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How to Successfully Telecommute when Working from Home

Telecommuting can be an effective way for nonprofits to minimize overhead office costs and provide a nonfinancial incentive to staff members. Here are some simple tips for working from home. Coming to the office provides many expenses to employees (commuting, wardrobe, lunch, etc.). Additionally, the travel time means staff have less time for personal care and their families while increasing their child/elder care costs. Research shows that few benefits are more effective in retaining staff then flexibility in how and where work is done. Here are some tips to help telecommuting from home.

Find a Dedicated Workspace
Your bed is not appropriate. It should be physically comfortable and provide adequate lighting.


Be on Time
Starting at the same time with a specific morning routine will help you get the most out of those early focused hours. Also, be on time for remote meetings and deadlines. Just because you can’t see your colleagues’ annoyance when you show up 15 minutes late to the teleconference conference doesn’t mean it isn’t there.


Keep a To Do List
Whether in a physical or virtual note pad, keep a to do list that you mark things off on. Then on even challenging days you can turn to your list and see your high priority tasks. We recommend including meetings on that list as attending them is important and will provide a reminder for time to prepare and do any follow ups.


Keep to a Schedule
Using your lunch to run an errand is fine but make sure you’re working during a consistent schedule of work hours. It will help you focus and help those you collaborate with get hold of you.


Keep Email Pithy
It is easy to fall into the habit of providing a long narrative arc to emails, particularly ones that require a group of people to take an action such as voting.
Unfortunately, the longer your email the less of it is read and understood. If something is complex or requires context, use a phone call, teleconference, or video conference instead. Five sentences are generally a good length. Bullet points help convey information in shorter, easier to read formats for those accessing your email by mobile device.


Measurable Goals
Each organization should have annual measurable goals directly related to the fulfillment of their mission. These should be developed as part of a strategic process with the board and staff leadership. Each member of a team, staff or volunteer, should know their role and expectations in fulfilling those goals. This allows remote and on-site workers to be clearly measured by their results since the hours put in aren’t always as evident.


Calling Staff
A simple and free way to manage phone calls is to set up a Google Voice number for each staff person working remotely. That number automatically forwards to their mobile phone. Features such as emailed voicemails come standard.
ESC recommends nonprofits that have staff who telecommute half or fulltime provide a small monthly stipend to offset the personal cost of mobile phone and home internet service.

Meeting is Such Sweet Sorrow
When in person meetings happen, you don’t have to compete for your office’s conference room. In addition to coffee shops and libraries there are low cost hourly meeting spaces available at

See You Tomorrow
It is always hard to unplug but particularly so if your work is at home. It is important to have designated time that you are not working each day. Depending on your schedule and role this might be meal, physical activity, and/or game/entertainment time. Whatever it is, it’s important that it is part of your schedule.

Tell us what has worked for you when telecommuting at

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