Tag Archives: relationships

Should You Hire a Cleaning Person When You Telecommute?

and other questions answered! When I started telecommuting a few years ago, I had a lot of questions. Over the years I have learned a lot, and I share my findings with you to help:

1. How do you deal with the telecommuters guilt, and should you feel guilty?
You got the opportunity to be a telecommuter because of your work ethics and performance. So you just continue performing as you would when you are in the office.If you don’t feel guilty working from the office whey would work from home be any different?

2. For how much and for how long should you continue to prove yourself above and beyond because you work from home?
You would need to provide yourself if you were in the office no different now. Just know that you need to have the mindset to perform and irrespective you continue doing that.

3. Where do you fit in your daily exercise?
There is the time you just need to take the initiative to find it. Here is my blog/eBook with details on how to find the time to exercise on a regular basis.

4. When you have to travel for work, how do you manage your kids’ practice schedule?
Car pool with people you trust. If you don’t trust any of the parents then get a sitter or set expectations that one of the kids will need to miss practice.

5. What do you do when your workload is slow?
When your workload is high, you compromise on personal items so when work is close catch up on your personal action items. Another option is to do training and manage administrative items that you know are going to be due in a few months like performance reviews, end-of-year calendar, etc.

6. Should you do laundry or run an errand during your lunch hour?
No laundry for sure! If the errand is short and something that will get you energized or get you out of the house and dressed then yes please go ahead.

7. How do you take breaks during your work day, and what do you do?
Yes, research shows you need to take a break every 90 mins. Taking breaks makes you more productive. Do what energizes or relax you like reading a book—a physical book. Here is my eBook with details on how to make the most of your time.

8. How do you manage your professional calendar if you are in a different time zone?
You work with their schedule but take control of your calendar. Take the initiative to schedule the meetings and ensure the timing works for your schedules. Managing your schedule gives you a choice not to schedule 7 am meetings.

9. How do you network while you work from home?
You use personal activities to build your network. The group will look different than your professional network but is a great start. Talk to parents during practice. Join meetup groups if you can find the time to attend the events or be part of the TT online community.

10. How do you manage distractions when you work from home (e.g. the door bell, a friend who needs help, etc.)?
Schedule everything and stick to it.

11. What do you do with the kids during breaks—winter, spring, or summer, since our vacation is usually shorter than theirs?
Camps, Creative projects, boredom, and free play. Take vacation when possible—this can be your time to relax and truly connect with the kids.

12. How do you manage one-off school closures?
These are hard, but with planning, you can manage them. One option is to work in the mornings and take the afternoons off to spend time with them. If they are in their tweens, create a schedule for them do finish all their work (HW, practice, etc.) while you are working. Then when you complete work, they are done, and it is time to have some fun!

13. Should you get someone to clean your house even if you work from home?
Yes! I tried to do it all for the first six months after we moved, and got sick. Treat your job the same way as you did when you were working in the office, and take breaks to do the things that refresh you.

14. Do you stay connected after hours?
No! Unless it is a critical time for my business or project, I turn off my work phone at 6 pm. Everything can wait for a few hours. Besides, I am too busy driving around to activities and don’t have the time to check the phone, and since this is my only downtime, I cherish and protect it.

15. Should you get more involved with the kids’ schools so you can meet more people?
For me, this worked a little once I found a few working mothers with flexible schedules to go for a walk once a week, or being part of my kids’ classroom by helping as needed. I did not have much luck being part of the PTA because the meetings were when I had work-related conference calls. The bet place I found to connect was after school activities and community events. These take place after work hours, so you don’t have to worry about missing meetings or to get back to work in time. When you are relaxed, you can connect.

I would like to keep the conversations and questions going, so please send your comments and ideas for making things to info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Communication During The Chaos of Change

I am excited about all the changes within my company. With change comes growth, and with growth comes learning. I am learning a lot and have the opportunity to share with you all.

Here are a few tips on communication:

Be concise: Things are moving very fast for my organization, so it is key that I keep my communication with team members and management concise. I ensure my subject line states what I need from them and the e-mails are short—a few sentences.

Be clear: Keep it simple and clear. Ask for what you need and when you need it. For detailed emails, list the items in bullet point format with the most important information first.

Be casual: While transitioning into a leadership role, start by connecting with your teammates first. Project details will follow once you have built the relationships. Here is a link to my blog about 7 Guidelines for Global Project Management.

Be Collaborative: If there is an urgent situation that needs attention, pick up the phone and have a conversation. For conversations with two people, do a three-way call or Skype. Don’t lose time by using e-mail or waiting for a status meeting.

Be confident: As a leader, your team is looking to you as the Subject Matter Expert. Take the time to know your project as part of the transition. Your management will also be looking to see how you are doing and if you fit the role. Make sure you are on top of the key issues, resolutions, and project updates.

What communication tips have worked for you? Please share at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

How to Manage the Chaos of Change

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

With reorganization, there is a lot of uncertainty—here are a few ways to manage it. These tips are useful for any changes in your life:

Meditate: There is enough research on the benefits of meditation. For most working parents, the challenge is finding the time to do it. Even a five-minute meditation will have a positive impact on you. Try and find a time that works for you—any time during the day works.

Exercise: Exercise is as important as meditation. Find the time to fit some cardio, strength training, and yoga into your schedule. Here’s my article on How to Fit in Exercise While You Work Remotely.

Plan your days: Set aside the first 30 to 40 minutes of each day to plan your day. I have used this strategy for a while, but with the changes and everything being a priority at the same time, it has become even more important. I pick the top three items I need to complete on a particular day, both professionally and personally.

Take breaks: Breaks build resilience. After exercising, you need rest; the same is true with work. After some focused work, you need to take a break—even if it is only for ten minutes. As telecommuters, this is harder, but add it to your calendar and stick with it.

Sleep: Stress has a direct impact on sleep. Ensure you are getting enough rest to be productive during the day. If you are having sleep challenges try these poses to help you sleep better.

Be flexible: You need a plan to continue forward, but you also need to be flexible to accommodate the changes. Your priorities can change based on the demands of your project or management needs. Account for that in your schedule. One option is to keep your Friday afternoons open, and use that time to catch up or address any urgent request that has come up.

Ask questions: Sometimes, the deadlines imposed on you may be due to someone else’s work style instead of a true urgency. Identify team members who have a tendency to set unrealistic timelines and ask questions. Ask for a specific due date and notice due to other priorities.

What tips have worked for you? Please share at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

In-Person Conversations to Have During Reorganization Phases

Reorganization means changing how everything works. Change is good, but also creates a reason to be more vigilant about your career, your priorities, and your focus on growth. Change can be a time to ask what you want from your career.

During my recent in-person meetings, we had a few of these conversations that I want to share with you:

What is your new role?: Get clear directions on your roles and responsibilities for the new assignments. Use a Gantt Chart or MS Project for you and your new team. Account for schedule changes, hours of operations, additional meetings, and time zone impacts.

What are the other team members’ roles?: If your new responsibilities entail a leadership role, understand the roles of each person on your team and the extended team. If it is a global team, understand their location, time zones, and culture.

What is the transition plan?: If you are taking over an existing project, ensure that you ask for a transition plan with the latest updates on each section of the project. I have used Excel for this purpose with success.

What is the transition timeline?: In addition to the plan document, you will need to agree on the duration of the transition. If you will be managing a complex project, account for a few months of transition. New items will come up just when you think you have wrapped your head around the various pieces of the project.

When is the transition meeting?: Meet with your manager and teammates involved with the transition. Have the document updated and ready to share. Review the document, and confirm that both managers and employees understand the tasks and approve of the plan.

What communication channels do we use?: Decide on one or two communication channels for urgent situations. Find out what works for the team, and, if possible, come up with one channel that works for everyone.

Please share additional tips that you may have at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Background Information You Can Gather During In-Person Meetings

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that my organization is going through some changes. As I go through the changes, I am learning a lot and want to continue sharing what I’ve learned with you.

Recently, I had to attend a few Town Hall meetings and strategy sessions in-person, and here is what I learned:

What you hear on the phone may not be accurate: As a remote employee, what you hear on the phone or see via e-mail may be just half the story. Keep in touch with your teammates offline to get additional information.

Example: A friend/colleague was working on the most important project in the organization, and I was convinced that she was having fun. When I asked her how her cool project was going in person, the look on her face confirmed that it was not that great.

All requests are urgent: Changes involve a learning curve and chaos. I would question why I was being asked for the same information multiple times. When I was there, I realized that my management did not have time to find the information in their inbox and things were moving a million miles an hour.

Example: I received a call at 7 am to present to my VP that morning. I also had other important meetings that morning and needed urgent information before the discussions. I could not find the time to text or email my teammate for information. I gathered the information and presented to the VP in a timely manner.

You are monitored: How you dress and how you behave come into play when you go in-person. I think this is the case for all employees, but managers of remote employees need to ensure that you are stable.

Example: Women tend to maintain good attire by default, but managers also take note of your overall appearance, professional behavior, confidence, and interactions. The expressions you might make while on the phone need to be toned down during in-person meetings.

Please share any examples you may have at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Setting Boundaries as a Telecommuter

In my recent articles, I’ve mentioned that my organization is going through changes, and my responsibilities have increased as part of the change. I am now working with global team members across multiple time zones. I am enjoying myself, but also have to take early morning calls with background noise!

I need to set boundaries not only personally but also professionally to ensure I have a work-life balance. Here are some ideas I have come up with to set boundaries:

Close the Office Door: When I am working, I close my door and use my “Do Not Disturb” sign that I received during the holiday season. Closing the door adds distance to household responsibilities and informs family members that I am in work mode.

Say “No” Nicely: Running to school to deliver forgotten homework or shorts will stop. I have informed my family that things need to change. This approach will keep me focused on work and teach the kids to be responsible.

Use Weekends: I would multitask during the work week, and it was exhausting. Now, I focus on a single task. When I am working, I am working—no additional chores. I use my breaks as downtime and to walk. Most household-related responsibilities are handled after work or on weekends.

Manage Your Calendar: Take charge of your calendar and the responsibility to set up meetings when possible. Taking the initiative gives you the ability to set meetings based on your schedule and time zone. Use this approach for both personal and professional meetings.

Get Help: Delegate and move on. Assign household responsibilities to your family and hire help as needed. Working from home is the same as going to work—the only difference is that you are wearing yoga pants!

If you have additional tips that work, please share at info@telecommuterstalk.com

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?

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