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On the surface, working from home can be an enormous advantage in terms of both comfort and cost. However, there are challenges. Working from home is not an isolated practice. According to a Gallup Poll recently cited by CNBC,  43 percent of American workers work from home at least occasionally.  U.S. Census data indicates that 5.2 percent of Americans (8.2 million people) work at home all the time. 

Potential of Work at Home.

Usually, for people using their homes as part-time workspaces, the work they do at home represents a subset of their entire duties, those that do not require the facilities that the office offers. Furthermore, those who work from home are the workers who earn the most money. Ironically, those who work away from home express the feeling that they would be willing to earn less to be able to work from home. The trend toward working at home has to do with broad populations shifts further from core cities into less populated areas. It also comes from increased flexibility on the part of management and a new emphasis on the work-life balance. Initial studies have suggested that remote work can increase worker productivity and lower employee turnover. Workers themselves cite several advantages of remote work.

  • There is less distraction from people talking in the office.
  • Freedom from office interruptions.
  • The employee can create his or her custom work environment.
  • It simplifies parenting and home-making duties.
  • Schedules are more flexible.
  • You can work from anywhere, even away from the home office.
  • More time is available for family.

Problems with Working at Home.

One of the biggest problems with working at home is that the worker is not in the office. The atmosphere of a living environment is often not optimal for working. The worker can’t command the same level of privacy. The habits associated with home life emerge in the home environment and these habits are often not perfectly matched with a business mindset. The home office lacks the stimulation of the workplace social environment which is often part of the way workers fit into their work environment. The very factors that many home-workers describe as advantages often have a dark side that interferes with work orientation.

Good Work at Home Habits.

It’s especially important that you create a separate workspace for your home office. Use this space as exclusively for work as possible. Make sure the space is not invaded by family members. Use designated furniture that you accept as your work furniture.  If you leave the office for meals or coffee breaks, find and an analogous location and follow the same routine when you work at home. When you leave your home office to work out of the house–actually work.

One of the most pleasant advantages of working at home is that you avoid the commute to the office or workplace. But, to get full benefit of liberation from the commute is to begin work when you would ordinarily be commuting.  One way to work from home more productively is to simply dive into your work as soon as you complete morning preparations (like dressing and the like).  Getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to productivity. Do it before morning sluggishness wears away at your motivation.

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Make your home work experience as much like your office experience as possible. Set up your computer with the same folders as you use in the workplace. Use a separate Google account to match your work account. Even use work toolbars.  Structure your day as if you were in the office. Stay on schedule with time segmented as you would organize your office workday.  Some telecommuters commit themselves to daily group chat meetings with colleagues to go over what they will be working on during the day. They say the meetings keep them honest and keep them from over-committing themselves.

Isolate yourself from the social media accounts that distract you when you are not at work. It may be wise to use a separate designated device or computer for your work. Remove social media sites from your shortcut list. Log out of all personal social media accounts. Do not permit yourself to engage in non-work related social activity.

Analyze your regular work rhythm. Are you most productive in the morning or afternoon? Schedule your time to take advantage of the ebbs and flows of your work energy cycle. Use the slower parts of the day to complete the easier tasks. Give yourself credit for the completion of each task. Set the tone for the workday with what Verily Magazine calls “small acts of success.” Some people save business telephone calls for the afternoon, reserving  the morning for solitary tasks. Some people are most productive when they are as busy as possible. They may focus on a home distraction to increase their business, rather than trying to ignore it.

It’s very important to clear your day for working at home. Make sure you complete any work that requires the facilities of the office before you schedule a day of telecommuting.

Virtual Presence Solutions.

The term “telecommuting” was coined in 1973, at the dawn of the microcomputer age by a NASA engineer named Jack Nilles. When he originated that term, the potential for real virtual presence was not yet there. Today, after decades of development, working remotely can be a genuine possibility, although many managers feel lost when the very concept is brought up. In fact, teleworking can be planned and managed successfully and it can be a chance for organizations to build trust and greater satisfaction among employees.

Of course, there are some jobs that lend themselves to teleworking better than others. Some positions require an onsite presence most or all of the time. Work consisting of report writing can often be carried out remotely and shared via email or other secure online methods. Customer service work can often be networked in through a home computer or digital systems shared through the cloud.

Telecommuting does not always mean working from home, of course. I can refer to any convenient field location. The modern office is not always located only in one place. People can telecommute to save money on travel–making two distant centers work as According to one center. Telecommuting includes virtual face-to-face conferencing and meetings carried out with cameras and microphones at more than two locations.

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According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the so-called “millennial generation” values flexible work and has been pushing the envelope toward more flexible work locations and electronic connections between work locations. Advanced cloud services allow whole networks of computers and other devices to be joined as if they are in the same room even though they are separated by nearly unlimited space. The internet is nearly universally connected now to carry audio, video, and textual information.  Even employee downtime can be measured, assessed and supervised remotely.

According to the Gallup organization, about 55 percent of jobs could allow for telecommuting on a part-time basis at least. These include jobs that involve solo work, work that can be done as a home-based business, and work that is primarily computer-based. Often, telecommuting types of jobs can be converted into home businesses or consultantships rather than straight employee types of business relationships with a company, allowing for business flexibility. The potential for telecommuting can serve both companies’ desires to cut expenses and the desire of employees for more creative flexibility. The potential for telecommuting can extend the geographic reach of companies without having to do so with the cost of expensive real estate and hardware.

Hardware and software.

In addition to the telephone and computer hardware (eg, the laptop) and the virtual private network (VPN) access necessary to share data, there are applications which help you keep in touch with team members from your remote location, and applications that aid your personal functioning in your remote office..

  • Skype and Trillian are examples of commonly available chat software that enable you to share ideas, images, and even spoken communication inexpensively. You can dash off a quick text-based note or set up an audio conference call, even video conference on a one-to-one basis.
  • Google + has the capacity for one-to-one communication or (using Hangouts on Air) to broadcast a webcast or live feed.
  • Time management software like RescueTime provides a database of what you do and how long you take to do it. The software can manage your time, telling you to take breaks and even rewarding exceptional accomplishment with longer breaks.
  • SelfControl is almost like true supervision software that blocks any productivity-sapping software for a designated period, leaving you no choice but to get to work.
  •  is an online postal service that allows you to purchase stamps and other postal supplies without leaving your home office.
  • Dropbox is a cloud-based application. You can put any content into it and that content becomes available to anyone who uses your Dropbox address. You can use Dropbox to share files that are too large for email.

Applied innovations provides business services including managed hosting, cloud IT, Azure, and virtual private networking. Please contact us to learn more.

About Jess Coburn

It's Jess's responsibility as CEO and Founder of Applied Innovations to set the direction of Applied Innovations services to ensure that as a company we're consistently meeting the needs of our customers to help drive their success. In his spare time, Jess enjoys many of the things that made him a geek to begin with. That includes sexy new hardware, learning new technology and even a videogame or two! When you can’t find him at the office (which admittedly is rare), you’ll likely find him at the grill or in front of his smoker getting ready for some lip-smacking ribs to enjoy with his wife and two kids.

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