Productive Teleworking

Telework is a great option for many workers, but it is not a good fit for every employee. The ideal teleworker is well organized and can work independently with minimal supervision. Successful teleworkers have a high degree of job skill and knowledge and strong time management skills. This page offers information and tips that can help you become a successful teleworker.

Tips for Successful Telework

If you want to be successful as a teleworker, the single most important thing you can do is develop effective communication habits that will help your supervisor feel comfortable with your telework arrangement.

You can establish a trusting arrangement with your supervisor by communicating what you'll be working on from home and reporting on what you have accomplished. This is a simple yet effective way to build trust. Many managers find that they know more about what their teleworkers are doing than they do about their office counterparts.

Below are some additional suggestions on ways to become an effective teleworker. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another; try different tips from this list and see what works for you:

Keep Work and Life Separate

  • Set ground rules with other household members about when and why you can be interrupted while you are working.
  • Save your household chores for after work hours.
  • Although telework can help with last-minute child care emergencies, it is not an effective long-term solution for child care. Consider whether you will be able to focus on your work while caring for young children. It can be challenging to get your work done while meeting their needs.
  • Avoid overwork and burnout — shut down at the end of the day. Separating your work time from your personal time can help your mental health and make you more productive.

Set Up and Plan for Success

  • Plan what you’ll be working on from home; don’t wing it.
  • Have a plan for addressing technology glitches. Know whom to contact for help.
  • Make sure you have everything at home that you will need, including phone numbers, reference materials, and office supplies (e.g., paper, printer cartridges). Having what you need to get your work done will avoid you having to call the office to ask others to look things up for you, which could make you look unprepared.
  • Find a comfortable, quiet space in your home to work. If you do not have a separate office in your home, try the dining room table or another space where you can set up a workstation and be away from kids, television, and other distractions.
  • Forward your office phone to your mobile phone number. If that is not an option, check your voicemail at least once an hour to make sure you do not miss important messages.
  • Do not set up an out-of-office email message stating that you are working from home. It is not needed because you will be responding to email as if you were in the office.

Be Responsive; Be Professional

  • Maintain the same level of professionalism as you would at the office. Your co-workers, manager, and external business contacts should not detect anything in your work or work relations that would indicate you are not in the office.
  • Respond to voicemail and email messages promptly.
  • Let callers know if voicemail is not the best way to reach you. For example, you could say something like this in your voicemail greeting: “This voicemail box is checked regularly, but email is the best way to reach me.” Your greeting does not need to indicate that you are working from home.
  • Dress for work. By all means wear something casual, but changing out of your pajamas and getting dressed for work can help you make a mental shift from “at home” to “at work.”
  • Keep regular work hours, starting and ending your workday at the same time you would if you were at the office. Take breaks as you would at the office, including a lunch break. Take short breaks from sitting and staring at the computer to get up and walk around.

Tips for Ergonomic Working at Home (They work for the office too!)

Proper office ergonomics can prevent injury and physical discomfort while you are working. Your chair may be the most important item, whether you are working from home or at the office. Be sure the chair supports your lower back. Your knees and thighs should fit comfortably under the desk with enough clearance so your feet can be flat on the floor or on a footrest.  See more tips below.

  • Your head should be aligned directly over your spine, with your neck straight, not leaning forward.
  • You should sit about an arm’s length — or approximately 20-30 inches — away from your computer monitor.
  • Your shoulders should be in a relaxed position.
  • Your keyboard should be at elbow height.
  • Your wrists should be straight while you’re typing. Your fingers should not be higher or lower than your wrists.
  • Your chair should support the curve in your back. Use a lower-back support pillow to help with this if necessary.