According to a new study, telecommuting is on the rise. In fact, 56 percent of decision makers at US companies think that working from home makes employees more productive and 53 percent of CFOs plan on increasing telecommuting options at their companies. If you're part of the lucky population that is or soon will be allowed to work remotely, be sure to follow these tips for maximizing your home office and making sure you're following proper coffee shop office etiquette!
- Have a designated work area — The couch may be comfy, but working while hunched over on your sofa isn't the best idea for your posture. Get a real desk, or at least work at the dining table so you can prevent a sore neck and back later on down the road.
- Keep a clean workspace — Speaking of a designated workspace, there's nothing more distracting than working amongst cords, cables, papers, dirty coffee cups, and whatever else happened to land on your desk while you weren't working. Start the day off right with a clutter-free environment by making a point to clean off your desk at the end of each workweek. Monday mornings will thank you.
- Ready, set, share — Set up a file sharing service with your teammates so you can keep on top of document changes while you're working. Dropbox and Box.net are both great services for sharing documents and files between groups.
- Consider dual monitors — More desktop real estate equals more productivity. Since you've got a good desk, you might as well make the most of things by allowing yourself more monitor space to see your incoming emails, web browser, chat windows, and spreadsheets all at once. No more clicking around, searching for the right window!
- Set your schedule — Schedules aren't there to make your life miserable — they actually help get things accomplished. Be sure that your working hours are clear with your boss (even better if they're flexible to start and end times), and take regular breaks to stretch.
- Communicate often — If instant message is your preferred form of communication, be sure you're available during your working hours, and remember to set the "away" notification when you've stepped out. This will be a big help for your co-workers who may be looking for you.
- Keep track of expenses — If you're freelancing or building your own business, be sure to document and save receipts for purchases. You can usually write off expenses for computer equipment, Internet access, and even part of your rent if you work from home. I recommend scanning all of your receipts and storing them in a cloud-based locker so if by chance your paper files get damaged, you'll always have a digital copy. Same goes for any important documents you need.
Planning on posting it up at your favorite coffee shop? Some etiquette tips you may want to keep in mind after the break.
At the Coffee Shop
- Don't hog the outlet — If your laptop is fully charged, give up the outlet so someone else can juice up. You can always ask for the favor to be returned later.
- Drink up — If you're working at your favorite coffee shop for the day, be sure to get a few (paid) refills. A fresh latté and a pastry should last you an hour or so, as long as you tip well.
- Don't be a bandwidth hog — Make a rule to avoid downloading big files while using your friendly neighborhood coffee shop's free WiFi. Save the data-hogging downloads for when you return home.
- Pack some headphones — Don't add to the sound garden by pumping your own tunes or watching that funny vid your co-worker passed along without headphones. Be respectful of your fellow patrons by keeping some headphones handy.
- Share your table — If you're camped out for a long workday, be sure to take the smallest table, or work at the communal table to maximize the number of people that can sit and enjoy their java. Also, leave your bag on the floor (or get a handy bag hook) instead of taking up a second chair.
- When nature calls — When we asked on Twitter, most of you said that you leave your stuff to hold your table, but take your laptop with you to the bathroom. I'd have to agree. But if you do happen to ask a fellow patron to keep an eye on your machine, maybe offer a drip to sweeten the deal. Plus, if you've installed any remote wiping software or happen to have MobileMe, at least you'll have the peace of mind knowing that you can track the dude down if he (or she) decides to swipe your equipment instead.