Working from home is increasingly popular – and why not? You get the comfort of being in your own home, you get to avoid the commute, you can hang out with your kids, and you may even get more schedule flexibility. Working from home can take many forms, from working remotely to freelancing to home-based businesses. Of course, home-based work isn’t for everyone. Some people like to get out and about, some people struggle to stay on task at home, and some jobs simply require more face time.
Let’s take a look at some home-based work options and how to make them fit your needs.
Three Ways to Work From Home
1. Working Remotely for a Company
Working remotely for a company may allow the best of both worlds in terms of work-life balance and professional fulfillment. One of the biggest upsides is skipping the commute. That gives you more time for other pursuits outside the office – and also lets you sleep in a bit!
An increasing number of blue-chip companies are recognizing that their employees would welcome the option of working from home and are jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, many companies are actively recruiting remote workers. Companies such as Xerox, Dell, IBM, and Apple have found that there are significant benefits to hiring remote workers, including reduced overhead cost and ability to hire global workers without concerns about relocation.
The downside of working from home for a company is that you’re really going to have to work to keep up communication and expectations with those in other office locations. The perception may be that you’re not as present when you’re not in the home office, To make sure you’re on the same page with your boss or your team, it makes sense to discuss expectations, schedules, and output ahead of time.
One great way to stay in touch is to use Google Hangouts, Skype, or another form of visual conferencing – consider setting a regular weekly meeting with your boss and your team so that you have reliable face time. For one, that helps to keep the lines of communication open and show that you’re still a vital member of the company. For two, it’s easy to feel distant and removed if you’re only working through email or even over the phone. Being able to look at people when you talk to them (and the reverse is true, too) keeps all parties involved with each other and reminds everyone that they’re dealing with other people – not just anonymous email recipients.
2. Freelancing From Home
Freelancing from home is another way to work from home and create your own schedule. Rather than working as an employee, you can take on whatever clients you want and work as an independent contractor. That gives you a lot of flexibility with your hours, especially since freelance work is often project-based and you just need to meet your deadlines rather than be present for a set number of business hours.
Many people use freelancing to supplement income from their jobs, but it can also be a viable full-time career if you dedicate the necessary time and energy to finding clients.
3. Starting Your Own Home-Based Business
A third home-based work option is to become an entrepreneur. Lots of people start business from their homes – the overhead is lower and you have the flexibility to work whenever makes sense for you.
Note that you may end up having to leave home anyway if your business grows beyond the capacity of your home. In addition, you may want to have a dedicated space to meet with clients, partners, or vendors. You can set aside a space in your home to do that, but you may also consider renting a desk in a co-working space or something similar so that you can use a conference room whenever you need it.
How to Make Working from Home Work for You
Working from home has its own unique set of challenges compared with office-based work. These tips can help.
First and Foremost: Set Boundaries
One of the primary benefits of working from home is that it’s family-friendly. Time saved commuting means more time with family. The ability to set your own hours means you can work around school hours, sports practices, and kids’ sick days.
That said, work time can easily spread into family or personal time. It’s awesome to be able to be around with your kids, but they also have a tendency to take over your workday. And whether you have kids or not, it’s all too easy to just keep working (or take too much time off) when there’s no clear quitting time. Give yourself a set number of hours or a set amount of work per day and once that’s done, you’re done.
2. Set a Schedule
One of the givens of working in a traditional office setting is that you have a schedule to adhere to. You know that you have to be at your desk at a certain time, lunch is at a certain time, and you’re expected to work for a certain number of hours each day.
One of the tough parts of working from home is setting your own schedule and learning time management. When you’re first getting started, it helps to calendar your day, as you would in your past office life. Set aside times for meetings, blocks of time for work tasks, and blocks of times for breaks and lunch.
This is crucial for keeping yourself on task. When you’re working from your couch, it’s easy to get distracted and turn on the TV for “just a minute” – and we all know how long “just a minute” is when you’re dealing with Netflix. Setting a clear schedule keeps you accountable for the work that needs to get done.
3. Set Up a Dedicated Space to Work
Home-based work may mean couch-based work, but will that give you the best results? One of the ways to make sure that you stay productive when working from home is to set up a dedicated office space. It doesn’t need to be an Architectural Digest-worthy home office suite (though if you have the space and budget – more power to you!), but simply a space of your own where you can go to get your work done.
Professional Designer Jo Heinz says that the best home office layout starts with asking yourself the following preliminary questions:
- “What will you be doing in the space?”
- “What type of work needs to be done?”
- “Will external clients be visiting the space?”
- “Will colleagues visit for collaborative work?”
- “What type of materials will be referenced and/or stored?”
- “What type of equipment is required?”
- “When will I be doing the bulk of my work?”
- “Will I be making conference calls?”
- “Will I be video conferencing?”
Many of us don’t have the space for a dedicated home office room, but you can still create the necessary boundaries. Simply choose an area that makes sense – maybe your kitchen table, maybe your couch, wherever you can get work done – and make sure that the rest of the house knows it’s your workspace during your working hours. Using the same area each day helps create the division in your mind between work space and living space during those hours.
Is Home-Based Work Right For You?
Working from home is a great way to save time (and frustration) on your commute, work comfortably in your own environment, and be more available to your family during the day. But it takes a lot of dedication to make sure that you stay in contact and on task – it’s just not for everyone. If you’re interested, consider a sort of test run. Ask your employer for the option to try working from home and give it a shot! Or, pick up some freelance work on the side to get a feel for how you handle managing your own schedule and space. And of course, you can start your own business from home!