Telecommuters Need to Develop Special Skills

Telecommuters Need to Develop Special Skills

Successful telework requires more than a laptop and a fast Internet connection

Whether you telecommute personally or you work with telecommuters, you should be aware of the pitfalls — and the solutions — so you can deal with them before they become problems in which a manager does need to get involved.

I sidestep the usual advice here about becoming a self-starter, creating a personal space for professional activities, and teaching children that "Mommy is working now and can't be disturbed". You'll find those suggestions anywhere, including in books devoted to the subject (which have varying value, in my estimation). Instead, these specific suggestions aim to help telecommuters learn business skills that they may not realize are affecting their careers.

Telecommuters can be "out of sight, out of mind", and that can affect your manager's and co-workers' perception of you and your performance

Speak Up! Lisa Curhan, an operations engineering manager at Sun Microsystems, recommends that telecommuters pay attention to their behaviour during conference calls. "Make your presence known. Ask people who mumble to repeat themselves or get closer to the mike. Speak clearly and use visual aid-sharing when needed. Don't multitask during the meeting (it's usually obvious), unless you are doing something necessary to the task at hand, like taking notes. Keep yourself on mute when not speaking, and keep the background noise as low as reasonably possible."

Promote Yourself. Telecommuters can be "out of sight, out of mind", and that can affect your manager's and co-workers' perception of you and your performance. "Because your presence is not as strong psychologically as the on-site workers, you may have to be a bit of a publicist for yourself to get proper recognition," says Curhan. So make sure you blow your own horn on notable accomplishments.

Telecommuters need to make a deliberate effort to demonstrate accomplishments and productivity. One way to accomplish this is for the telecommuter to send the manager a weekly log of projects and tasks, at least to begin with. After a while, the manager and telecommuter can rely on a weekly conference call during which the discussion covers what current tasks are under way and structuring projects so there's a steady stream of deliverables.

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