Working from home is more popular than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24% of Americans report that they do some or all of their work at home, up from 19% in 2003. Employers that support flexible schedules, telecommuting and working from home often see increased employee productivity, lower in-office costs and better employee retention than employers that offer traditional work schedules.*
If you’re thinking that working from home regularly would benefit you and your family, here’s what to consider:
Your Current Work Position
If you are thinking about working from home—either part-time or full-time—consider your position as well as the company’s current structure and culture. If face-to-face meetings and daily in-person interaction consume a majority of your day, your job may not translate well when you work remotely. However, if a considerable part of your day is spent working on spreadsheets, writing, talking on the phone to remote customers or communicating via email, it may be possible to be just as productive at home as if you were sitting at your work desk.
The key to working from home is to be consistently productive in a different environment. If you’re hoping that working from home will allow you to accomplish all of the errands and chores you currently can’t complete due to your office job, you might want to reconsider your strategy.
Those employees who successfully work from home maintain the flexibility they need while they continue to add value to their employer. Sometimes this might mean working very early in the morning or late at night to get their job done. You’ll need to use technology to stay in constant communication with your coworkers and expect colleagues to contact you. If this sounds like you, then you might be a great remote employee.
Communication Is Key
Nothing can derail a telecommuting situation faster than poor communication. If your employer senses that you are not available when you agreed to be working from home, chances are your teleworking privileges could be revoked. Being a proactive communicator helps everyone—especially your colleagues—more comfortable with your working-from-home situation.
Work hard to set expectations early and often, consistently reaching out to the home office to let them know if there is a time during the day you won’t be available. The use of technology, whether it’s email, social media, or your cell phone helps as you work to set your schedule. Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and a computer with a webcam so that you can contact your colleagues with ease.
Not everyone is cut out to be a work-from-home warrior—some of us have difficulty self-motivating in a non-office environment. Some telecommuters feel a sense of loneliness or isolation and miss the social interaction that being in an office daily provides, while others get distracted by personal issues or concerns in the comfort of their home. Whatever the reason, working from home isn’t for everyone, so take your own personal working style into account when making the choice to work from home.
Having goals in any professional situation is important, but it’s especially true when you’re teleworking. The more time you spend away from the office, the more likely you’ll need to work to document your progress on projects and assignments. Working with your supervisor to set achievable goals will provide you with necessary structure and your employer with peace of mind.
As workplaces modernize and we all become more connected through technology, more and more employers are allowing their employees to work from home—and they’re seeing the benefit. If you’ve determined that working from home is something you’d like to pursue, talk with your manager or Human Resources department about your options. If they are receptive, work together to develop a plan for mutual success. Setting expectations and goals early will allow both parties to feel comfortable with the new arrangement.
*Survey of employers conducted by FlexJobs.