All posts by telecommuterstalk

How to Manage Organizational Changes as a Telecommuter

Change always comes with opportunities. Professionally, I’m experiencing a lot of changes now. I have the chance to do new work, find a new position, and create new connections. I want to take this opportunity to share with you what I am learning as part of this process.

Speak Up: During transitions, make sure you speak up and share your thoughts on your part of the project or the overall plan. It’s best to provide input when you can make an impact—which is at the beginning. As a remote employee, you will need to be more vocal than usual to make your case.

Ask Questions:
A transition is a time of flux, and for you to understand its impact on your job, you need to ask clarifying and direct questions. Managers are usually able to discuss some information. Even if the information is confidential, they can inform you of that.

Stay Connected: Continue your conversations with your manager during one-on-one meetings. Stay connected with your teammates and be informed. Attend all the meetings discussing the changes in your organization, since they will have an impact on you, even as a remote employee.

Update Your Résumé: If you are looking for new opportunities, update your résumé and add search agents to your company’s internal HR site. Alerts will send you access to new job openings right to your inbox. Continue talking with your mentor to work on your next steps.

Avoid Rumors: Being remote can work to your advantage, since you are not physically there to stop and listen to the multiple conversations going on in the office. Try not to get pulled into the rumor mill. If you have questions, ask them directly to your management chain, since they would have the most accurate information.

Change is the only constant, and we need to keep going! Please share any suggestions that have worked for you: info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Six Ways to Reward Yourself as a Telecommuter this Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Reward and recognition are necessary to keep most of us motivated. When you work in an office, you can see and feel more of this from your peers and your management. When you work from home, this may be reduced.

I’ve learned to create rewards that are meaningful for me when I finish an important task, project, or presentation. I do need to continue to work on this, since I finish one task and move on to the next without a break sometimes.

Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me:

  1. Lunch with a Friend:This one is always on the top of my list, because I get to connect with other adults face-to-face. By catching up with a friend, I can get updates on the community, like what to expect when school starts, which teachers are coming back, etc. I learn a lot about community happenings during these lunches.
  2. Movies:This is my favorite “alone time” activity. I enjoy going to the movies alone and immersing myself in something that makes me laugh or feel good. Going with others adds pressure to have a conversation, and sometimes you just want to keep to yourself.
  3. Window Shopping:I shop online due to convenience, but I also enjoy going to local stores. That way, I learn what the fashion trends are and what not to wear. If you work from home, dressing up is not a priority, so going out to shop helps me to keep up.
  4. Walk with a Friend:I like one-on-one conversations better than multiway interactions, so I plan to meet with a friend for a walk to talk. This may seem simple, but if you work 9-5 from home, getting out of the house for any reason is a huge accomplishment!
  5. Hiking or Rock Climbing: I go to the local community center and rock climb. It helps me stay fit and gives me great pleasure—which is a reward for me!
  6. Bath:A bath sounds so basic, but for a working mother, taking a quiet bath is huge! Taking a 20-minute bath without being called to fix something or hearing something breaking in the background is better than a trip to the Caribbean for me!

Most of the time, I plan these events in advance. Just having that anticipation encourages me to finish my task on time and keeps me excited.

Share your ideas about rewarding yourself by sending a note to info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Be a Mindful Telecommuter This Year

The definition of mindfulness: 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; for example, 2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

We need to be mindful in every aspect of our lives. Based on research done by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, mindfulness is good for our overall health. When working remotely, it is easy to get distracted by personal phone calls or the laundry, etc. To overcome such interruptions, here are some suggestions for being as mindful as you can be:

Focus on one thing at a time: When you are on a teleconference, just be on the call. Do not check e-mail or surf the web simultaneously. Staying focused is hard, but if you step away, you don’t have anything to distract you. Have a designated area or a chair where you can go while you are on the call. Close your eyes, if it helps you to stay focused.

Plan your day: Don’t jump right into e-mails or social media. Instead, take at least 20-30 minutes to plan your day and set your priorities. Pick 2-3 big items you need to address that day, and add them to your calendar. I have this time for planning set on my calendar every day, and it works well for me.

Use your calendar: If you need to work on a presentation or document, put it on your calendar so that your teammates and manager know that you are busy and will not respond to e-mails right away. Close your e-mail and chat applications while you work on the document. I usually create a better document when I spend dedicated time on a task.

Take breaks: I’m still working on this one myself! Either set up an appointment on your calendar or an alarm on your phone for a break, and take it when the time arrives. Take it for you, and not to start laundry or clean. Do what relaxes you—read a book in 15 minutes, enjoy an article, go for a short walk, or call a friend for 10 minutes.

Breathe: Do this especially if you are working on a timeline or dealing with a difficult co-worker. Put things in perspective and move on. I know this is easier said than done, but practice makes perfect. Breathing does reduce stress and helps you calm down. Here is a one-minute exercise that can help.

Exercise: This used to be last on my list, but now it is one of the first things I do. It gets me going, and this jump-start helps me to keep moving and working for the rest of the day. Direct sunlight and fresh air are invigorating, and you will carry that energy with you all day.

Shutdown: This includes your computers, cell phones, and any similar devices after your work hours. I have my work phone set to turn off at 6 pm. Unplugging helps me stay focused on after-work activities and obligations.

A great resource I use to stay mindful is https://www.mindful.org.
A great article about ways to be mindful from Happify

Do you have any recommendations for books or websites on mindfulness?

How to Eat Healthy as a Telecommuter this New Year

My vision of working remote was that life was going to be perfect. I was going to get enough rest, exercise, eat healthily, and live happily ever after!

I was wrong.

We need to make a healthy diet a priority this New Year. There is enough research to support this statement, but this NeuroGenesis TED Talk by Sandrine Thuret hit home for me.

Here are some tips that have worked for me:

Pack your lunch: Pack a lunch after you eat breakfast, just like you would if you were going to work. If you are packing lunch for your family, just make one more lunch bag. When it is time for lunch, all you need to do is grab your healthy lunch and enjoy it—no need to worry about making it.

Enjoy your food: Yes, it seems odd to sit by yourself and eat quietly, and it will take time to adjust, but being mindful while eating is very helpful. Sit at the table and enjoy your meal—no technology, no distractions. After listening to the TED Talk, I think it would also be wise to add some dense foods that you can bite into and chew.

Buy smart: If you don’t buy junk food, you can’t eat junk food. Experiment with this and see if it works for you. I like the 100daysofrealfood blog about keeping processed food out and packing healthy lunches. I’ve used Lisa’s ideas with good results.

Plan your meals: I need to keep working on this, but I have friends who spend Sunday afternoons planning the coming week’s worth of meals, and it works perfectly for them. Lisa’s blog, mentioned above, also has meal planners that you can use; otherwise, you can use one of these apps. The advantage of using an app is that you can work on your meal plan while you are waiting at your kids’ practices or other activities.

Keep it on the table: Keep healthy fruits outside and visible, so when you have a minute, you can grab something healthy. When the kids come home, they can also go for the healthy option first (or so we hope)!

Set a time: Have lunch around the same time every day to ensure you maintain your sugar levels. Put it on your calendar, just like any other meeting. Eating at a set time is especially hard if you are in a different time zone and will require commitment.

I hope these tips help you, and please share any ideas you have used successfully: info@telecommuterstalk.com

 

Resolve to Single-Task This New Year as a Telecommuter

Multitasking is exhausting, so this year, resolve to focus on a single task with these tips:

Step Away: During a call, if you are not sharing your computer screen or viewing someone’s presentation, physically step away from your computer. Find another chair to sit on or walk around. Stay focused on the call. If you need to close your eyes to understand the content, do it—no one can see you!

Do Not Disturb: If you got the cool “do not disturb” sign as a Christmas gift, now would be a perfect time to start using it. Use a visible indicator that you need to focus, and inform the family that you are working.

Chat Settings: If you are required to log into a chat service to communicate with your colleague, you can use that same app to show that you need to focus on a task. Use the “do not disturb” setting in your chat app.

Notifications: Turn off notifications that are distracting while you work, like e-mail notifications. This one is a major distraction because we want to respond promptly, but every time you look away from your task, it will take you 15 minutes to get back to where you left off. Instead, set times to check your emails only a few times a day.

If you want to keep exploring ideas, this article on Forbes has additional tips for single-tasking. If you have other suggestions, please share with info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Start the New Year with a Retreat and Resolve

Happy New Year Everyone!

Having resolutions can help you accomplish your goals. For the next few blogs, I will focus on areas where we all can improve. To get it all started we need to first take time and decide on our goals and objectives.

As a working mother it is hard to take a few days to relax and plan so here are a few ideas on how to take a mini-retreat in the middle of our busy lives:

During Sports Practice: This is my favorite time of the day. I use the time to exercise, listen to online courses, TEDTalks, parenting videos, etc. Now I am also going to add goal setting and planning to this list. The first 45 mins I will exercise and then take the rest of the 45 mins to set a goal and plan.

I have a solid four hours per week of planning!

It took me a while to realize the value of this time. Now that I have realized it’s value I used it productively. I was able to complete two online courses from Stanford using my time wisely.

During Business Trips: I love the fact that I have focused time on the plane. I use this time to think. What are the current challenges I am facing, what is within my control and what steps do I need to take? I also use this time to connect with my friends and collogues.

This adds up to at least ten hours per trip of thinking and connecting.

During Lunch: As a remote employee, this time, is mostly ignored, and I continue working. I am hoping to change that. I plan on either doing yoga, painting or meeting a friend for lunch during the break. This will be part of my mini-retreat.

This adds up to five hours per week of relaxation.

Sunday Nights: I like football, but the rest of my family loves football. So while they are enjoying what they love, I enjoy what I love. After we are done getting ready for the week, I retreat to my space and do what I feel like doing without any guilty. There are always nights when I sneak in and watch the game.

Summer: WeWork has a summer camp for telecommuters and entrepreneurs—what a brilliant idea! Attending the camp is on my to-do list. I think it will be great to connect with other telecommuters. It helps create a bond and a relationship of mutual understanding.

Time is the most valuable resource make the best of the time we have been given. If you have other ideas that have worked for you. Please share: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Tips for Managing Your Work Schedule While Kids Are On Winter Break

It is almost Christmas and winter break starts today! Our schedules will be more relaxed, but it will also be challenging to manage both working at home and the kids.

Here are a few suggestions for the next two weeks:

Take a vacation: Plan on taking at least one week of vacation. Taking a break helps you connect with the kids instead of trying to stay focused on two things at the same time—it does not work. Multitasking is exhausting.

Plan the break: Have a list of activities that you can do as a family and a few where the kids get one-on-one time with each parent. It does not need to be fancy outings just something where you spend focused time with them.

Sports Practice: If kids have sports practice during the break attend those practices. It will give you a chance to regroup, finish last minute shopping, your work or just relax.

Daily schedule: Break down the day for the kids—work in the morning and fun in the afternoons. Having a general idea of the day will set expectations with the kids and will help ensure they do not spend all day on technology.

Activities: Keep the kids engaged with holiday fun activities while you are working. Keeping them involved will help you stay focused and get things done in time.

Share: If you have to work during the break see if your partner can take time off or you can take a week off, and your spouse can take the following week off. Breaking up your vacation will help you stay on task and give each parent a chance to spend time with the kids. Each parent can be a stay at home parent for a week while the other goes to work.

I hope this helps you and if you have any suggestions, please send them my way: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Gift Ideas for Telecommuting Parents

Holidays are a time of giving. Here are some of my favorite things as a telecommuter. You could give these items to yourself, or put it on your wish list:

Signs: A “do not disturb” sign or “I am on a conference call” sign is on my list this year. The sign gives everyone in the household a hint to be quiet. The sign can be simple and handmade—for example, here are a few cute ones I found.

Headphones: A comfortable, high-quality set of headphones will be great this year. As a remote employee, I am always wearing some to help me stay focused and keep out unwanted noise. Here are some options.

A Gym Membership: We telecommuters need to leave the house. Getting a gym membership will be a great way for us to get the exercise we need and the social connections we desire. You can find great deals here.

Experiences: Going out to the theater, art museums, movies, etc. are other ways to ensure we get dressed and get out. You can find some options for shows here.

If you have other ideas for holiday gifts, please share: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Telecommuter Tips to Stay on the Same Schedule as the Family

I’ve been working from home for over six years, and it seemed to me that my schedule is off from that of the rest of my family. I am home 40 hours a week during the weekdays, so when the weekend comes around, I want to go out and stay out. But since the rest of my family has been out for 40 hours a week, they want to stay home over the weekend.

I’ve tried a few things to get us on the same cycle, and I am having some success. So, here are some tips I wanted to share:

Drop-off: There are articles stating that getting ready for work makes you more productive. I am proof that this works. I’ve added another layer to this. I drop off one of the kids. I like the commute time and the connection I make in the morning with the child. I did not realize how important the commute time was for me to get into work mode. I know that not commuting is one of the advantages of telecommuting, but you need to do what works for you.

Practices: Sports practices are a good time to get out and stay out of the house. You can use this time to run errands or exercise. I use the time to exercise, plan the week, and catch up with other parents. Going for practices helps me stay connected with the community and get much-needed exercise.

Games: Weekend games are another way to enjoy the outdoors and stay involved in your kids’ activities. For weekend games, I am out for a few hours, then some additional time to run errands. Then, I am ready to stay in after all that.

Breaks: I’ve started using my lunch breaks or morning drop-offs to run at least one errand. Breaks help me feel productive and gets the day started right. Sometimes, I use lunch breaks to meet a friend for a walk or coffee.

Events: Keep a look out for local events that are kid-friendly or performances you might want to attend. Dressing up and going someplace special makes you feel good and provides an enriching experience.

Now, I feel like I go out of the house most days during the week, so that I am ready to stay home on the weekends and just relax with my family.

Do you have any ideas on syncing up with the rest of your family? Please share your ideas at info@telecommuterstalk.com

Any Ideas on How to Celebrate Without Junk Food?

I am going to digress from the usual topics on this blog post, and talk about a parenting challenge that I have: Managing junk food intake at a party! I totally understand that it is a party and that we need to have fun, BUT do we need junk food to enjoy?

In the past two months, I have been to five parties—they were all fun, but loaded with sugar and all kinds of food coloring. I feel guilty when I take my kids to these parties and watch them eat and get a sugar rush. I don’t want to say “no” and make them feel like they don’t belong in the group or the fun.

I don’t have any ideas on how to address this issue, because it seems like I am fighting the whole system and our culture of unhealthy eating. It is everywhere at school parties, private parties, sports parties—everywhere.

If you have any suggestions on how to address this challenge, please share at info@telecommuterstalk.com