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Maintaining Positive Relationships with Co-Workers While you Telecommute

Maintaining positive working relationships with co-workers can be a challenge under the best of circumstances.  When you are a telecommuter, however, it can be even more difficult.  Here are some tips to help you stay away from some common pitfalls.

Stay in touch:  Make sure that you stay in contact with your co-workers on an on-going basis.  Working from home can make it easy to get caught up in the work while forgetting about work relationships.  You won’t be commiserating at the water cooler (which can actually be a nice thing!)  but you will still need to stay connected.  Make a point of contacting key co-workers once a week at least.  Begin the conversation with a few minutes of chit chat – any topics that are comfortable – sports, weather, family (if you’ve established this kind of personal relationship).  Once you’ve gotten caught up, then jump into the business at hand.  If you don’t have anything really pressing business-wise, at least bring them up to speed on what you are working on and ask how their work- load is.  Offer assistance if appropriate.  The goal is to re-create that walking down the hall or riding in the elevator banter that you would have if you worked in close proximity day to day.

Be a Team Player:  Co-workers who are in the office day to day are probably working collaboratively on projects on both a formal and an informal basis all the time.  It may be something as small as helping with a line of code on an Access database, but they are helping each other out and are building relationships.  As a telecommuter you still need to help.  But it will be harder. 

When there are formal team projects going on make sure to take the initiative to offer your assistance.  If you have certain days where you work in the office, see if some of the key meetings can be held while you are physically present.  If that does not work, try to be flexible with your schedule and offer to come to the office on one of your work from home days.  As an alternative, you can request to be present via speakerphone.  Make sure to make the extra effort to add valuable input though.  It is much more difficult to be an active participant in a meeting if you are not physically there.

To help informally, make sure to take advantage of any opportunities that arise while you are checking in and staying connected via phone.  Ask if there is anything pressing going on.  Take initiative.  Unfortunately, without physically being there, you will have to be much more diligent about looking for opportunities to jump in.

Be Flexible:  You probably did set up a schedule to work with when you made your proposal to telecommute.  And yes, sticking to this schedule would be great!  There will be times, however, when it will be necessary to be flexible with your schedule.  As in the example above, your co-workers may not always be able to schedule meetings around you.  They all have things going on too and you don’t want them to feel put out by your work arrangement.  As a result, you should be prepared to come to the office on days when you would normally work from home.  Be as flexible as possible – as long as it doesn’t interfere with your overall productivity.  In the long run it can work to your advantage too!  There may be times when it is useful for you to change your schedule around to meet your own needs.  Co-workers and bosses will be more flexible with you if you have been willing to work around them at times.

Get Credit for Your Work:  Under normal circumstances it is often very hard to take credit for the work that you have done.  You never want to feel like you are blowing your own horn.  But how many of us have learned in hindsight that our accomplishments have gone unnoticed or that others have received the credit for our work?  Then at a crucial moment, like being up for a promotion, our career is hurt by the fact that we have not worked to be noticed. 

As a telecommuter your challenge is even greater.  Out of site can be out of mind!  And you do not want your supervisors or co-workers thinking that you’re a slacker just because you are working from home!  Make it a point to keep your supervisors and co-workers aware of the activities that you are performing and what you are accomplishing while you work from home.  Send e-mail updates weekly or monthly to provide specifics of where you stand with your projects.  Also send a list of accomplishments.  It will be hard to do at first but will prove well worth it.  When the management in the organization re-evaluates the effectiveness of telecommuting, they will have a strong example from you to keep allowing employees to work from home!  And you will hopefully end up with more opportunities for promotion as a result.

Maintaining good working relationships is important under any circumstance, but is more crucial while working an alternative work arrangement that may be experimental for the organization.  Follow these few tips and you should be a great role model for continuing the practice of telecommuting and expanding the program!

Kirsten Ross is mother of two sons and is a Certified Human Resource Professional (SPHR) dedicated to helping women achieve more life balance and to transforming the design of work.

Visit at to search our revolutionary flexible work job board featuring more than 35,000 fresh work from home, part time, job share, flex time and telecommuting opportunities, search for a job share partner or read valuable career, life balance and family articles.  You may also email her at



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