The Telework Enhancement Act, which President Obama signed into law last month, is expected to give about a million more feds the opportunity to telework. Here are some tips for successfully working out of the office without losing your status in the office:
* Make a written agreement with your supervisor, as the law requires, about the mechanics of your teleworking. For example, will you regularly telework on the same day every week, on different days every week, or only occasionally? Will you be permitted to telework several days in a row? And remember: Don’t push your telework privileges too far.
å Before you start teleworking, invest in a good telephone. Your phone should have a mute button, so that callers won’t hear disruptive sounds from your home, such as barking dogs, crying babies, sirens and doorbells.
* Get your boss’s permission ahead of time for each of your teleworking days. Alternatively, if you regularly telework on the same day every week, remind your boss of your teleworking plans a day ahead of time.
* Tell your supervisor what you plan to accomplish on your teleworking day. Pick a project that involves producing a tangible deliverable that you can present to your boss when you return to the office. Don’t pick nebulous tasks, such as organizing your e-mail inbox, that won’t easily testify to your teleworking productivity.
Also, send an e-mail to your boss and colleagues with your contact info, your working hours and when you will be off duty, such as when you are at lunch. Also, tell them that you will leave your Microsoft Outlook calendar open so that others can see what you are doing if they are unable to reach you at home.
* Instead of chiming into meetings via teleconference from your home, schedule your telework for days when there are no meetings. It will be easier for you to participate in meetings in person, rather than as a bodyless voice crackling through a speakerphone that may accidentally disconnect, and you will be less likely to be overlooked.
* Give up your teleworking day — even if you won’t get a substitute — if you suspect you may be needed in the office.
* Take home everything you will need to complete your teleworking project at home, including hard-copy files, books and important phone numbers. Prepare for the unexpected by taking home materials from ongoing projects that you don’t plan to work on while teleworking. This will be helpful if, for some unanticipated reason, such projects need your attention.
If you suspect that bad weather may compel you to telework an extra day instead of taking liberal leave, plan accordingly.
Also on the day before your teleworking day, check that your computer works and that you will be able to access your work e-mail, as well as electronic documents on your work computer.
* Treat your teleworking day like any other working day by, for example, working normal business hours and working a full day. Plan a structured timeline that includes target times for completing particular tasks. The minute your day starts, open your work e-mail and your Outlook calendar, keep them open all day and respond to incoming e-mails. If you must leave your house while you are supposed to be working, take along your BlackBerry or cell phone.
*Be flexible. If something unexpected happens that needs your immediate attention in the office — because, for example, you will need to interact with many other people, attend an unexpected meeting or see a certain document — forsake your telework and go to the office.