This is a guest blog post by Liz Krause.
Hive photo by kakisky.
Nearly 10 years ago while self-employed working from home, I spoke to a friend who had an office job and to my surprise she told me she could never work from home and preferred her work place. It is not too often you come across people who share these sentiments.
Today, I’ve got a great job that although is often spent in the office, it allows me to also work from home. I’m a huge proponent of telecommuting for a number of reasons but also am realistic that not everyone is cut out for a work at home lifestyle even if they think they are.
Working at home is a privilege, but creating the right environment and having the right tools is what will either keep you happy at home or land you back in the office.
Home Office Business Essentials
Telecommuting from the home office requires a solid phone connection. I’m not referring to cell phones, although these are important as well. Companies are gradually moving more towards seeking the help of SIP Trunking providers to deliver VoIP (Voice over IP) solutions in the hopes of not only cutting down on their operational expenses, but because of functionality when employing telecommuters.
For example, with a VoIP system, companies can assign a full Direct Inward Dial phone number so people can call direct to you; or they can simply add you on as an extension, such as extension x301. The flexibility is that the phone number is tied to your phone’s IP address and should you ever move or relocate or even if someone replaces you, the company can simply redirect the number to the new IP address anywhere in the country without any disruption to the phone number.
Keep in mind with VoIP, phone numbers are not limited to a specific area code because they VoIP through the internet rather than actual physical lines as is the case with traditional phone service.
This is particularly important for businesses that tend to move around a lot. For my and my husband’s software business where he is a programmer for the picture framing industry , he has always worked from home. But we are those type of people that just get bored being in one place too long so we move around every few years.
We use a company called Vocalocity which is a Hosted VoIP Provider and all we have to do is unplug our phone from the internet and plug it back in at the new location and we are back in business. Our phone number stays with us and our customers have no idea we even moved since there is no interruption to service (calls will automatically go to voice mail when unplugged, unlike a traditional phone line which would give a busy signal).
It is expected that everyone has internet access these days, but there are a number of rural areas which still do not have high speed internet. When you telecommute, expect to be sending and receiving emails and files between coworkers and clients, and being part of video conferencing meetings and live webcasts. These are technologies designed to make it easier for telecommuters to communicate with their fellow employees.
In addition, if using the internet for phone service as mentioned above, then it is even more crucial than ever to have a high speed connection with sufficient bandwidth to meet the load of both data and voice.
It’s important to have a good printer in your home office and I suggest getting a laser printer instead of an inkjet. Although these are more expensive, the ink cartridges last longer, the ink won’t bleed if it gets wet, and they provide a better print quality output.
The scanner is important because there will be times when you have to scan a form, document, contract, checks, receipts, etc., to submit to your coworkers or boss. In regards to faxing, you can look at online faxing solutions such as EFax or iEtherFax, which allow you to use the internet to do all your faxing; no additional phone line or fax machine is required.
To save space, a three-in-one machine will be more practical and convenient. Look for specials because these can get pricey. For example, a few years ago we had to do a large multi-month mailing and rather than pay a local printing company, we chose to buy our own printer. That was cost effective until ink cartridges and our drum kit needed replacement and cost us $400. We are still dragging our feet on making the purchase.
Identify and alienate any distractions
Distractions get the best of us. Today, I planned on getting to work early and was on my way until my husband offered to make me a cup of coffee. Ten minutes later, I was again on my way until I remembered to take a jug of water for my desk. Instead of arriving early, I was 10 minutes late. Life is different when you work from home — it’s harder!
Telecommuting is not the same as self-employment
As a self-employed individual, I could decide at 2 p.m. that I needed to go grocery shopping and I finish my tasks later that evening. When working as a telecommuter, you still answer to a boss and it is important that you work just as if you were in the office with set hours and discipline.
Little things like taking care of paying utility bills, keeping in touch with your parents, taking the pet to the vet — these are things that previously had to be done outside of work hours, and suddenly we think we have the liberty to do it during work hours because we work from home. Unless it is approved that you can work a flex schedule, you must keep to your hours and in order to do that with any productivity, you must eliminate any distractions that keep you from fulfilling your job responsibilities.
Track your tasks and accomplishments
One of the issues with telecommuting I have experienced in the past is having a boss or superior who is a micromanager. Expect them to struggle with trust issues such as wondering if you are really working your full hours, are you slacking, are you getting your work done, and so forth.
Keep a chart of your tasks and what you are spending your time on. You don’t have to say you are doing this but, should you ever need it, it is available in your defense. What I have found works well is to send weekly or even daily reports of what you are working on and what you have accomplished. This small effort will go a long way.
Before you jump on the telecommuting bandwagon, take stock of what is truly expected. You might be surprised and find yourself looking at the office work environment in a new light — cubicle and all!
Do you have experience telecommuting? Any questions for me?