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How to Prepare for a Remote Career

When working from home, keep a professional office mindset and set aside your personal to-do list during the workday. (iStockPhoto)

When you get a job in a new city, you research places to live and other key items before making the move. You typically do some research when you get a new job in your own city, observing the corporate culture during the interview stage and gathering information about dress code and other expectations before starting work. While people tend to do this kind of preparation before taking on a traditional job, a surprising number of people are unprepared for remote work, despite it being quite different than an office job.

[See: Explore the 11 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance.]

Working remotely for companies big and small has risen in popularity within the last few years. Organizations have begun to recognize that large numbers of workers both prefer and work more productively in a remote environment. If you’re looking for a remote career, you must be prepared to accommodate this type of work in both your home and your schedule, and know the tools necessary to operate successfully. Here is a quick guide.

Schedule. The most critical piece of working remotely is that you must be available when needed. Your company and manager may expect you to be accessible from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or they may need to be able to reach you at all times (although hopefully not when you’re sleeping). That said, you need to be reachable during the specified timeframe. You have to pretend that you are working in a traditional office, which is not an easy thing to do from home. At home, you have other to-do lists and pressures, but you must put those aside for your workday. For example, you can’t assume it’s OK to be at a class at your gym from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday when you’re expected to be working. If your boss allows that and you mark it on your calendar, you have an amazing boss. Go ahead and congratulate yourself.

Voice and video communication. So you say you will be available when needed. That also means you need to be reachable. Do you have the tools to enable that? Naturally, you need a cellphone. It’s smart to also have a landline as a backup. Some of the following tools are also considered basics these days, but not all people use them. If you’re aiming to get a remote job and you’re not already utilizing these tools, it’s time to sign up and play around with them by connecting with friends so you know how they work. Skype and FaceTime are commonly used for video and voice calls, as well as Google Hangouts.

[Read: You’re New, and Your Job is 1,000 Miles Away. Now What?]

Messaging communication. Common tools for text messaging include What’s App (which also includes voice messaging) and Google Chat. Similar to these tools, Voxer allows you to send voice, text and photo messages to other users. There are many others that companies employ for teams to communicate on a daily basis, such as collaborative document and message-sharing platforms like Slack, Igloo and Google Docs. Many of these eliminate the need for extensive emailing.

Work tools. If you have an Apple computer and expect to work with your PC-using colleagues without MS Office, you may need to rethink that. You must be willing to accommodate the software and all tools the company and your co-workers use so you can work together efficiently. Your home office should also have basics like a printer, copier and scanner, which you can get as an all-in-one device. Be aware that depending on the company, there may also be security considerations and specifications you must follow.

It goes without saying that when you are on the phone, video chat or texting with colleagues that you maintain the same professional demeanor that you would in an office setting. This can be hard to remember when you’re sitting in your home office or a coffee shop working every day. But it’s important to both act and present yourself responsibly and professionally.

[Read: 6 Ways Telecommuters Can Show They’re Part of the Team.]

If you expect to get the flexibility of a remote position, the company is going to have high expectations for you. You must be well equipped so that you can accept a remote role if you end up with an offer. Don’t get caught unprepared.

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