Telecommuting Offers Women Opportunities for Better Performance and Enhanced Work-Life Balance
A telecommuting position provides opportunities to save time by eliminating hours spent commuting, increase productivity without the typical office distractions, and even find a better work/life balance.
Working from home may give women the flexibility to pick their children up from school or be home with them if they aren’t in school yet, and attend kids’ school events and extracurricular events. And anyone who’s ever folded laundry during a conference call understands the beauty of multitasking when you work from home.
However, it is natural to be both nervous and excited when you take this big step in your career. Some women who are telecommuting for the first time report many fears and trepidation, asking themselves lots of questions about this being the right choice.
– “Will I have the self-discipline to succeed?”
– “Will my work meet my supervisor’s expectations?”
– “Will I miss out on advancement opportunities because I’m not in the office?”
– “Will I go stir-crazy without my work colleagues to provide socialization?”
– “Will I forget how to interact with real people?”
These concerns may sound trivial if you haven’t worked from home before, these fears are more common than you may think. (I was most nervous about missing out on social activities at work, like coworker lunches and happy hour!)
Another concern is tipping your work/life balance completely to the work side, with no clear way to avoid “bringing work home with you.” That’s also a valid fear, as research shows that people who telecommute actually work longer hours than their counterparts in the office. But, with good time management, the right tools, and a healthy outlook, you don’t have to replace your old commuting time (or your lunch time, for that matter) with more work. You can achieve a work/life balance, get ahead in your career, and avoid a life of sweatpants and bunny slippers.
Your Home Internet Connection is Your Best Friend
I first started telecommuting when tools for remote workers were somewhat limited. However, my most powerful tool hasn’t changed since then: a solid, fast, and reliable internet connection. Recent research suggests that people’s happiness may actually correlate to the availability of a solid high-speed internet connection. Researchers cross-referenced data from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index with the availability of high speed internet access from state to state. The researchers discovered that, in general, people who live in a state where more people access the internet from home are happier. Based on this, we can assume that people who work from home will be less frustrated and happier with access to fast and reliable home internet service.
Other Tools to Make Telecommuting a Breeze
I’ve researched long and hard over the years to find the tools and apps that make working from home pleasant and less stressful. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Rescue Time – Not only will this time management tool help you measure your productivity, stay on task, and understand how long certain jobs take, it will help keep you away from time-wasting online activities.
- A Conference Call App – Not everyone prefers Skype or FaceTime, although I use both. Free web conferencing services like GoToMeeting make it easy to chat via your computer headset or by phone, as well as to share screens for collaboration.
- Google Drive/Google Docs – These tools permit fast and easy collaboration for word processing and spreadsheets. Pair it with an on-screen messenger service and it will feel like you’re right in the office with your co-workers when you have to finish a project on a tight deadline.
- A Virtual Community – Whether you have a group on Facebook or LinkedIn, a Google Hangout, or a forum related to your industry, it’s important to find a place where you can stay connected when you’re working from home.
- (check out more virtual communication tools here)
Do Not Neglect the Human Connection
Google Hangouts, Facebook groups, and other online communities provide human interaction during the day, but nothing replaces meeting up with real people for a sanity check when you spend 40 hours a week or more working from home. Plus, it’s a good excuse to make sure your pants still fit.
Check out local networking groups, or go to Meetup.com to find a group of work-at-home women or business owners in your area, and make the commitment to go to a meeting at least once every few weeks.
Keep Work and Home Separate When You Telecommute
Achieving a healthy work/life balance requires creating the mental mindset to keep work and home separate, and also having the physical space to do that. Setting aside a dedicated workspace, preferably with a door that closes, is important, and it’s something that many employers actually require.
Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, never bothered to seek any work/life balance until she woke up bleeding on her office floor one morning. Huffington, author of the book “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder,” now seeks to show other women how to create a healthy balance and a happier life.
Huffington advises us to unplug when our work day is done. Shut the office door, turn off the smartphone, and focus on making personal connections. More than anything, she urges us to take care of ourselves.
“If we spent just one tiny fraction of the time and energy on our minds, bodies, and spirits that we do honoring and obeying our smartphones, our lives would change dramatically for the better,” Forbes Contributor Kathy Caprino wrote in the post, Four Life-Changing Concepts Arianna Huffington Taught Me.
Huffington, whose breakdown was caused by the sheer exhaustion of working 18 hour days and not getting enough sleep, reminds us that sleep and meditation work wonders for our well-being.
“What study after study shows is that meditation and mindfulness training profoundly affect every aspect of our lives – our bodies, our minds, our physical health and our emotional and spiritual well-being,” Huffington said in an exclusive interview with U.S. News & World Report. “Similarly, our creativity, ingenuity, confidence, leadership and decision-making can all be enhanced simply by getting enough sleep.”
Women Can Do It All and Working from Home Helps
It can be a challenge to work from home when our career responsibilities threaten to bleed into our family life. We must guard our leisure time and our home life vigorously, making it a point to “unplug” during dinner and other family times.
Fortunately, more employers are recognizing that women, and especially working mothers, are more productive when given the flexibility to manage their career and family life.
Employers can help remote workers thrive by setting clear expectations and making long-distance communication with supervisors easy. The upside for employers is that remote workers tend to be happier, more productive, and to stay with the same company longer.
Katharine Zaleski, President and Cofounder of PowertoFly – an organization that matches women with highly skilled tech positions where they can work remotely – didn’t always appreciate a flexible workplace, but has changed her thinking since having a daughter.
“I know who I am,” Zaleski said. “I’m a mother who can manage a large team from my home office or on a business trip, raise money, and build a culture for women to succeed. I’ve never been more productive, satisfied and excited about my future and my daughter’s.”
You, too, can succeed by following our tips for work-at-home success and leveraging technology to your advantage!
Sarah Pike is a freelancer and college writing instructor. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next camping trip. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.