How to Transition to Telecommuting When You’re Used to Working in an Office
By Deanna deBara | Published March 25, 2020
More people are working from home than ever before. But if you’re used to—and enjoy—the hustle and bustle of working in an office, making the transition to telecommuting can be a challenge.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to make the transition to telecommuting easier and make sure you continue to feel productive, engaged, and connected at work—even if “at work” now also means “at home.”
Let’s take a look at how to transition to telecommuting when you’re used to working in an office:
Establish a daily routine
When you work in an office, some sort of morning routine is a given. You wake up at the same time every day and take care of whatever tasks you like to tackle in the morning—whether that’s reading the paper, having a cup of coffee, or reviewing your goals for the day—before you head to the office.
When you work from home, that morning routine isn’t necessarily a given; it’s much easier to roll out of bed and roll right into your work day.
But the way you start the day is often the way you continue the day—so if you want to have a productive day telecommuting, you should plan to start your day with a productivity-boosting morning routine.
Wake up at the same time every morning and establish a pre-work routine that sets you up for success throughout the day. What you do during your morning routine is up to you; you can use your routine as an opportunity to review your goals and prioritize tasks for the day, to exercise and get your energy up, or to spend time reading a business or personal development book. As long as you start your day with a productive routine, you’ll set yourself up to be productive throughout the rest of your telecommuting work day.
Separate your workspace and your living space
If you’re working from home, one of the biggest challenges in transitioning from working in an office to telecommuting? Creating a clear separation between your work life and your personal life.
When you work in an office, creating that separation is fairly straightforward; when you’re in the office, you’re at work—and with the exception of the occasional after-hours call or email, when you’re at your home, you’re off the clock.
When you work from home, it’s easier for those lines to get blurred. When your home is your office (and vice versa), it can be easy to find yourself working when you should be relaxing and spending time with your family—or catching up on household chores when you should be answering emails or checking in with your team.
And when that happens, you’re not fully engaged or effective at work or at home.
Carving out a dedicated workspace within your home can help create both a physical and mental boundary between your work life and your home life, making it easier to separate the two. If you can, a separate office with a door would be ideal—but if you don’t have an at-home office, any dedicated space will do.
The key is that once you set up your workspace, it’s important to do all your work from that space—and only from that space. Then, when you’re done for the day, leave your workspace and go enjoy the rest of your home. Eventually, your brain will start to associate your workspace with work and the rest of your house with relaxation and personal time—making it easier to keep your work life from impeding on your home life (or vice versa).
If you’re a person who needs a little variety—and you have the space for it—you can set up multiple workspaces throughout your home and rotate through them throughout the day. That way, if you start to feel antsy in one workplace, you can get a change of scenery and switch to another workspace—while still maintaining the work/home separation you need to be effective.
Connect with your team
If you’re used to working in an office, telecommuting can feel isolated. When you telecommute, you no longer have access to the in-person brainstorming sessions, water cooler conversations, or after-work happy hours with your coworkers and colleagues.
But just because you’re not in the same location as your team doesn’t mean you can’t maintain a connection—and, in fact, not sharing a physical space just makes connecting with your team all the more important.
Luckily, you don’t need to share an office with your team to stay connected—all you need are the right tools.
Leverage collaboration tools like G-Suite to brainstorm with your team—and work on files and projects in real-time. Create a Slack channel to act as a “virtual water cooler” and keep conversations with your team going throughout the day. Schedule virtual happy hours (using a video conferencing software like Zoom) to decompress with your team after a long week.
The point is, you don’t have to feel isolated when you’re telecommuting. With the right tools, you can feel connected to your team—no matter where you’re working.
When you work in an office, you’re typically exposed to a variety of environments and experiences; you can catch-up with coworkers over coffee in the kitchen, host a meeting with clients in a conference room, or stop by a coworker’s office when you have a question on a project.
But when you’re telecommuting—and, in particular, when you’re working from home—you don’t have those same options. You can easily spend the entire day sitting at your desk, staring at a computer screen—which isn’t good for your productivity or your sanity.
That’s why it’s important to schedule breaks throughout the day where you get up and get moving—and, if possible, to schedule those breaks outside.
Spending time outdoors has a variety of benefits that can help you be more effective at work, including increased energy, improved memory and mood, and lower stress. Plus, getting up and outside during the day will help you avoid cabin fever and make you feel less isolated when telecommuting. So throughout the day, schedule time outside, whether that’s taking a walk during lunch or hopping on a conference call from your backyard—and watch your productivity (and mood!) improve as a result.
Make an easier transition to telecommuting
The transition from working in an office to telecommuting can be challenging. But with these tips, you have everything you need to make the transition a seamless one—and make the telecommuting experience a positive and productive one for yourself, your team, and your business.
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Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.