7 Ways to Make Remote Working Work for You

Working from home is a privilege. If you have it, don't risk losing it. Prove to your boss and colleagues that you can be productive anywhere – even if you're working in your PJs.

In a recent post, I reported that an increasing number of creative professionals are working outside the office compared to three years ago. (I'm one of them.) As more professionals take advantage of this perk, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my tips for maximizing this work arrangement.

I'm no productivity expert, but I have been telecommuting for almost two years now – and I must be doing an OK job since my employer hasn't revoked the privilege. In fact, my boss had no hesitation when I asked to start working from home two days versus one day a week.

So, without further ado, here are my seven tips for making remote working arrangements work for you:

1. Get out of bed as if you're going to commute. Whether I'm headed to the office or to the dining table to work, I follow the same routine: Get up at 6 a.m., go on my morning walk, shower and get dressed. This means that on days I don't have to drive to the office, I can start my day earlier and get a jumpstart on my emails and to-do list.

2. Wear what you want. Most articles I've read encourage remote workers to dress as if they're going to the office. But you won't catch me slipping into a skirt or slacks after my shower. Unless you're going to be on camera (for a video conference or Google Hangout), wear whatever makes you comfortable – and for me, that's sweatpants and a comfy tee. 

3. Keep the lines of communication open. When I first started working off-site, my boss shared some good advice: "No one should be able to tell that you're not physically in the office." This means your colleagues and other business contacts should be able to reach you when and how they normally would. So, even before I brew my first cup of coffee, I open Outlook and my instant message window, and forward my office phone to my cell phone so folks can email, IM or call me.

4. Create a quiet zone. If conference calls are part of your work regimen, make sure you have a quiet place to take them. I learned this the hard way when I was hosting a call from home and my dog had a barking attack. I had to suddenly put myself on mute while I was talking to avoid subjecting the other participants to the loud yapping. I was horrified and my colleagues were confused and concerned. (I know this because I could hear them saying, "What happened? Is Alison OK?") Don't be the Paul in the room.

5. Remember to take a lunch break. Lately, I've gotten into a bad habit of working through my lunch hour – a long to-do list will do that to you. But your productivity and creativity can suffer if you sit in front of your computer for too long. In fact, 44 percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by TCG said they are more productive on days they leave the office during their lunch break. There are health hazards of prolonged sitting, too. Running an errand or spending a little time in the kitchen midway through the day forces me to stretch my legs and refresh my mind.

6. Keep track of time. Most remote working programs are designed to help employees achieve better work/life balance – so make sure you're reaping the rewards. While it's easy to work well into the night when you're in the comfort of your own home, avoid it. I'm a firm believer in sticking to an eight-to-five (or in my case, 7:30ish-to-4:30ish) schedule. That means if I start my day 20 minutes ahead of schedule (see tip 1), I give myself the option to wrap up 20 minutes early at the end of the day.

7. Don't work off-site all the time. As much as I relish working from home, I also miss my coworkers when I don't see them – there simply is no substitute for in-person interactions. To avoid losing touch with your team, limit remote work to one or two days a week. If you happen to work off-site full-time, try to visit the main office on occasion (at least annually), if at all possible.

Do you work from home – or wish you could? Or do you think there are too many downsides of telecommuting?