Today, 3.7 million employees work out of their houses at least half the time, according to the research firm GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. And that’s not even counting the self-employed people who already run home-based businesses. Telecommuting is on the rise, too: It grew 6.5 percent from 2013 to 2014.
The benefits are plenty. “Working alone means you have more control over your environment. You can work in silence, without a chatty coworker who ends up standing at your desk for 20 minutes,” says Beth L. Buelow, ACC, life coach and author of The Introvert Entrepreneur. Plus, she adds, when you work from home, you get to bow out of office politics.
The arrangement also makes smart business sense: According to a study of one business published in the Harvard Business Review, managers who let employees telecommute saved their company $1,900 per worker over nine months, had a lower turnover rate, and boosted productivity by 13.5 percent.
So what’s the secret to staying relevant in a company when you’re not physically in the office? Here are 15 ways to stay present at work when you work from home:
1. Check in regularly. Since you can’t pop into a nearby office or chat in the elevator, constant communication is key. Says Buelow: “It might be a weekly conference call, an emailed report giving everyone an update on your activity (peer-to-peer; it shouldn’t feel like they’re keeping tabs on you!), or an agreement about texting or IMing that keeps you in regular contact. Co-create the style and frequency of communication so that it feels good to everyone.”
2. Announce news often. Make an effort to frequently update your team so your role isn’t forgotten. Met with a new client? Made new strides in a project? Email everyone on your team when new events happen, recommends Scott Edinger, author of The Hidden Leader.
3. Identify your team’s busiest time of day. Some offices buzz early. Some really get rolling at 4 pm. Figure out that peak time of work at your office and then make sure you’re responding to any correspondence in real time.
4. Carve out a time when you answer calls and emails. Get more done and ditch distractions by sticking to that schedule. “Without the wide range of interruptions inherent in an office setting, decide when and how to interact,” suggests Buelow. “This degree of control can help with productivity and lead to an overall more positive mood about work.”
5. Add your coworkers on your social media feed. “If you share your profiles on social media with your coworkers, pop on there occasionally to like, comment, and share, especially work-related items (for instance, someone shares that she's gotten a promotion, makes a sale, or otherwise is experiencing a ‘win’ at work),” says Buelow. “Take part in the virtual celebrations of your colleagues, and share your own wins as appropriate.”
6. Don’t forget to pick up the phone. With so many digital ways to stay connected, it can be hard to remember that the old-fashioned phone call could also be the most effective during critical times. “Make a habit of connecting via conference call for important discussions, rather than trying to do them over email,” says Buelow.
7. Set up video-conferencing equipment. “Set up a Zoom account or other video conferencing platform and use it to connect with your team,” Buelow adds. “You don’t have to use it every time you talk, but a few times a month will help you stay present in one another’s minds.”
8. Attend company functions. If you’re local, attend “big team meetings, holiday parties, or annual meetings,” says Buelow. “You might feel a little out of the loop at first, but if you’ve been intentional about connecting through phone and video conferencing, it could feel more like a happy reunion.”