Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Avoiding Potholes on the Road to Telecommuting and Working From Home

Working from home is as old an idea as America itself.  It enjoys surges in popularity at times, depending on changes in the economy or technology.

In this particular day and age, the reasons for working from home vary widely.  Some telecommute to corporate jobs to save time, gas, or because their company is short on space.  Others are reinventing their careers after the economy forced them out of their regular job.  Still more see working from home as their contribution to the environment; "reducing their carbon footprint" by using fewer resources. 

The reason I decided to build SDOC Publishing from a home office rather than establish a separate office comes down to one word:  costs.  I spend less money by using a residential office, I keep the overhead very low, and the savings are passed on to my customers.  Everyone's happy!

But working from a residence requires enormous planning and discipline that many don't notice at the onset.  It isn't for everyone and the pitfalls are many.  Enough that what I thought would be one blog post may end up being a series!

Pothole #1:  Working From Home is NOT the Same As Working In an Office

When working at an office for any business or corporation, there is a management structure in place to ensure accountability for the work done.  A worker who is self-employed or telecommuting actually has two jobs:  labor and management.  Anyone who thinks that  managing employees "isn't really work" has never had to do it!  Residential workers have to get their job done, but they also have to plan their work schedule, evaluate the results, determine ROI (return on investment) of the resources, and determine future goals of the company. 

So working from home requires more time management skills and more discipline than working in an average office. 

A written, printed, tangible schedule is your best friend.  Physically seeing blocks of time set aside for all of the above tasks (and whatever else your particular enterprise needs) makes a big difference between accomplishing your business goals and not accomplishing anything.  If you are telecommuting for a larger firm, this type of schedule (with results that show you're following it) will make your manager's job easier in tracking your work.  Which means you are more likely to continue working at home - or even keep your job!

Pothole #2:  Working From Home is NOT a Substitute for Child or Other Family Care

Put out the torches.  Drop the pitchforks.  Hear me out before running me out of town for heresy.  In more recent decades women especially have chosen to work from home because it keeps them closer to their children and, supposedly, involved with caring for them at home.

This is the trap that most parents - moms and dads alike - fall into.  They convince themselves that they can multitask between work duties and home/family duties.  It takes less than a week to figure out why this situation never works.  Here's why....

Accomplishing work tasks and caring for family members of any age requires two different mindsets.  Splitting attention between two different jobs divides the quality of your performance.  This too goes back to scheduling specific times for specific tasks.  Anyone who attempts to do both at the same time will end up neglecting both the job providing the paycheck, and the people relying on them for care.  This applies not only to children of all ages but other family members - such as seniors or family members recovering from illness or injury. 

Young children need attention and activity.  People recovering from injury need assistance.  Seniors have a host of health needs - including mental and emotional health.  If you have to work from home (or work anywhere, period) ensure that their care is provided for.  Children are the most flexible:  many work hours can coincide with school and after-school activities.  But younger children may still need a babysitter or nanny - even at home.  Many cities have organizations that provide senior adult activities.  The bottom line is, count the cost:  ensure that it's worth the time you put into your work to get assistance for caring for family members.  Or, delay your work-from-home plans until the cirucmstances change. 

To be continued...!