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Working From Home For Yourself ... Or Someone Else?
© 2013 Elena Fawkner
Although many people badly want to work from home, not
everyone wants to have to launch and run a fully-fledged
business of their own in order to do so. For such people
the desire to work from home is more about maximizing
time to be with family, physical location, comfort and
convenience than it is about entrepreneurship.
If this is you, telecommuting may be the answer you've been
WHAT IS TELECOMMUTING EXACTLY?
For our purposes, telecommuting simply means an employee
is working from a location other than the employer’s premises.
Usually it means the employee is working from home,
performing the same functions that he or she would otherwise
be doing in the employer’s office.
ADVANTAGES OF TELECOMMUTING
The advantages of telecommuting are many.
=> For the Employee
For parents with young(ish) children, perhaps the greatest
benefit of telecommuting is the increased time available to
spend with family. Note, though, that one of the greatest myths
about telecommuting is that it means you can do away with
daycare. That’s true for only a very few, very lucky individuals.
Instead, think in terms of time saved commuting to and from
your offsite job. THAT is the time you get back. Not your
entire working day.
Financial considerations are also a strong reason to work from
home. Think of what you can save on gas, clothing and eating
Other advantages of telecommuting for employees include:
=> Improved productivity (fewer distractions and interruptions).
=> Helps balance work and family life.
=> Greater flexibility in hours and geographic location.
=> Recovery of commuting hours (just think what you could do
with the equivalent of over six working weeks a year, assuming you
commute an hour a day).
=> Fewer daytime home break-ins.
=> Environmental considerations (fewer cars on the road means
less pollution and fewer accidents).
=> Fairer performance appraisals (you’re evaluated purely on the
quality of your work and your output, not merely the number of
hours clocked at the office).
=> Elimination of commuting aggravators (such as obnoxious
drivers, traffic snarls and other frustrations).
=> General stress reduction.
=> Improvement in morale, job satisfaction and motivation.
=> No need to relocate.
=> Can open work opportunities for the disabled.
=> For the Employer
Advantages for employers in allowing telecommuting include:
=> Saving of parking and office space costs.
=> Increases in employee productivity (20% on average).
=> Reduces absenteeism.
=> Reduces business interruptions due to natural emergencies
(if there's a snowstorm business still gets done by employees
=> The employer becomes an employer of choice, attracting
high quality employees.
=> Reduced staff turnover due to improveed job morale and
=> An expanded pool of employee talent to choose from since
no geographical limitations are imposed.
=> In some states tax credits may be available.
=> No relocation costs to be paid on behalf of employees.
=> The whole office doesn’t come down sick from one employee
spreading the flu.
DISADVANTAGES OF TELECOMMUTING
Of course, there are two sides to every coin and telecommuting
is no different, bringing its share of disadvantages for both
employee and employer, including:
=> For the Employee
=> Coworker envy (there may be some jobs in your organization
that don’t lend themselves to telecommuting).
=> Reduced social interation with coworkers may lead to
=> Possibly fewer promotional opportunities (out of sight, out
=> Potential for longer hours (try and keep work and personal
=> Reduced IT support (who’s going to fix your computer?).
=> Potential for distractions (young children, TV, refrigerator).
=> Too-frequent fridge and coffee breaks.
=> Can become a work addict.
=> For the Employer
=> Morale problems in staff holding positions not suited to
=> Startup operating costs (equipment, training etc.).
=> IT support costs.
=> Management resistance and skepticism (who needs
suspicious, distrustful managers as employees though, right?).
=> Difficulties in coordinating and monitoring performance of
=> Security of information and files when allowing remote
workers access to company computer systems.
=> Employee health and safety issues.
=> Can disrupt teamwork and organizational culture.
The advantages and disadvantages for individual employees
and employers will vary case by case. Both you and your
employer need to weigh the above factors when deciding
whether telecommuting is a viable option in your particular
WHAT TYPE OF WORK IS SUITED TO TELECOMMUTING?
As for what type of work is suited to telecommuting, basically
anything that doesn’t demand your physical presence at office
goes. You must, however, have a boss who is capable of
measuring results and quality of work, not just hours worked.
WHAT TYPE OF PERSON(ALITY) IS SUITED TO TELECOMMUTING?
The qualities needed in a telecommuter are similar to those
needed of an entrepreneur. Among other things, you need to
=> a self-starter
=> good with time management
FINDING TELECOMMUTING POSITIONS
How do you go about finding a telecommuting position?
Well, if you’re already in the workforce, and your job is one
that could just as easily and effectively be done at home,
make a proposal to your boss that you start telecommuting
one or two days a week and gradually increase the number of
days you work from home as you prove to your boss (and
yourself) that telecommuting is a good solution for both of
If you’re not already in the workforce or your position is not
one that can be performed from home, you’ll need to actively
source a position that can. Good old research, letter writing,
phone calls and pavement pounding will be required.
To begin with, inventory your skills and experience. Then
determine what kinds of positions you can do, for example,
data entry, telemarketing, customer service, transcription,
web design, accountant, lawyer etc. Then grab the yellow
pages and list the businesses that may require the skills you
possess. Approach them either in writing (enclosing a copy
of your resume) or by telephone.
If telecommuting is a new concept for your prospective
employer, but everything else about the position seems to
be right, consider taking the job as a regular position first to
prove yourself then move into telecommuting gradually.
OK, so what other issues do you need to think about?
If you have young children, you may be thinking of telecommuting
as an alternative to day care. Although some telecommuting
positions lend themselves to working around your children's
schedule, the majority don't. The fact that you're working from
home does not necessarily mean you get to work when you want.
If you have a job that requires you to effectively work a 9 to 5
workday, then you're going to need to make accommodations for
children that require constant direct supervision.
Once your children are a little older and start school, life gets a
lot easier but when you have preschoolers running underfoot,
you're going to have a challenge so know what you're getting
To make things as easy as possible, establish a schedule and
routine for yourself and kids. Include in your schedule the work
you must do for your job, any household chores that need to be
attended to and time with kids. In fact, why not get the kids to
help with the chores?
Also, don’t let friends, family or neighbors eat into your time.
Make sure they (and you!) understand that although you may
be home you are not available for social activities - you are
WORKING. Spell it out if you have to.
The same goes for personal telephone calls. Either get caller ID
with voicemail so you can screen personal calls and return them
at a convenient time or get a second line - one for home and
one for work.
In terms of boundaries, remember that as far as your kids are
concerned, you're just mom (or mum) or dad to your kids and if
you’re at home they expect you to be available to them, on tap.
Help them to understand that you have a life outside of the
home and to relate to you as an independent, professional
person (as well as mom or dad) who just happens to be around
the house more than usual.
Also, don't expect too much of your kids. They are kids after
all. In particular, don’t expect them to be quiet and well-
behaved just because you have to work. Try and locate your
office somewhere away from the kids if noise is a problem. But
if they’re very young and need constant supervision (and your
work will accommodate this level of attention), just childproof
everything as best you can. Otherwise daycare is your friend.
=> Office Space
Obviously, having an area where you can work productively is
crucial. You don't need to spend a fortune setting up an
elaborate office. If you have a spare room, great, use it as
your office provided it's suitable. But if you don't, an unused
corner of the living room or the kitchen or dining table will do
in a pinch too. Make sure that whatever area you choose has
good (preferably natural) lighting.
Also (and this is from personal experience), don’t try and use
a laptop full-time even though they take up conveniently little
space. They’re not designed for that. Make sure you have
an area big enough to house a desk that will take a desktop
monitor and keyboard. Keep your laptop for traveling or
To furnish your office inexpensively, visit second hand stores,
auctions, office furniture resellers, garage sales etc. as well
as your local newspaper classifieds to find furniture.
The equipment you need (and your employer may well provide
some or all of it) will depend on the nature of your work but if
it’s a typical office position, you’ll need:
=> Two telephone lines – one for personal use and one for
business (including voice and fax capability).
=> A fast Internet connection – cable or DSL is a must!
=> A two-line speaker phone with rolodex.
=> State-of-the-art computer (or the best you can afford --
the best are not that expensive these days fortunately).
=> Fast laser printer.
=> Fax machine.
=> Answering machine and/or voice mail.
=> Tape or CD backup .
=> Power surge protector.
You are going to be using a lot of juice with all this stuff so
make sure your electrical circuit system can handle it. If in
doubt, get an electrician in.
Telecommuting offers a bridge for those who need or want to
work for someone else but just don't want to have to leave
the house to do it. Finding a telecommuting position if you're
not already in a job that lends itself to such a working
arrangement will probably not be easy but it's worth
persevering. If you need to work for a time in a position
before raising the issue, do so. After all, telecommuting is
not necessarily a job in itself. Rather, it can be a privilege
you can earn by proving yourself to be a dependable and
reliable worker in the traditional workplace first.