problematic. all of these advantages can become disadvantages if the technology is misapplied or overused. and clear. • Improve communication clarity. Notwithstanding the disadvantages of virtual (remote) communication. the successful telecommuter effectively determines the types of communication that can occur without a “live” interaction (Tip 59). Stipulate the number of topics you plan to cover and say early in the message if it will be a long one. Word of warning: Consider any e-mail you send essentially saved forever since it may travel through multiple servers that have backup files retained indefinitely. Make the reply expectations and options .

and specify any deadline for a response. • When leaving a voice mail message for someone who is unavailable to talk. specify the purpose. If a voice mail message you’ve recorded is confusing. e-mail address) so that recipients don’t need to take time to find this information. time. include instructions for doing so in the early part of your greeting. erase it and try again. fax. and target audience. provide information about when you’ll be available to talk and/or when you can call back.. you-know). The stamp should include your name and contact information (phone. if your voice mail system provides an option for callers to bypass your message. Anyone not interested or copied inadvertently can quickly delete the message. um. • When sending or responding to voice mail and e-mail messages. Follow through on your commitment to return calls within the promised timeframe. • Don’t use your highly efficient technological talk options when the best alternative is really talking or meeting with someone “live. review the message prior to sending it so you can edit appropriately to eliminate any confusion or redundancy. or full of nonwords (e. Also. or press “REPLY ALL” only if the message is truly of interest to such a broad audience. include only those people who need to know. objective. provide the information or pose the question you called about. use a preformatted signature stamp that automatically attaches to your messages when you hit the “Send” button. and date of your call.” (Tip 59) • Be sure that your voice mail greeting (on both the corporate email system and your home office voice mail) is clear about when you’ll be accessible “live” or when you’ll be able to return the call.g. hit the “All Company” button. • If your e-mail system has the capability. complicated.Working Well With Your Team 119 clear and easy to follow. • Begin your messages with a brief statement of purpose. well. voice mail numbers. . or has complex response options. rambling. Copy a plethora of groups. Use the same criteria for attaining brevity and clarity in your e-mail messages. • If the message is long. ah.

key information. • Create a format for e-mail messages that includes sections for purpose. • Review your voice-mail greeting and make any necessary revisions for it to be clearer or briefer. cellular phone number. avoid sending an endless volume of pages. (Send yourself a test fax to see what your machine transmits and bear in mind that some fax machines slightly reduce the size of print on the page. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 59 Determine the Need for “Live” Interactions Now that you’ve mastered the fine art of virtual interactions and have discovered the wonderful levels of efficiency you can achieve through the avid use of technology for communication. and deadline. Also.. fax number. consider using e-mail or express delivery. phone or videoconference) .) • To save yourself time. If the document is very long. Whether these be “live voice” (e.120 101 Tips for Telecommuters • When fax is the best way to transmit your message or information. and pager number. • Explore the use of a signature stamp that is automatically included in your outgoing messages. voice mail extension (and message bypass code). expand your handy-dandy phone list to include the following information for your contacts (especially those you communicate with regularly): telephone number. be sure that the font size on your fax document is large enough to be legible by the receiver.g. you’ll need to counterbalance this with the occasional need for “live” interactions. background. email address. action required.

timelines. deadlines. direction. • A new project is being kicked off and initial planning for scope. and minimizing travel at the expense of other people or critical projects that demand more personal attention. Whether you meet face-to-face or have a live discussion depends upon the significance of factors such as those listed above. Other telecommuters can become overly zealous about being efficient. visual (and a web conference won’t work). • The situation is particularly sensitive or could become highly emotional. Some telecommuters initially lean toward more live interactions than might be necessary. team. • You’re trying to persuade or influence a decision. it’s clear that neither too much nor too little emphasis on real-time communication is a good idea. • Your boss or team specifically has requested your physical presence. etc. using technology. This can be caused by lack of judgment about what constitutes a bona fide need. • You are establishing a new relationship or building rapport in a forming relationship. . are being set. or by the telecommuter’s desire to see colleagues or fulfill social needs. by mixed signals within the organization about what’s expected. While there are no hard and fast rules about when you should get involved in a live interaction. while others can’t imagine doing business without them). • A critical client recovery situation is involved. time and money available for travel. effort. or confidential. Generally.Working Well With Your Team 121 or face-to-face interactions. you should seriously consider talking or meeting with someone directly if: • A critical relationship (client. • The information to be discussed is highly complex. some situations will warrant your investment of time. • A major revenue-producing opportunity or project is impacted. organizational) is affected. the comfort level others have with technology (some people still dislike speakerphones for meetings. and the culture of the organization. and money to connect with people on a realtime basis. or strategy. as well as your proximity to the meeting location.

limitations. think through your decision criteria in advance so you don’t lose many of the benefits of telecommuting by constantly being pulled into live interactions and meetings better handled through technology. Bear in mind.122 101 Tips for Telecommuters Like those who work in traditional settings. • Review (or create) your decision criteria for determining when you initiate a live voice interaction and when you participate in face-to-face meetings. but any residual resentment others feel about your ability to telecommute (Tip 53) may affect how they react when you’re not available to them. you will sometimes have schedule conflicts or other reasons why you can’t talk or meet with people when necessary. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 60 “Distance Delegation” that Delivers Results Unless you work in complete isolation. however. • Discuss the criteria with your boss and other team members (by e-mail or during a regular update meeting) to verify agreement on general guidelines for making decisions about live interactions and meeting participation. or . there may be slightly less tolerance for your lack of availability (particularly if it’s perceived that you are somewhat consistently unavailable). make choices. In these cases. and explore alternatives and compromises. and choices might be perfectly rational. that unlike your nontelecommuting counterparts. My advice: Exercise caution in choosing to not talk or meet live. since the need for your presence (voice or physical) may very well exceed your need for efficiency. Your commitments. you need to balance priorities. are an individual contributor with practically no interaction with anyone in your organization. At the same time. communicate reasons.

paging.Working Well With Your Team 123 are such a “lone ranger” that you love handling even the most mundane of administrative tasks in your office. How you track projects . More than likely. Delegating tasks and responsibilities can be an unnerving proposition for some people. however. the organization. you have a responsibility to establish monitoring and follow-up methods and to exercise them at the designated times. “red flags” to signal that help is needed. especially those who like to be in control of things or on top of details. more frustration. resulting in the sense of even less control. Just as the “proof is in the pudding. where to reach you) to provide any necessary support or assistance and your appreciation for the help being provided. fax. e-mail. Telecommuters have the added dynamic of distance. • Communicate your availability (how. use the following guidelines in handling the delegation discussion: • Clearly explain the task or responsibility you’re delegating and explain its importance to you. Distance delegation. monitoring methods. the client or project. doesn’t need to be riskier or more haphazard if both the delegation AND the follow-up are handled properly. you’ll certainly want reminders to pop up on your calendar on the days reports are due. when. and elevated worrying. • Discuss any issues and verify understanding of the requirements. telecommuting will afford you inherent opportunities to delegate from a distance. • Agree on follow-up actions. • Ask for input. you’ll find yourself needing to depend on the help of others (Tip 56) and benefiting tremendously from the use of appropriate delegation skills. as well as how and when it’s to be completed. team members. When delegating responsibility or tasks to subordinates.—are wonderfully efficient ways to monitor delegated work and receive updates on progress. It’s imperative that your delegated assignments not be lost in a black hole. or staff members who do not report directly to you. Many of your technology options—such as voice mail. While you might delegate interim reports as part of the assignment. or feedback regarding the delegation assignment. etc.” the successful result of delegation is in the follow-up. etc. concerns.

money. This is deadly to your effectiveness (not to mention your credibility). use your computer-based calendar. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 61 Manage the Performance Management Process One of the strongest barriers to telecommuting is the lingering perception by managers that it’s impossible to know if people are really working if they’re not on-site. and agony it inherently entails. a giant deskpad calendar. effort. It’s also imperative that you be relentless about follow-up. Get in the habit of checking each day. these are the same managers who often have little measurable data to verify that on-site people are working.124 101 Tips for Telecommuters depends on your systems. Of course. Streamline your follow-up reminders by creating simple formats in which you easily can insert the project name and report due. (There may also be a corresponding relationship to the widespread use of computer games and popularity of Internet surfing during business hours!) The bottom line is this: Managers don’t know if on-site workers OR telecommuters are getting their jobs done unless a meaningful performance evaluation process is in place that measures more than “face time. as part of your daily planning. your paper tickler file. However you choose to track and follow-up is fine. it must: . or a wall calendar that tracks work in progress.” For a performance system to be worth the time. as long as it works and you use it faithfully. or word will get out that your assignments really don’t need to be completed on time since you’re not likely to remember anyway. for any reports or updates due and fire off a reminder before the close of business that day. Review your project tracking method to ensure that it’s an airtight way to avoid drowning in a sea of delegated tasks. and makes delegation a veritable waste of time.

Performance review systems tend to be like lots of those other best laid plans—they can often dissipate. it’s critical that telecommuters clearly document these discussions and agreements. On the other hand. • Establish clear goals that are measurable and attainable. Tracking progress toward goals may involve using standard documents supplied by the company or self-designed formats or systems you create. so my advice is: • If you are a telecommuter and don’t feel that your goals are clearly established and understood consistently between you and your manager. update. cumbersome. and drop off the “radar screen” of priorities. a simple approach is better than nothing at all. and painful things). get out of focus. • Provide for frequent feedback (that doesn’t consume inordinate amounts of time). Yes. Since goal setting. Schedule goal-setting meetings with each team member to set goals. measurement methods. lose steam. And any . initiate a goal-setting discussion and drive the effort to negotiate clear goals. Go a step further and try to pin down the relationship between attainment of your goals and increases in your compensation and/or other rewards. Don’t be intimidated by the complexity such an effort can entail. complicated. or your project tracking reports to capture data that document your attainment of key results. Ideally. tracking methods. Whether you are a telecommuter or a telemanager. there are very structured. performance appraisal systems should also be consistently used throughout the organization. But we don’t often live in an ideal world. tend to avoid complex. review dates. establish a consistent performance management system for your team. • Document and copy your manager on the goals you’ve agreed to. it is absolutely in your best interest to manage performance. timeconsuming ways to monitor and manage performance. as well as interim updates on progress toward your goals. and rewards. Avoid complexity and redundant systems—use your monthly report data. your calendar system.Working Well With Your Team 125 • Be easy to use (people. • If you manage other telecommuters. after all. and review discussions may be done by telephone. Document the agreements and manage the process. and review dates.

Without clear agreements. Be prepared to propose goals. and increased stress and . and time-consuming problems. monitor. you run the risk of diminished work standards. measurement methods. whether they’re articulated or not). • Invest time and energy in lower priority goals. Assess the status of your performance management process. disappointed customers. and your support staff will help you avoid a plethora of difficult. your co-workers. ✔ Is there one? ✔ Are goals clearly defined and achievable? ✔ Does everyone understand and agree on the goals? ✔ Are tracking and measurement methods functional? ✔ Are rewards clearly established? If you answered NO to any of these questions. lack of follow-through. missed deadlines. unpleasant. schedule time to discuss your concerns and recommendations with your manager. • Fail. and rewards if these are not currently in place. and measure negotiated performance goals is at risk to: • Lose or have no focus.126 101 Tips for Telecommuters telecommuter without some way to establish. delayed shipments. • Fall short of expectations (which exist. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 62 Reach Agreements that Foster Commitment and Collaboration Setting clear agreements regarding accountabilities and commitments with your boss.

and your priorities may not be embraced enthusiastically by other people if you don’t make the effort to enlist their support. and reach different conclusions from the same data. Both your success and your peace of mind may depend upon it. there are other reasons we tend to overlook this. while we find lots of time to invest in fixing it later. Commitment and motivation vary greatly among people. and objectives we do. Without the help and commitment of others. use this process to accomplish your objective: ✔ Clearly state the needs and expectations. not all of your understandings will be inherently shared by others. ✔ Document the agreements and distribute to everyone impacted. discuss. concerns. There are endless ways people can interpret language. requirements. additional information. . it seems there’s never enough time to take care of something properly at the beginning. ✔ Ask about issues. ✔ Describe how the agreement will look when it’s operating as needed. your own success is compromised. define roles. ✔ Explain why they’re important and the consequences of not meeting them. Often we simply assume that everyone has the same understanding. however. Aside from difficulty in finding time to hold agreement-setting discussions. As is sometimes typical. ✔ Mutually agree to parameters. and this is a good rule of thumb to follow relative to setting expectations and putting agreements in place with your colleagues. you’ll need to be more structured and determined about having clear agreements in place. commitment. as well as declines in your productivity and achievement of goals.Working Well With Your Team 127 frustration on the part of everyone. summarize periodically. So make it your habit to establish clear agreements and ensure that everyone is conscious of the agreements and committed to working collaboratively to execute them. Since telecommuting also limits your ability to “tweak” agreements and processes via impromptu meetings and informal face-to-face discussions. reflect. Whether you’re meeting face-to-face or facilitating an agreement-setting discussion remotely. A major tenet of the quality movement is DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. resolutions. ✔ Listen.

resource limitations. commitments not honored to send requested information or supplies. co-workers. as well as any negative feelings people may have about your ability to telecommute. and a whole host of other passive- . and miscommunication. ☛ Are there any areas of confusion. time constraints. The source of conflicts may range from differences in beliefs. perspective. and customers. Sometimes conflict lurks around you and takes form in indirect ways: deadlines missed. You’re in a unique situation as a telecommuter to be somewhat of a lightning rod for conflict due to your remoteness from the workplace. ambiguity. follow-through overlooked. ☛ Review your priorities and the factors critical to successfully achieving your key goals. meetings held without your knowledge.128 101 Tips for Telecommuters ✔ Establish a follow-up time to review progress and revise the agreement as required. Conflict situations also are exacerbated by stress associated with workloads. and interpersonal style to feelings of anger or resentment regarding your telecommuting arrangement (Tip 53). suppliers. work methods. or wavering commitment relative to the support you need from others to achieve your goals? ☛ Correct these situations or establish clear agreements on new assignments by scheduling a discussion and using the process above. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 63 Resolve Conflicts Effectively and Proactively Conflicts are bound to arise in the course of your work with colleagues.

handle the discussion by using the guide below. move quickly to meet with the key players. How are you feeling about this? What’s your major concern? What are your biggest frustrations?). planning a discussion to resolve conflict makes for a much calmer environment and facilitates the necessary objectivity to reach a satisfactory resolution. and inappropriate time). and keeping your ear to the grapevine (or relying on someone else’s ear). actively networking (Tip 54). When you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be proactive about a conflict situation: • Begin by outlining the concern or conflict. strengthens your skills in resolution and mediation (important skills in our world!) and ensures that the conflict situation doesn’t continue as a detriment to your own projects. This allows you to control how and when the matter is addressed. I strongly advise taking the initiative to proactively address conflict situations. Since conflict usually exists and percolates before someone brings it to your attention (or things blow up at some unfortunate. • Also ask questions about the feelings that have resulted (e. fine-tune your listening skills. When you become aware of a conflict that’s impacting your work or team productivity. • Whether you’re in a proactive or reactive mode.. What’s happening? How is this impacting you? How is this affecting other people and their work?). Also. It often manifests itself in flip remarks or body language you might miss as a telecommuter UNLESS you stay very tuned in to what’s happening in the main office.. high-pressure. Also. Prior to the meeting. • Remember to ask plenty of questions about the circumstances (e.Working Well With Your Team 129 aggressive behaviors. since your ears must “see” so much for you when you work remotely. accounts.g. and goals. Discuss the conflict by following this guide: . think about the solutions you’ll propose and concerns/barriers you expect others to raise. You can do this by staying well connected to your team (Tip 51).g.

Discuss proposed resolutions and agree on a solution. If you get the urge to schedule a meeting. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 64 Master the Fundamentals of Productive Virtual Meetings Meetings usually top the lists of things people hate most about their jobs (right behind cubicles and obnoxious co-workers!). although you also can be dragged into badly planned and poorly led meetings via a technological connection. energy. As much as people hate meetings. you’re sometimes spared the burden of participating in boring and unnecessary meetings by virtue of your absence from the meeting location. There are few things other than meetings that create the illusion of involvement and productivity while wasting tremendous amounts of time. money. summarize to confirm understanding. commitments. and participate in productive meetings. and efficiently communicate with your team. feelings. Learning how to plan. even if decisions actually are made by a subset of the meeting attendees and/or made outside of the meeting itself. Sometimes this is done to perpetuate the sense of involvement. Summarize actions. many organizational cultures encourage the scheduling of a meeting without much thought as to the real need for a live meeting. keep these reminders handy to help you evaluate the real need for a meeting: • The first rule of productive meetings is to hold a meeting only if .130 101 Tips for Telecommuters Clarify the conflict. Document agreements and copy everyone impacted. Listen and reflect. follow-up. therefore. therefore. and motivation. recommendations. lead. can serve you extremely well. generate creative solutions. stay calm. Meetings—productive ones—are sometimes vital to your ability to activate project teams. concern or disagreement. As a telecommuter. Encourage sharing of information.

or a project team. Be clear about who’s responsible for what (meeting leadership. and business planning). use videoconferencing if a visual component is necessary. project updates. taking breaks. meeting leader. • Don’t hesitate to hold a meeting if you really need the input of your team or a cross-functional group of associates (for things like project planning. combine Internet conferencing for graphics with a conference call for the audio link. or individual discussions if a larger group meeting isn’t vital. fax. use conference calling if voice-to-voice is sufficient. In preparing for the next regular meeting you have with your team. your boss. note taker). Once people are comfortable with the technology and their ability to use it (without looking foolish!). Adhere to established times for starting. intranet. also. handouts. intranet. effective meeting management. and contributors. if necessary). or voice mail. Have available the necessary equipment. time keeper. etc. your virtual meeting productivity will be greatly enhanced. • Use e-mail.Working Well With Your Team 131 it’s necessary and it’s the best vehicle to accomplish the objective. etc. voice mail. Survey participants to determine the best way to get the agenda to them. implement or suggest ways to improve the likelihood of a productive meeting: Plan the agenda and distribute it in advance (via e-mail. . As a telecommuter. • Don’t overlook the basic components of an effective meeting: agenda. and ending the meeting. offering input and asking questions. resource documents. you’ll often need to combine the use of different technologies to facilitate productive meetings of geographical dispersed teams. strategy setting. Remember. that introducing meeting participants to technology for meetings (Tip 65) may require a focused effort on technical training and procedural issues or basic etiquette for courtesy.

and helps other participants get the most from your contributions. Suggest a way to use technology to save time and/or improve the productivity of future meetings. Everyone talks at once and you’re totally confused about what’s being said and who’s saying it. justifies your investment of time. Also.132 101 Tips for Telecommuters Schedule follow-up actions and future meetings before departing. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 65 Make Everyone Skilled and Comfortable in Virtual Meetings Virtual meetings offer some unique challenges for both meeting leaders and meeting participants. they’re fretting about how to interject a question during a conference call. . you’ll find yourself participating in meetings remotely and connecting to the meeting via various types of technology. While telecommuting. They completely forget you’re at the other end of the phone line and start talking about a graphic on the screen only those in the meeting room can see. You might distribute this guideline to attendees in advance of the next meeting and ask for other ideas to improve meeting productivity. You have a responsibility to contribute and participate in a way that makes your participation valuable. As a result: They tend to withdraw and say nothing. you may need to be a “champion” for effective skills and techniques necessary for successful virtual meetings. as a telecommuter (and sometimes as the only virtual participant in meetings). Be sure that responsibilities are clearly assigned and that meeting notes are distributed promptly. Some people are initially uncomfortable with alternative technologies for conducting meetings. Distribute meeting minutes promptly. If they’re not busily worrying about how they look on the videoconference screen.

intranet. • Establish protocols for encouraging and simplifying involvement by all participants. we introduced videoconferencing and used it extensively for team meetings and executive meetings.).) When participating in a conference call. clarification. it’s a good idea to formulate some guidelines and give people some hands-on experience with the equipment prior to any actual meetings. clearly. and in . since communicating visually was easier than audio transmissions because of the delay and faster because we could see everyone’s vote on the multi-frame screen. Internet. a light bulb for an idea or suggestion. Everyone was more comfortable participating in actual meetings after a brief time of training and practice. Some organizations are diligent about this and provide structured training available on a just-in-time or independent basis. or suggestions.) • Ensure that the use of any visual or graphic resources can be distributed “real-time” to everyone (via electronic white board. corrections. Web conference. videoconference. it was difficult to interrupt the conversation when multiple locations were connected. (I can recall creating a mini training module for users of an early electronic blackboard system in the early 1980s. a smiley face to indicate agreement with the discussion or proposal. be sure to: • Encourage everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting and to identify themselves every time they speak (unless the video allows everyone to see clearly who’s speaking or the group is a well-established one and voices are recognizable). Because of the audio delay. e-mail. The meeting leader should pause periodically to summarize and ask for questions.Working Well With Your Team 133 Before using technological applications for meetings. So we devised a system of small hand-held cards to hold up which visually prompted the meeting leader to pass the “floor” to the location holding up a card. We used visually appropriate cards to indicate the nature of the comment: question mark for questions. fax. • Everyone should be reminded to speak slowly. We often used the smiley faces or just a visual “thumbs up” when a vote was needed. (During one of my corporate telecommuting jobs. or any other kind of distance dialog involving a group of people. etc.

2 Advanced planning or meeting preparation steps you can take to eliminate these problems. as well as involvement in interesting and meaningful activities that will slowly erode energy and focus. events. What can you do to help the meetings be more effective. For many people. it’s much easier for family members not only to interrupt you but to ask for your help. . it’s a daily challenge to avoid tasks. projects. Telecommuters face a unique challenge in this regard and one you should remain alert to. and input. . When you telecommute. friends. and co-workers due to misperceptions about your availability. 1 Action you can take during the next meeting to improve effectiveness of the meeting. After all. . ask that it be repeated. and isn’t more time with your family one of the reasons you’re a telecom- . help others be more comfortable. and improve your own contributions and level of participation? Identify: 3 Problems you’ve experienced as a virtual meeting participant. Review the various technology methods you use to “attend” meetings. This reminds people of your “presence” and lets them know you’re really interested in their comments. it won’t take that long . .134 101 Tips for Telecommuters the direction of microphones or speakerphones. involvement. You’re more vulnerable to requests or expectations from family. you’re right there . T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 66 Just Say “No” We’re all surrounded with multiple opportunities to be distracted from our key focus areas. If you didn’t hear something.

Working Well With Your Team 135 muter?! Conversely. just say “No!” • If you’ll hate yourself for agreeing to do it. team members may think that telecommuting leaves you with lots of spare time on your hands or that you relish any opportunity for more involvement with your colleagues. especially from co-workers whose help you may count on at times. you must be careful not to turn down every request for help. just say “No!” • If the event or activity could occur at a more appropriate or convenient time. decision. just say “No!” • If it’s a classic “nice to do” but not necessary or valuable to either your personal or professional objectives. just say “No!” • If the request or demand is rooted in an intended guilt trip. When faced with a request. At the same time. just say “No!” • If the request for your involvement results in time out of your office during established work hours. While involvement—with both family and co-workers—is good. demand. or opportunity to involve yourself in anything that may detract from your major areas of focus. it’s critical that you resist any temptation or pressure to be involved at the expense of your productivity. . just say “No!” • If you’ll be miserable the whole time you’re doing it. • Propose a way you might be able to help with a portion of the request that won’t be especially demanding of your time. • Offer suggestions for alternative ways the requester can get what’s needed. use the following screening guidelines to help you decide the best course of action: • If the activity is insignificant in importance and unrelated to your priorities. just say “No!” Remember to: • Say “No!” gently and provide reasons why you can’t help. just say “No!” • If the investment of your time has no payoff in terms of your current or future career goals and holds no intrinsic personal reward. just say “No!” • If someone else is available to do it or can do it better than you.

Having an on-site resource can be a real boost to your time. or enjoyable. and focus if you consider the implications and carefully craft a workable plan. Or perhaps you really miss the interaction with co-workers.or full-time employee and have a temporary or permanent assignment. To work most effectively with a co-worker who shares your home office: . ➤ Promise yourself that in the future you’ll commit to a more rigorous analysis considering pros/cons and have to/want to/need to considerations. some huge project or massive backlog of “administrivia” necessitates the addition of another associate—who needs to work hand-in-hand with you in your precious bubble of solitude! The advantages of getting the help you need might not appear to outweigh the disadvantages and potential difficulties of having someone else in your office (and your home). An on-site team member might be a part. useful. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 67 Work Productively With Co-Workers Who Share Your Home Office Just when you think you’ve finally got an entire office to yourself now that you’re telecommuting. energy. ➤ Take steps now to begin uninvolving yourself in anything on the “cut” list.136 101 Tips for Telecommuters ➤ Assess the activities or projects you’re involved in and consider which ones are appropriate. and having a real live person right in your office sounds great—until you find yourself unable to concentrate or become so distracted that your work begins to suffer. ➤ Reevaluate your willingness to continue involvement based on your assessment and determine whether any of them should be cleared off of your plate.

interview. a refrigerator. distractions. • Communicate or negotiate appropriate work standards and procedures. and on time. and hire your on-site team member. • As with other team members. These will tend to be less formal than in a traditional office. • Set in place a structured way to handle performance feedback and reviews to avoid only “in the moment” feedback.).). Keep your manager and any required human resources contact in the loop if you’re moving toward any disciplinary or termination action. • Provide for convenient access to storage (for coat. purse. a coffee source. celebrate a success or completion of a big project. • Avoid an “all work/no fun” approach—take a lunch break together occasionally. work flow. • Establish a climate of open communication and agree to proactively address concerns or problems with the work environment. etc. equipment. keys to your mail box facility. and resource requirements you’ll each need and plan accordingly. and any company property in the person’s possession (don’t forget to change any security codes. main office gossip. be sure to retrieve keys to your house and office. etc.Working Well With Your Team 137 • Anticipate the space. • Negotiate clear work hours and any limitations on access to the office (especially if your co-worker must access the office through other parts of your home). but don’t forget the bottom line—work still needs to get done right. keep these things in mind: . take time to build rapport and establish a collaborative working relationship. Discuss and document performance improvement plans when the situation warrants it. personal problems. or otherwise terminates employment. • Be ever-vigilant of the need to stay focused (while occasionally having fun). equipment. • When an on-site co-worker resigns. or computer access). noise level. passwords. fast. If you need to recruit candidates. etc. a restroom. or throw a little birthday or holiday party. etc. and avoid slipping into highly distracting activities like too much chatting (about sports. completes the project or assignment. hat.

Do not print your home address! • It’s wise to screen very carefully. how would you prepare for and handle that? If you currently have a co-worker sharing your office. what areas of difficulty exist? What are the significant areas of opportunity for improvement that would contribute to increased effectiveness and satisfaction by everyone involved? T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . since this person may have access to other parts of your home. since some prospective employees would not be interested in such an arrangement. • There may be ordinances or other restrictions in your community regarding a work site that includes employees other than the resident.138 101 Tips for Telecommuters • For liability and insurance purposes. Discuss security and legal issues with your human resources department. place a “blind ad” or one with your company name and use a response box at the newspaper or the post office. including background checks and reference checks. use your network to recruit referrals who come with personal recommendations. and/or your attorney. it’s usually best if the person is employed by your employer rather than be paid directly by you. • Be sure to clearly explain the home office situation to candidates. Will there ever be a need for an additional team member to work in your home office? If so. • To minimize potential difficulties from hiring an unknown person. • If you need to advertise for candidates. your telecommuting administrator.

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the importance of these relationships—how you establish. there’s your family. and your co-workers. Of course. It’s important to assess the degree to which external partners impact your ability to deliver the results you’re paid to produce.68 Know Who Provides Your Critical Services and Support You might feel utterly alone on some days. 141 . you may need to secure resources externally. build. So. you’re not an island after all. Whenever this isn’t the case. a wide range of service providers may facilitate your ability to do your job. Working well with your external partners can be as critical as the relationships you have with your team of co-workers. friends. Here are examples of services you may need in the course of your work or to support you as a telecommuter: • Accounting • Bookkeeping • Answering service • Printing • Personal services • Administrative support • Office management • Research • Mail/shipping • Specialty subcontracting • Conference/meeting management • Tax preparation • Graphic design • Database management • Equipment maintenance • Temporary employment • Security • Office supplies/equipment • Cleaning • Interior designer/office planning • Public relations/marketing • Internet service Some of these services may be supplied by corporate resources that constitute your extended team (Tip 50). knowing who helps you stay afloat makes for friendlier seas and allows you to be more productive and successful. Depending on your situation and the level of support you get from corporate services. Therefore. but the reality is that you’re not—in more ways than you might have imagined. and nurture them— becomes more significant. Once that’s clear in your mind. There’s also another critical network essential to your success: your external partners.

a local checking account for business use. At various points as a corporate telecommuter. it will be necessary that you: • Know your real needs (Tip 83) and translate them into features .142 101 Tips for Telecommuters Review your work. to name a few. Often. however. how you accomplish it. Your employer may have a sophisticated approach and standard for providing equipment and supplies to telecommuters. telecommuters are left to their own devices to do this or work with corporate resources (information systems.) to determine what will best meet the needs of the individual telecommuter. Regardless of your circumstance in this regard. administrative support. accounts payable. administration. I was responsible for the local acquisition of office supplies. when you telecommute there are likely to be times you’ll act as the local purchasing agent. it helps you and your employer when you function with a “purchasing agent” mindset. My employers funded these expenditures through either expense reimbursement. storage space. Toward this end. and who supports you. Where you do and do not have back-up options for critical functions. An action plan to close the gap in at least two areas where your support system is insufficient. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 69 Be Your Own Purchasing Manager Whether or not you have the support of a corporate purchasing department. or a procurement credit card. printing services. and meeting facilities. Any gaps in your current support system. Identify: Whose help is vital. etc. accounting.

and fit comfortably in your office. and suppliers. don’t hesitate to purchase (or request approval for purchase) anything that will enhance your performance. you may want to purchase a multi-function fax machine that can serve as a copier for your limited needs. • Whenever possible. Be sure you’ll need immediate access to it on a regular basis and the capabilities/features are justified by your daily needs and projected output. • Don’t buy an expensive. • When considering the purchase of capital equipment. • Avoid single-source providers whenever possible unless the product or service is extremely unique. While you should avoid unnecessary or extravagant purchases. you may really benefit from having a docking station or port replicator to use in your home office. services. • Think seriously before purchasing and overloading your office with unnecessary. or subcontract for services. improve your productivity. consider supplies. not technologically outdated. ongoing maintenance. • Be assertive about driving a bargain and asking vendors/suppliers to match or beat competitive prices or service offerings. . request an on-site trial operation period for equipment that’s expensive and/or highly critical to your work. rent. service. calculate the complete cost of acquisition and ownership. high-end copier if you have only occasional projects that require its features or your copy count per month is negligible. insurance. Consider a few examples: • If you’ve grown much more dependent on your notebook computer for days you travel or commute to the office. • Evaluate the “return on investment” for major purchases in terms of the improvement you project in your efficiency and results. Instead. and operator time. feature-laden equipment. overly complex.Working Well With Your External Partners 143 and specifications for performance of equipment. and acceptable to your employer if you’re charging back the cost. Otherwise. • Consider purchasing used furniture and equipment if it’s in good condition. lease.

Be sure to at least have. or your office .144 101 Tips for Telecommuters • Don’t buy a postage meter if you use e-mail extensively or primarily require the services of package shippers and express delivery providers. document production) you currently buy at such volume that it’s cost-justifiable to purchase equipment and bring the capability in-house? (Can your office support that?) $ Are there any services you’re currently purchasing that should be re-bid by multiple vendors to be sure you’re getting the best price and service? T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 70 Select Service Providers that Meet Your Criteria Articulating your needs for equipment and services has payoff both initially and over time. Of course. spend your money on a phone with all the bells and whistles. your needs may change as your telecommuting job changes. a postage scale and stamps in various denominations to use as needed. your workload increases. Think about the equipment resources in your office: $ Are there any that don’t have high enough usage levels to justify keeping them? $ Should you purchase anything you’re currently leasing? Regarding services you currently buy: $ Are there any services (printing. copying. though. If audioconferencing is the primary mode of team communication in your organization. along with a top-quality headset. • Don’t waste money on a videoconference system if no one else in your company will have one.

g. etc. technical support. Without clear criteria. customer service).). • On-site service/maintenance. This is critical to matching those needs with the providers best suited to meet your criteria. And it won’t be the supplier that necessarily is to blame. • Flexibility to handle rush projects (assuming you’re not always in a rush!). e-mail). But if you establish the good habit of assessing and documenting your needs. • Ability to bill your employer directly (or offer suitable payment terms). • Ability to purchase in bulk (with a discount) or smaller quantities (if your storage space is limited) without paying a premium. • Extended hours of operation.. • 24-hour technical support. • Quick turnaround/response time. phone.Working Well With Your External Partners 145 expands. . • Free delivery or courier service. and lost time. • Positive “can do” attitude. • Friendly. • Willingness to meet or beat competitive pricing. • Compatibility with your software and computer systems. • Corporate or commercial discounts. these will get you started and help you formulate your own criteria for working with suppliers that best meet your needs. Aside from the fundamentals of service excellence (quality work. fax. wasted cost. service-oriented attitude. • Online support (for ordering. at a competitive price. • Multiple access options (e. • Equipment replacement or loan during service outages. it’s easier to adjust as changes occur. telecommuters should consider other criteria that may reflect individual needs and situations: • Proximity to your home office. There may be other criteria unique to your needs. you’re bound to experience disappointment. delivered on time. frustration.

timetable for improvement. phone directories. adherence to established procedures. Identify the most critical one and list the specific criteria you have for the supplier of that service. the chamber of commerce. ➤ Request competitive bids for the work and reevaluate your vendor choice. ➤ Communicate your needs. referrals from your network.146 101 Tips for Telecommuters List several services that you purchase from suppliers. and consequences (Tip 73). service orientation and skills. screen suppliers the way you screen candidates for employment: • Relevant experience • Capability and expertise to perform the required work • Motivation and interest in the type of work • Affordability . you must have your needs clearly defined and know specifically the results you’re looking for (Tip 71). This may include specifications regarding timeliness. or the Better Business Bureau to create a pool of potential suppliers. why not? Decide whether you may need to either: ➤ Have an expectation-setting discussion (Tip 71) with the supplier. Use business listings. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 71 Set Service Expectations and Get Your Desired Results Before you can set expectations for a service provider. With clear criteria. you can begin by identifying potential resources. or equipment output levels. Since having clear criteria without viable vendors is like having a great job description without qualified candidates. Are your needs being met? If not. material quality.

• Secure a verbal commitment to the expectations and required deliverables. • Review the job contract (if applicable) and stipulate how executed copies should be handled. but a voice-to-voice meeting allows you to: • Review the printed specifications or written instructions. • Describe in greater detail the purpose. need. This is true especially for suppliers that are new to you. • Agree on consequences for missing deadlines or compromising other quality standards. • Describe in detail the outcome. • Agree on interim checkpoints and deadlines to monitor progress and quality. If you run across a supplier that doesn’t seem appreciative of your specificity. suggestions. . It’s also useful to help the supplier by providing information regarding your availability (phone numbers. Unless projects are extremely routine. • Discuss any questions. Circumstances might not allow you to meet face-to-face. a co-worker). tries to tell you what you want. Printers like seeing a mock-up of a print job. and importance for the deliverables. or worse. and don’t waste any time before finding another supplier. and writers want to know how you want people to feel or respond after reading their copy. complex. Having backup options and alternative ways to clarify expectations and needs is especially important for projects that are critical. or adjustments to specifications agreed upon based on input from the supplier. Most suppliers appreciate having a clear understanding of the service or product you’re expecting them to deliver.Working Well With Your External Partners 147 • Availability. This allows for questions to be answered or direction provided throughout the project and helps the supplier avoid unnecessary delays in completing your work. or time urgent. pager number) or access to other resources (your assistant. cellular phone companies need to know your projected usage in terms of calling minutes per month and range of call locations. it’s usually a good idea to combine your written specifications with a “live” discussion. or performance standards you’re expecting. consider it a stroke of luck to get this red flag early. output.

clarify your criteria and expectations. prepare written specifications. it’s critical that you be clear about expectations (Tip 71). will inherently know what you want and need. requirements. telemarketing. for example. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 72 Negotiate Deadlines and Details Depending upon the nature and volume of your subcontracted work. you may have a wide range of details involved and more than one deadline to manage. With deadlines.148 101 Tips for Telecommuters ✔ Review your supplier criteria and service specifications for a critical service you’re currently outsourcing. You can ask for suggestions from . there will be times that you’ll need to be assertive about deadlines. Because you can’t assume that service providers. you should not hesitate to ask for a shorter turnaround time if you really need it sooner than the supplier projects. costs. Since telecommuters function somewhat like entrepreneurs in terms of independence from many corporate support services. ✔ If all aspects of the relationships and the delivered results are satisfactory. even very experienced and competent ones. and consequences. ensure that you’re applying the same level of specificity in expectations to other outsourced projects. and schedule a meeting with the supplier to establish expectations. and quality standards. you may secure contracted services in areas such as photocopying. This is true especially if your needs are different from what the supplier typically provides to customers. printing. administrative support. As part of that process. or technical services. Negotiating the terms for these services is an additional responsibility you may have as a telecommuter that your central office colleagues don’t need to handle for themselves. ✔ If not.

• Be certain that agreements are reflected in the contract or documented another way. and suggestions. samples. checkpoints.Working Well With Your External Partners 149 the supplier on ways you can make it easier (cleaner copies. and compromises that balance conflicting needs. deadlines. barriers. When preparing for the next supplier discussion you’ll need to have regarding the assignment of a project: ✔ Consider what you’ll need to provide in terms of written specifications.. different formatting. deliverables.g. sometimes you’ll want or need to negotiate on sticky issues like deadlines and more demanding deliverable details. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . • Agree on a solution and review details (e. revised specifications. and deadlines.) for the delivery date to be earlier. remember to: • Provide additional information about what’s needed and why it’s important. • Offer and request flexibility. alternatives. ✔ Anticipate any areas of barrier or conflict in your negotiations with the supplier and be prepared to demonstrate and request flexibility and to propose alternatives that meet your key needs. etc. These should be tied to key milestone dates and/or quality standards for deliverables and are best negotiated along with all other project details. • Listen to the supplier’s concerns. • Discuss options. prototypes supplied earlier. you’ll need to negotiate penalties (Tip 73) for nonperformance. When this is the case. nonperformance penalties). Although you can always find another supplier (someone else probably would love to have your business!) if there’s significant resistance to meeting your needs. ✔ Be certain that your needs and expectations are clear and that you can define deliverable requirements in detail. Beyond agreeing to clear specifications. ✔ Plan the discussion by outlining the content you’ll cover and the process you’ll use.

and contractors. You should. free loaned equipment during downtime for repair or maintenance. Of course. However. you’ll want to also include terms that protect you if the promised service is not delivered. free shipping. quality standards. Penalties for nonperformance may include: • Reduced payment on the current contract. or co-workers have of you. When establishing service requirements and performance expectations. and no charge for on-site service calls. your contract might provide for express delivery at the shipper’s expense if a shipping deadline is missed.150 101 Tips for Telecommuters 73 Establish Consequences for Unsatisfactory Service Performance Many of your major equipment purchases will involve preestablished warranty terms with optional extended warranty or service contracts. These might include a lower cost for the service contract. but if you can negotiate some of the benefits and service features vital to a telecommuter who’s highly dependent on equipment reliability. You can negotiate occasionally with individual suppliers for more favorable terms relative to service. This is true especially when dealing with superstores or major suppliers. consider appropriate penalties attached to critical deadlines. you may pay slightly more. if you’re buying from a local source that caters to small businesses. . • Loss of performance bonuses attached to measurable results or deadline compliance. You’re likely to have more opportunities to negotiate the terms of delivery for services you receive from suppliers. you may have better luck. you’re likely to have some difficulty driving much of a harder bargain in these situations because you don’t represent a major purchasing source to the supplier. vendors. supplemental extended warranty at no charge. As an individual telecommuter. therefore. you may be better off. if you contract with a package and shipping outlet to ship product samples or to fulfill an order. employer. Penalties for performance below standards can be a huge incentive to a supplier to avoid anything short of meeting your requirements. • Additional labor or product supplied at no charge for future contracts. For example. and deliverables essential to your ability to meet the expectations your customers.

since attractive incentives are often a more powerful inducement than penalties. Either way. As a telecommuter. • Free labor for service or maintenance when response to trouble calls are longer than agreed to. • Discontinued use of the service provider for future work. a handshake is a nice touch but may not be terribly useful when you’re trying to enforce terms of your agreement later on. When possible. attach specific incentives and penalties to definitive project milestones or quantifiable delivery points. Clearly articulate where there are deviations from the required performance standards and what satisfactory levels of performance would involve. Beyond that. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 74 Get It In Writing Your efforts to negotiate favorable terms. Keep rewards in mind when negotiating terms. Choose at least two key deliverable measures on which to focus your action and discussion with the supplier. Consider ways to alter your service agreement with the provider so there are clear rewards for compliance and consequences for performance below targets. you improve your odds of obtaining the performance you need and the results you’re counting on. . and provide for contingencies may be in vain if the agreements are limited to a discussion and verbal assent.Working Well With Your External Partners 151 • Free loans of replacement equipment. establish rewards or penalties. Identify a service you’re receiving currently that isn’t completely satisfactory.

types of services.) and attaching things like order forms. you can summarize your verbal agreements in the form of a letter. or the contract is vital to your work. the stakes are high. purchase orders and similar supporting documents. can be created using templates and then reviewed by an attorney to ensure they’re properly worded. etc. Well. rejection of goods. the contact seemed to more or less disappear. specific agreements. While our society has become somewhat litigious. leases. or a contested accident claim). If you do. circumstances changed in ownership of the publishing firm.152 101 Tips for Telecommuters you’re not likely to negotiate service contracts that are highly complex. by all means. personal guarantees. straightforward. I worked once with two entrepreneurs who insisted that a contract was unnecessary for a project they were doing because their contact at a major publishing firm had made a verbal agreement and sealed the deal with a handshake. of course. When greater formality or legal protection is wise. complete and legally binding. legalistic tomes that require an excessive number of billable hours from an attorney—unless.. When I use this process with my attorney. In this case. dates. your divorce. Agreements such as service contracts. as you might suspect. you may be able to save money by preparing a draft contract using a template and then hire an attorney to review and approve it. or a simple contract. etc. These two entrepreneurs idealistically believed that their contact was “good for his word” and the deal was solid. and the deal vanished into the same thin air in which it was struck. it’s very efficient since I know the details of the contract terms and save time by not . there are a number of software programs and other resources available that allow you to create agreements by simply plugging in the relevant information (names. service warranties. memo to the file. it’s wise to know when you do or do not need a formal document to secure an agreement for services. however. get the help of an attorney. If the agreements you want to document are simple. and do not involve major financial implications. or involve significant amounts of money. be sure to secure the support of your corporate legal office or a local attorney who specializes in contract law (not necessarily the same attorney that handled your will. the situation is complex. critical. Written agreements need not be jargon-filled. If you’re contracting for legal services and execute a number of simple contracts.

and your work. ➤ What products or services will be delivered and how the service is to be performed. deadlines. access the appropriate legal resources to execute whatever type of agreement is necessary to protect you. complexity. your attorney or a business advisor.) is appropriate.g. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . your legal counsel. letter. having the agreement itself will be a major inducement for delivery of the service or goods as stipulated in the agreement. it’s unlikely you’ll need to take legal action against someone over a dispute covered by a written agreement. if any. Using whatever method of documentation (e. assignment to others can be made. your employer. In most cases.. and it’s cost effective since I use my attorney’s expertise in a very limited and targeted way. be sure to include language that clearly specifies: ➤ Who will perform the work and what. email. Review the services you purchase from suppliers and the verbal service agreements you’ve made. More typically. even a simple memo or letter documenting your discussion and agreements with a service provider can serve to clarify details and eliminate confusion later when the specifics may be a bit fuzzy to everyone. Further. whenever you need to establish a service agreement. ➤ What milestones of time or quantifiable output will signify compliance. etc. Determine which situations could benefit from a simple agreement letter and take steps to complete these. ➤ How payment relates to milestones. If more formal contracts or agreements are required. ➤ How performance incentives and penalties will be determined. contract. Review your existing service agreements against this template and determine where changes would be advisable. and dependence to justify a written agreement that will afford you greater protection? Discuss these situations with your manager.Working Well With Your External Partners 153 having my attorney deal with them. Which of these involves enough importance. quality compliance.

it might be the right time to call your computer consultant. and your productivity. accomplish this on your own? Is there enough time in your day. • Will you enjoy doing this? Will you find the task to be challenging. play to your strengths.000-piece jigsaw puzzle. revenue-generating or goaloriented work. Let’s face it. So. energizing. lousy at others. you’re probably the best person for the job.154 101 Tips for Telecommuters 75 Know When to Outsource Expecting to do everything yourself when you telecommute is unrealistic. space in your office. and minimize your weaknesses? For example. when determining what to outsource. you won’t want to bother hiring a tax preparer. focused. hate others. if the thought of tackling your tax return raises your blood pressure or brings on feelings of depression. if you’re employed as a software engineer and need to upgrade some software on your computer. 24 hours in a day. Besides the fundamental reality of your preferences and limits. you’re: • Good at some things. if you’re a marketing writer and need to install the same upgrade. • Enjoy some things. or useful in developing your skills? If you’re intrigued by the intricacies of the tax code and would rather wade through a tax return than do a 5. • Can you. indeed. and limits to your personal energy). On the other hand. you may . there are some tasks you certainly can do but shouldn’t do since your time is better invested in more productive. • Only one person (with only two hands. Trying to do everything yourself is undermining—to your success. don’t even consider burdening yourself with the expectation of preparing your own tax return—invest your time in other important tasks critical to your work or personal priorities. However. your sanity. ask yourself: • Are you capable of doing this? Does it capitalize on your expertise. or physical and emotional energy in your life to tackle this? In spite of being the best person to do something and having a strong interest in it.

you may realize how foolish it is for you to undertake some tasks that can be outsourced at a more reasonable cost. Use this information to make the case for your employer to pick up the costs of support services that are necessary to your work but counterproductive for you to complete personally.Working Well With Your External Partners 155 simply not have enough time to complete it and meet the deadline without help. behind schedule. Even without your employer’s funding. time-consuming. you may determine that outsourcing of some services is a good investment of your own funds. If you’re not sure it’s cost-justified. When the situation warrants it. mundane. and missing deadlines? Is routine. productive. and not directly related to your goals and your critical results? Or someone else is better suited to handle? Target areas where outsourced services can help you be more focused. Do any of these involve work that: You struggle with due to skill deficiency? You loathe to do and avoid like the plague (creating a backlog that frustrates you incessantly)? Is consistently done during peak times when you are perpetually overwhelmed. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . Take steps now to identify options and resources for outsourcing. Reevaluate the tasks you handle personally in addition to the major focus of your work. and less frustrated in achieving your key goals. don’t hesitate to get the help you need. With this in mind. calculate your hourly rate (annual salary + commission + bonuses + benefits ÷ 2040 = your actual hourly rate).

and requirements (Tip 70. Thinking like a partner in your supplier relationships promotes the establishment of a long-term relationship mindset and fosters behaviors and attitudes that nurture this. thinking like a partner gives you a frame of reference to see your vendors. understands your needs. and is rewarded for performance “above and beyond. you will experience turnover. priorities. Getting a quick response to pleas for help is more likely if the consultant feels valued. and costly—it’s better to take proper care of the good one you have. The last thing you have time for as a telecommuter is searching continually for and experimenting with new service providers.156 101 Tips for Telecommuters 76 Establish a Partner Mindset and Relationship The most productive way for telecommuters to approach relationships with service providers is with a partnership mindset. and are committed to delivering quality results for you. Without a committed and enlightened approach to this. and contractors as key members of your broader support team. time-consuming. suppliers. and frustration with your pool of key service providers. .” Also. You have a critical role in building a strong alliance of key service providers. It’s in your best interest to have longterm relationships with established providers who understand your needs. While the relationship isn’t a traditional partnership in that the parties are not co-owners or principals. While you might not invest the energy and time to build partner relationships with all of your service providers. For example. And although you “call the shots” since you’re the buyer. disappointment. you’re in a better position to work with them in ways that facilitate achieving superior results. doing so with those who are most vital to your success will have significant payoff. To ensure the development and retention of committed and competent suppliers. be sure to: • Clearly establish your expectations. knows what’s expected. each has an investment in the relationship. “breaking in” a new computer consultant could be distracting. support your standards. Tip 71)—they can’t “hit the bull’s eye” if you haven’t told them where it is. Further. the consultant who supplies computer support for your office and functions as your local help desk can be pivotal to your ability to function if you’re highly computer-dependent.

ask the supplier.Working Well With Your External Partners 157 • Be available to offer guidance. Suppliers depend on you for clear instructions. prototypes. specific measurements. and consequences and fair in all of your dealings with service providers— insisting that a printing deadline. What steps can you take to strengthen the relationship and be a better partner with one of your key service providers? What areas of difficulty exist in the relationship now (from your perspective)? What might the supplier’s answer be to this question? (Hint: Don’t guess. support.) Decide on a plan to foster a stronger partnership with key service providers and target one or two critical providers to focus on for first steps. obnoxious. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . color swatches. coaching. Schedule time to meet soon with your most vital supplier to get the ball rolling. and clarity to help suppliers help you— remember the GIGO Theory (Garbage In/Garbage Out). sample products. • Always treat people with respect—being pushy. or condescending does not elicit any real or long-standing commitment to your success. for example. and legible handwriting. • Pay for services in a timely manner—service providers seem to appreciate this (just as you enjoy receiving your paycheck as promised). be met is reasonable unless you don’t honor your commitment to produce masters or disks on time. don’t delay or be evasive in discussing the issue and negotiating a resolution. photos. material samples. expectations. • Be proactive and direct in addressing conflict—when there’s a problem with performance or a disagreement about a billing matter. • Be firm in your demands.

Treating people as people is fairly basic (and calls to mind another maxim from Mom): Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Anticipating that there will be points where the pressure mounts. by the time it’s robbing from your work.158 101 Tips for Telecommuters 77 Treat People As People Something as basic as treating people with respect and courtesy can get lost amid the pressure generated by work demands. This can be true especially in handling situations with suppliers where performance is below your expectations and you’re feeling completely exasperated by the need to deal with the situation. frustration. and feelings of frustration and isolation telecommuters sometimes experience. • Express service that extends the concept of “overnight” to multiple overnights. as well as during your day-to-day interactions with suppliers and contractors. Once this happens. While the concept is simple. • A major printing job done on the wrong paper. and disap- . the conflicts abound. execution in the moment can be a challenge when dealing with service providers. • Phone service that’s intermittent at best. of course. and by the anxiety caused by the resulting compromise in your own ability to hit performance targets. everyone gets entrenched. tempers flare. While your anger. Everyone can recall fairly readily some recent or amazing “service from hell” experience: • Delivery service that fails to get materials to your client on time. bound incorrectly. family demands. • Technical help desk support that is always backlogged and rarely helpful or pleasant. and nothing good can happen. we are tempted to lose our manners and move toward major ranting and raving behaviors. defenses go up. and your patience runs thin also will help you anticipate how to handle your interactions with service providers in those circumstances. or cut wrong. • Luggage that took a much longer trip than you did. When we’re paying for a service and it’s delivered poorly or with an abysmal attitude.

• Ask for suggestions from your suppliers and show that you value their input by following their advice whenever appropriate—check with them during the planning of a project for input about ways to streamline the process or improve the end result. Additionally. demeaning. • Avoid rude. In your work with and interactions with your key external partners. remember to: • Treat service providers as valued members of your team with unique skills. send flowers or a fruit basket when their work was essential to you finishing a big project or closing a major sale. typeface. especially when someone goes that extra step for you—add a bonus to the next payment you make to them. abilities. or send a gift basket or unique gift from a specialty store. how we treat service providers on a routine basis provides the foundation for working through more stressful times.Working Well With Your External Partners 159 pointment might be completely justified. . a gift from the trip you won for outstanding sales results. especially if others are present and you embarrass everyone involved (yourself. agree to send a letter to your network promoting their services. etc. in particular). consult with them on subjective variables like color.” • Thank vendors and suppliers for ongoing good work and tell them specifically why their work is important to you and how they make it possible for you to be effective—give a verbal acknowledgment. and services critical to your success—remember them for holidays. send a gift certificate for lunch or dinner (or have a plaque engraved) to mark a significant milestone such as “5 years of great service. it won’t make the service provider feel any more inclined to find a resolution—and it’s likely you still need the provider’s help and cooperation to solve the problem. or verbally abusive treatment—this is unacceptable business behavior and should never be used. layout. • Look for ways to reward performance (Tip 78) and show your appreciation. a letter. or a plaque they can display in their place of business.

• Create your own “You Done Good” award certificate and send it when appropriate (just don’t overuse it). and a limited budget for things such as supplier rewards. a fax. or plan to personally call or stop by to say specifically how the service you receive helps you do your job. minimal time to take from your work. .160 101 Tips for Telecommuters Decide how you can acknowledge the effort and good work consistently delivered by one of your key service providers. Often a simple and sincere “Thank you” is far more than service providers expect or typically receive. or contributes to your success. “Thanks!” • Take your supplier to lunch. • Send a letter (or fax or e-mail) explaining what was done well and why it was important. an e-mail. • Have a plaque inscribed with the vendor’s name and a “Service Excellence” notation. Make a point to look for opportunities to do this with all your key service providers during the next few months. Send a note. limited only by your imagination (or your budget). Assuming you’re a telecommuter with a network of critical service providers. so praise (which is essentially free to you) can be more appreciated than gifts or other tangible rewards. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 78 Reward Good Work The number of creative and meaningful ways to reward the efforts and results of your service providers is endless. makes your life easier. consider these alternatives for letting your suppliers know how much you value their contributions to your success: • Just say.

the zoo. • Ask your manager or CEO to send a letter of thanks. the circus. • Send a gift unique to the supplier’s line of work or personal interests. sweat suit. popcorn. or mixed nuts). • Give tickets to a ball game. • Present a trophy when the effort was herculean. a museum. • Give gifts of electronic items. • Give phone calling cards or discount buying cards at a local retail store. • If you know or can find out the supplier’s birthday. . • If you know the supplier enjoys it. when more suitable. • Bring a gift back from vacation or an award trip you earned (especially if the superb service is related to work done in your absence). • Offer to help or contribute some of your expertise to the supplier. • Give an airline ticket earned with your frequent flyer miles. • Present a monogrammed shirt. the theater. • Present a gift certificate for dinner at a great restaurant. give a bottle of champagne or case of beer. • Offer to promote the supplier’s services within your network. briefcase. • Present a book (autographed by the author is always nice) or books on tape. • Deliver a tray of cookies or bag of bagels and cream cheese (with a balloon and note or sign with a thank-you message). office equipment. for a round of golf. golf club covers. • Send flowers or a fruit basket or a balloon bouquet (or a tin of cookies. or for a massage.Working Well With Your External Partners 161 • Have breakfast or lunch catered for the suppliers’ staff. send a card or fax or a bouquet of balloons. or jewelry when you know it will be valued and appreciated. • Send Thanksgiving cards instead of holiday cards and include a note saying why you’re so thankful for the supplier.

you have valuable skills to exchange. Each of these businesses may very well need the services of a marketing specialist. But if your funds are limited. Rather. Let’s say you’re a marketing specialist who needs the services of a local printer. is generally a lost art and not one that most telecommuters consider in accessing services for a reasonable investment. Other ways to uncover barter potential include: . it allows you to obtain services you might otherwise not be able to afford. Decide what’s appropriate and take steps now to have it sent or presented as soon as possible. and mail house. a computer consultant. creating an opportunity for the cash-free exchange of services through bartering. and your network of associates and suppliers is extensive. or the exchange of services.162 101 Tips for Telecommuters Someone you know deserves a reward. Bartering does not mean someone gets a huge bargain by accessing the services of someone at a ridiculously low value. it’s a fair exchange of needs for skills that is mutually beneficial to both parties. bartering may be a reasonable alternative for you. don’t forget to check with your tax advisor about how to handle the reporting of services rendered and received. Because both parties realize a good value without incurring direct costs. Since there may be tax considerations if you participate in a bartered exchange of services. determine the fair market value for your skills and services and be sure to price your time and deliverables accordingly. Before entering into a bartering arrangement. You can find bartering opportunities by searching your network. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 79 Bartering for Best Results Bartering. as well as professional associations and civic groups you belong to.

What skills and abilities would you be able to trade in a barter? What service needs do you have that aren’t being addressed due to budgetary or time constraints? What sources are available to you in your network of contacts and resources to locate a potential barter opportunity that can meet your needs? What initial steps can you take to establish areas of bartered services? T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . Even though bartering is not a cash-based transaction. as well as the value of services received. • Post an offer on your web site. Think about bartering when you have a limited budget. be sure to put your barter deal in writing (Tip 74). • Join or create a barter network. and colleagues.and time-effectively by telecommuters. associates. a written agreement will help you track the value of your time. • If your skills are relevant to their needs. bartering can be used very cost. friends. And. it should not be overlooked as an alternative. expand your network to include start-up businesses and home-based businesses. it should still be negotiated in a way that provides structure and specificity to the arrangement.Working Well With Your External Partners 163 • List your skills on your business card. • Offer bartered services on a small flyer you can give to people at meetings. This ensures that everyone is clear about who will provide what deliverables in exchange for which services. • Send a mailing or e-mail announcement to suppliers. pressing needs and something of value to offer to someone in a similar situation. as with other agreements you make for services. Additionally. While bartering may not be a major source of contracted services and support for your needs as a telecommuter.

you learn that your computer consultant is suffering from an office (or life) in a complete state of chaos. When you serve as a “clearinghouse” of information. make presentations to civic groups. for example. • Connecting your service network contacts to your broader network of associates and colleagues. while the organization consultant will be grateful for the prospective business opportunity and the regard you have for the value of the services you were provided. and contacts. You’re in a unique position to provide referrals to your external partners regarding the other service providers you use. provide meeting planning services for your trade association. a useful service to your contacts. . and helpful to you in strengthening the loyalty your partners feel to you. provide telemarketing services to your peers. it helps both the computer consultant and the organization consultant you’ve worked with if you suggest to each of them that they should talk or meet. Another way to reinforce and reward your supplier network is to connect these external partners to your business and professional network. you can capitalize on and strengthen this network by: • Providing referrals within your service network. Your computer consultant will trust your first-hand referral and appreciate your interest in her or his success. obtain a low-cost ad in a civic association newsletter. • Tapping your external partner network for information about resources and services you may need. If.164 101 Tips for Telecommuters 80 Network Your Partner Network Once you build a wide and reliable network of external partners who are your trusted service providers. possibly tapping your external partner network for business prospects and sales leads. connections. you enhance the value of your external partner network and provide a cost-free reward (Tip 78) to your suppliers of excellent service. Connecting your supplier partners with your network contacts in mutually beneficial ways can be highly valued by your partners. Look for opportunities for your suppliers such as: print the membership directory for your professional association. • Depending upon your line of work.

you’d want to offer to provide corresponding business leads for your partners. In this case. cost-effective. your administrative service partner. When you need to purchase a new printer. ask your local printing partner. your partners. sending an e-mail. Your service partner network can be a rich source of information. or scheduling a meeting. all probably have a wide range of experience with multiple pieces of equipment and can help you assess the best option for your needs. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . While you might leverage your partner network for business leads. referrals. In the spirit of partnership. ☞ Take steps to quickly act on these opportunities by making a call. resources. and your entire business network. of course. Knowing how to mine your partner network can be productive for you. and successful? ☞ Identify at least one opportunity to help one of your key service partners. ☞ How can you access information and opportunity within your partner network that can make your work more productive. a referral from your tax preparer is a more viable option than responding to a listing in the yellow pages. and potential business. for example. and your mail drop/quick print partner. Or when you need bookkeeping services. this would be useful only if your business is targeted to the types of products and services used by businesses. ☞ Look throughout your external partner network for opportunities to help your service providers connect with each other and with your extended network. you might selectively pursue leads or barter (Tip 79) for prospects within your partner network.Working Well With Your External Partners 165 Your partner network also can help you by providing information and referrals for other services and products you need. and one opportunity to benefit from your partner network.

It’s more productive for everyone in- . especially with your external partners. Your role is to use these checkpoints as guideposts for your follow-up. For example. Rather. Doing so should ensure (provided the project planning is sound) that you have adequate opportunity to monitor progress toward goals without overburdening yourself with the minutiae of a project or task. expert follow-up skills can be essential to your ultimate success. communicates its importance to you. checking in with a program developer who’s designing a training program for you is useful if you do so at key milestones such as: • Review of key learning outcomes that serve as the program mandate. and video scripts. co-workers. When you hone these skills for use. team members. vendors. distracting. Nothing will frustrate and demoralize your external partners faster than excessive hands-on management from you that feels and looks like high-control interference in their work. Well-planned and consistent follow-up behavior is not a license to micro-manage. contractors. leader materials. and clearly establishes a standard of excellence for the way in which you manage and value your work. your project planning should establish clear expectations (Tip 71) regarding milestones and checkpoints. and certainly annoying. managers—to accomplish your goals. you are a prime candidate for developing absolutely superb follow-up skills. Since you need to work with and through so many other people—colleagues. • Review of off-line video segments and final draft of print materials. suppliers. • Review of first draft learner materials. Calling the program developer daily would be unnecessary. it conveys a sense of significance to their work. • Review of the design document that establishes the program blueprint.166 101 Tips for Telecommuters 81 Follow-Up for Best Results As a telecommuter. • On-site observation and support during video shoots.

With a firm follow-up plan and schedule. without your evident management of follow-up milestones. and your service partners will appreciate knowing the structure and timing of checkpoints. . contract.Working Well With Your External Partners 167 volved to have key checkpoints agreed to in advance and to establish contingency plans for discussing problems or seeking clarity during the interim between checkpoints. a tickler system. you should focus your effort on adhering to the follow-up plan and making your follow-up activities appropriate. along with the agreement that follow-up is part of the plan. it’s your responsibility to monitor whether it’s received and to follow up with a reminder about it if it’s not received. it’s essential that you manage your own ability to adhere to follow-up schedules and commitments. or action steps agreed to by your manager. Otherwise. Your follow-up may include a number of methods for monitoring the status of delegated work or projects in process: • Regular update meetings included in the project plan • Periodic project status reports • Conference calls • Face-to-face meetings • E-mail • Voice mail • Fax • Videoconferences However you manage the follow-up on projects. With key milestones and checkpoints agreed to. the seriousness of deadlines is called into question—and this bodes badly for the outcome of the project. Being vigilant about this is particularly critical for you as a telecommuter. or a computerized project management system to make your follow-ups as scheduled. team efforts. assignments. delegated work. since you will often be remote from those doing the actual work. Even if the supplier is scheduled to deliver a draft document to you by a specified time. and you’re not in a position to use less formal methods of “How goes it?” discussions over the water cooler. or assignment. you will feel more relaxed and confident about goals being achieved. Use your calendar.

contract. and dynamics affecting your business. and civic groups can help you feel less isolated and more connected to people on both a business and a personal level. your involvement in business and professional groups can be a real boon to your networking efforts. assignment. though. or voice mail now to the service provider and schedule a meeting or phone conference to renegotiate milestones and checkpoints. trade. industry. e-mail. Associations also are good resources for information about trends.168 101 Tips for Telecommuters Evaluate the follow-up plan on a major project. send a fax. Joining associations for the sole purpose of accessing the mailing list for prospecting purposes is likely to have limited pay- . Be sure that your time and task management system includes all the dates and follow-up points you need to manage and execute. regulations. or account: Does everyone know when checkpoints occur? Is the information to be provided at key points detailed in the project plan? ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT WORK WILL BE DELIVERED AS YOU ENVISION IT? If you answered “No” to any of these questions. professional. Like everything else. you get advantages out of your association memberships in fairly direct proportion to the effort you put into them. Further. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 82 Get the Most Out of Business and Professional Associations Association membership can be extremely beneficial to telecommuters. Your memberships in business.

. coordinate a conference or workshop). relevance. on your area of expertise. Connecting your association network with your external partner network has. chair a committee. you can maximize the benefits of association membership and multiply your networking dividends by: • Becoming active (e.. skill.g. the urgency.. at a minimum) in targeted associations (those that hold the greatest interest. a major client project you were involved in that required extraordinary response from one of your package design vendors—describing the need. • Volunteering for a special project (such as coordination of a nationally sponsored teleconference with a satellite link in your city) or a high-visibility assignment (such as editor of the monthly newsletter). or experience you have that would be of interest to other association members. • Volunteer to host a regular association meeting or present the program for a special workshop or seminar where you can share some unique knowledge. Rather. • Co-sponsor or co-present a workshop or seminar with one of your key external service partners to showcase a unique project or major effort you tackled together to achieve superior results (for example. expand your network of contacts. and the strategy to accomplish the work on time. be more visible. hold elected office. convene a meeting. • Accepting a leadership role in the association (e. and derive much greater value from the investment of time and money you make in your membership. the collaboration. • Forming a special interest group that focuses on your industry. or on telecommuting.g. attend meetings. therefore. Any of these levels of involvement in an association will help you feel more active and connected. and reward in terms of your work and industry). greater advantage to each of them and helps you leverage the goodwill you’ve built across both networks. and to the complete satisfaction of your client could be an intriguing case study to members of your association).Working Well With Your External Partners 169 off. on budget.

call or e-mail them now to process your membership application. ➜ Take steps now to move forward on one of the ways you listed. send an e-mail to move the idea to action. or professional association. jot a note.170 101 Tips for Telecommuters ➜ If you have been procrastinating on joining a valuable business. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . make a call. trade. ➜ Otherwise. identify the most valuable association you currently belong to and list three ways you might become more involved to increase the value of membership to you and your business.

Working Well with Tools and Technology 171 .

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or depress you. field-test products. and get into a “hands-on” mode whenever possible. it’s not like dabbling in a chemistry lab. you telecommute for reasons other than the love of technology (or.83 Assess Your Real Needs and Choose the Best Technology for You If you love technology. experiment with different equipment at business service centers. Of course. cost is usually a factor to be considered as well. and gadgets that bombard (and perhaps offend) your sensibilities whenever you need to select a technological product. Tools required to complete those tasks. features. so you’re wise to find ways to see technology as your friend and learn how to be comfortable with technological equipment and products. etc. Skills you have and will need to appropriately use the equipment you choose. compatibility. My advice is to read. however. What you must or would be willing to invest. frustrate. have a fellow telecommuter show you her or his techno-tools. try out products in the store. on the other hand. output. as a former colleague referred to himself. should be determined by the overlap between these three factors relative to your personal use of the equipment and how it integrates into your work and your office. Consider the: Tasks you need to accomplish. ask questions. If. you’re a “techno-twit”). capability. Approach decisions regarding the selection and purchase of equipment by following this process: 173 . interfaces. you’re likely to embrace the notion of acquiring and integrating technology into your office and your work. there’s little chance anything will blow up in a way that causes major damage!) To avoid being overwhelmed by the constantly changing array of choices. (After all. It’s unlikely you can telecommute successfully without it. and can’t imagine an electronic gadget that would intimidate you. search the Web. options. are exceedingly comfortable with the occasional ambiguity of computer use. it’s a good idea to first carefully determine your needs and define the specific requirements you have in terms of size. the whole technological realm may annoy.

test these functions fully. size? ✔ Research the options designed to meet your needs. speed. • Survey your external network to learn about equipment that’s working well for colleagues and suppliers. planning/scheduling. If you’re counting on your fax to also function as a copier and scanner. . high-volume demand? Will you need to retain fax documents and require plain paper? • What are your copying requirements in terms of volume. fax capability. data analysis.174 101 Tips for Telecommuters ✔ Define how you will use the equipment and the specific performance requirements to meet your needs. • Visit the office of a friend or colleague to try out his or her equipment. For example: • Will you need your computer for word processing. retest. • Access information and assistance from corporate computer support resources.? • Will your fax machine have a dedicated line. Don’t forget to: • Use the equipment as much as possible and as soon as possible for various tasks. It doesn’t hurt to: • Experiment with equipment in the store. • Check with co-workers and peers who also telecommute to learn about equipment they use satisfactorily. • Ask for a trial period during which you use the equipment in your office and can return it if you’re not completely satisfied (get this promise in writing). ✔ Test. and field-test your options. spreadsheets. ✔ Make a final decision to purchase only if you’ve had a chance to “road test” the equipment and/or it can be returned (usually within 30 days) with no problem. database management. etc. project management. graphic design. Don’t forget to: • Discuss your detailed specifications with a knowledgeable sales associate.

the fax machine just keeps . T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 84 Know Your Backup Options (Before a Crisis Occurs) In deciding what equipment you need to support your telecommuting arrangement. consideration of safety factors. but important. you’ll typically plan for ideal operating conditions (your computer functions properly. or is uncomfortable in any way. doesn’t work well within your office. Define your needs clearly in terms of how you will use the equipment. any constraints (such as size. how it needs to work with your existing technology. Prepare a “spec sheet” for a piece of equipment you need to acquire that will allow you to telecommute more effectively or efficiently. note about the technology and equipment that support your work as a telecommuter: Taking the time and making the effort to clearly articulate your needs will help you get the best resources. and assessment of price versus payoff. evaluation of need versus capability.Working Well with Tools and Technology 175 • Return anything that falls short of your expectations. don’t settle for anything short of the best match of equipment to your needs. Shortchanging yourself on technology is a ticket to shortchanging yourself on success. is difficult for you to use. And when it comes to technological resources. the level of usage you project. weight. Use your specifications to guide your review of options. A final. power supply) within your office.

your printer is not hopelessly jammed. you might borrow the computer from your kids!) • Is there an external option you can access fairly quickly (a nearby business center. . however. a computer rental outlet)? WHAT IF your printer goes haywire? • Do you have a spare printer that’s handy. or worse—WHAT IF your computer crashes? • Do you have a spare computer easily accessible that you can switch to? Does it give you access to the key capabilities and software you need. and capable of printing what you might need? (That 7-year old laser printer collecting dust in the closet might still produce dynamite word processed images but give you an uncooperative ERROR message if you ask it to print a spreadsheet. you know!). Imagine that the sky is falling . your local quick-print. including Internet and e-mail connections? (In a real pinch. Life being what it is at times. it’s also useful to consider what backup options you may need to continue being productive even when your equipment fails you (because it will. and your phone service is uninterrupted). project associates. loaded with the critical fonts you’ll need. or clients know to call you on your cell phone? You also can use your cell phone to check voice mail while your . This is where having a “Chicken Little” mindset is not a bad idea. do you have a cellular phone readily available (and spare batteries always charged) to let your key co-workers. .) • Does your fax machine have multi-function capability and compatibility with your computer to serve as your backup printer? • Can you save your urgent documents on disk and race to a neighbor’s house or local business service center to access a printer? Is the service center available during the hours you may be having a crisis? WHAT IF your phone service is disconnected by a careless driver six blocks away who wipes out a utility pole? • While you might miss incoming calls during the phone down time.176 101 Tips for Telecommuters humming.

provided you have other primary equipment options. request that the sender (who’s insisting that you read her or his e-mail ASAP) print and fax it to you on your reliable fax machine. • Are you familiar with and easily able to set up your computer to send and receive faxes? Interestingly. the corporate network. If it still works. WHAT IF your fax machine goes on the blink? • Here’s a good reason to hang on to that relic of a fax machine with that annoying thermal paper on a continuous roll. . • Can you divert any critical faxes to a local business service center? This would likely involve a commute for you to send and receive faxes. this is a capability many computers have and some computer operators never master (probably the same people who don’t know how to program their VCR). you (almost) cry. but it’s better than being fax deprived! Multi-function fax machines offer flexibility and can provide great back-up options in a telecommuting office. You may rarely access the Internet through your AOL account (or another Internet service you have for your kids). and scanning. Quickly configuring your computer (or a spare computer) to both send and receive faxes can be a lifesaver for you. it might come in real handy if the power supply in your new one gets fried. copying. • As a last resort. but it may be a critical resource for exchanging files and messages if your corporate e-mail and/or Internet services take an extended vacation. pat yourself on the back for being prepared with an alternative.Working Well with Tools and Technology 177 land lines are out of service and to make any outgoing calls that will keep you productive and connected until phone service is reestablished. if you rely solely on your multi-function fax machine for faxing. However. you’re in a boatload of trouble if these multi-functions become nonfunctioning. printing. WHAT IF your e-mail capability disappears (due to a problem with your software. or some server in between)? • First. • Second.

you know there are a plethora of low-tech. they will. fax machines that also fold your laundry. resources or tangible pieces of equipment you need to have available. be prepared for the worst. and voice-activated software that gives you feedback on your ideas and will write all your reports and memos for you). Consider what resources you have currently or would need to have available as back-up options for your critical equipment and functions. videophones that will attend meetings for you. technologically advanced home office. ask lots of WHAT IF questions. Make a long list of “what if” questions regarding possible equipment failures and potential disasters for your productivity. consider your options. it will. alternatives. leading edge. We’re not talking about the latest gadgets technology companies are dreaming up to simplify the lives of telecommuters (like scanners that work in the shower. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 85 Be Prepared With the Basic Tools. Prioritize the list of additional options. and plan for the best in any number of potentially bad scenarios. these tools and supplies are much more mundane that this! But don’t think about trying to telecommute without equipping yourself with these basics: • The perfect desk (Tip 88) • The perfect chair (Tip 93) . And don’t forget the Murphy’s Laws applicable here: ❢ If anything can go wrong. but vital things you just need to have to telecommute and survive. unexciting. ❢ If multiple things can go wrong simultaneously. Too Even if you pride yourself on having the most wired.178 101 Tips for Telecommuters You get the idea—think ahead. No.

masking. along with refills and erasers • Scissors—located in all the places you might need them: your desk. water-based markers. will-fix-anything roll of duct tape—tape dispensers • Hole punches—standard for 3-ring binders. with surge protection (Tip 86) • File folders and labels • Storage cabinet (or an alternative) • Carpeting that’s suitable for office use and wear (and is staticfree) • Chair/floor mats to protect carpeting and keep you on the move • Lamps.or 7-hole punch if you use a paper-based calendar binder • Binders and folders • Pens. ambient lighting • Trash cans —close to your desk. long-neck (don’t forget the staples and stapler removers) • Rulers. tape measurer • Tape—transparent. double-sided. heavy-duty. the copier. along with specialty types you might need. 5. such as electric. shipping. and the ever-important. the printer. (Tip 88) • Extra toner • Bookcases • File cabinets • Power strips.Working Well with Tools and Technology 179 • A great phone and phone accessories (Tip 89. for a wide variety of needs/preferences. . adjustable as required. copier. sizes. hi-liters—in a variety of colors. etc. scanner. near the copier if you cut and paste. correcting. pencils. etc. Tip 92) • Rolodex • Fax. points. yard stick. wherever you prepare the mail (don’t forget to separate recyclables) • Spare batteries • Staplers—standard ones wherever you might need one handy. task lighting.

shapes. • Letter opener and utility knife • Easel. laser. and colors for shipping. such as copier. bond. quickly handling bank deposits. unlined. etc. push pins/tacks and other assorted clips/fasteners in various sizes to hold things together • Paper towels/tissues • Supply of various papers. file folders. notepads. it’s convenient to keep these basic things handy: • Manicure set (or clippers and a nail file) • Tooth brush and tooth paste . card stock. corkboard wall. binder clips.180 101 Tips for Telecommuters • Clocks • Paper cutter • Disk and CD holders • Variety of rubber bands. dry erase board or large bulletin board—making ideas visible • Rubber stamps—for date stamping received mail. drilled for binder use. report or proposal covers. multiple colors • Calculator • Self-stick notes in various sizes (how did we function before these were invented?!) and an assortment of self-stick ‘flags’ for a multitude of purposes • Labels—in a variety of sizes. return addressing. lined. paper clips. flip chart. use self-inking when possible • Postage scale or meter and stamps in various denominations • Electric pencil sharpener • Flash light • Calendars—posted in various locations and viewable from every work station • Desk accessories to keep everything handy (within arm’s reach and to minimize the need to open drawers For your personal needs.

e. tools. lease. If you’re already telecommuting. Also. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . at least) • CD/tape player • Hand lotion • Water-free. While being prepared is smart. a chair. your working style. things you make special trips out of your office to get. ink pens). and your personal needs/preferences. If you’re just preparing to telecommute. equip yourself with things you’ll need on a regular basis. and resources to improve your productivity. Replenish and expand your supplies. tools. sanitizing hand cleanser • Cleaning supplies for eye glasses or contact lenses • Stress-relief toys. something to squeeze or fidget with • Pitcher or large bottle of water • Small supply of your favorite healthy snack • Coffee pot and supplies • Small refrigerator (if it saves you trips to the kitchen and does not become the keeper of things that are bad for you!) You’re likely to identify a few additional MUST HAVE basics for your office (or eliminate some on the list above).g. depending upon your business. or subcontract. don’t overstock supplies that may have a limited shelf life (toner-based products. make a list of resources you don’t have readily available that you need on a regular basis. For resources you’ll need only occasionally. things you run low on. don’t overdo it.Working Well with Tools and Technology 181 • First aid kit (plastic bandages. and a computer. your office design. you’ll be more productive sooner if you anticipate your needs and carefully prepare your office so that it’s “ready to go” when you are. Since successful telecommuting requires more thoughtful planning and preparation than simply buying a desk.. and supplies you’ll need. consider options like rental. make a thorough list of the resources.

fax machine. This is a particular concern for older homes and any dwellings not designed for extreme electrical usage in a concentrated area. These 39 wires support my basic computer system. and expand the number of circuits feeding your office. To keep yourself. when I thought to count the number of cords and wires behind my desk. I speak with experience (and eternal gratefulness for the fire I miraculously avoided in my office!). The degree to which you require adequate electrical service cannot be overemphasized from both a capacity and a safety perspective. multiple phone lines. 1 CD-rom drive. and all things electrical.182 101 Tips for Telecommuters 86 Get Wired—Electrify Your Telecommuting Experience Inherent in the well-connected. 1 typewriter. apparently!). Having been one of those telecommuters who added the additional circuits and outlets after demand had far exceeded the original outlet capacity in my office. it’s likely your demand for outlets. your office. 1 transcription machine. keep in mind (I’m living proof. Even I was amazed. videoconference computer. Even so. and lighting. and engineering equipment. they’re not multiplying while you sleep. keep some key guidelines in mind so that your wired office doesn’t exceed the capacity of your electrical system. and your equipment safe. add outlets. • Unless you’re an electrical engineer or a certified electrician. those wires can add up and. I don’t do video production and editing with a massive wall of audio. though it may seem so. Without anticipating your electrical needs. 1 electric pencil sharpener. cords. 2 printers. 4 lamps. and power strips will soon overwhelm the electrical system in your house (or at least the circuits supporting your office area). So. Bear in mind that 4 additional computers. extension cords. remember that being a highly-skilled home handyperson does not qualify you to run wire. however. This is definitely a time to spend a . high-tech office of the modern telecommuter is a fundamental reality: wires. video. and 1 cassette/tape player are also located in the office but are not on or near the wires behind my desk. I was stunned to count 39 separate cords and wires flowing off and behind my desk! No. 1 Zip drive.

! In the meantime. you’ll probably still need some power strips.Working Well with Tools and Technology 183 few dollars. use high-grade extension cords or power strips. protect the safety of your family and your office. Be aware that power surge protection may not be effective against electrical surges that enter your home through phone lines connected to your equipment. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . for maximum protection. Therefore. be sure that all of your critical equipment has appropriate power surge protection. These should be clearly marked in your breaker or fuse box. but it’s nothing to mess around with unless you really know what you’re doing. pick up the phone right now and schedule a visit by the electrician. Use only those designed for use with sensitive electronic equipment (like your computer) that provide maximum protection against power surges. • Avoid extension cords wherever possible. be sure you know which breakers or fuses support which electrical lines. ! If you have any doubt about the excessive demand your equipment may be making on your electrical system. and avoid problems with insurance claims filed in connection with work performed during your “temporary electrician” stint! Electricity is great. use high-end surge protectors that include connected equipment warranties. • In spite of having plenty of outlets. If you must use them. • And don’t forget to UNPLUG (not just turn off) your equipment during a storm and avoid using the telephone during electrical storms. ! And to avoid confusion at critical moments.

memory.184 101 Tips for Telecommuters 87 Computer Choices and Conundrums When you telecommute. and Zip drive will you need to support your primary applications and future needs? • Will you travel frequently? Would a notebook computer and docking station or port replicator be a better alternative for you? • What needs do you have for a primary (and secondary) printer? • How likely is it that you’ll need to upgrade the equipment or expand its capacity? • Do you have the required electrical capacity in your office? (Tip 86) • Do you have an appropriate work station in your office (a computer table or desk with space for the monitor and keyboard at appropriate heights and the printer within easy reach)? • What level of technical support will you require for installation and ongoing needs? Once you’ve formulated your specifications based on your needs. Once again. monitor. you’ll need to determine the best equipment for your individual situation. review them with: . your computer is typically a tool that’s vital to your ability to accomplish work. Unless your employer provides a standard-issue machine with supporting hardware (this can certainly simplify your life!). begin with determining your needs: • What are the primary purposes for your computer? • What software applications will you require? • Therefore. what will you require in terms of speed.) • Which operating system is most appropriate (or required) to communicate with co-workers? • What demands will you be making on the modem for highspeed transmission of data? • What type of keyboard. mouse. buying more capacity initially is usually the best course of action. and storage capacity? (Never underestimate here.

setup. and any time-consuming loading or transferring of software and files. recommendations. use the process described above to define your needs and explore the best match in terms of equipment and services. At a minimum. If you already have your computer system in place. If you’re really a focused telecommuter. directives. unless you’re very savvy with regard to computer technology and equipment. on the Internet). bells. you should have lots of other higher priority ways to invest your time and energy. whom you also may secure to do the legwork involved in evaluating equipment options. reviewing current price offerings (in stores. from catalog distributors. features. I got the help of a high-tech young man who thought that spending a day buying and installing my whole system was the highlight of his spring break.Working Well with Tools and Technology 185 • The computer support team that best knows the systems and applications used by your company. find someone (or hire someone as part of your equipment purchase) to handle the setup and installation of your new system and to train you on the basics. of course. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need in sorting through the maze of options. When I bought a new computer and printer several years ago. the “ready to go/just pop it out of the box” promise from the manufacturer did not materialize into reality. and whistles. Ask for input. Define your . consider any enhancements or peripherals you need to improve your productivity or your use of the computer’s capabilities. Also confirm the level of support they will be able to provide you. or constraints you should know about.) Again. • A computer consultant. get some help with installation. (And. • A knowledgeable sales associate at a major computer retail outlet. If you’re in the market for a new computer and/or peripheral equipment. unless it’s a hobby for you or you are extremely challenged by such things. and making a purchase recommendation to you. so I was able to be very productive doing other things while my young consultant spent hours on the phone with technical support folks.

do one-stop shopping at your favorite computer superstore. or services that might benefit you and “shop your specs” in the most appropriate and time-efficient way for you (hire a consultant. and hang out at the pool. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 88 Beyond the Computer: Essential Tools (and Toys) for the Well-Connected Telecommuter One of the long-standing myths about telecommuting is that it’s so simple to do. but usually it’s because I’m still working when everyone else is playing! Telecommuting effectively requires concentrated effort. etc. grab your cell phone. Of course I’ve taken my cell phone to the pool. search the Web. having a great desk is an excellent idea. first determine your needs and preferences. Be sure to . Let me be clear (did I harp on this once before?!): Nothing could be further from the truth about serious telecommuting. software. just stay home. ☛ How do you plan to use your desk? ☛ Will your computer be located on or in it? What type of work will you be doing at your desk? ☛ Will you need to have a wide expanse of flat work surface? Or will you require easy access to drawers full of files? ☛ Would you prefer a stand-up work surface rather than a traditional desk? ☛ How much space do you have available for the desk of your dreams? Take your needs and preferences to an office furniture store and start-field testing different desks and desk arrangements. peruse catalogs. As with other equipment you’ll need. flip open a wireless notebook computer.).186 101 Tips for Telecommuters needs (Tip 83) for any additional hardware. dedicated time. Since you usually won’t be working poolside. and all the right tools.

In many cases. Of course. and ongoing maintenance and ink replacement requirements.. Look for other valuable features like delayed transmission (fax while you sleep!). Or using the services of a local quick-print will be more than adequate. speed dial. an onsite machine that you buy or lease may be best for you. you’ll need to have a dedicated line and computer that stays on all the time. image size adjustment. service warranties. plain paper machines (with plenty of capacity in the paper tray) is by far the easiest option. a multi-purpose fax will suffice.Working Well with Tools and Technology 187 check into modular designs. be sure you can return the desk if it proves to be the wrong choice. Multi-purpose fax machines are useful if your copying. transmission speed. books. resolution.). printing and scanning needs are not excessive or you have other equipment for these purposes and the multi-purpose fax provides your back-up options (Tip 84). you’ll probably need a fax machine. activity reports. However. Aside from your desk. size of paper. You may or may not have copying needs that justify having a copier in your office. etc. as well as traditional desks. integration with your computer. Other considerations in determining your needs for a fax: While other technology still is marketed. magazine articles.g. As with other major purchases. automatic redial. Consider your needs and evaluate features such as: Projected copy volume Ease of operation Speed Paper requirements Paper tray capacity Image size adjustment Types of documents copied (e. if external copying sources are not convenient and/or your copying needs exceed more than a handful of copies per day. memory capacity. color versus black-and-white . unless you plan to let your computer function as the fax machine. which is a problem if it’s the notebook computer you take on the road.

your list of mandatory “road warrior” tools may get longer. there isn’t one standard list of required equipment for telecommuters. are not proven in terms of effectiveness and reliability. your office arrangement. If you do travel more than occasionally. and ongoing service/technical support. and do little more than appeal to your bias for “gee-whiz-bang” gadgetry. cool as all the gizmology may be. toner replacement. don’t forget the utterly low-tech but very important briefcase or backpack or rolling luggage in which to transport all of your high-tech gizmos. And finally. Since everyone’s definition of “essential” will vary somewhat. there are any number of other items that may be either essential tools or gotta-have-’em toys for you: ➧ Personal pager ➧ Notebook computer ➧ Personal digital assistant ➧ Microcassette recorder ➧ Personal dictating/transcription machines ➧ Paper shredder ➧ Postage meter ➧ Adapters for your computer (to use with car cigarette lighter and cellular phone) Depending on your need to travel as part of your telecommuting agreement. your line of work. table or stand required. What additional technology resources might help you be more effective and productive? What tools (or toys) do you have currently that are not proving to be very useful? . take more time to use than they save. don’t interface well with your primary equipment. and your personal work habits. avoid gadgets that are unnecessary.188 101 Tips for Telecommuters Routine maintenance. Depending on your needs. storage of supplies.

the cautiously or budget-constrained innovators who also telecommute probably will still use telephones. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 89 Rarely Is a Phone Just a Phone With so much of your telecommuting technology dependent upon telephone lines. you may have the opportunity to utilize some of these advanced technologies. a phone with 10 speed dial numbers and a hold button was fairly sophisticated. fax. In the meantime. the level of technology sophistication of your employer. Now a telecommuter would compare the benefits of integral phone systems versus Web phones versus wireless technology. and data transmissions. and the capacity of the phone wiring in your home. Using more than one 4-line phone allows you to establish a basic office system . Thankfully.Working Well with Tools and Technology 189 Reevaluate your needs for additional tools that can help you be a more successful telecommuter and take steps to match those needs with appropriate and cost-effective choices. your budget. Not too long ago. your telephone can be far more advanced than a basic phone and make important contributions to your productivity. though. You can easily accommodate up to four lines on an individual phone without the expense of an advanced telephone system. You’re likely to have multiple phone lines coming into your home to support voice. Evaluate your requirements for telephonic technology by considering your need for features such as: ☎ Multiple lines. Don’t limit your ability to access all of these lines when you need them for additional voice calls or conference calling by using phones that don’t support multiple lines. what you need and require from your phone service provider(s) differs significantly from your needs in the not-too-distant past. Likewise. Depending upon your needs. what you need in terms of capabilities in your actual phone equipment has changed dramatically.

this is a convenient and time-saving feature. transferring. Some of the advantages of having a speakerphone can be achieved by using a headset (Tip 92). it may be convenient to have on days you’re expecting an important call. Some telephones also will integrate with auto-dialing capability through your computer. however. this can be a critical time saver. your phone will continue to periodically dial the number (for a set number of attempts or a specific length of time) until the call is answered—all the while. ☎ Caller ID. this feature may be unnecessary. ☎ Speed dialing/memory dial. While some people just despise being relegated to your speakerphone. ☎ Automatic redial. so these systems offer a very professional image. If you’re trying to integrate business and home lines. And some people find it very annoying or distracting. Even without the computer connection. It’s especially useful for numbers you don’t have programmed into memory. make sure the primary phone that sits closest to your work area has a generous capacity for numbers in memory. this can be a big help. do not disturb. Some phones come equipped with advanced voice mail systems that save you the expense of monthly voice mail charges from your phone company. however. This feature might be of interest to you if want to prioritize specific callers or avoid interrupting a call in progress for a nonessential incoming call. On the flip side. and monitoring. a speakerphone in a one-room office in your home (or anywhere for that matter) would be very annoying if others also were working there. Like speed dialing. you can ignore the call waiting signal and let the call roll over to voice mail if you’re already involved in a call you don’t want to interrupt. this feature can be very helpful to you for hands-free telephone time (especially during long conference calls). On other days. . With some of these you can also establish individual voice mail boxes.190 101 Tips for Telecommuters with features such as intercom/paging. For frequently dialed numbers. If you use multiple voice lines for business. When you dial the number and get a busy signal. you’re busy doing other productive things. ☎ Call waiting. ☎ Voice mail. ☎ Speakerphone. However.

This comes in handy during long conference calls or when your spouse stops in with a quick question. you can forward your phone to wherever you go. this feature is nice in case you forget who you were calling in the space of time between dialing the call and hearing it ring! Also. information. ☎ Number dialed and time display. ☎ Mute. or schedule conference calls through your long distance carrier (also a more viable option if you need to connect multiple people and locations). You may find the audio quality lacking on some phones when the third caller is added. it’s also useful to keep yourself aware of the length of calls. test this feature thoroughly on your new phone. ☎ Cordless. and the effect that a headset may have on the audio level on your phone line. establish conferencecalling capability through your phone company. or other computers in your office. Otherwise. Many basic business phones come equipped with three-way calling for establishing conference calls. and colleagues (Tip 52). This is usually a feature available through your phone company and can be an important one for telecommuters who are committed to staying well connected to co-workers. this gives you a quick look at the time of day. a networking lunch. Depending on your voice. the connection quality with your caller. Adding a cordless phone to one of your extensions gives you flexibility to move around for accessing files. If you need to track your calls for billing purposes. a meeting. And it certainly is a handy feature if you have an unexpected visit from a well-intended but somewhat loud child! ☎ Call timer. volume control is a useful feature for achieving the best connection possible within the constraints of your equipment and the quality of the line provided by your carrier. If conferencing is a critical feature for you. ☎ Volume control. ☎ Call forwarding. you’ll appreciate this feature. During long (or less exciting) calls. clients. On really hectic days. or travel.Working Well with Tools and Technology 191 ☎ Conferencing. . you also can roam to the kitchen for a quick snack or to the back yard to enjoy your flower garden. since your phone is probably fairly convenient. If you need to leave your office for errands.

If you don’t have voice mail or want to screen calls. (When they get really out of control.) ☎ Extra long cord. ☎ Video phone. of course. and e-mail mes- . ✆ Check to be certain there aren’t any features on your existing phone that you haven’t activated or don’t use. save yourself the frustration and buy a new cord.192 101 Tips for Telecommuters Other accessories you might find useful: ☎ Answering machine. and if you call other people who have one. ✆ Check your existing phone capabilities against a list of ideal features to maximize your productivity. ☎ Cord detangler. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 90 Make Your Phone Calls Chase or Wait for You In your quest to stay well connected while telecommuting. If you don’t have a headset or cordless phone but want to roam. Since your phone is so integral to your work as a telecommuter. faxes. An absolute must if tangled cords make you crazy. Your phone can do even more to help you be productive if your local phone company offers additional capabilities you need. you’re likely to find that you feel bombarded by the influx of voice messages. don’t hesitate to let it work for you to get the most it can give. Really fun—if you need it. you’re likely to find numerous ways to get information to and from people with great efficiency. this will surely help. calls. Also. a separate answering machine might be the best choice for you. ✆ Prepare a spec sheet to evaluate the cost versus the benefits of investing in a new phone.

” even though you might need to return the call if it will take longer than you have available. This is especially intrusive if you set your videoconference or videophone system on “auto answer.) Calls can . however. the future promises the eventual opportunity for you to have one number that rings everywhere—in your office. (Beware. look for ways to increase the opportunity to answer a call “live. Otherwise. And at other times you’ll need to defer your calls to voice mail or some other answering system.” You may hear a phone ring and suddenly find people staring at you!) Of course. the volume of calls and demand for your attention is probably no greater than what you’d experience working in a traditional office. Only the nature of some interruptions differ in that people usually can’t just “drop in” on you. or during nonwork hours. there may be an increase in telecommuters using cellular phones as their primary business phone. etc. if your employer launches a videoconferencing system and you keep your system turned on constantly. (With the advent of new rate plans for cellular calling that provides hundreds of minutes per month of calling time without roaming or long distance charges. personal appointment. conference call.Working Well with Tools and Technology 193 sages. Also. on your cellular phone wherever you are. ✆ Check for messages frequently. your calls will be greeted with either call waiting. If you do need to defer your calls to one of your answering systems due to a client meeting. answering service. an answering machine. be sure to: ✆ Be as specific as possible about when you’ll be available or when you’ll be able to return the call. God forbid. Whichever option is appropriate for a given situation or time. In reality. So. or voice mail (or. you’ll often want to be accessible to people—regardless of where you are—and to be almost as available as if you were physically present in the main office or at the client site. people will begin “dropping by” virtually. activate your call forwarding feature. ✆ Return calls promptly. however. be certain to handle it in the most suitable way for capturing the information people need to give you. Based on my experience. When you are out of the office but don’t want to miss any calls. in your home. having multiple business lines for voice transmission is useful. When you want to be connected and highly accessible by phone. a busy signal!).

” Review the way your calls are handled when you’re away from your office. another option is to forward your calls to the voice mail on your personal pager. clear. ☎ Is your current answering or voice mail system the best available option? Are you receiving prompt. If you need to receive calls at home. If for some reason your cellular service is unavailable. and thorough messages? Are you retrieving messages in a timely fashion and responding quickly enough? ☎ Do you need to be more accessible when you’re out of the office? Are you experiencing delays in receiving critical information. with a reliable cellular provider. or dissatisfaction from clients? What alternatives can you employ or acquire to improve your access to timely information and your accessibility to people who need to contact you? T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 91 Manage the Madness of Multiple Machines that Ring or Beep at You Once you’re functioning as a well-connected telecommuter with multiple ways for people to contact you and for the exchange of in- . (For a nominal charge.194 101 Tips for Telecommuters easily be forwarded to your cell phone and. being “out of sight” when you telecommute never needs to mean being “out of touch. Clearly. This might be at your corporate office or a client site. forward your business line to your home phone.) You also can forward your business line to other office locations where you’ll be working for the day or week. your calls will follow you just about anywhere. frustration from co-workers. your phone company might offer an identifying ring capability for your home line to differentiate business calls from personal calls.

if your cellular service is unreliable in some areas where you work. The cellular phone that rings (with a unique ring you selected from an almost endless array of options). Also.Working Well with Tools and Technology 195 formation. think twice about keeping your cell phone on when you’re in the office (unless it’s a “hot-line” for access to you by critical clients or you really enjoy juggling yet another ringing phone during the workday). unless you’re using your cellular phone as your primary business line. there can be a wide assortment of equipment interrupting the serenity of your telecommuting space and demanding your immediate attention: Multiple phone lines ringing and flashing. flashes. or vibrates to announce the arrival of a call. Without . a page. The pager that beeps or vibrates with demands that you call your answering service for messages. Finally. e-mail messages. How do you manage it all without pulling out your hair (and/or all those wires)!? First of all. you also may begin to feel a sense of intrusion. Flashes and incessant beeps from the answering machine. Keep the pager if you really need to receive pages during flights. with as much brevity as possible. If you have one of those wonderful new cell phones that will deliver voice calls. or even an e-mail message. perhaps it’s time to discontinue using your personal pager. be selective about when you accept incoming calls and messages. data. you’ll compromise your ability to manage your work in a planful and proactive way. and pages. Voice mail signals and greetings announcing the accumulation of an astronomical number of messages in your voice mail box. simplify. Voice mail and e-mail messages may drop into your in-box constantly. Set aside specific time throughout the day to read faxes and e-mail messages and to listen to voice mail messages. Do this frequently and respond to them promptly. E-mail messages that land in your in-box with a loud “kerplunk” sound (programmed into your computer by some wellintentioned but humorless computer technician). or if you’re occasionally on-call for some extremely urgent purpose (such as performing emergency brain surgery). but if you respond to them as they arrive. Depending upon the degree of connectivity you have with the “world” beyond your office.

This will not only exhaust and frustrate you. ➠ Review the various ways your work flow is interrupted by calls. you’ll be relegated to days of incessant interruptions demanding reactive and frantic responses. or associates. Only now. I know no one who’s tried using a headset and decided to go back to the neck-killing phone on the shoulder routine. having a headset is something you should seriously consider. customers. you need to manage both your need for balance and the technology that can threaten it. it remains your responsibility to either shut everything off or close the door to your office or ignore anything in your office that rings or beeps when it’s time to set work aside. ➠ Can you streamline the number of incoming sources of beeps and rings? ➠ Reevaluate how and when you respond and look for increased ways to protect your focus. a headset is an in- . If your phone usage justifies it. it will also compromise your success as a telecommuter and undermine your attainment of the personal and business goals you chose to pursue as a telecommuter. The eternal quest for balance (Tip 6) gets no easier as the technology to access you improves. messages. And it should go without needing a mention (except that another reminder probably won’t hurt). T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 92 Skip the Massage— Get a Headset Unless you telecommute with minimal need to interact by telephone with co-workers.196 101 Tips for Telecommuters planning and exercising control over how you respond to everything that rings or beeps. I know any number of people who’ve been disappointed with a headset they purchased for one reason or another. At the same time. and other electronic demands for your attention.

and operating flexibility. and suffering from neck and shoulder pain. earrings) • Range (depending upon your need to access files and reference material or your need to pace) • Volume control (to accommodate variations in voice level of callers and clarity of phone lines) • Microphone (get the best you can afford so you don’t sound as if you’re calling from Mars) • Wireless (provides the greatest mobility. put a headset on your list of essential tools and evaluate these features when selecting one: • Weight (the lighter the better) • Adjustability (to accommodate your unique configuration and combination of personal features: head. So. ear.Working Well with Tools and Technology 197 valuable tool for a telecommuter. ✆ If you’re currently using a headset. and maintenance (ask for comparisons of durability and typical projected useful life of various models). catalog companies . If you can’t return it for a more suitable one. spending lots of time on it. add “GET A HEADSET” to the top of your TO DO list. warranty. ✆ If you’re still using a hand-held telephone. glasses. It’s rather like a pair of shoes: If it doesn’t feel great. purchase a headset only if you have the option to return it. As with other key tools and equipment for your telecommuting success. you want to absolutely love it and be extremely comfortable with it as an appendage. hair. audio quality. Check options available through your local office superstore. Since it spends long hours hanging on your ear or strapped to your head. you’ve wasted your money. you’ll have that phone locked between your ear and your spasm-riddled neck. Even worse. with compromises in sound quality unless you’re willing to not go cheap) • Service. but there’s great variability among headsets in terms of comfort. you won’t use it. check out newer models and consider whether upgrading would improve your comfort and productivity.

In spite of an abundance of seldom-used chairs sprinkled throughout your home. so the investment will be worth it). Order more than one type or model to give yourself a choice of features and the greatest degree of comfort. have one custom-built (it will probably be the last desk chair you’ll ever need to buy. tilt. invest in a superb one. and mobility. Not all chairs fit all body types. Look for highquality materials. and a fabric that won’t cause you to perspire (there are enough other things to sweat over!) or slide off the chair as you roll from one task to another. and Internet sources. don’t be tempted to opt for convenience by grabbing one of these. and. so ask questions. At a minimum. Aim for flexibility that allows you to swivel. • Ergonomically designed for your body. while riding on a five-star base with self-locking. Consider the type of flooring your chair will rest on in determining the specific type of caster you need. Since you might sometimes feel that you live in your office chair (and in a way. if you still can’t find the perfect chair. you need to adjust the seat height. . read the manufacturer’s specs. And certainly don’t target aesthetics among your primary criteria. solid but comfortable support in the seat and back. recline. back tilt. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 93 Which Chair to Buy (When You’d Really Rather Have a Recliner) The closest thing to you (literally) when you telecommute is your chair. dual casters. • Provides adjustability. you do). road-test different styles. and rock. and lumbar support to accommodate the different tasks you’ll undertake in a given day. you’ll never regret it.198 101 Tips for Telecommuters that specialize in these products (such as Hello Direct!). How your chair looks in your office and integrates with your design scheme is fairly insignificant (unless winning decorating awards is a key objective) compared with the other features you should evaluate when buying a desk chair: • Well-constructed and provides excellent support. flexibility.

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• Offers you a high degree of comfort. The chair makes your body feel supported, relaxed, and ready to work. Consider a chair with armrests if they add to your comfort, support your arms at the appropriate heights, and don’t interfere with your desk or computer work station. • Option to purchase on a trial basis. Be sure to learn the proper way to sit in the chair, and adjust it to your body and the tasks you perform in your office. Use it in your office for several typical work days before making a final decision to purchase. Return it in a flash if it doesn’t fit you or your desk in a comfortable and productive way. A top-quality desk chair will not be inexpensive. On the other hand, it’s a great investment compared to the time and money you’ll end up spending with a chiropractor if you shortchange yourself on the quality you deserve (and need) in a first-rate chair. Don’t overlook your need for additional chairs, as well. An experienced telecommuter I know thought this was the best tip in this book! He’s a big advocate of having an excellent chair, but also of having a different one for different activities. Therefore, he has, in addition to his desk chair, a task chair for use when he’s working at his computer, and a reading chair (not a recliner!), since his work involves heavy doses of reading. If your office is large enough, consider investing in additional chairs for multiple needs. And finally, even if it’s a great chair and you spent a small fortune on it, your body (and your mind) will still benefit from periodic respites from a sitting position. Intersperse all that productivity you’re achieving as a result of using a fabulous chair with standing, walking, and stretching for at least 30 seconds every 30 minutes.

Visit an office furniture store sometime soon to evaluate the choices in quality desk chairs. Carefully select one that meets your needs and is suited for your body and office. If you already have a desk chair, compare yours against those that may offer far greater comfort and productivity.
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Learn to Love Voice Mail (and Other Impossibilities)

Voice mail is a much-maligned technological advance. It’s a bit like the annoyance we feel about having to empty the dishwasher, completely overlooking the utter convenience and time savings we derive from not needing to hand-wash all those dishes! Voice mail suffers a similar lack of respect and appreciation. However, the flexibility and productivity you gain from voice messaging enables, in part, your ability to telecommute, so I wouldn’t be too annoyed about its existence. Without voice mail you would spend far more time in the completely unproductive game of telephone tag. True, now you play voice mail tag. But, used effectively, voice mail can drastically minimize the level of “tag time” and the number of interruptions in your day. Additionally, voice mail is a critical communication vehicle for people who work remotely, are in “road warrior” mode, are in widely distant locales around the globe, or have limited time between meetings to exchange information. Voice mail is the first widely used and now commonly accepted technology that helped pave the way for telecommuting. It established initial experience (and growing comfort) with virtual interactions. Some people have even come to prefer voice mail for its efficiency and its complete flexibility to be used anytime of the day (or night). For example, I once worked with a woman who was implementing a client project for my sales team and with whom I needed to exchange up-to-the-minute information regarding the project. Even though she generally called it a day and was asleep by 9:30 PM (when my “second wind” was just picking up), we successfully completed our work together thanks to voice mail. I typically left project update messages by 2:30 AM, which she retrieved and responded to when she woke up around 4:30 AM; I picked up her messages when I awoke (at a more civilized hour). Voice mail provided the medium by which we communicated with relative speed and effectiveness. More people now realize that voice mail can facilitate a great deal of communication that would otherwise be very difficult. E-mail has replaced some uses of voice mail since it offers the advantage of being more tangible (at least you can see it!) and can be

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saved or printed for future reference. Also, when documents must be exchanged or messages are lengthy, e-mail is certainly superior. Otherwise, voice mail is clearly advantageous for messages that are: • Brief (“I’m working on a prospective sale and would appreciate your input on a few issues. When are you available to meet tomorrow?”) • Time-urgent (“I’m running 20 minutes late for our lunch meeting, but I’ll meet you there.”) • Appropriate to the technology (Don’t leave messages regarding sensitive, confidential, or performance-related issues. Rather, leave a voice message requesting a voice-to-voice or face-to-face conversation for such matters.) Voice mail is particularly effective if there’s a bias throughout the entire organization for checking messages frequently and responding with promptness, completeness, and brevity. Leaving a time-urgent message is safer if you can count on the recipient to check messages often. (Otherwise, have the person paged or leave a message with a “live” human who agrees to relay the message quickly.) When voice mail is seen not as one more thing to get through during the day (or late at night), rather than one more way to improve our efficiency and timeliness in communicating with co-workers, clients, and colleagues, its value is diminished and its utility greatly compromised. It’s a valuable telecommuting tool, and one you should employ frequently and skillfully.

Review your voice mail greeting to confirm that it provides thorough information about when you will: ✆ Check messages ✆ Return calls ✆ Be available to talk with the caller Also, verify that your greeting requests thorough messages from your callers: name, time/day of the call, information or action requested of you and by when, voice mail or phone number you’ll need for responding to the message.
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Videoconferencing: The Next Best Thing to Being There?

Yes, videoconferencing probably is the next best thing to being there, but that doesn’t mean it’s as effective or can be used without some serious planning (and a not-so-minor investment). While the promise of picturephones has never quite been fulfilled at a reasonable cost, videoconferencing is an emerging technology application that will further revolutionize and strengthen the telecommuting trend. It’s probably also the tool that generates the highest degree of discomfort, primarily because of weaknesses inherent in affordable systems that exacerbate the anxieties people feel about using the technology. Many people, if they’re honest, aren’t really comfortable in front of a regular old camera that shoots prints. Imagine the anxiety these folks have in the presence of a video camera that captures their every move, doesn’t necessarily offer them an image of how they appear to other participants, and transmits their image to multiple sites in distant locations. Further, anyone the least bit technophobic tends to be rendered practically nonfunctioning at the very thought of speaking into a camera while perhaps needing to simultaneously control screen image, camera projection, audio levels, and a computer. It’s not a great formula for accelerated growth in use of the technology, wouldn’t you agree? However, as travel costs increase along with peripheral costs associated with face-to-face meetings, the decreases in cost in videoconference equipment and services inevitably will result in more videoconferencing. Telecommuters naturally will be on the forefront of this trend, so anticipate more “on camera” time in your future. Videoconference systems range from low-end versions using special software and a camera mounted to your computer to more sophisticated, stand-alone systems with a dedicated computer, high-speed modems, and ISDN or T-1 lines. There’s also a corresponding range in video quality, audio reception, and, of course, cost. For example, supporting a videoconference system with a slow modem or single ISDN line will produce choppy video with obvious audio delays. This can be so distracting and uncomfortable to some people that videoconferencing loses its appeal and is seen as inferior to audio-only teleconferencing or text-based Web conferencing.

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While the notion of real-time videoconferencing as an integral part of telecommuting has great appeal, it is viable only if transmission speed is appropriate. Additionally, equipment and software compatibility is critical. Videoconferencing is essentially an application of computer technology, and you know how badly things work when incompatible software or hardware is being used. While there are some standard videoconferencing protocols, there is not a commonly used standard throughout the industry that ensures your ability to establish a videoconference link with just anyone (as you can do almost universally with fax technology, in spite of great variation in equipment and manufacturers). If you will be using videoconference technology in spite of its limitations, it offers many advantages over audio-only connections. Provided the video quality is good, you can observe gestures, facial expressions, and body language, all of which can enhance communication and strengthen distance relationships. To achieve this, however, you’ll need to be clear about how and with whom you’ll use videoconferencing; and be careful to use a technology platform that’s consistent with the equipment and software located at the sites you’ll be connecting to. Once you have the appropriate software, hardware, and transmission vehicle (e.g., ISDN, Internet) in place, be sure to prepare people to effectively use this tool (Tip 65). Videoconferencing promises to play an important and growing role in the life of a telecommuter, so stay tuned!

If you’re currently using a videoconference system, consider ways you can improve your use of the system and the effectiveness of the videoconferences in which you participate. Talk to your manager and the appropriate technology resource for your company to explore equipment enhancements that will improve the caliber of the videoconference system. If your employer currently is not using videoconferences as a way to connect telecommuters to other team members, initiate a task force to investigate alternative systems, costs, and benefits.
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. but it’s still woefully outdated. news retrieval services. and I didn’t let anyone hang up until we reached “Eureka!” and found a solution.204 101 Tips for Telecommuters 96 Meet the Challenge of Internet Connections On some days. or a knowledgeable resource in your network to get the help you need. You also may rely on the Internet for accessing resource information. you’re stuck and going nowhere fast. reliable access to the Internet is vital to your success (and ability to minimize stress) when you telecommute. you must have the equipment. • Some kind of problem (that resembles something like a personality clash) between your software and your computer. since so much of your connection to the world beyond your home office is likely to depend on speedy navigation of the Internet. your corporate network team or help-desk. and services necessary to achieve speed and reliability for your Internet connections. I made sure everyone understood how the problem was being experienced. personal e-mail. If you access your corporate e-mail. bulletin boards. and Internet via the Web. Either way. You may simply chug along because of: • An antiquated modem that’s nowhere near ready to wear out. When faced with similar . listserves. If you’re caught between your phone company and your ISP don’t count on them to work it out. sometimes. newsgroups. problems. This is an unacceptable and exasperating situation for a telecommuter. network. • Access problems of unknown origin—you know only that the phone company is sure that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the cause and your ISP is certain it’s a problem at the phone company. If you’re experiencing problems with your equipment and don’t know (or want to know) the intricacies of modem performance specs. Therefore. I didn’t always understand everything (or. much!) of what they were discussing. software. and a wide range of professional and industry sites and contacts that are critical to your networking efforts. I’ve arranged and mediated conference calls on several occasions between technicians at my phone company and technicians with other providers that access my phone lines. but I made sure they talked voice-to-voice. zooming along the Internet is more fiction than fact. consult your computer consultant.

and choose the option that provides the best solution for you. Therefore. Take steps to eliminate barriers and implement improvements. reevaluate your choices and get another one. and service offerings of ISPs varies widely. asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL). and anything else introduced between the writing and reading of this information. cost.Working Well with Tools and Technology 205 Unless you specialize in Internet access or happen to be an expert in Web technology. integrated services digital network (ISDN). compare services against your needs. The availability. evaluate initial and ongoing costs against your budget. you need to research what’s available in your area. Look for ways to achieve major or incremental improvements in your access to the Internet. If you are not accessing the Internet through an ISP contracted by your employer. If your ISP is not delivering on the service commitments it made. your equipment. • Reasonable cost (based on current prevailing rates) with unlimited access. the range of alternatives available for accessing the Internet will make your head spin: broadband. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . reference the following criteria when selecting an ISP: • Local access so you’re not incurring toll charges from your phone company. • 24-hour (or close to it) technical support provided by real people (no voice mail menus or automated fax services). At the same time. seriously consider upgrading your capabilities and equipment to improve your ability to navigate the Internet with speed and skill. and your own knowledge and skills might be limiting your effectiveness and efficiency with the Web. • Plenty of access lines during peak usage times so you do not encounter busy signals. cable modems. if the limitations of your own system are keeping you off the high-speed lanes. Consider how your ISP.

. . . lower longer distance rates. .) I can recall people referring to themselves being “out of pocket” for the days they’d be gone. some extremely frequent) to venture forth from their home-based offices to join the ranks of road warriors who definitely are “plugged in” while traveling. as well. and waste-no-time technology solutions that make you feel as if you never really left home after all. departure on yet another flight to another day of meetings .M. (You might remember how agonizing it was to “catch up” after some of those extended road trips. or be a “no show” at a regular staff meeting. . Travel is no longer a reason (or an excuse) to miss a call. While it’s great to have the ability to be so connected. telefax technology. Will Travel In the not-too-distant past. etc. . e-mail. so you can read all that e-mail during your flight back home that night and transmit them from the e-mail link the airline conveniently has added to the airphone service . you pretty much “unplugged” from your normal activities and communication. anyone who’s done any serious time as a road warrior knows you’re often slogging through e-mail messages between a business dinner and your much-needed night’s rest to prepare for your 6 A. and increasing access to readily available public fax machines. connecting to e-mail during breaks from your meeting . when you left your office to travel on business. cellular phones. . personal digital assistants. . and mail would simply pile up in in-baskets until the trip was over. Of course. notebook computers that continue shrinking in size and weight. voice mail. It’s a whole new ball game. delay responses to voice mail. though the age of wireless technology is making the reality of plugs in outlets increasingly obsolete. wireless Internet access. real-time. voice-to-voice contact would be minimal at best. overlook e-mail. . Enter onto the business scene a series of innovations to improve our access to information and connectivity to everyone regardless of where we are: telephone calling cards. allow- . and the implication was that regular work would cease.206 101 Tips for Telecommuters 97 Have Technology. conference calls during your lunch break . interspersed with voice mail checks while walking to your airline gate . . and road warriors run the bases between on-line. this doesn’t mean that you won’t at times feel as if all this technology is not only intrusive but a burden. Most telecommuters have opportunities (some occasional.

Working Well with Tools and Technology 207 ing you to walk into your office the next morning completely caught up . • Set aside specific times to process new (and critical) voice mail and e-mail messages.) . it’s likely you’ll find a printer to plug into at your hotel. If you let it overwhelm you or run amok in your attempts to manage it all. (Your terse and insensitive email will only come back to haunt you. So here’s my advice: • Carry the minimum amount and lightest weight equipment necessary. Get one with a pager included and leave the pager on your desk. go to bed. you’ll be frustrated.) cellular phone. . Be brief (and use minimalist courtesy). If you haven’t yet upgraded to a lightweight ( 6 oz. except for the 17 new voice mail messages and 34 new e-mail messages that landed in your electronic in-boxes while you slept!!! If you resonate with this scenario and/or feel a little weary just reading it. talk to your cellular provider about how to do so. • Give yourself a break from it occasionally. you know it’s not much of an exaggeration. more effective. hence. more connected. Delete anything that you don’t need to read. Use any filtering mechanisms your systems offer for prioritizing messages by urgency or by sender. Do you really need that portable printer? Unless you’re going someplace where the latest in technology innovation is an electric toothbrush. at the airport business center. or at the local printing/copy center (such as Kinko’s). Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) can be a wonderful way to streamline the information and technology essential to your travels. If you’re really tired. better informed and. leave it. and resentful. Using technology when traveling should help you be more productive. tired. . If you don’t need the data or capacity of your notebook computer. Plan your day (even when your schedule is at the mercy of the airline or train schedule) so you have designated times blocked off for checking messages.

streamline. don’t forget the fax capability that may be resident in your computer. One of the few nice things about being cooped up in an airplane for hours is the relative detachment you have from all the madness on the ground. This is often true when you’re in the “road warrior” mode—at a hotel where the business center is closed or the reception desk charges exorbitant rates to print a few pages. Whenever you can. At a minimum. You might even benefit from time spent cloud gazing! Pull out that well-worn travel bag and reevaluate what you stuff into it when you travel. Is there a lighter way for you to go? Consider ways to downsize. Allow the intrusion (and expense) of communication by airphone only when it’s really necessary. play a game of solitaire or chess if it helps you relax or keep it all in perspective. eliminate. evaluate your need for a PDA if you don’t have one and think about what you really need versus what you automatically just schlep along unnecessarily. Try Faxing to Yourself When you find yourself in a situation where access to a printer is limited or nonexistent. If you hit your target before you’re required to stow your electronic equipment. If your . give yourself just a bit of serenity for a little while. and simplify. go ahead . . .208 101 Tips for Telecommuters Set a goal to process a targeted number of e-mail messages during your flight. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 98 If Talking to Yourself is Interesting.

plain-paper fax machines. commit to using one of the database management programs you have access to. simply fax your document (from the comfort of your room) to yourself at the hotel fax number. learn how to use the scanning feature on your fax machine. will seem like a special treat. Select the two capabilities that could be most advantageous to your work. someone from the reception desk will gladly hand-deliver your printed document to your room. install software you’ve been meaning to install. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E .) You can probably easily identify any number of capabilities of your equipment that. send multiple faxes!) And if you happen to be staying at an especially service-oriented hotel. etc. could make your life simpler or more efficient.Working Well with Tools and Technology 209 computer has the necessary software and modem (most machines used by the typical road warrior have this function). you can use the same strategy without involving anyone from the lobby. the message light on your phone starts blinking. (Many such hotels also have fax machines in guest rooms. this is a particularly convenient way to get your documents printed in the middle of the night. (By the way. receiving faxes in your hotel room at 2 A. and these days hotels that cater to the business traveler often have top-quality.M.M. the capabilities of our equipment (hardware and software) far exceed our typical access of features and capabilities. find at least two such capabilities (program the speed dials on your phone or fax. Most hotels do not charge for incoming faxes. So. it can be better than 24-hour room service! As most users of standard remote technology are aware. or you’re desperate to see the printed layout of a report you need to e-mail before going to sleep. and begin to let those capabilities work for you.) Voilà! Shortly after sending a fax to yourself. Trust me. If you’re like some of us who work into the wee hours of the morning. if you need multiple copies. When you’re frantically preparing for an important meeting at 8 A. so. (It’s somewhat analogous to the vast capacities of the human brain that remain untapped. if you took the time to activate these capabilities.). if you’re lucky enough to snatch one of these rooms. learn how to send/receive faxes from your computer.

Also. (Tip 17). stacks of paper. be proactive about protecting your investments. the cost of replacement may be quite significant for many of the items in your office. comparison shopping. and coordinating with the electrician. • Fire protection. and don’t be lulled into complacency or avoidance with “I don’t have time to think about it” or “It could never happen to me” thinking. With this in mind. • Security. followed by some quick action. talking with help-desk technicians. Go beyond thinking about it and do some planning. Beyond the inconvenience and impact on your business. you will have amassed a significant investment in capital equipment and personal energy to create the optimal office solution for your telecommuting needs. and downtime. poring over manuals.210 101 Tips for Telecommuters 99 Protect Your Equipment (and Your Livelihood) After hours of research. consider extended warranties that may include on-site service and/or equipment replacement within one business day. Depending on the value of your business assets. All valuable equipment should operate on batteries. Always investigate the warranty options with your equipment purchases. use of portable heaters. At a minimum. working with the telephone company. or power strips that guarantee surge protection. finding and installing lights. on the following: • Warranties. Don’t forget about fire avoidance: use of extension cords. Sprinklers may be cost-prohibitive. And it’s an investment you need to protect from loss. • Power supply. circuits. overloading circuits. since your ability to work productively undoubtedly depends on the continued availability of your technology tools and other valuable equipment and resources. buy a fire extinguisher for your office. damage. install fire and smoke alarms. especially if you smoke or use flammable materials for your work. but you could consider a compromise with fire/smoke alarms connected to your security system (which automatically signals a fire alarm and gets emergency services rolling). old wiring that you may be overworking. In cases where the equipment is critical (such as your primary computer or the high-end color printer without which your output drastically diminishes). the location of your office (in terms of visibility and access from the . etc. installing equipment. rearranging furniture.

or that wonderful old shade tree just outside your window falls through your office. and the crime rate in your neighborhood. ! Think about how your office (and your home) looks when you’re away: Does it invite interest from potential intruders? ! Request a security audit by your local police department (often available at no expense) to get a professional and objective perspective. especially if you have co-workers. talk with your insurance agent regarding a rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. most such policies will not cover business equipment and property without a special provision. clients. Systems range from motion detectors that sound a local alarm to hard-wired motion and intrusion sensors that send a signal to a central security facility or directly to your local police. it may be advisable to install a security system in your office.Working Well with Tools and Technology 211 street). The additional cost is likely to be worth the investment in light of the value you stand to lose in the event of any unexpected unpleasantness. Don’t forget the basic security measures you should take (whether or not you have an installed security system): lock doors and windows. it would be handy to have property insurance for the contents of your office. use internal lights on timers and external lights activated by motion. Otherwise. or subcontractors visiting your home office.) ! Evaluate the security of your office and take immediate steps to retrofit locks on any doors or windows without adequate locks. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E . In the event that other protection measures fail. an act of God blows the roof off your house. ! Consider investing in a security system to provide the level of protection you need. (Don’t forget to also investigate additional insurance coverage you may require for liability. newspapers. and packages pile up at your door when you’re away. Your employer may be able to easily provide coverage against certain perils for the company-owned equipment in your home office. and don’t let mail. • Insurance.

etc. on airplanes.212 101 Tips for Telecommuters 100 So. or just about anywhere (if you’re not careful). or eventually depress you. Do You Really Need a Speakerphone in the Bathroom? There was a cartoon published a few years ago that depicted the typical “wired” businessperson on vacation at the beach. computer. commuting to work. the persistent and increasing level of interruptions could demotivate. during time with your family. relaxing. If you’re scrambling to determine which of your multiple pieces of wireless technology it is. there are some downsides you should be aware of and manage proactively. Here are some warning flags to look for: You’re in a restaurant or other public place and a cell phone or pager starts signaling. you may need to re-establish some new boundaries that . you’re probably packing too much technology for one person. If you find yourself yearning for the days when no one could communicate with you while you were on board an airplane. so you can still be technologically tethered on vacation. in your car. on the weekend. train. and computers are wireless. It’s not unusual for several people to begin checking their pockets or briefcases to see whether the signal is coming from their equipment. cellular phones. or enjoying an evening of Monopoly with your kids. You have a growing awareness of knots in your stomach or barely perceptible waves of anxiety activated by sounds of your technology interrupting you when you’re supposed to be away from work. What are the warning signs that you may be overdoing the use of technology in your work and your life? The key indicator is you. printer. PDAs. etc. Now. or ship. at a sporting event. discourage. on vacation. in your home. of course. spending time with friends or family. fax machine. completely tethered to all the equipment we thought would free us: telephone. for example) might be expected. While occasional interference (during the closing of the fiscal year or the critical phase of a major project. shopping. How do you determine when technology threatens your work/life balance? For all the advantages we gain from the gizmology that makes telecommuting possible. at social events.

use whatever technology makes your life simpler. All of this is very much a delicate balance in that your comfort with and acceptance of technology as an integral part of your work life is critical to your success as a telecommuter.” Your family or friends might wave a few warning flags of their own. go for it! Case in point: If you need a speakerphone in the bathroom. it’s time to take note. your clients. On the other hand. If the intrusion of technology in your life becomes detrimental to your personal relationships. However. don’t hesitate to install one! Yes. If you’re a highly motivated. you may just love having so much instant connection with your work. . I finally realized that: (1) this person’s behavior was not likely to change without some type of personality change. turn off the pager and cell phone at the end of the work day. more efficient. Of course. do not carry your PDA to the PTA meeting. it may be “overload” for those who love and care about you and a source of stress and anger for them. and your income opportunities. (2) I wasn’t in the personality counseling business and needed the contributions of this team member. and driven type of person. your co-workers. goal-focused. I productively completed my teeth/hair/make-up routine each morning to the accompaniment of those lengthy voice mail messages that were out of my in-box by the time I reached my office. or more fun. The speakerphone in my bathroom was the solution. Just be certain those technological tools that enable your success as a telecommuter do not also compromise your balance. I have one. After installing it.” For example. reevaluate your priorities and readjust your behavior. I don’t have speakerphones in every bathroom in my house. nor is it a technology tool necessary for most people under most circumstances.Working Well with Tools and Technology 213 are “technology proof. And unless you completely compartmentalize your life (not terribly feasible anyway). peace of mind. and have at least one vacation a year that’s “computer-free. more integrated. sense of satisfaction or primary relationships. By all means. It’s a vestige of my last corporate telecommuting stint when a member of my team persisted (in spite of requests and coaching to the contrary) in leaving inordinately long and detailed voice mail messages. technology really becomes part of your entire life. (3) it was up to me to find a way to work around this obstacle. if technology will truly help you.

emotional and psychological wellbeing—several thoughts come to mind. I’m struck by the reminiscent feeling of leaving my house early in the morning before the sun crested the horizon. T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E 101 Make Telecommuting Work Well for You When I reflect on why telecommuting has been so valuable to me— to my happiness. or retail outlets that cater to the technological needs of telecommuters.g. though. lighten your load when you’re away from the office. integrated digital phone/pager. virtual offices. knowing I wouldn’t return to my little sanctum of serenity until it was dark again. • Spend more time in my home. enriched and more multidimensional life. • Give up wearing the corporate “look” (in spite of the expense and hassle of it all). balanced. In those days BT (before telecommuting).. it was more subtle than that. or save you precious time? If you haven’t done so for a while. Initially. No. sense of balance. Web sites.214 101 Tips for Telecommuters Are you using technology to its best advantage in your life? Are there new or upgraded tools you can acquire (e. Assess your current technology needs and consider how new technology tools (or new ways of using your existing tools) can help you. or road warriors. PDA) that will simplify your life. browse through some catalogs. which seemed (when office days were combined with my travel days) more like a hotel than a place to nurture a full. I didn’t consciously yearn to: • Eliminate the commute (it’s something you just get used to and accept). Slowly I began to tire of the utter inefficiency of: . magazines.

This all led to my conviction that working from home was the solution. I believe the determination it takes emanates from a clear focus on what’s important in your life (Tip 2). make-up. too. My little sign summarizes my belief about your potential success as a telecommuter if you apply the knowledge available to you: ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE .Working Well with Tools and Technology 215 • My morning routine (hair. Was it easy? No! (Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!) I learned how to make telecommuting work for me through trial and error. I’ve also learned that you don’t have to make the mistakes and false starts I did. to (3) a determination to make a change and to craft a life that more appropriately integrated and balanced work with other priorities. suit/dress. jewelry). systems. You. can find ways to work from home successfully IF you have a determination to achieve telecommuting success and a plan to ensure your effectiveness. I moved from (1) growing dissatisfaction with the way work was integrated into my life (or. and assignments that required focused time. • LONG days in the office that seemed consistent primarily for the excessive number of meetings. messages. to (2) an awareness that something needed to change. Other skills. processes and procedures (Tips 4–100) enable your ability to support your determination and vision. • A fairly nonproductive commute time (although I made the best of it as I honed my mobile multi-tasking skills!). the way work consumed my life). Many of the secrets of telecommuting success can be shared. more pointedly. The combination of all of these is the key to your success as a telecommuter! A small sign sits on the windowsill next to my desk. and I moved in a direction that was more open to possibilities and opportunities for telecommuting. It has traveled with me through many jobs and has always been visible from the desk of any office I’ve occupied. At some indiscernible point. tools. interruptions and working lunches that left minimal time for handling the growing mounds of mail. and that led to the reason for this book. as well as a clear understanding of how to be successful in your job (Tip 3).

• Ready to begin telecommuting. • Already a telecommuter.216 101 Tips for Telecommuters Use the following TELECOMMUTING IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE according to your individual needs and circumstances. Use the Telecommuting Implementation Guide as a: • Tool to help you assess the steps you’ll need to take and resources you’ll need to become an effective telecommuter. • Template by which you can evaluate your current telecommuting practices and identify any areas of concern. • Start-up guide to “jump start” your telecommuting success. need or opportunity for improvement. T O I M P R O V E P E R F O R M A N C E T R A N S F E R I T P R O M P T L Y . Remember that few great things ever occur without a plan! If you are: • Thinking about becoming a telecommuter.

Your Telecommuting Success Potential Use the Telecommuter Self-Assessment Checklist (Tip 1) to identify any potential barriers. agreements between you and your employer should be thoroughly discussed and clearly documented. and satisfied as a telecommuter. Take measures to eliminate barriers and take action to ensure that all success factors are thoroughly addressed. competent. this guide will help you fine-tune your ability to become more focused. and confident telecommuter. If you have already begun telecommuting. or possible difficulties for you as a telecommuter (Personal Traits/Preferences) or in connection with your job (Job Appropriateness). The Telecommuting Agreement Whether you are persuading your employer to support your telecommuting arrangement (Appendix A) or you’re part of a corporate initiative that’s mandated the telecommuting program. It will assist you in identifying factors that contribute to your success as a telecommuter and in designing a plan to accelerate your move from telecommuting novice to being a highperforming. Issues that should be covered by the agreement include: 217 . efficient. areas of concern. effective. Evaluate the impact any obstacles may have on your effectiveness and satisfaction as a telecommuter. prosperous.Telecommuting Implementation Guide This guide is designed to help you achieve telecommuting efficiency and effectiveness.

etc. Frequency with which the employee will be in contact with the office via e-mail. voice mail. Communication Plans Alternative methods by which the employee will maintain communication with co-workers and others. post office box. and security features. . telephone installation and service. review results. On-site office inspections the employer will have the right to make. as well as any coverage the employee is expected to purchase. Limitations and rights associated with the telecommuting arrangement..) the employer will and will not reimburse in connection with telecommuting. Number of days the employee will telecommute. safety. equipment. Internet/cable connection fees. etc.218 101 Tips for Telecommuters Terms & Conditions Nature and scope of the telecommuting arrangement. Costs (e. or mailbox fees. Rights and limitations of workers’ compensation coverage for accidents in the home office. Clarification of the employee’s job function. Any minimum standards regarding office configuration.g. Hours of availability the employee will maintain in the off-site office. Specific days or number of days in an established timeframe that the employee will be in the main office or in a satellite office. title. Insurance coverage the employer will provide. Frequency with which the employee and supervisor will talk. including measurement methods and projected review dates. as well as a statement specifying that these are not altered by the telecommuting arrangement. meet face-to-face. compensation and benefits. Employee Expectations The employee’s specific and measurable accountabilities.

35. Also. The reasons and need for telecommuting Acceptance of the in-home office Location of the office Need for privacy and absence of distractions Handling of childcare Limitations on use of company equipment and materials Support for the telecommuting arrangement . and making a specific commitment to have follow-up discussions. including how such equipment should be procured. Your Family Agreements (Tips 31. and maintain. be sure to have clear agreements regarding the issues listed below. The plan for communicating the telecommuting arrangement to and securing commitments of cooperation from co-workers and support teams. reference materials. and support. provide and maintain at his/her own expense. discuss issues in a way that establishes openness in sharing feelings. flexibility. 47) Meet with your family to discuss reasons for your telecommuting arrangement.Telecommuting Implementation Guide 219 Type and frequency of meetings the employee will attend as a remote or on-site participant. Specifically. service. Ownership rights the employer maintains over equipment. asking for and responding to concerns. Specific equipment the employer will provide. Restrictions on the personal use of company equipment or supplies located in the employee’s home office. asking for agreement and commitment. Projected timeframe and process for review of the telecommuting arrangement and for making any necessary adjustments to the agreement. Equipment Specific equipment the employee will purchase. software. supplies. the nature of your work and your need for their cooperation. etc. seeking input and suggestions. 42. and how such property will be returned in the event of termination of employment. 44.

15. and your personal work style. your efficiency. 13. and supplies (Tips 83. 16) Consistent with zoning or lease limitations Adequate space Room to expand Adequate storage Separate from home area Sufficient distance from distractions and noise Comfortable and pleasant Excellent lighting Sufficient ventilation Adequate number of electrical circuits Layout to promote efficiency and smooth work flow Equipment. 88) Computer. Use this guide to select those tools and resources you need to support your job.220 101 Tips for Telecommuters Acceptance of the telecommuter’s presence in the home throughout the day Justification and process for interruptions Answering of phones Process for handling disagreements and concerns Office location and layout (Tips 12. Technology Resources (Tips 87. desktop Monitor Glare filter Mouse or trackball Port replicator/docking station High-speed modem Adapters (for car lighter or cell phone) Document holder Personal pager Fax machine (dedicated or multi-purpose) . your office. 85) Not all items listed below are applicable in every situation. furniture.

notebook Keyboard Printer(s) Scanner Zip drive External disk or CD-rom drive Surge protection/power strips Copier Personal digital assistant Calculator Equipment—Miscellaneous (Tips 89.Telecommuting Implementation Guide 221 Computer. 92) Telephones & accessories Lamps and lights Hole punch Pencil sharpener Disk and CD holders Flashlight White board or paper easel Rolodex Utility knife Paper shredder Headset Microcassette or small recorder Transcription machine Label maker Typewriter Paper cutter Letter opener Postage scale or meter Clocks Rulers Furniture (Tips 88. 93) Desk .

filing) Pens. or white board Supplies (Tip 85) Toner and ink cartridges File folders and labels. bulletin. and staple remover Paper and binder clips Self-stick notes (various sizes and colors) Rubber stamps Desk accessories and organizers Calendars Binders/folders . pencils. varied sizes Scissors Staplers.222 101 Tips for Telecommuters Computer work station Shelves Storage cabinet Carpeting Trash cans Chair File cabinets Bookcases Printer/fax/copier stands Chair/floor mats Cork. varied colors Labels (shipping. markers Tape. staples. various types with dispensers Rubber bands Paper weight Trash cans Paper towels/tissues Spare batteries Stamps Paper (various sizes and colors) Envelopes.

Appendices 223 .

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Appendix A

“Make a Case for Telecommuting” Guide
You may be interested in telecommuting and ready to experiment with it before your employer has given it much consideration. While this circumstance is not uncommon, you certainly can increase your odds of gaining approval for telecommuting by being uncommonly prepared in the way you propose and plan your telecommuting arrangement. Depending upon your company, your job, your boss, and the current state of business at your company, you may need to have several meetings with people from various departments, as well as numerous discussions with your boss. Bear in mind, also, that while your boss may be very supportive, you may need to supply additional information for your boss to use in persuading other managers or executives to approve your proposal. This may involve meetings, presentations, and written (as well as rewritten!) proposals. To streamline and focus your effort, use the following guidelines for exploring and initiating an implementation of telecommuting for your job. (Consult the addendum to this Appendix for additional information on the telecommuting trend.) 1. Plan and prepare with corporate benefits in mind Your “frame of reference” for your approach, rationale, and specific plans should be based on what’s in the best interest of your job, your manager, your company, and your customers. Therefore, while many of your reasons for wanting to telecommute might be personal and relate to advantages you and your family will realize, it’s critical that you focus on the numerous advantages telecommuting also offers your employer, such as: • Increased productivity • Lower real estate space costs 225

226

101 Tips for Telecommuters

• Reduced equipment/furniture costs • Reduced employee turnover • Reduced absenteeism • Increased customer satisfaction • Improved morale • Improved work/life balance • Legislative compliance • More recruitment options • Results-oriented management • Effective use of meetings • Increased flexibility • Increased employment of women • Increased employment of disabled workers • Reduced travel costs • Access to part-time or retired employees • Competitive advantages • Access to additional labor pools to address skill shortages Tailor the benefits you present to the specific needs of your employer, citing corporate initiatives and “hot buttons” that are addressed by telecommuting. Where possible, provide specific examples of projected cost savings, comparative advantages realized by similar organizations, or detailed examples of ways productivity measures will improve as a result of telecommuting for your job. If there are particular problems your company currently is facing (e.g., shortage of space) that telecommuting can impact immediately and directly, be sure to highlight these. At a minimum, you should be able to cite specific improvements in productivity that will result and translate these into a dollar amount your employer can expect to save. (Consult Appendix B for research resources available through various Web sites.) 2. Explain why you will be an effective telecommuter Provide a list of personal traits for telecommuting success (Tip 1) and review how you meet the criteria. Explain in detail why you are

“Make a Case for Telecommuting” Guide

227

a good candidate for telecommuting. You can include some of your personal reasons for wanting to telecommute, although your primary emphasis should remain on the business reasons and advantages telecommuting offers the business enterprise. 3. Explain how you will make telecommuting work Describe in detail how you will handle your: • Major job accountabilities • Daily tasks • Key co-worker relationships • Interactions previously handled as face-to-face Provide a detailed summary of your: • Projected daily schedule • Measurable results and methods to report achievement of goals on a routine basis • Alternative methods for keeping in touch and maintaining your accessibility to co-workers, managers, vendors, and clients • Support from other departments and functions from whom you’ve secured commitment (e.g., information systems/computer support, telecommunications, real estate, human resources/ personnel, marketing, accounting) • Location and layout of the home office space you will use • Plan for handling childcare, family care and other family-related issues • Projected equipment needs (and estimated costs for equipment/supplies to be provided by your employer) 4. Suggest a telecommuting pilot If your boss or others are not ready to “take the plunge” and approve your permanent transition to telecommuting, propose a telecommuting pilot to gather more information, uncover unexpected problems, and identify additional ways to enhance productivity. For example, you might suggest that you telecommute one day each week for two months. Be sure, however, to have the pilot details

228

101 Tips for Telecommuters

clearly documented, as well as an agreement on the criteria for evaluating success of the pilot. Your pilot proposal should include any projected costs (e.g., phone line installation or phone expenses for use of your home phone line, purchase or loan of a notebook computer, etc.). Bear in mind that any pilot program, while measures may be clearly established, may give you less than stellar results. While it may be appropriate for your employer not to make any major investments in equipment, systems, training, or communication, this also will negatively impact the pilot results. For example, remote access to your corporate network or server may be cumbersome and may negatively impact your projected productivity improvements. Consider these factors when evaluating pilot results and use them as instructive points in the proposed design for your proposed telecommuting plan. At the conclusion of the telecommuting pilot, present the results by reviewing the established criteria and measurements, any obstacles or concerns, and any unexpected results. Revise your original proposal and plan to resubmit or re-present it with the inclusion of pilot results. If the pilot achieved acceptable results and/or affordable solutions to overcome obstacles can be proposed, make a formal request for approval of an expanded or permanent telecommuting arrangement.

The number of people who telecommute continues to increase each year. throughout the United States employ more than 11 million telecommuters. TELECOMMUTING CONTINUUM Informal Part-time Telecommuting Telecommuting Hoteling Telecenter Telecenter/ Telecommute Full-time Telecommuting 229 . including full-time and part-time home-based business owners. both large and small.Addendum to Appendix A The Telecommuting Trend As a telecommuter. There is a continuum of options available to individuals and organizations that want to realize the benefits of telecommuting. Organizations. you’re part of one of the most significant and exciting trends impacting the workplace. What Is Telecommuting? Telecommuting redefines the workplace to enable people to work from home or from other locations during a portion of the work week. at home or other remote locations. as well as telecommuters. Recent studies estimate there are now more than 50 million home-based workers. A wide range of organizations are actively utilizing telecommuting as both an alternative and an enhancement to traditional approaches to conducting business. This range of options takes into consideration amounts of time spent working in an office.

Your “on-site” time as a telecommuter can involve a range of options that may include work days in the corporate office.).g. and assistance from a “concierge” for scheduling and coordination of on-site support. These arrangements can be structured to involve specific telecommute days (e. Also. With hoteling. Part-time telecommuters blend their on-site work days with work-at-home days. Some organization and branches of the federal government have established telecenters. avoid a major traffic or weather obstacle. The range of services may include personalized phone extensions to which your calls are automatically transferred. laptop computers. many people routinely work at home in the evenings or on weekends just to “catch up” or keep on top of time-sensitive projects. etc. a vendor site. and less reliance on a home-based work arrangement. many organizations are opting to utilize hoteling or other alternative officing arrangements to support telecommuters. with the increase in telecommuting and the imperative to curtail spiraling real estate costs. personal files that are moved into your temporary office on the days you’re scheduled to be there. usually telecommuting only a day every week or two. a conference room at an airport. Some telecommuters combine their work-at-home days with on-site days at the telecenter. However. providing even greater flexibility by blending the telecenter/telecommute options.g. and cellular phones has facilitated this dynamic (or this intrusion. you may work at home occasionally (e..230 101 Tips for Telecommuters If you’re an informal telecommuter. The expanded use of voice mail. There may be a dedicated office space for you in the traditional workplace.. e-mail. Although the balance between on-site work days and home- . a field office. telecommuters have a temporary office available for their use while in the office. or some other remote location. team interaction opportunities. as some might think). These afford workers the opportunity to minimize commuting time to corporate offices while offering the advantages of shared facilities. when you need to be there to meet a service provider. every other Friday) or can be variable. there’s an undeniable increase in work-related activity occurring in our homes during nonwork hours. such as your “cube” at corporate. depending upon individual and organizational needs. tend to a sick child. Nevertheless. a client site. which often serve as regional or suburbanbased work hubs.

full-time telecommuters are typically those for whom the home office is their primary work location (that is. writing/communications specialists. trainers. phone calls. and data processing staff. faxes. perhaps. and voice mail. full-time telecommuting is very rare and difficult. and skills: • Planning and organizing abilities • Time management skills . some face-to-face meetings). Telecommuters and the organizations with which they work take advantage of available technology to supplement face-to-face meetings with other creative ways to meet the needs of the organization. administrative support. professional line staff. Determining who the right people are and developing their skills for telecommuting are the key differentiators in a highly successful telecommuting program. successful telecommuters typically possess the following characteristics. research analysts. the positions or job categories most typically involved in telecommuting include: computer professionals. and customers. receive mail. These telecommuters. sales representatives.Addendum to Appendix A 231 based work days may find some telecommuters working primarily from home. along with others who work from home less frequently. participate in virtual meetings and. Those who successfully telecommute have a unique combination of motivation and skills that are critical to their success as telecommuters. traits. employees. don’t function in isolation. successful telecommuting programs ensure that the right PEOPLE are selected. customer service. On-site meetings and face-to-face interactions are still a necessary part of work. Few jobs are conducive to practically no on-site time or interaction opportunities with co-workers. Beyond identifying the right JOBS for telecommuting. In reality. writers. According to the experiences of numerous organizations. While there are hundreds of corporate job titles that are applicable. and telecommuters are simply more selective about when such “live” interactions are essential. Who Telecommutes? The types of job areas conducive to telecommuting are varied and continually expanding. management. where they typically do their work.

Distance managing requires so many of the skills and abilities that are critical to the evolving role of manager/supervisor to leader/coach. family. etc. prospective telecommuters should think twice about telecommuting if they: • Have high affiliation needs • Must be in an “office” to be motivated to work • Are easily distracted by household demands (tasks. software. traits. there are usually telemanagers.232 101 Tips for Telecommuters • Independence (works successfully without close supervision) • Low affiliation needs • Strong communication skills (written and verbal) • Supportive family/home environment • Self-motivated • Self-disciplined • Strong performance record • Technical ability/high job knowledge • Strong work ethic • Computer proficiency (hardware. peripherals) In addition to fitting this typical profile.) • Do not have a supportive/cooperative family situation • Do not have reliable child care arrangements during work hours Wherever there are telecommuters. keep in mind the following characteristics. If you are functioning as a telemanager. and skills that will contribute to your effectiveness: • Performance management based on results • Effective interpersonal communication (face-to-face and via technology) • Honor commitments (face-to-face or phone meetings) • Effective coaching/feedback skills • Relationships built on mutual trust • Planning and organizing • Openness to change • Computer proficiency .

. Therefore. and family imperatives will foster the expansion of telecommuting as a viable work option. supported by the phenomenal increase in availability of cost-effective technology. social. is a workplace alternative that is here to stay. legislative. organizations that want to prosper and people who want to maintain their proficiency will learn how to make telecommuting work well.Addendum to Appendix A 233 • Ability to effectively telecommute or understand the basic criteria for successful telecommuting Making Telecommuting Work Telecommuting. The convergence of economic.

com HOAA@aol.com 800.5588 52 Stonebriar Drive Nepean.547.809. Ontario.Appendix B Telecommuting Resource Guide Inclusion of resources and information in this guide does not imply an endorsement by either the publisher or the author. DC 20002 Canadian Telecommuting Association www.6157 204 E.html yourATA@aol. Associations American Telecommuting Association www. N.225. NY 10028-0082 International Telework Assocation and Council www. Canada K2G 5X9 234 .com/ata-tai. Box 806 New York.4968 Home Office Association of America www.knowledgetree.Ivc.E.ca 613.telecommute.com 202. Washington.com 800. Street.282.hoaa.4622 10 Gracie Station.org TAC4DC@aol.ca info@ivc.

com Telecommute www.547.com prusso@mfi.about.office Conference & Exposition www.org TAC4DC@aol.com 724.telecommutemagazine.com info@telecommutemagazine.com 202.942.934.org 800.apple.Telecommuting Resource Guide 235 Newsletters/Magazines Home Office Computing www.com Conferences alt.altoffice.telecommuting.9349 ® The Disability Connection www.telecommute.allearnatives.4978 Telework America www.telecommute.com 800.com info@allearnatives.6157 On-line Resources and Web Sites For telecommuters and home-based workers: ALLearnatives www.smalloffice.com Telecommuting www.com/education/k12/disability .com Home Office Connections www.hoaa.1314 International Telework Association & Council (ITAC) Conference www.950.com The Telecommuting Review www.gilgordon.

Inc.com 888.353.346.com 303.langhoff.com 954.756.org Telecommuting Success.com 732.telsuccess.com 914.gilgordon. www.com jeff@goinsoho.7165 .com 310.com/telecommutesafe rijohnso@orednet.com gilgordon@compuserve. Inc.com 530.com info@telsuccess.255.chiefhomeofficer.netcom. www.com/dfleming dfleming@mother.476.workingsolo.236 101 Tips for Telecommuters Fleming LTD www.teleworker. Inc.329.jala.com office@workingsolo.4393 JALA International.gilgordon. www.2266 Goin’ SOHO! www.3703 June Langhoff’s Telecommuting Resource Center www.com tai@teleworkers.com Telecommuting Safety & Health Benefits Institute www.660.6430 Gil Gordon Associates www.8135 TELEWORKanalytics international.9496 Working Solo.mother.com jala@ix. inc www.

warrior.about.tjobs.com 800.553.onelook.com www.staples.com www.thelist.com 800.fedex.com/mobileletter.com www.officedepot.htm Office Supplies/Services Kinko’s www.4MBE 888.PICK-UPS 800. Office Depot Pitney Bowes OfficeMax Staples www.fedstats.Telecommuting Resource Guide 237 For road warriors: efax.hoovers.airborne.com www.com www. www.html Road Warrior International For telecommuting job seekers: Telecommuting Jobs The Mining Co.dhl.infoplease.refdesk.283.oeo.789.com 800.officemax.com www. Postal Service www.com www.CALL-DHL www.com www.7674 Express/Shipping Services Airborne Express Federal Express U.ups.com 800.S.com/msub3.5Pitney 800.com www.com 800.mobileinsights.mobilecomputing.GO-DEPOT 800.com Mobile Computing Mobile Insights www.com www.com OneLook Dictionaries Internet Service Providers .AIRBORNE 800.kinkos.usps.telecommuting.com/soho www.2KINKOS 800.com www.3STAPLE Office Equipment Outlet www.GoFedEx DHL Worldwide Express United Parcel Service Information Services Federal government statistics Information Please Roget’s Thesaurus Hoover’s Virtual Reference Desk www.com www.efax.mbe.com www.gov www.2112 Mailboxes Etc.com www.gov www.pitneybowes.thesaurus.

by Joel Kugelmass (Lexington Books. by Mike Johnson (Butterworth-Heinemann. Your Work. 1995) Teleworking: In Brief. (Peterson Guides. by Jack M. 1996) Home but Not Alone: The Parents’ Work-At-Home Handbook. 1998) The Joy of Working from Home. 1998) Work-at-Home Balancing Act: The Professional Resource Guide for Managing Yourself. et al. by Lisa Shaw (John Wiley & Sons. (John Wiley & Sons. et al. Kanarek (Blakely Press. by Alice Bredin. Inc. by Jeffery D. 1998) Organizing Your Home Office for Success.. by George M. by Nancy J. 1998) Telecommute! Go to Work Without Leaving Home. 1998) The Home Office Solution: How to Work at Home & Have a Personal Life Too. by June Langhoff (Aegis Publishing. (John Wiley & Sons. by Katherine Murray (Jist Works. 1997) Flexible Work. 1995) . Zbar (Upstart Publishing. by Sunny Baker. by Lisa A. Piskurich (American Society for Training & Development. by Sandy Anderson (Avon Books. 1996) Telecommuting: A Manager’s Guide to Flexible Work Arrangements.238 101 Tips for Telecommuters Additional Reading About Telecommuting and Home-based Work Digital Nomad. 1997) Home Office Know-How. et al. 1998) An Organizational Guide to Telecommuting. 1998) The Ultimate Home Office Survival Guide. Nilles (John Wiley & Sons. by Meredith Gould (Storey Books. 1996) The Telecommuter’s Advisor: Working in the Fast Lane. 1997) Tips for Your Home Office (Enhancing Your Life at Home). Struck (Crisp Publications Inc. by Jeff Berner (Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 1994) Managing Telework : Strategies for Managing the Virtual Workforce. by Edna Murphy (Prentice Hall.. 1998) Working Smarter from Home: Your Day—Your Way. by Tsugio Makimoto.

77 “isolation busters”. 119–120. 6–9 associations isolation. office security. 173–175 office systems. 81–82 accessibility communicating your. 190 239 . 104–106 activities assessing rate of return. 195–196 service providers. 122 office sharing. Internet access. 95 Telecommuting Implementation Guide. 115 entertaining children. 193–195. 147–151 shared office space. 192 appreciation good performance. 111–112 Telecommuting Resource Guide. distractions. 168–170 networking. 152–153 live interactions. office. 184–186 Internet options. 147–148 telephone options. 234–235 asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL). 130 establishing clear. 217–218 airphone. 208 analysis computer system. 142–146 telephone systems. contracts and agreements. 104–106 assessment. 125–126 performance measurement. telephone features. 206–208 tools for improving. 27–28 ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line). 152–153 automatic redial. official office. 56–57 learning to say “No”.Index absence. 15–16 service providers. leave of. 205 office equipment. purchasing. bartering. 107 good performance. 137 performance goals. 159–162 service providers. 126–128 family negotiations. 151 support staff. 123–124 privacy. 135–136 activity creep. 138 agent. controlling. 35–36 administrivia. 108–109 accounting. 162–163 acknowledgments co-workers. 91–92 telephone equipment. 189–192 answering systems messages. 163 conflict resolution. 142–146 agreements bartering. 67–69 legal assistance. Internet access. 151 support staff. 205 advertising. 41–42 attorney. 19–20 address. self. 205 attire. 159–162 service providers. accessibility. 122 distance delegation.

205 calendaring delegated projects. 84 “How Goes It” meetings. 145 . 168 office safety. 137 family. 107.240 Index back-up childcare arrangements. 175–178 service providers. 142 balance accessibility and privacy. 193–194 telephone services. identifying. 191 call timer. communication with your. 45–46 broadband. corporate. 118 file locations. 96–97 improving accessibility. office attire. 208 boss. 55–57 technology use. 212–214 work breaks. 74–76 in the office. 47 guilt feelings. 103–104 boundaries between life and work. 40–41 self-assessment. Internet access. 190 caller ID interruptions. 207 chairs. 109–111 support service providers. 108 telephone features. 77–81 telephones. 212–213 breaks distractions. office. back-up options. 68 follow-up. 54 personal health. 73 isolation. 51–53 snack. 120–122 resentment resolution. telephone features. 195–196 children and work. 25–26 call forwarding accessibility. 106–107 resentment resolution. 71–72 energy patterns. 7–9 “Chicken Little”. 89–90 technology proof. 52–53 work and other priorities. 113–114 cellular phone accessibility. 167 tracking systems. 190 career. 109–111 communication airphone. 23 multi-tasking. 147–148 support services. 62–64. 90–92 real-time. 191 call waiting. 225–226 boss. 175–178 children childcare options. 7–9 bartering. 214–215 workaholism. 108–109 interruptions. 91 clothing. 123–124 follow-up. 47 motivation. 28 office systems. 20–22 barriers. services. 41–42 co-workers distance dialog. 74–75 e-mail. 193–195 business calls. 162–163 benefits. management. telephone services. 91 telephone system back-up. 116 office sharing. 231–232 telemanager. 103–104 co-workers. 89–90 isolation. 176–177 travel technology. 198–199 characteristics telecommuter. 136–138 relationships. 56 phone lines. 79–81 energy patterns. 232–233 checklist family expectations.

trust relationships. legal assistance. performance measurement criteria. 153 distractions minimization of. 83–84 data. 157 consistency. 190–191 conflict resolution. telephone equipment. 38–39 system analysis.Index 241 technology talk. selection. 36–37 organizational. eating habits. 190 back-up options. 60 evaluation. 191 cords electrical. 235 conferencing equipment. 173–175 outsourcing. videoconferencing equipment. 44–46 disputes. 148–149 crisis. 203 computer auto-dialing. 168–170 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 187–188 cordless phones. 154–155 service providers. 144 telephone services. 143–146 requirements. 93 time management. 184–186 Telecommuting Implementation Guide. 143–146 power supply. 218–219 videoconferencing. 152–153 copiers evaluating. 27 outsourcing. 176 retention. 228 desk. 57–59 e-mail back-up options. 28. 192 costs office technology. 116–117 virtual meetings. 24. 27–28 deadlines follow-up. 237 design office. proactive expectation setting. 176–177 compatibility. handling agreement. 36–39 pilot proposals. organization. 200–201 compatibility. 183 selection. distance. 154 service providers. 185–186 interior designers. telecommuting. 35–36 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 227 diet. 117 documentation. 130–132 voice mail. 15–16 documents back-up options. 182–183 telephone. 177 . 101–102 consultants computer. 71–72 office location. 95 telephone calls. 167 service providers. 19–20 virtual interaction. 122–124 deliveries office address. 128–130 service providers. 220–221 conferences networking. 186–187 details service providers. 33–34 shared office space. 86–88. 156–157 continuum. 148–151 delegation. 203 virtual interaction skills. 118–120 Telecommuting Implementation Guide. 148–151 telecommuting proposals. 229–231 contracts.

210 focus interruptions. 81–82 electricity office safety. 178–181 office chairs. 74–79. 95 express services office address. 198–199 erranding efficient. 144–146 See also systems exercise. 13–15 follow-up. 188 gifts for good performance. 9 negotiating agreements. 179. 137 energy. 104–106 goal setting systems. 46–48 entrepreneurs. office. 9 equipment capabilities. 54 etiquette. options. 138 terminated. 118–120 evaluation performance. 210 office. 159–162 service providers. planning for. 124–126. office chairs. 67–69 Telecommuting Implementation Guide. 15–16 goals . 143–146 maintenance and protection. 60 multi-tasking. 182–183 surge protection. 231 furnishings. 207–208 eldercare. 162–163 reimbursable. patterns. 17–18 work focus. 218 proactive crisis management. skills. 120 filing systems efficiency. 151 support staff. networking. 31–32. office. 60 office. 142–144 tracking office. 186–187 Telecommuting Implementation Guide.242 Index e-mail (continued) technology talk. technology talk. “The Brand Called You”™. technology talk. 166–168 full-time telecommuter. 221 furniture office. 198–199 office desk. 134–136 maintaining your. 221 technology. 176–177 equipment selection. 118–120 traveling. isolation. 35–36 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 137 required services. 219–220 Fast Company. 237 extended care. 50–51 expectations employee. electronic tools. 221–222 gadgets. 57–59 tracking shared office. evaluation checklist for office. 210 employees recruiting. 187 faxing. 219–222 See also tools ergonomics. 81 eldercare. 208–209 back-up options. 111–113 environment. 81–82 evaluation checklist. 63 fax machine alternative printer. 83–84 expenses bartering. health. 37. 81–82 family childcare. 27–28 fire safety. 48–49. 209 evaluation. 173–175 Telecommuting Implementation Guide.

trust relationships. 81–82 office environment. 173–175 hiring on-site team members. 114–116 learning to say “No” to requests for. 156–157 virtual meetings. capturing your. 138 integrated services digital network (ISDN). 225–228 Telecommuting Implementation. 47–48 family care responsibilities. Telecommuting Resource Guide. 158 help asking for. 125–126 grapevine conflict situations. 107 Internet services provider choices. 138 home office. 205 integrity. See office hoteling. Internet access. 204–205 . 116–117 Internet access options. 151 informal telecommuter. 205 service reliability. 196–198 health eating habits. 129–130 staying connected. scheduling meetings. 88–90 habits eating.Index 243 communicating your. alternative office space. 117 establishing. virtual. 121–122 relationships with service providers. 18. 104 office power safety. minimizing. 129–130 evaluating office technology. 136–138 performance evaluation. 185 insurance home office. 102 work. 216–222 Telecommuting Resource. 190. 77–79 computer system analysis. 27–28 information services. 44–46 establishing trust. 230 information. 25–26 incentives celebrating successes. management. defined. 137–138 “How Goes It” meetings. 135–136 wanted ads and office security. 124–126 real-time communication. 43–44 headsets. 133–134 See also rules guilt. 184–186 conflict resolution. 96–97 ideas. 205 learning to say “No”. computer system. 97 interaction with co-workers. 237 installation. 234–236 guidelines children in the office. 230 “How Goes It?”. 112–113 guide “Make a Case for Telecommuting”. 38–41 Rule of Mom. 41 office contents and liability. service from. 182–183 office sharing. telephone equipment. 51–53 hell. 44–46 energy patterns. 101–102 interaction. 211 shared office space. 50–51 work breaks. 135–136 meetings with your boss. 61–62 motivational rewards. 20 service providers.

27–28 performance. 168–170 career management. learning to say. 204–205 job categories. 111–113 partnerships. 237 management avoiding crisis. 237 legal. 29–30 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 62–64. 67–69 service providers. 204–206 options. 15–16 meetings “How Goes It”. 86 telephone features. Telecommuting Resource Guide. 96–97 virtual. 231 ISP (Internet Service Provider). 138 newsletters. 190 messages. 184 motivation maintaining your. 113–114 follow-up. telephone features. 178 MUTE multi-tasking. 235 mail equipment. 212–214 ISDN (integrated services digital network). 169 measurement. focus. 152–153 liability. productivity. 205 isolation associations. job performance. 108 focus. 72–73 shared office space. 166–168 information. perception. 231–232 checklist for appropriateness. 93 work and privacy. 35–36 procesing. 83–84 career. 13–15 litmus test. 124–126. 32 multi-tasking. 130–134 with your boss. Internet access. 235 “No”. 89 magazines. 77 negotiations bartering. 54 pets in the office. 134–136 . 144 erranding. office system reliability. answering machine. 49 office address. 114 effective. 195–196 caller ID. 22–23 office location.244 Index Internet Service Provider (ISP). 103–104 memory dial. 53–55 Murphy’s Law. 91–92 modems Internet access. contracts and agreements. Telecommuting Resource Guide. reliability. 95 telephone calls. 211 life. 148–151 networking associations. 191 using. insurance. 55–57 full-time telecommuter. 162–163 workshops as tools for. 218 See also time management marketing bartered services. 204–205 interruptions accessibility. 134–136 rules for justifiable. 8–9 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 164–165 recruiting employees. 137 telecommuting employees. 168–170 balance. 163 family. reliability.

137 Telecommuting Implementation Guide. 178–181. 195–196 travel technology.Index 245 “no surprises”. 138 grapevine connections. 24–26 organizations networking. 145–146 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 8 Peters. 234–235 OSHA. 24 pets. protecting your data. 169 networking. 85–86 . 112–113 insurance. 25–26 number dialed display. 178–181. 175–178 chairs. travel technology. 9 expense tracking. 137 measurement of job. 149–151 performance evaluation. 230 partners. 154–155 pagers accessibility. 221 equipment analysis. 37. 94–96. 90–92 work schedule. 186–189. 150–151 Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). 146–148 sharing. 164–165 service provider relationships. 69 systems for taking. Tom. 7–9 office address options. 38. self-assessment checklist. 60 location. 27 alternative spaces to the traditional. 207 part-time telecommuter. 27–28 office. 111–112 Telecommuting Resource Guide. external. 137–138 services/products expectations. 76–77 childproofing the. 230 back-up systems. early identification of. 103 notes erranding. 173–175 evaluation checklist. telephone features. 124–126. 220–221 telephone rules. 198–199 childcare at work. assessing your need for. 156–157 passwords. 142–146 safety. 78–79 design. 58–59 furnishings. 35–36 administrivia. 141–142 partnerships associations. 49 family agreements. 207 penalties. 28 patterns. 21. travel technology. Telecommuting Resource Guide. 101–102 office supplies. 237 online support services. working with. 46–48 PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). 149–151 unsatisfactory service. 191 obstacles. energy. defined. 15–16 service providers. 30–34 organization. 211 interior design. 38–41 security. 39–41 outsourcing. 36–37 equipment. safety standards. 221 furniture. 24–25 purchasing agent. 207 personality. 235 organization information. 31–32. 221–222 government restrictions. nonperformance. meetings with the boss.

225–228 providers. evaluating need for. 15–16 life-focus. 62–64. 166–168 job. staying on track for. 181 . 43–44 profile telecommuter. 90–93 procrastination associations. 135–136 promotions. 113–114 daily action. 174–175 reading. 170 avoiding. 85–86 service providers. 210 printer back-up options. 151. 208–209 portable. 215–216 support services. 189–192 work habits. 231 telemanager. 107 service providers. telephone answering. telecommuting proposals. 48–49 family and work. 143–146 publications. 79–81 daily. 182–183 surge protection. 227–228 planning career. 142–146 choice of source. 4–5 privacy. 29–30 recognition co-workers. 159–160 shared office space. employees. 232–233 projects follow-up. 175–178 pet ownership. 178–181 office space. 96–97 procedures. 53–55 office attire. 166–168 learning to say “No” to requests for special. 44–46 office. retention schedule. 164–165 refrigerator eating habits. 195–196 problem solving. 57–59 recruiting. 69–70. mail. 104–106 records. 17–18 establishing trust. 74–76. 29–30 tip reading. 150–151 evaluating office technology. 14–15 office furnishings.246 Index pilot. external partner network. Telecommuting Resource Guide. 133–134 virtual meetings. 207 priorities balancing work and other. 137–138 success. 32 office system back-up. 113–114 proposal. 138 referrals. 81–82 follow-up. 142 telecommuting proposals. 135–136 multi-tasking. 144 power supply office safety. 20–22. 17–18 erranding. 42 telephone equipment and accessories. 22–23 productivity learning to say “No”. 159–162 support staff. 131–134 postage meters. support service. 101–102 identification. 214–215 children and work. 13–15 mail processing. 225–228 videoconferencing. accessibility. “How Goes It” meetings. “Make a Case for Telecommuting” guide. 235 purchasing acting your own agent. 176 fax machine as alternative. 6–7.

distance delegation. 101–102 videoconferencing. 128–130 resources equipment requirements. documents. 118 shared office space. 210–211 service providers partnerships with. 206–209 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 57–59 energy patterns. 122 systems. 158 for productive meetings. 160–162 motivational. 122 resolution of co-worker. 144 support services. 72–73 of moderation. 156–157 shared office space. 103–104 co-workers. 130–132 simplification and time-saving. 237 rules in-office behavior of children. 49 resolving conflicts in your. 69–70 office sharing. 182–183 schedule document retention. 78–79 office. 25–26 resentment accessibility. 57–59 rewards celebrating successes. 101–102 reminders. 50–51. 44 performance management. trust relationships. 109–111 resolution. 114 establishing. conflict. 158–160 support services. 126 performance measures. 86–88. 213 trust. 138 service providers. 92–94 screening potential office mates. 58 “How Goes It” meetings. 188–189 using outside. 95–96 suppliers. 70 for good work. 210 power supply. 164–165 new habit. 18. 92–94 responsibility. 148–149 . 38–41 office fires. end-of-day. 137 partnerships with service providers. 144–148 security e-mail. 150–151 quality standards. 78–79 interruptions. 137–138 systems. 173–175 technology intrusion. 96–97 interim reports. 59–60 telephone use. 61–62 family participation. 115–116 respect career management. 123–124 retention. 47–48 expense reports. 203 reliability.Index 247 relationships boss. 43–44 of Mom. 123–124 mail pick-ups. 28. 141–142 support staff. 159–162 work breaks. 106–107 family and work. 20 network referrals. 104–106 with technology. 90–92 See also guidelines safety childproofing the office. 28. 25–26 work. 23 rituals. 156–157 performance standards. 34 road warriors technology for. systems. 16 service providers. 141–142 technological tools. 151.

183 systems answering. 119–120 skills bartering. 35–36 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 167 office equipment and supplies. 142–146 office organization. quality of service providers. 91–92 back-up office. 123–124 development. 33–34 space alternatives to traditional office. 129–130 delegation. 37. 123–124 computer. 25 speakerphones special locations. 155 support. 179–181 Telecommuting Implementation Guide. 215–216 suppliers external partner network. 27–28 follow-up. 222 support. 144–148 services bartering. 124–126 . 151 selecting. 116–117 conflict resolution. 25–26. 94–96. 28 storms. 162–163 legal. 231 telemanager. 69–70 support services bartering. 9 interior design. 190 standards. 181 software. 164–165 relationships with. 132–134 snack breaks.248 Index service providers (continued) rewards. electrical. 84 telecommuter. 220 office sharing. family. 62–64 follow-up. 36–37. 104–106 surge protectors. office space. 60 office. 230 evaluation checklist. 237 sharing. 136–138 shipping office address. 141–142 support staff. 86–88 minimizing. 190 speed dialing. 237 signature stamp. 31–32 office layout. 147–148 supplies office. 217 keys to. 114 stress reduction. 213 telephone equipment. 136–138 utilization. appreciation. 163 expectations. 175–178 calendaring. office. 182–183 office technology. 166–168 promotion opportunities. 232–233 virtual meeting. 83–84 success assessing your potential. 158–160 specifications. 148–149 storage. 173–175 performance review. legal documents. 141–148 Telecommuting Resource Guide. 24–25 office power supplies. 57–59 filing. e-mail. 155 providers. 45–46 office supplies. record retention. 162–163 communication. 184–186 expense tracking. 152–153 soundproofing. telephone features. power supply safety. 146–148 outsourcing. 152–153 outsourcing. 183 stress disagreement resolution.

60 expenses. Fast Company. 189–192 tests. perspective litmus. 131–132 your relationship with. 90–92 back-up options. 125–126 shared office space expenses. 186–189 telephone equipment. 191 time management calendar systems. 137–138 networking. 232–233 telephone accessibility via. 49 multi-tasking. alternatives to traditional office space. 103 time display. 197 for improving accessibility. 230 telecommuter. using. 216–222 Resource Guide. 21 TIP2. “Make a Case for”. 156–157.Index 249 scheduling. 71–72 efficiency. 176 cellular phones. 162–163 teamwork accessibility. 17–18 tools basic office. 77. 104–106 trust relationships. 25–26 security. 46–48 mail. 173–175 telecenters. 108–109 accessories. 29–30 office organization. 22–23 videoconferencing. 57–59 performance evaluation. 101–102 virtual meetings. 3–4 to do list. 59–60 taxes. 202–203 work simplification. 131–132 technology accessibility and privacy. 195–196 balancing use of. 52–53 for workaholics. 95 training skills development. 178–181 electronic specialty. 54. 62–64 videoconferencing. 193. 89 “The Brand Called You”™. daily. 108–109 marketing. 234–236 telemanager. 54 MUTE button. 188 headsets. 91 children in the office. profile. 95 in special locations. 226–227 . 39. “no surprises”. bartering. 109 co-worker resentment resolution. 111–113 service providers. 109–111 hiring on-site team members. 144 erranding. 19–20. 212–214 meetings. 26 office furnishings. 24–25 work breaks. 60 energy level patterns. 63 theories. 189–192 See also equipment tracking delegated projects. 25 daily plan. profile. 17–18 distractions. 169 note taking. 159 support staff. 210–211 telephone. 213 system analysis. 203 traits personal. 76–77 equipment. 225–228 Implementation Guide. 86 shared office expenses. 189–192 answering procedures. 92–93 answering rules. 123–124 efficiency. 189–192 tracking. 231 Telecommuting. telephone features.

telephone features. 81–82 schedule. 47–48 interruption rules. 192 visibility. 92–94. office system back-up options. 169–170 wardrobe. 169 . 72–73 leave of absence. Telecommuting Resource Guide. 101–102 simplification.250 Index traits (continued) telecommuter. 210 web sites. 176–178 work checklist for appropriateness. 74–75 children in the office. 118–120 telephone equipment. balance. 190 while traveling. 133–134 video phone. 231 telemanager. 202–203 trends. 193 training. 200–201 technology talk. 101–102 videoconferencing systems. 113–114 voice mail communication tools. 114 establishing. equipment. 43 “What If”. 8–9 childcare and. 59–60 workaholism. 207 volume control. maintaining. 76–81 energy patterns. associations. 92–94 relationships. 191 volunteering. Mae. 232–233 travel computer equipment. as marketing tools. 229 trust career management. telephone equipment. 20–22 workshops. 41–42 warrantees. 206–208 videoconferencing. 184 expense tracking. 235–237 West. 202–203 virtual meetings. workplace. 58 technology that keeps you connected. office attire.

Dinnocenzo to found ALLearnatives®. a worldwide sales performance and training company and a division of Times Mirror. #201 Wexford. Dinnocenzo resides in Pittsburgh. Her involvement in remote work and distance learning has spanned 20 years and involved work with groundbreaking technologies such as the electronic blackboard to more sophisticated videoconference applications.About the Author Debra A. Dinnocenzo has managed sales forces and marketing departments in both traditional corporate settings and as a telemanager. Dinnocenzo is a veteran telecommuting executive with nearly 10 years of firsthand experience as both a telecommuter and telemanager. While telecommuting.com E-mail: info@allearnatives.9349 Fax: 724. In 1997 she was awarded runner-up honors in the Home Sweet Home-Office Contest sponsored by Sales & Marketing Management magazine.934.TipsForTelecommuters. she was senior vice president of marketing for Learning International.934. Her experience in telecommuting led Ms. Ms.com Telephone: 724. For more information about the services and capabilities of ALLearnatives®. telemanagers. and other home-based workers.9348 Address: ALLearnatives® 10592 Perry Highway. Ms. PA 15090 USA . Pennsylvania with her husband (who also is a telecommuter) and their daughter. a learning and development firm specializing in tools and resources to improve the productivity of telecommuters. please contact us: Web site: www.

934. we would appreciate hearing from you. • Your best and worst experiences as a telecommuter.934. If you would like to contribute to the next publication in the Tips for Telecommuters series. Be sure to include your name. Please send: • Your own telecommuting tips that have helped you be a successful telecommuter. Here’s how to reach us: Web site: E-mail: Telephone: Fax: Address: www.com. To order additional copies of this book. job. organization.9348 ALLearnatives® 10592 Perry Highway. #201 Wexford.com 724. • Suggestions for topics or tips you’d like to see in a future edition or publication for telecommuters. PA 15090 USA Thanks! .How To Get (and Give) More Information For additional information about telecommuting or for additional tips for telecommuters.TipsForTelecommuters.TipsForTelecommuters.9349 724.com info@allearnatives. and contact information so we can acknowledge your contribution.bkconnection. please visit the Website: www. visit the Web site: www.com. Additional information is also available at the address and phone number below.