Whatever Marissa Mayer might claim, there’s a bunch of benefits to working from home for both employers and employees.
The former can look forward to improved employee retention, reduced sick days, increased productivity and decreased office overheads. The worker, meanwhile, benefits from greater personal freedom, comfort, work/life balance and accessibility. And that’s not even mentioning the countless freelancers, as well as self-employed workers, for whom operating from home is a necessity.
Want to make a living from the comfort of your sofa? Here’s the low-down.
First off, the good stuff. Working from home can be a big change if you’re used to office work. With luck, you’ll discover skills that maybe you forgot, or never knew you had: self-motivation, entrepreneurial spirit, independent thinking and effective prioritising. With nobody standing at your shoulder, you’ll think less for the Man and more for yourself.
When Kevin Currie started working from home a little over a year ago, he realised that being physically at the office is largely unnecessary. “The fact that I don’t have to make water-cooler chit-chat, spend time in meetings, and all of the other assorted distractions of office life means that the work takes on a greater clarity and urgency,” he writes. Maybe that’s why 77% of remote workers report greater productivity and 52% reduced truancy.
There’s the obvious stuff, too: more flexible working, because you can work your own hours, as well as financial savings on travel. Home-workers are better positioned to care for children and elderly family members. In certain fields, a strong Wi-Fi link means that you can work with companies on the other side of the world to no detriment – expanding your employment options no ends.
Hard as it might be to believe, there are cons to working from home. Although home-workers generally report lower stress levels, a study back in 2014 suggested that teleworkers felt that operating at home can exacerbate mental health problems. Many feel that they are less trusted and secure in their jobs when working from home, and communication can be difficult when virtual instead of face-to-face.
Following a failed attempt to create a remote team, StatusPage.io wrote an article that catalogued the problems they faced. The most crucial issues with working remotely are a loss of company culture, effective teamwork and impaired social life. This last is something that will affect all home-workers. With only your living room table for company, and nobody to go for lunch with, teleworking means a loss of human interaction that can seriously impact social beings. So think carefully: are you right for remote working, and is it right for you?
How to do it
First off, if you’re already in employment and plan to stay that way, you might be able to convince your boss to let you telecommute daily. There are all sorts of guides to tackling the work-from-home issue with your employer. Do your research, ensure you know how your company will be benefitting from the arrangement, and be clear on what you’re asking.
Alternatively, you could ask for just one or two home-days a week. According to PwC’s NextGen study, 64% of millennials surveyed would like to occasionally work from home. Employers read these statistics and are, for the most part, keen to keep up with the trends; hopefully, your boss will know what you’re talking about.
If you’re self- or unemployed and are looking to freelance from home, there are plenty of options, from the ludicrous to the downright everyday. Tutoring online can pay handsomely and is available to anyone with good academic credentials. Any kind of creative freelancing can work from home. You can even become a professional bridesmaid. Finally, if the freelance approach doesn’t suit, you can use sites like FlexJob to find full-time roles.
Whatever you do, don’t be fooled by the many scams that target home-workers. Read the literature, and learn how to job-hunt safely.
Just because nobody can see you doesn’t mean there isn’t a code of conduct here. If you’re going to hinge your career on a home-grown work process, you’d better ensure that process is good.
Many people find it difficult to stay focused without a traditional office environment – but there are ways to beat procrastination. Mark out a designated ‘work area’ in your house and set yourself targets daily. If productivity doesn’t come naturally to you, find ways to self-motivate. Working from home should never mean that you produce less work; in fact, you should use your new-found freedom to put more of yourself out there.
Harness the power of video conferencing and its numerous benefits. When collaborating with others on projects, getting to see someone on screen helps you build a functional working relationship, as well as put a face to a name. If communication is mostly non-verbal, as is often claimed, then visual cues are essential to creating a connection – the phone just won’t do. Plus, video conferences help you ‘keeping in sight’ of your bosses, and avoid being forgotten or overlooked.
Tempting though it may be to don those sweatpants each morning, take care with how you present yourself. Many professionals suggest that dressing up – even if you’re not leaving the house – can heighten creative and analytical thinking, as well as boost productivity. Consider wearing a shirt, even if only your cat is there to appreciate it.
This wisdom - 'keeping up appearances' - extends to your CV. Even the self-employed should keep this ready to go, as you never know who'll want to read it. As a freelancer, it's good to have a strong, attention-seeking CV, so try adding some interesting design - graphs, colours and creative formatting can work wonders. If you can't do it yourself, you can always employ services like StandOut CV. Whatever you do, don't leave the thing to rot and ruin just because you're not currently in employment.
Finally, remember that working from home is a privilege that shouldn’t be abused. Use the hours you save on commuting to achieve more, spend time with family or engage in enriching activities. Because while that sofa may become your best friend over the next few months, you’re in trouble if it’s your only.
Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit their website.
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