Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The pros and cons of working at home.

Post 335 - One way to get more balance in your life is to work from home. I’ve worked at home now for 30-years and I highly recommend it. Many others are now "telecommuting" from home, either full or part-time, or are leaving their corporate jobs behind and starting their own home-based businesses. If you can figure out how to make a living at home, or shift much of what you do to a home office, here are some of the advantages:

To begin with, there’s no commute. Think of all the time and money spent getting to work: it’s stressful as well as costly. No gas, no parking, no rushing to make the bus or train. Your 30-second commute can save you a whole extra day each week! And this also reduces your bills by saving on gas and car expenses and lunch expenses. If a tank of gas costs $50 and lasts a week, cutting that in half gets you another $100 a month. Typically, lunch in the corporate cafeteria will run you around $7. At home, you can get a tasty lunch for $2 - another $100 a month in savings.

There’s no dress code in my office. I have colleagues who even admit to working some of the time in their pajamas. Most people save money on clothes.

A typical office environment is noisy, with people talking, phones ringing, co-workers constantly dropping by to chat. At home, these distractions aren’t going to bother you so you actually end up getting more work done than you would at the office.

People who work from home are able to write off their business expenses and home-office space on their income taxes. Telephone, stationary and other overhead expenses can be shared between the house and the office.

One of the biggest advantages of working at home is flexibility. You can take breaks during the day and get errands done faster because stores, banks, and health clubs are very quiet during the daytime. You can go to the doctor, to your child’s sports event or school performance, visit a sick friend in hospital, or anything else you like without asking anyone’s permission. You have much more control over how you structure your time.

Of course, there are potential disadvantages as well:

When people communicate, a lot of information is conveyed by body language. You lose that when all your communication takes place over the phone or by email. Once in a while, it’s important to go to the office and talk to your co-workers in person.

Human interaction brings with it an opportunity for creative thought and innovation. When working at home, these stimuli won’t be there and you may feel isolated. From better brainstorming tools to virtual team software to video conferencing, there are an increasing number of ways to lessen isolation and make virtual collaboration with others smooth and painless.

If you get bored from time to time, work from a local coffee shop that has wifi. Other activities that create connection include lunch dates, continuing education, seminars, getting out of the house for some fresh air, exercise or errands, or daytime volunteer work.

Since there’s no pressure to begin working at a given time, it’s very easy to be late starting up in the morning. Productivity can seriously decrease unless you maintain considerable self-discipline. Housework, supervising people who are working on your house, and talking on the phone are all occupational hazards. If you can't focus on work with these kind of home distractions (plus kids, the lure of TV, etc.), you may want to rethink working at home in the first place. I’ve learned to be disciplined because if I don’t get any work done, I don’t make any money.

You need a separate office space to get away from distractions but also to get away from work. When your office space is so easily accessible, you’ll be tempted to check your phone messages or fax or email at all hours and to work whenever you have a chance. This isn’t necessarily because you’re a workaholic, but there’s always something to do and when it’s right there, you’re tempted to do it. Remember that the work will always be always there. You have to have the discipline to leave it alone.

You may need to install more phone lines, buy computer and copying equipment, and set up additional lighting in your home to create a workable office space. This can be a major expense if you’re just starting out. You’ll also need to train others in the house not to answer the "business phone" when it rings. The dog will invariably bark each time you make a business call, so put the dog outside during the day while you’re working. Since I don’t want clients trailing though my home to get to my office, I usually go to their offices to meet with them.

As virtual offices are now being set up all across the world, working from home is no longer unusual. Following a few simple tips and maintaining discipline in your work habits can overshadow the cons and let you reap the benefits of this splendid arrangement.

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