Where did they go? Those dreary office walls that you had to face every morning are gone! You have decided to make the large (and sometimes scary step) to ditch the cubicle and go virtual.

It’s not as easy as simply having a great WIFI connection, laptop and blackberry. It takes a bit of self restraint to settle into a productive and profitable routine. You will be drawn to the thought of working in comfy pyjamas and bunny slippers…don’t! Regardless of where you are working, you are still working.

Here are some guidelines to make the transition to working virtually a smooth process:

1. Define your work space – You will need a space that is all yours to work from. This could be an office, a table or even a corner in the family room. But this corner is your “office”, your workspace, your place of productivity. When you are there, you are working. It must be quiet and it must be off limits to others. Set it up as you would set up any office space were you working for an employer. This means the proper office equipment which includes a secure broadband connection and router with a dedicated phone line. Clients will want proof that their data is secure and wireless or satellite communications can be easily intercepted if they are not encrypted and password protected.

2. Schedule – It is very easy to get distracted when you are working from a home office. Children, personal phone calls, that never ending to-do list. Don’t give in to the temptation to get off track. In order to do this, schedule dedicated time that is only for work. Nothing else short of an emergency should keep you from this allotted work time. You will find it easier to focus and accomplish tasks this way. This will also help balance your work and personal/recreational hours.

3. Network – Working in an office daily gives you the advantage of being in a collaborative environment. When you work virtually, you have to actively seek out and participate in networking to get the same results. There are online networking and support groups for virtual workers which are full of great tips and ideas, as well as those who can lend support because they are in the same boat as you! If you are working as part of a team, there are various online web applications that make it easier for all of you to collaborate on documents. Take advantage of these.

4. Make sure you take time for you. It is easy to get caught up in the pace of work, work, work. Unlike working in an office where you have the visual and physical cues to stop working when you leave, you don’t have that in a virtual setting. Make sure you give that to yourself so that you are not prone to burning out.

Enjoy your adventure in the virtual world!

4051398710_8985c07e0e_o image by jnyemb on Flickr