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October 16, 2017

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Truths about Teleworking

Truths about Teleworking and Ten Traits You Need Before You Dare to Work from Home

If you think working from home just means rising late, shuffling to your office in slippers, and figuring out your schedule over coffee and a box of doughnuts, you probably won’t last very long as a teleworker. Such personal freedom might be one of the perks of working from home, but it is a benefit only appreciated by those who really know the realities of working from home.

To decide if you are someone who can make it as a teleworker, there are ten important traits you should possess. But, before we go over them, allow me to give you some insight into the realities of what it’s like to work from home, so that you will understand why these traits are so important to the survival of a teleworker.

TRUTH #1: No one is around to offer you constructive feedback on your work or project. You are the only one who can gauge your productivity or the effectiveness of your work. Get used to giving your own pats on the back, and triple and quadruple checking your finished assignments.

TRUTH #2: Very few people consider your work time as sacred when you work from home. Family and friends don’t care if they disturb you when they call, or that they throw you off track when they barge into your office to ask you something.

TRUTH #3: Peer pressure and support are non-existent. Remember good old Joe you used to work with that helped projects flow so much easier because he was supportive and had such a great sense of humor? Well, not any more. You’re on your own. If you feel frustrated or stuck, you have to deal with it.

TRUTH #4: You can’t leave your work at the office. In fact, it not only follows you throughout the house, but it often becomes your bed partner. Playing catch up at 2 a.m. is not uncommon due to that telephone call from a family member or a salesperson who came to your door that ate into your valuable work time.

TRUTH #5: There is no janitor, no secretary, and no deli. You’re on your own to answer your phone calls, make your own lunch, and clean the commode between your transcription work, your programming, or your grant writing. Isn’t that fun?

Having second thoughts about this whole teleworking thing? Not everyone is cut out for the lifestyle of a teleworker. However, for those who still want to ‘give it a go’, please take a few minutes to make sure you have the following traits that are so necessary to be a successful, productive telecommuter.

  1. Planning & Organization. Are you an organized person? Do you know where things are at, and what you will be doing next? Being organized is a top trait of successful teleworkers. Nothing eats up precious time more than hunting down a document or telephone number that should have been filed neatly away in the first place. And nothing is worse than beginning your day unsure of what you will be doing first, second, third, and so on.

  2. Self-Disciplined. A lot of people think they’re self-disciplined. Or, at least, not being self-disciplined is hard to admit. However, it’s not as easy as some think. (Hence, the term “discipline”.) Being self-disciplined means doing what NEEDS to be done even when you HATE to do it: Pumping out phone calls to C-Level Execs even though you’re depressed over a family situation; missing a one-time-run of a television mini-series because you have a balance sheet to prepare for a client; or writing an article instead of catching a sale at a department store.

  3. Professional. Are you? Do you go into your office each day with the attitude of: This is my work. I don’t play solitaire while I talk to a customer. I don’t eat a bowl of cereal over my client’s grant proposal. I don’t watch wrestling while I’m writing. And, I don’t polish my nails while I wait for my creative juices to hit me. Professionalism isn’t just a behavior; it’s a way of thinking. It means you CARE about what you’re doing, and how your behavior affects the person you’re doing it for.

  4. Educated. Do you know what you’re doing? Do you have esoteric knowledge and/or extensive experience to back up your right to teach, preach, write, draw, add, subtract, or anything else you’re doing and demand pay for it? If you don’t, you might get hired but you won’t be rehired. And your reputation will get around.

  5. Finds work intrinsically rewarding. Is your ego deflated when a colleague or supervisor fails to mention your major contribution to the success of a project? Or, are you pleased with yourself, and continuously driven just by thinking about the good job you did? If you are unable to stay motivated to give your absolute best just for the sheer thrill of knowing you’re doing a great job, you might have a hard time maintaining a high level of performance when it’s just you, yourself, and your computer around to acknowledge it. When you work alone at home you have to be able to give yourself all the praise you need.

  6. Assertiveness. Do you feel guilty when you have to cut a phone call from a friend or relative short because they just want to chat? Is it easy for people to get you to stop what you’re doing to help them with something. Although this could be an issue of easy distractibility (lack of discipline), this is often the case of being afraid to say “No”. Saying “No” is a word teleworkers must feel comfortable using if they want people to respect their work, their office space, and their time. No one cares about a project or assignment the way you do; so until someone does, you need to learn to set limits on the amount of time they take you away from your work.

  7. Prioritized. Yes, pencils do need to get sharpened. But must you sharpen them before you make that important phone call? Whether you use lists, pictures, online planners, or a secretary, you need to prioritize you’re your daily activities and then perform them in their right order. Why? Because I can assure you that if you don’t, either you will leave your office that evening without having done something that was more important than what you actually did; OR, you will end up working later than you wanted to, eating into your personal and family time.

  8. Independent. How many opinions do you need before you get moving on something or make a decision? If you aren’t confident enough to think through a problem and make a decision about it on your own, then you might be too dependent to work alone from home.

  9. Calm. Do you remain calm when nothing seems to be going right? Or, do you panic when unexpected delays or changes occur? Panic causes us to misinterpret our environment; in turn, leading us to react to situations in ways that aren’t always appropriate. If this is an issue for you, you might have a difficult time performing your work if there are emergencies or delays such as a sudden power outage or your children fighting in the next room.

  10. Desire. Do you want to work from home badly enough that you will be able to plan for the drawbacks that come with working from home, such as those mentioned above? Also, individuals who to telecommute typically receive lower salaries than those who work onsite. Is this something you are willing to accept for the privilege of being able to “work in your slippers”? If not, you may end up an unhappy – worse yet, bitter, teleworker.

To be a successful teleworker, you must possess to some degree each of these traits or you will face problems when you are met with the realities of working from home. If you are not Assertive, the phone calls and interruptions will never cease. If you are not Prioritized, you may find yourself sharpening pencils before you call an important prospect. And, if you are not Calm, you might fall apart as soon as something you Planned goes away.

So, before you make that leap to ask your boss to let you telecommute, or you quit your day job to become an independent contractor, go over this list carefully. Otherwise, you might end up having to fire yourself.

-Pamel La Gioia

Copyright 2004, Pamela La Gioia

Pamela La Gioia is Founder and Administrator of Telework Recruiting www.teleworkrecruiting.com, a premier job-lead web site that provides thousands of job leads and job resources for the US, Canada, and the UK. She is currently writing a book on telecommuting, which offers step-by-step guidance on finding real home-based employment. Questions or comments are welcome and can be sent to Pamela at pam@teleworkrecruiting.com

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