Maybe you’ve finally convinced your employer of the virtues of remote work, or maybe you’ve decided to start a business from the comforts of your own home—whatever the reason, telecommuting is the ultimate dream for many professionals, and it certainly comes with a lot of perks. But it also comes with as many challenges as benefits.
For example, although working from home usually means less immediate supervision, the distance may lead your employer to question your productivity and check in more often than if you were in the office. You can also expect to face myriad other issues like miscommunication with clients, technical malfunctions, or greater difficulty focusing.
In light of those increased challenges any telecommuter must be well equipped to avoid or solve potential problems quickly and efficiently. Luckily, in 2018 there are more tools available than ever before to help you tackle the most common obstacles of remote work.
These are a handful of important tools and resources you should have as a telecommuter:
1. Reliable, Fast Internet
Few businesses operate without some form of internet use these days. Far more lean heavily on a stable connection. If you want to check your email every day or perform any other internet-related tasks, don’t torture yourself with constant disconnections.
Not only are internet lags frustrating, but they can also cause you and your company to lose out on valuable revenue when they happen during business hours, preventing you from communicating with clients or finalizing important projects before a deadline.
Check out recommendations on the kind of speed that will suit your work needs, and upgrade if your current plan isn’t up to par. You may find that what worked for your personal use—streaming the occasional TV show, for example—is no longer sufficient once you’re telecommuting.
You’ll probably need more speed for downloading large documents, running extensive software programs, and filling other business needs.
2. Collaboration and Communication Software
If you work on a team, or if you need to reach out to clients often, don’t neglect to establish a system of communication and collaboration. Usually that system will include a software program such as Slack or Google’s software suite.
While some businesses use multiple programs for overlapping purposes, you should try to limit yourself to one primary system of communication, if possible. Juggling three or four communication methods can wind up causing more confusion because you may lose track of what was said in which platform.
Ask yourself what type of communication is most vital to your business. Do you need video-conferencing capabilities? Maybe all you need is an instant messaging app to stay looped in with your colleagues at the office.
One thing’s for sure: communication is key, and it’s a far greater challenge when you’re isolated at home rather than sharing a cubicle.
3. Productivity Tools
You may pride yourself on your time management skills and your sharp efficiency at work, but even the most productive employees can see those skills unravel when they start telecommuting.
The distractions increase exponentially when you work in the same place that you relax. Suddenly you can walk just a few feet to access your TV, refrigerator, and other enticing distractions. Why not take a short break? you may think, but those short breaks add up into large portions of unproductive time.
Whether you thrive off paper planners, digital calendars, to-do list apps, or other productivity tools, make sure that you’ve got a plan in place to keep yourself focused.
You can even install browser extensions that block any websites you identify as your personal productivity killers, during certain hours of the day or for a specified duration of time.
4. A Defined Workspace and Relaxation Space
Another way to battle the temptation of working a few feet from your TV is to establish a boundary between your workspace and your living space. Too often we allow ourselves to blur the lines between business and recreation, but having some sort of physical separation will help you maintain those lines.
That physical separation can be as simple as a doorway or as extreme as a detached office in your backyard, if that’s what it takes to prevent yourself from straying into non-work activities.
But on the flip side, when you work from home you may struggle to confine your work to normal business hours and instead find yourself tempted to take work calls and emails after 5 pm.
Falling into that temptation could increase your day-to-day stress and harm your health in the long run. Thus, experts recommend that you keep work out of places like the bedroom. The less you stress about work in your personal time, the more productive and healthy you will be overall.
5. A Comfortable Desk Setup
You may think that working on the couch or at the kitchen table will be a good enough solution, but if you plan to telecommute on a long-term basis, you will most likely tire of those makeshift workspaces.
You don’t necessarily have to have an entire office, but a proper desk and chair will make you feel more motivated to work and keep you comfortable through all those long hours. They also signal to your family members that you are on the clock.
Many furniture manufacturers now offer ergonomic alternatives to typical office accessories. If you’re self-employed, you might want to think about investing in an ergonomic keyboard, an exercise chair, or a standing desk. But if you are a remote worker for a larger company, you could ask your employer about reimbursing the costs of these options.
With these tools and strategies, you will be better prepared to excel in your job, even while working from home. There’s no reason that a telecommuter can’t be just as efficient as an employee who works in a traditional office.
In fact, if you approach your job in the right way—arming yourself with the right environment, mindset, and strategy—you could find remote work more productive and fulfilling than it was when you were punching in from 9 to 5.