Remote working: Improve your out-of-office experience

WASHINGTON – In an area where it’s not uncommon for daily commutes to clock in around one or two hours each way, working remotely, if even for a few days a month, is an attractive idea to many.

And the model is a growing trend. According to a 2012 report in CNN Money, approximately 13.4 million people work from home in the U.S. This number is a 41 percent increase from the previous decade.

Yet major companies, such as Yahoo, ban the practice, and common misconceptions about working remotely continue to interfere with progress on the work model.

But Jason Fried, author of “Remote: Office Not Required,” says telecommuting benefits everyone — whether you own a company or work for a company.

In his new book, Fried offers tips to those interested in working remotely, and he recently shared some of his advice with WTOP.

Starting out: Don’t limit a work-from-home model to a few employees

Do you work in an environment where some employees are allowed to work from home, but others are not? Fried says limiting remote working privileges to a select number of employees is one way to crash-and-burn a remote working environment.

“You set up a situation where other people might be getting jealous about their work situation,” Fried says.

While the opportunity should be open to everyone, Fried says there is still a way to limit the amount of time employees work from home — especially for companies looking to test out the model.

He suggests making telecommuting available to employees once a week, or even once a month, to start.

Fried says that day will most likely be the day employees get the most done.

Take advantage of technology

Working from home can have its social disadvantages. There’s no one to chat with by the water cooler, in the lunch room or even in the elevator. But Fried says technology is helping to overcome this obstacle.

“It’s easy to feel like you’re a bit isolated when you work remotely. You have to set up systems to make sure that’s not the case,” Fried says.

Programs such as Google Hangout and Campfire — an online chat system where co- workers can talk and share ideas — help to bridge the divide between those in the office and employees out of the office.

Other programs, such as GoToMeeting and WebEx, make it possible to convene and conduct conference calls and presentations from anywhere, and file sharing platforms make it easy for employees to get what they need, even while out of the office.

“It’s just to feel as though you belong,” Fried says. “When you get to work with other people and you get to work on great stuff and you get to accomplish something, you’re going to feel like you’re part of a mission, you belong to something and it’s going to feel great.”

Working remotely can mean big savings

A remote working environment can save both employees and employers big bucks. Fried explains companies that have more employers telecommuting or working from remote locations spend less money on office space.

For the employee, costs are spared on commuting.

“If you spend an hour, each way, every day in an SUV, driving back-and-forth some 30 miles to work, that’s about $10,000 per year that you spend on gas and maintenance and so forth,” Fried says.

“Wouldn’t you rather spend that time and that money on something else?”

Designate a space to draw boundaries, increase productivity

If the idea of working remotely conjures pictures of plopping your laptop on your bed or couch while you lay around in pajamas, Fried says to think again. This type of “working environment” gets really old, really quickly.

He says both a routine and a designated space are necessary “not so much to get stuff done, but to keep your sanity. You have to divide things a little bit.”

Designating a room of space in your house as your “work area” is one great way to establish boundaries. Work should be done in that room and should not go out of that room.

If anything, Fried says working remotely is more likely to cause employees to work more hours than normal, rather than fewer hours.

“The problem isn’t that you work too little, it’s that you work too much,” says Fried, who adds working remotely often causes employees to feel compelled to answer phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night.

“Before you know it, you just don’t know when work stops.”

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