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.
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.
Teleworking reduces or eliminates commuting costs. Ridester.com 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 professional doesn’t mean being cold, rigid, or impersonal. It means presenting yourself professionally.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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