Well, this is the second post in what might become a series (is two a series?)
seriesplural of se·ries (Noun)
With that definition it seems that it is a series indeed. Let’s move on to what I want to write about:
Working from home… Things you should consider.
Believe it or not there are some big things about working from home that you need to consider aside from “Will my company allow me to work from home?”.
First thing is Dedicated work area.
Important when you are at the company, much more so when you are working from home. You need to be able to separate yourself from your regular life! When I first started working from home, my then wife, now ex would expect me to do housework. And that expectation is pretty common. I mean you’re home aren’t you? Can’t you just start that load of laundry, do the dishes and start prepping dinner? The answer to that should be a resounding NO.
Here is a rule of thumb… if you can’t do some chore at home because you are miles away at the company office, the same should hold true for when you are working in your home office (At least during your work hours).
Make sure that you have all the equipment, reference materials and supplies that you need to get your job done. The good news is that office supplies, if they aren’t provided by your employer, are usually tax deductible. (I cannot give you tax advice, I suggest getting advice from a tax specialist when it comes to questions like – “Can I deduct the cost of my office supplies?”)
Secondly, High Speed Internet Connection
This is actually an easy one in most parts of the country. I say MOST because I know people who live in parts of California or Colorado that cannot get high speed internet at their homes because they are 1/2 a mile out of the cable companies service area.
A DSL connection from the phone company, Cable Modem from the cable company, or other broadband offering should be just fine. With one twist (of course)… Most people who are working from home are usually required to connect back to the home office using VPN. VPN is a way to turn your regular broadband connection into a secure Virtual Private Network. In this case it would be from the point starting at your home, to the company you are working for - their data center. And you need to make sure that your broadband internet provider can handle passing VPN… some can’t/don’t/won’t do it, so check it out and get the service that allows you to set up VPN connections.
Third, Set your business hours (and keep to them)
People think that working from home gives them ultimate freedom, well… unless you want to get fired (which could be considered the ultimate freedom), you need to keep consistent working hours. You will need to work these out with your employer. The biggest thing in working from home, as far as your relationship with your employer is TRUST. They need to trust that you will be working the hours you say you are, and you need to trust that they will give you the support you need be it professional, technical or whatever kind of support needed to get the job done. Respect the hours it’s too easy to give in to “well, just this one time”, and one time turns into often, and then regularly… and then where are you? Not working!
Respect for the business hours applies to your family too. It’s tempting to come in and chat with you, or as you for help with home work… but they need to understand that the hours you are working, you are working. Now that’s not to say that you are not going to be able to drop and pick up your children from school… you most likely would be able to arrange that with your employer. You see, your employer expects to have a happier more productive employee if they are working from home. And making sure there is an apropriate work/life balance. It’s not always easy, but it can be worked at.
If you are sick, take your sick day. It’s so easy to say “I can work even if I’m sick, or I can do part of my work.” that attitude doesn’t work for you or your employer! That is why your employer offers sick days, to let you recover and not be sick. Working while you are sick just helps your sickness to hang on!
Make sure to take vacation time as well! What? Why should I take vacations? I mean I’m living the life, working from home… isn’t this a vacation already? Well if it feels like a vacation, then you’re not really working and you need to review what it is you are doing, right? And you still need to work on that work/life balance, and vacations help you relax and recharge!
You should work the same way that you would work in the office, as you do when you are home. Just imagine your boss is right outside your door, waiting to come in and see what’s going on with you. Keep it straight!
Fourth, Go into the office every once in a while
“Hey!” your thinking, “if I’m working from home, why would I have to or want to go into the office every once in a while?”. Good question! Almost every job out there has a relationship component. Your relationship with your manager and coworkers… If you never step foot in the office again, they could forget you, and that’s not something you want. Facetime when you are working from home is more important because you get less of it. If your team has meetings every week, or monthly, make sure that you make it to those meetings so you can interact with your team. Most of your interactions will take place via email (which is a totally new topic in itself) and phone.
Make sure you reply quickly to email and return calls in a timely manner if you are home based. It will show that you are working effectively and are on the ball, even if you are working from home.
Fifth, Choose a solid phone option
I’m not just talking about a phone, although that is a great point to make here as well. Don’t go out and buy a $10 telephone from walmart and expect it to last through some serious work useage. Spend a little and buy up! For example I plunked $150 down for my Clarity by Polycom phone, which I picked up at Radio Shack. It was one of the best phones on the market 11 years ago and for me it still is. The clarity rocks and it is an awesome speaker phone (it doesn’t sound like your on speaker to the people you are on the phone with.)
What I was going to say was to chose a phone option that works consitently for you. My current company offers work from home employees VOIP, which is a piece of software that links to the company phone switch, and operates over the internet. I chose not to sign up for that since the technology depends on the software running on a PC. Reboot the PC, forget to start the VOIP software? All calls now go to your voicemail. And the quality of the call can be affected by the computer itself, the speed of the computer, or how much ram it has… and if it’s bogged down running other software…. this can cause static drop outs and so on.
It’s a good idea to get a phone number you can forward to your home office, or cell phone that will allow people to leave messages at that phone number, not your home phone or cell phone, keeping your work messages in one location. The nice thing about phone numbers you can forward is that you can have them follow you and not have to give your company, coworkers, or clients a list of phone numbers that they could reach you at. I personally use two different services in addition to having a land line from my cable provider (the combination of land line and virtual phone number works great!)
Accessline is a paid service that costs $19 per month or so depending on what features you need. And google voice is mostly free (unless you use their system to dial out).
And there you have a few things to consider. More on the way.