(NC) Whether you own a small business or work for a large company, chances are you work from home at least part of the time. The latest Statistic Canada data shows nearly two million of us are working remotely at least once a week, and that number is growing as we learn more about the benefits of telecommuting.

There is often the misconception that working from home is not as serious or demanding as in-person labour, but Dr. Lori LaCivita, director of Walden University’s industrial and organizational psychology graduate program, says this is a mistake. “It’s actually a lot harder to work remotely — it takes more effort to be effective in this environment. You need to prioritize, triage, and structure your day to be productive.” Whether you’re an employee, manager, student, or freelancer, you’re sure to benefit from her top three tips for working from home.

1. Communication is key. “Working remotely requires a higher level of communication since you can’t pick up on nonverbal cues and don’t have the in-person social interactions that office workers have, so virtual workers need to communicate more frequently with managers and in-office employees,” says Dr. LaCivita. Communicating helps you feel connected and fights feelings of isolation. Get creative and use technology — instant messaging, conference calls, Skype — whatever gets you collaborating with your team.

2. Be the captain of your own ship. You need to work independently and think through things on your own, as you may not have access to someone who can provide immediate, real-time guidance. Attending an online university is a great way to prepare for and land a virtual position, because online classes can help you develop the self-direction skills needed for success.

3. Become friends with technology. To be a successful virtual employee, you need to have a good understanding of technology and how to use it properly — if you can’t be comfortable with technology, you can’t work remotely. Always have a backup plan if technology fails: get a landline and save work in multiple locations. Identify local coffee shops where you can connect online should the power ever go out, or get a mobile hotspot solution like a good cell phone data plan or a mifi connection.

Find more tips on working from home for employees and managers at www.waldenu.edu/virtualteam.