Are you ready to ditch the suit and desk for pyjamas and the sofa? Many people would like the flexibility of working from home, but is it feasible for you? According to Global Workplace Analytics, telecommuting in SA has increased by 115% since 2015 among non-self-employed workers, and at least 62% of people work remotely at least some of the time. But only about 12% work exclusively from home.[i]
Remote working has become more and feasible as mobile computing and video conferencing become the order of the day, but it comes with its pros and cons. Parents love the fact that they have more flexibility and can spend more time with their children, but often struggle to avoid the distractions of home: cleaning, cooking, running errands and shuttling kids. Avoiding the traffic and time/money spent commuting is a big plus, but on the downside, telecommuters often say they miss social interaction and feel socially and professionally isolated. Some also say they feel it hinders their career mobility.
If you’re tired of the long drive and ready to move home, think about the direction you want to go. There’s a difference between telecommuting and running a home business or freelancing. Telecommuting implies that you have a full-time job but work from home. Whereas a home business indicates that you have more than one client and don’t work under the supervision of an employer. Each obviously has their advantages and disadvantages mainly that with telecommuting you have the stability of a permanent job rather than the ups-and-downs of freelancing. The downside is that you don’t have the ability to earn extra money and are limited by often lower-than-normal salaries. Above all, you need to be sure that you have what it takes to work at home. It requires self-discipline and self-motivation to avoid the distractions of home life. Are you equipped to work from home? You want to ensure that you have the quiet productive space that can separate you from family and household distractions.
The starting point to telecommuting, if your job is suited to working from home, is to chat with your employer about the possibility of moving home. You can motivate this by talking about extra productivity due to less time commuting and greater job satisfaction. In approaching your boss about this, you’ll want to make a list of your tasks and duties and indicate which can be done from home, and which you need to come into the office for (meetings are an example of this). You need to show that you are trustworthy and reliable and highlighting your accomplishments and positive performance reviews will help with this. Try to show how working from home will be good for your employer, not just you. A telecommuting policy may ultimately result in cost savings for the business when it comes to office space and resources. Once you’ve thought all this through, think about putting together a written proposal. This will need to highlight your value to the company, and detail the specifics of how it will work and ultimately benefit the company. There are many telecommuting studies online that will provide you with stats to help support your proposal. You could also suggest a trial period to prove that the arrangement will work.
If this doesn’t work out – you can start the search for work-from-home friendly jobs. Many companies in your industry may be offering work-from-home positions. Try a search on job sites and LinkedIn for your position, but include keywords like “work at home,” “telecommute”, “remote” etc. LinkedIn is an invaluable resource here, so make sure your profile is up to date. Find the LinkedIn groups that your industry is using and make yourself seen and heard. But beware, when you’re looking for work-from-home opportunities you’ll come across many scams trying to get money out of you. Research them all carefully and look for recommendations and reviews.
The other option is to move toward freelancing or consulting from home. Many people are able to start this process by negotiating with their existing employer to switch from a permanent position to a contract position, and thus setting up their first client. There are many resources online to find freelance and contract work and the process then becomes about marketing yourself to gain the additional clients you need.
Deciding what work-at-home road to take can be difficult. If you like the freedom and flexibility to make your own choices and don’t like being restricted by a company’s rules and policies, then a home business or freelancing is ideal. However, if you like structure and the security of stable income, a telecommuting or contract job might be a better option.