Working from home, also known as teleworking or telecommuting, is a growing component of the business sector. Many employees have already moved into the position of teleworking at least part-time from a home office, while others are poised to make the transition full-time. The ability to work remotely could be a boon to individuals looking to balance work and family further.
As of 2011, Forrester Research, a technology and market research company, reported that about 34 million Americans work from their homes occasionally. In 2010, Telework Research Network found that approximately 2.8 million employees in the United States worked from home a majority of the time. Other research projects that about 63 million people will telework by 2016.
Here are some other facts garnered through a survey of senior leaders and hiring managers of Fortune 500 companies with at least 5,000 employees.
• Fifty-six percent believe virtual work will steadily or greatly increase at their company.
• Sixty-one percent feel their companies will let more people telecommute over the next three years.
• Sixty percent of office-based employees use texting, instant messaging and teleconferencing technologies daily.
• Fifty-six percent of company supervisors believe that working remotely makes employees more productive.
Many families find that it is increasingly necessary to have two incomes in order to live comfortably. But child-care issues arise when both parents must work. The average household spends more than $20,000 a year on day care or after-school care alone. Having the opportunity to telework and reducing child-care expenses is simply too attractive for many families to ignore. However, there are some factors to consider when working at home with children in the house. The perception of working at home and the reality of it with young children around rarely matches up. There are certain strategies to consider to keep the balance of work and time in check. Here’s how to get started.
• Set aside a private work space. Some people have the luxury of an extra room that can be used for an office. Others have to create a quiet nook in which to place a desk. Keep your work equipment and papers here to improve focus. Children will also learn to respect this space as your work area. Try not to place the desk in a busy living room or kitchen. A den, bedroom or even the garage will be quieter.
• Have reliable equipment. Nothing disrupts productivity like a poor Internet connection or a computer that is dated. Find out whether your company will supply you with equipment from the office or if you will have to buy it yourself. Then set yourself up with the office IT department to troubleshoot problems, or hire an outside service.
• Set work hours. Many people hoping to work from home believe they’ll work when they want and get things done. The trouble with this approach is the work day may eventually seem interminable, especially if you’re doing snippets of work here and there. Get in the habit of setting a consistent work schedule so other employees will know when they can reach you. This will also help you have a distinct shutdown time when your workday ends. Schedule these hours around school times and other responsibilities to reduce stress.
• Limit time goofing off. Although many people who work remotely spend plenty of time at their desks trying to prove their work efficiency, some who work from home are easily distracted. Give yourself a few breaks so you can check status updates and personal email throughout the day. But catch yourself if your mind has been wandering too much.
• Create break times. Officer workers have distractions such as lunch hour, chats with co-workers and coffee breaks. This helps split up the workday so you’re not chained to your desk. At home, there may not be as many opportunities or you may feel guilty about being caught away from your desk. But breaks are important because they help you recharge. Therefore, get up and make a cup of tea, or take a short stroll down the street.
• Wake early. It can be to your advantage to get up and start your day before others in the household. This way you can have some moments of peace and quiet to review your schedules for the day, prepare school lunches, organize paperwork and other tasks, and set goals.
• Hire a sitter. Even the most efficient teleworker may find that doing work with a toddler or preschooler around can be challenging. See if a sitter or a neighbor can come in for a couple of hours to help you out while you get the bulk of your work done.
Working from home is a growing phenomenon and can be the break families need to reduce dependence on child-care facilities and save money.