After you’ve been telecommuting a few weeks or a few months, take stock. Is it turning out as you’d hoped, or have you just replaced one set of work concerns with another? Have you gotten into any ruts? You wouldn’t be the first telecommuter to become either an extreme overworker, addicted to the computer and the BlackBerry day, night, and
weekend; or an underworker, unable to focus and complete projects.
If reducing stress and improving your health were among your hopes for teleworking, what kind of progress are you making? If you’re not getting out of the house to exercise—or even getting out of your chair except to raid the fridge—you’re probably feeling disappointed and sluggish.
Don’t beat yourself up about these issues—just take concrete steps to do something about them. If you started out with a full-time telework arrangement, maybe going back to the office for one or two days a week would help. If you’re working too hard, scheduling yourself for some walks, classes, or events with friends might force you to change your pace. If you’re getting too little done, try to figure out what the main distractions are, and eliminate them. Or try changing your location, perhaps by working at the library or a coffee shop (it’s sort of embarrassing to do nothing with other people looking).
Keep doing these self-checks regularly, over the months and years. You may, for example, realize that while your
teleworking routine has gotten comfy for you, your office-based peers have received raises and promotions that you haven’t. Maybe that’s okay, but it should at least prompt you to reevaluate your efforts at keeping up connections with your company’s management. And keep on top of your own professional development. Seek out opportunities to keep up with what’s happening in your field and to keep your name and face out there. For example, attend seminars, join professional organizations, or write a column for a local paper.
If all else fails, there’s no shame in deciding that telework isn’t for you. Your boss will probably be happy to have you back.