Increasing Productivity: Telecommuting and Your Family and Friends

In this month’s newsletter article, Telecommuting: Creating a Productive Home Working Environment, I discussed some ways of keeping your home office productive. Here are a few more thoughts I’d like to share.

Although telecommuting has many advantages, it does have its challenges. One of the greatest lies in getting your family, friends, and neighbors to take your work habits seriously. They may (at least subconsciously) assume that just because you’re home all day, you’re not really working—and so you can do anything for them at any time. Allowing them to continue to think this way will play havoc with your personal productivity, so nip such tendencies in the bud right away.

Let’s look at friends and neighbors first. While some may respect your work schedule, others won’t think twice about interrupting you to chat or ask a favor—something they probably wouldn’t do if you were slaving away in your cubicle over at HQ. When it happens, politely but firmly point out that you’ve set specific work hours for yourself, and that you need to focus on work during that time and can’t afford any interruptions. Make it clear, however, that you welcome their visits at any other time (if in fact you do). While some people may think you’re a jerk, you can live with that if they’ll just leave you alone. Most, however, will get the point and back off graciously.

With family, just sit down with everyone and lay down the law about when, and under what circumstances, they can disturb you. If you don’t, they’re likely to trample down the borders between your work life and home life so badly they’ll cease to exist. The worst culprits here may not be your children, surprisingly, but your significant other. I know one worker who had to give up his first attempt at telecommuting, because his spouse always had chores for him to do and errands for him to run—reasoning that, after all, he had all day to get in his eight hours. That’s a recipe for disaster, and in fact it killed his productivity at work. He ended up going back to his traditional office after a few weeks, so he could get more done.

Many would-be telecommuters actually hurt their own workplace productivity by assuming they can combine telework with child care. This simply doesn’t work in most cases, because both efforts require focus and commitment—and no one can really focus on two things at once, as much as we might want to. If you have young kids at home, even for part of the day, send them to day care or hire someone to look after them, so you can get your work done. Your kids may not understand, but it’s best for everyone involved.

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Comments

  1. Hi Laura, Very good points about telecommuting. My company resisted allowing this for years, and has now allowed it. There’s a learning curve on the employer’s side as well.

    Daniel

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