3 Ways You Need to Work at Home to Feel Like You Never Left the Office

Whether you’re a full- or part-time telecommuter, or you just like to catch up on projects at home or on the go—you’re not alone. According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people who work at home, not including those who are self-employed, has grown by 103 percent since 2005 and it shows no signs of stopping—with 3.7 million employees now working from home at least half the time. Telecommuting offers many benefits for workers, including flexibility and better work-life balance, as well as for employers, who enjoy cost savings and an expanded talent pool, to name a few. As people continue to jump on the telecommuting bandwagon, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stay productive, connected and happy.

Here are three easy ways to make the most of working at home:

1.) Be there with instant messaging (IM)—Instant messaging has two big benefits for telecommuters. First, it makes it possible for coworkers to reach you instantaneously, blasting any preconceived notions that you’re lounging poolside or at the movies. IM also keeps at-home workers from feeling isolated. Years of research on telecommuting has found that the live, synchronous nature of IM enhances people’s feelings of presence, belonging and emotional well-being. Other studies have found that virtual teams who engaged in digital interactions with a social and fun element to them worked better together and built better relationships. Software like Microsoft’s Office 365 offers IM via Skype for Business, allowing for real-time contact on a moment’s notice—complete with emoticons. It’s less formal, more conversational and faster than a phone call.

2.) Bad Internet? Go mobile—Sometimes you can get stuck with sketchy internet service, depending on where you live. About 55 percent of U.S. households have just one provider that offers service at 25 megabits per second, the minimum the FCC deems necessary to access the most advanced online applications. And while about 75 percent American households with Internet still use DSL, cable or fiber connection to get online at home, we may be moving toward a more mobile workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Internet users dropped from 82 percent just a few years before—with mobile-only connections jumping from 10 to 20 percent in the same period. Luckily, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband data plans have made the possibility of a mobile workforce a reality. Add to that the fact that many popular, top-of-the-line productivity tools are now accessible on your mobile device. That includes office applications that let you create, edit and share from your PC/Mac or your iOS, Android or Windows device with anyone in real-time. That makes it easy to have a mobile backup plan if your Internet isn’t as reliable as it should be.

3.) Stay connected socially—Not all business takes place at the office. SharePoint Newsfeeds allow you to stay in the know on company events and news. Newsfeeds are also a great way to post questions and supply answers to those in need by simply “@”ing co-workers in a thread. The other great part is that it is all searchable so you can come back to an old conversation to find an answer.

Make the most of your company’s software—Products like Office 365, Skype for Business, SharePoint and Windows Phone have helped build a more productive work-at-home environment. Good software will help you make the most of connecting with your teams in real-time via conferencing, IM, video and sharing, while also taking advantage of advanced security and compliance tools, interactive reports, simpler dashboards and compelling data visualizations.

While many workers once used telecommuting to supplement their full-time in-office job, more and more people are using it as a replacement for being in the office. As this trend continues to rise, with approximately 55 percent college graduates reporting they have telecommuted for their jobs, it’s more important than ever to have the right tools to make your work-at-home experience flexible, productive and successful.