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Working at Home: How to Succeed and Enjoy the Process

The Work-at-Home Trend

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people working from home, or teleworking, increased by nearly 28 million, and the trend continues. Pew Research found that in 2022 half the people with jobs that can be done from home are teleworking. And 60% of those workers say they prefer to keep it that way. Whether you own a small business or work for a large corporation, working at home has plenty of benefits and some downsides.

Teleworking As an Employee

Many, though not all remote workers are contractors AKA 1099 workers. Unscrupulous employers sometimes misuse the contractor designation to save money, even though the legal definitions are clear.

New legal issues like these are challenging the teleworking paradigm. There are stories of home workers being over-supervised by invasive electronic monitoring and tracking devices.

Equifax recently fired 24 remote workers for “moonlighting” — holding another job while working for Equifax.

Some workers feel it’s none of their employer’s business how or when they work as long as they meet job requirements. The law seems to agree. Employers would do well to develop trust and set reasonable evaluation techniques for teleworkers. They might establish goals and performance indicators based on work product, not on hours worked. They could set measurable outcome standards, stop worrying about hours on the time clock, and learn to love a sufficient, effective work product.

Working at Home Isn’t Perfect

Teleworking reduces or eliminates commuting costs. defines the 2022 average US commute time as 52.2 minutes a day, nearly five hours per week. Commuting costs money and hours of your life. Do the math. For some people, the traditional office is a stressful environment. The reasons may be social, psychological, environmental, or related to a disability. Working from home can relieve these or other stresses.

But communication and social isolation can be challenging if you work from home. Busy co-workers may not always respond to your questions or comments as quickly as you would like.  Workers at home miss traditional socialization events like the popular cross-cubicle conference, break room policy discussion, lunchtime progress update, and George’s standup comedy routines.

Does working from home improve productivity? Not categorically, but anecdotally, a popular search engine will return opinions that tend strongly toward yes.

Yes, going remote can be daunting. It requires motivation, organization, and self-discipline. So, working in the traditional office has its rewards — something to consider. However, teleworking may be the way to go for whatever reason, an entrepreneurial idea, family changes, or a sense of adventure, and these tips will help you be a successful telecommuter.

Being a Professional Teleworker

Being professional doesn’t mean being cold, rigid, or impersonal. It means presenting yourself professionally.

  • Define work time. Make yourself unavailable to most distractions when you’re working. Schedule your start, stop, and break times. Sign in if it helps.
  • Avoid the following: long personal phone calls, housework, the doorbell, the season opener, or anyone who attempts to lure you with coffee cake or a quick run to the mall. However, as you would if working in a company office, mixing some short breaks with dedicated work time is okay.
  • Workers at any level need to make, please, thank you, do you have a moment, and how are you habitual. You might be rushed and inclined to jump into a conversation or issue snappy directives, but that mass of pixels on the screen in front of you is a human being.
  • Micromanagement is counterproductive. Workers resent it, and their performance suffers. Or worse, they’ll quit. Managers can feel frustration or anger when they hover over every task and action. A set of well-defined tasks and goals with measurable outcomes prevents the need to micromanage.
  • Employee isolation is a function of poor communication. Ok, there’s a team of a dozen remote workers in a small start-up. Some responsibilities overlap, and everyone works different hours. Michael and Dwight meet on Zoom to plan website changes. Jim, responsible for technical stuff, is not at the conference. Jim isn’t aware of the proposed changes. It isn’t hard to see what the outcome could be. The entire team has to be sensitive to keeping stakeholders appraised of projects that impact them.
  • The entire team has to meet as a whole regularly on a consistent day and time. Small group meetings support team-of-the-entirety meetings. Set a time limit for meetings and stick to it. Start on time, but allow up to five minutes for a social chat before each meeting.
  • Email, chat, text, and phone — oh my. Every successful work-at-home team decides together how to use each method. Designate one for urgent or time-sensitive matters. Choose which you’ll use for FYI communications that don’t need action. Pick one for non-time-sensitive action items. Don’t forget a greeting at the beginning of any message and a thank-you at the end.

Cyber Safety and Working at Home

With the growing number of working-at-home and partially remote jobs, it makes sense that cyber threats are increasing. They’re everywhere: malware, spyware, ransomware, trojans and worms, phishing (and its alter-egos). There are ways to protect yourself as a worker or as a business.

  1. Use a virtual private network (VPN). There are many available so do your homework.
  2. Install or update high-quality security software. Use it.
  3. Use a password manager and ultra-strong passwords. Experts now say a strong, unique password should rarely need to be changed for security purposes.
  4. Give limited or one-time access to your digital properties like company social media or CMS (content management system). An as-needed basis is safest. If an associate leaves the team permanently, lock them out of all digital properties.
  5. Secure home Wi-Fi. Dump the default password on your gateway and use a long, strong, unique password. Enable network encryption (find it under security settings). Name your network something non-personal — NOT Nancy’s Internet.
  6. Use conference platforms like Zoom carefully and securely. Read the app instructions for security tips.
  7. Install all security updates on software, apps, and platforms as soon as they are released.
  8. If you notice something unusual happening in a digital platform, investigate it or report it to the person in charge of IT.

Equipping Your Home Workspace

Put your professional foot forward with a separate business phone line or a less expensive distinctive-ring option. You could designate an inexpensive cell phone for business calls. Some people just answer their phones differently during business hours. Try stating your name, or using “How can I help you?” in a pleasant tone.

Make the best use of your computer equipment. It might be time to replace the old desktop computer with a laptop to conserve space. Get a quality printer and good paper. Check out the all-in-one ink-jet printer/copier machines – some have a small footprint. Most of them are equipped with a scanner, too, so you can save documents and email them to the office.

About technical challenges — everyone encounters them.

  • Cultivate a relationship with the company’s IT people.
  • You might reach out to local retail consumer tech shops for advice.
  • Try Googling before you panic.
  • Pay an expert if quick fixes don’t work.
  • If you plan on long-term remote working, consider taking classes — online or off — in simple computer maintenance.

Stock the necessities. Even if you only work part-time or occasionally in your home office space, ensure you have what you need. Nothing is more annoying than spending five minutes searching for a paper clip, the stapler, or a postage stamp when you’re in the zone and getting things done. Make a list of necessary supplies and go shopping.

Splurge on a high-quality chair. Essentially, good ergonomics are essential, especially if you spend lots of time sitting. New chair tags tell you what body weight the piece is rated for and how many hours you can spend in it without your body becoming fatigued. The chair is the best investment you might ever make. Don’t scrimp.

Working at Home? It’s Personal!

If you work remotely, there is no reason to occupy a barren, uninteresting space. Make your workspace appealing. If you’re lucky enough to claim an entire room for your home office, fill it with things that inspire, relax, or uplift you.

Choose colors you love. Fill the room with light, preferably natural light. Even if your office is carved out of a smaller space, you can soften and beautify it, even if it’s just a corner nook.

Light up your life. Adequate task lighting is the difference between meeting a tight deadline or burning out with eyestrain and a headache. Choose lamps or lights that don’t glare or cast shadows. Avoid strong color casts and arrange your desk so light doesn’t reflect on your computer display.

Create harmony between work and family. If you’re going to make it as a remote worker, teach your family that desk time is serious time. Take frequent breaks to touch base with whoever is at home. Try this trick with your kids: Hand them paper and markers. Set a timer for 30 minutes. They can draw pictures or make notes of their thoughts. After all, you’ll give them your full attention for a few minutes when the timer rings.

Vary your activity. We tend to stay glued to a chair for hours when we’re busy and focused. However, you’ll be more productive if you switch tasks from time to time. Work at your desk for an hour or two, then do 15 minutes of filing to change body position and clear your mind. Make a few phone contacts or catch up on relevant reading to break up the day. Do five minutes of stretches or jumping jacks every 90 minutes. You’ll be healthier and more energetic.

Is this Kind of Gig for You?

It takes a unique personality and work style to carry off a work-at-home gig. Distractions abound — isolation grates on your nerves. However, the rewards are enormous if you can do it, and these tips should help. At the end of the day, you are the only person who can guarantee a successful mix of business and comfort at home.

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Editors’ Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to attend the following on-demand webinars (which you can listen to at your leisure and each includes a comprehensive customer PowerPoint about the topic):

©2022. DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM. This article is subject to the disclaimers found here.]

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