Getting ready to work from home takes a little more than simply deciding that you want to work from home. I don’t just mean figuring out what you want to do or finding a job. That’s only the beginning. There are other questions you need to consider as you get ready to work from home.
What Are You Going To Do?
Here’s the big question, and one I get asked often. What are you going to do when you work from home? Can you make your current job into a telecommuting position or will you need a new job? Are you starting a home business or working for someone else? What about freelancing?
Knowing what you are going to do is the most important thing when you’re getting ready to work at home. I’ve had people ask me “how do I find a work at home job?” and I always tell them the first step is to figure out what kind of job they want. “A work at home job” is too vague and does nothing significant to help your job hunt. Go over your skills and experience to figure out what kind of jobs you’re looking for.
Where Will You Work?
The answer to this question isn’t “at home, duh!” Where in your home are you going to work? Can you dedicate a work space where you won’t be disturbed by others in your household? Will it be quiet enough?
Sometimes the answer will be “in my bedroom” or “on the sofa” or “at the kitchen table.” When that’s the best you can do, so be it, but it’s not ideal. If you get a work at home job that requires you to be away from all background noise, those answers may not be enough. If noise doesn’t matter and you can handle working in one of those areas because that’s all you’ve got, make it work the best you can.
The best place to work at home is in a room where you can close the door. This makes it easier to communicate nonverbally to spouses, kids and pets that you are not to be disturbed.
Wherever you work in your home, have a place for your work supplies where they will not be moved when you aren’t using them. You don’t want to have to search for your supplies when you need to get to work. You want to be able to sit down and work, with as few distractions as possible.
When Will You Work?
What work hours can you handle from home? Will you work full time or part time? Mornings, evenings, weekends?
If you have a work at home job, assume you will need to have at least four hours at a time available to work if you’re part time. Full time jobs may require you to do the full eight hours as a single shift, or they may allow you to split it. Home businesses, on the other hand, may be flexible enough that you can work whatever times you can spare. So long as you get enough done to earn the money you need and please your customers or clients you’ll be all right.
How Will You Cope Without Direct Supervision?
The lack of direct supervision is difficult for some people when working at home. Being in an office with people who will notice if you aren’t being productive can be very motivating. Being at home where no one else can see you? Perhaps not motivating enough.
Find ways to hold yourself accountable. If you have a work at home job, you probably have a supervisor who will do so as well, but that may not be enough. Pay attention to what it takes to keep you working hard enough and often enough. Set productivity goals that you track on your own, rather than relying on feedback from your employer.
If you’re running a home business, you will need to be even more careful. It’s very easy to slack off for days or weeks at a time when you’re the boss. If you have clients or customers, you will get some feedback about how promptly you’re fulfilling your obligations. Failures to do so will impact the reputation of your business. But you’re the one who has to be your own supervisor so that even the behind the scenes work is done in a timely manner.
How Will You Handle Distractions?
There are so many distractions around when you work at home. Kids, pets and your spouse are just the beginning. You should have a plan to handle each of these in appropriate ways. Use childcare for your kids if necessary – you probably can’t afford to lose your job due to your kids needing or wanting your attention.
There are more distractions than those. Chores that need to be done around the house can pull you away from work even when you shouldn’t spare the time. Who’s going to handle things when you need to have a plumber over? It’s not always easy to schedule your work and repair people.
Don’t let the television or your internet access keep you too distracted. You may well need your internet access to get your work done, but don’t abuse it. Keep other electronic distractions turned off or put away as much as possible.
How Will You Handle Social Isolation?
Many people find working at home socially isolating. You don’t have coworkers to chat with during breaks. Having someone come over for a chat is more often an obstacle to productivity, rarely a welcome break. You might have your kids around, or you might have them off with someone else, in daycare or at school. If you’re married, either you’re working when they’re at work, or working when they’re home to take care of the kids and other distractions for you. Either way, you don’t even have that much time with your spouse.
It can get lonely working at home.
There are things you can do to cope with this. Social media comes to mind. Don’t let it take over your day, but if you have some spare time, interacting with people online is one way to go.
If you work with a team, Slack is a popular option to keep communication open. It’s a tool that allows you to chat, make calls, share files and more. I see it listed on job descriptions sometimes.
You should also get away from the house and see your friends more often outside of work hours. One of the best ways to avoid feeling isolated to to make sure you have a social life! Don’t let working at home completely take over your life.
What Tools And Supplies Will You Need?
Most work at home jobs don’t require too much special in the way of equipment. A reasonably current computer, monitor and internet connection will do it for many jobs and home businesses. A good desk and office chair are also important. Sometimes, however, you need a bit more.
Some jobs will require that you have a wired connection to your internet. This is because wifi is not all that secure, and it is to protect the data you send and receive. Wired connections are often faster as well. A wired (not cordless) phone may be required as well.
Jobs may also require that you have a dual monitor setup. This can be great for productivity. A laptop plus a second monitor may or may not be acceptable.
Jobs may require printers, fax machines, foot pedals, special software, a dedicated phone line and so forth. Know what equipment you will need and make sure you have things set up before you start working.
Dropbox is a popular solution if you need to share files with others, and don’t need something as comprehensive as Slack. It’s great for freelancers or if you use multiple computers.
Being prepared won’t keep all problems away when you get started working at home. My own start was kind of rough, back when I did medical transcription. First my computer broke down and had to be replaced, and the new one was too new for them, as Windows XP was brand new, not compatible with their systems, so I had to wait for my employer to upgrade.
Then, on what should have been my first day of work, my dedicated phone line was cut off. It was in my name, while the main phone line was in my husband’s name. The phone company suddenly labeled it as fraudulent due to a mistake on the part of the person who set it up for me. I told that story years ago, and I can laugh at it now. The quick version is that the person entered someone else’s information on my account. It was miserable at the time, but my boss was quite understanding of the most unique reason she had ever heard for someone to fail to work on a given day.
When Will You Exercise?
Working at home can be very sedentary. Make time to exercise at least a little bit each day.
You don’t have to go to the gym, of course. You can take a walk around the block, do an exercise video or exercise on your own.
A sit stand desk may also be a good plan, so long as you understand what the limitations on the benefits are. Standing all day is not that different from sitting all day. I use mine to change position periodically, so that I spend some time sitting and some standing. I hope this is better for me than doing either one all day long.
Working at home is not for everyone. One of my older sisters tried it, and it did not suit her at all. She is much happier in a traditional office. If it’s what you believe you want, give it a solid try and find out. If working at home doesn’t work for you for any reason, there may come a time when you look for something outside the home. That’s fine. A reasonable level of happiness with your job and where you work is important so that you can stick with the work a long time.