Working From Home: Could It Work for You?
If you’re job hunting, you’ve probably considered working from home as a possible solution.
Telecommuting suggests great flexibility, freedom from distractions and a healthy work-life balance. Although this kind of arrangement comes with many benefits, it does present some challenges.
The environmental sector is particularly suited to telecommuting, a trend that has gained traction in recent years. If you think this could be an option for you, learn more about it and weigh the pros and cons before you make your choice.
If you care about protecting the environment, or if you find that driving in rush-hours traffic is stressful, limiting your daily commute may be a deciding factor for you. Since you won’t need to use your car to get to an office, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and save money. Some workers also find that they save time, which they can then invest in personal or professional pursuits.
Independent individuals often find that working from home is motivating. Some workers prefer to set their own schedule, while other require tighter guidance. If you’ve agreed to a telecommuting arrangement, your employer may ask you to follow their business hours. Even if you have some flexibility as far as your schedule is concerned, you’ll still need to take into account any deadlines that have been negotiated with clients to maintain your reputation. Ideally, you should target those times when you are most productive during the day and build your routine around that.
You probably think it will be easier to focus on work at home than in an office. Without the comings and goings of an office and your colleagues’ conversations to interrupt you, you will undoubtedly be more productive! Indeed, a Stanford study found that working from home increased productivity levels by 13%. However, housework, pets, family members, visitors and social media are among the many distractions that could prevent you from focusing at home.
You will have to find ways to avoid being interrupted while you’re working, even if you’re staying at home. Some workers like to hide in a “personal bubble,” which allows them to give their undivided attention to their professional activities. You could, for example, block some time slots on your calendar for specific tasks or set firm rules to avoid being disturbed. Another tip is to set SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This will make it easier for you to measure your productivity, especially if you work a variable schedule.
“If you are the parent of young children, I suggest putting them in daycare for a few days a week or hiring a nanny. Speaking from experience, it is impossible to focus fully with the little ones around. I attempted running my first home-based business when my son was born. About six months later I accepted a full-time in-office position with a client and it felt like a vacation!”
Founder and President at THINK Envirotechnical Services Inc.
Humans are social beings by nature, and many telecommuting professionals sometimes find that time drags on without the company or structure they enjoyed in an office. In a way, this is the downside of the aforementioned “personal bubble.” You won’t be interrupted by your colleagues, but without the encounters that occur in an office environment, whether by design or by chance, it becomes difficult to share ideas or brainstorm. New technologies provide a host of communication solutions that make it possible to work remotely; however, some workers believe that nothing can replace in-person interactions.
It is up to you to bridge that distance. Find ways to stay connected with your colleagues and other industry professionals. ECO Canada offers training and networking events that are excellent opportunities for building your network and developing your skills. These activities are also a chance to leave the house and experience a change of scenery.
Telecommuting is often considered a great way to balance your personal life and your professional endeavours. However, since there is no physical separation between the two, it can be hard to dissociate private matters from work. This ability to work at any time and in any place presents its own risk: you may just end up working all the time.
If you are working from home, it may be tempting to check your e-mail or answer the phone at any moment, or to take “one minute” to finish up one last little thing… After all, you already saved some time since you didn’t have to commute into the office, and you are only a few steps away from your family. Even if you are so passionate about your field of work that you lose track of time, your career may eventually encroach on your personal life.
Set up a designated space for work and follow a schedule: this will allow you to “come home” at the end of the day and to leave professional matters “at work.” You will then be able to recharge and be fully present for your friends and family. You will also avoid distractions, increase your productivity and achieve a better work-life balance.
Working from home requires great adaptability. In an office, employees are directed by their employer, and they each have a clearly defined role to play. Telecommuting challenges the order of things, especially since you have to cover some hidden costs (hydro, phone, Internet, furnishings, etc.) that can’t all be claimed in your taxes. You could be forced to improvise in case of a malfunction or technical issue. Make sure you and your employer decide ahead of time on the tools you will need to work and the support you will receive at home. This will give you peace of mind and increase your productivity.
Once those details fixed, you need to secure your computer, the brain of your work. Ensure that a robust firewall and anti-virus software is in place and up to date. Also, if you are a high-end data user, you will need high-speed Internet and enough memory to ensure that it will support large files and secured documents.
Self-discipline, organization and communication are all key to working from home. What about you? Do you work from home or in an office? Do you have any advice for fellow professionals who are considering working from home?