Whether you’re a freelancer or permanent employee, if you telecommute you have to be better than everyone who goes into the office. After working from home for almost 15 years, I learned that many companies want to embrace telecommuting. However, they’re either worried about what will happen when staff are out of sight or they’ve been burned by people who have worked (from home) for them in the past but didn’t pull their weight.
As a freelance writer, I am always on the hunt for new clients. However, I’m finding that more potential clients are relating bad experiences with telecommuters. For example, freelancers who accept projects only to “flake out” and disappear when deadline time comes along. I’ve also worked on full-time remote teams where certain team members spent more time hanging out on Facebook and binge watching TV than they did on their jobs. I’m not saying this is the norm. However, with more people telecommuting than ever, the bad apples stand out. As a result, some clients and businesses who hired telecommuters in the past won’t do so anymore.
That’s why we, as telecommuters, have to be better.
Be available as promised
Even if a company promises flexibility, they probably still expect you to put in appearances during business hours. For example, you can’t expect everyone to want to have calls and meetings late in the evening because that’s when you work best. By all means, take advantage of your best times to get work done, but also make sure you’re available at times that are convenient to others -if only just to touch base.
It’s not enough to merely “show up” either. You don’t want to have a reputation for showing up late for calls and meetings or taking an overabundance of sick days. There are people who have an image in their mind about the disheveled telecommuter coming in late to meetings and not contributing as much as the rest of the team. Don’t be that guy. Set the standard so it paves the way for more people to work from home – and so more businesses will be more confident in hiring telecommuters.
If you worked with telecommuters and freelancers in the past, you might notice how certain individuals have a reputation for getting sick on or near deadline day. You can only use the deadline flu excuse so often. Ditto cable outages, power outages, sick kids, and deaths in the family.
When telecommuters experience frequent power and equipment failures, it tells clients and employers that it’s better to have staff work in the office where tools and services are more reliable. They’ll also wonder why certain remote workers get sick more often than people who commute every day, leading to mistrust. Plus, when you really do have emergencies, no one will believe you because you cried wolf so often.
Stuff happens to all of us. Everyone who works from home has experienced an equipment failure or other setbacks. However, when it happens too often it leads employers to wonder if they should allow teleworking at all.
Remember that the job is more important than the experience
Why do you want to work from home? Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to telecommute. For example, I work better alone in a quiet house than I do in an office (though I do enjoy being part of a team). Others choose to work at home because of the flexibility it gives them as parents. There are even those who telecommute because they like to sleep in, make their own hours, and dress as they’d like. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to work at home, the job should always be more important than the telecommuting experience.
It’s important for telecommuters to prioritize. Clients and employers don’t care why you work from home, they care that the job gets done, and it gets done in a timely, efficient, and mistake-free manner. When you put the experience of being at home before the actual job, it can mean a lack of focus and lackluster attitude for the job.
Always remember that telecommuting is a perk, not a job.
Go the extra mile
Telecommuters always have to put forth a stronger effort than those who commute into the office. People can forget about you when you’re not front and center every day. If, at the times you emerge and face the world, you show mistakes, tardiness, missed deadlines and absences, it doesn’t only reflect on you. Poor experiences with remote workers can cause employers to rethink their entire telecommuting policy – ruining it for other telecommuters. The best thing telecommuters can do to keep telecommuting is to always provide a positive attitude and outcome.
Trust can play a big factor in whether or not a company allows telecommuting. If telecommuters want to see more companies offering remote options for their staff, they have to set the example and show why it’s a benefit – not just a perk.