Homework 101

Put the brakes on commuting – work at home instead

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If you commute to work, chances are you spent about 12 days last year just getting to and from the office, according to Statistics Canada. That’s 12 hours (or 63 minutes a day) spent cooling your heels in your car, on the bus, or on the train when you could have been getting work done or spending the time with your family.

Indeed, commute times are rising just as fast as gas and transit prices. So why not stay put and work from home to avoid feeling the pinch when it comes to your time and your wallet? Also called “telecommuting”, doing your job from the comfort of your home can save you money, time and anxiety.

How can you get your boss to say yes and let you work from home? And, once you’re there, how do you make sure you get the job done instead of watching Oprah?

Getting your boss to say yes
First, you need to convince your boss that it’s a good idea. Put together a clear, written proposal that outlines all the ways working from home will help you do your job better. Be realistic – can your job really by done well from outside the office? And what traits would make you a good telecommuter: Are you a self-starter and can you stay focused when other distractions like kids, TV and household chores are there to lure you away from your desk? You also need to explain how working from home will be a win for your employer, not just you. If your workplace has never taken the telecommuting plunge, then make sure you set some limits – propose a trial period (if it doesn’t work out – no sweat!) and set performance benchmarks such as regular calls and status reports for you and your boss. Finally, make sure your boss knows you are set up for doing work at home – you need a quiet place to work and all the bells and whistles to keep in constant contact with the folks at the office (high speed internet, fax, phone and the other tools of your trade).

Now that you’re home…
Working at home is about a lot more than just sitting in your pajamas all day – you actually need to get work done. And for some people, trying to do this outside of an office can be a big challenge. Make sure you start work at the same time every day – get up and get dressed before you hit your desk. Stick to a schedule – that way your day will have structure and your co-workers will always know when they can contact you. Close the door and limit distractions – a dedicated workspace is a must, especially if your kids are around during the day. Take breaks, just as you would at the office. If you can get outside even better – since you’re not commuting, it’s all too easy to end up staying indoors for days at a time (you don’t want to turn into a mole). And, finally, turn your computer off at the end of the day – when your office is downstairs or across the hall, it’s easy to get drawn back into work after hours, especially if something is worrying you or keeping you up at night.