Telecommuting: First steps

I’ve been successfully telecommuting full-time for more than four years. By “successful,” I don’t mean that I’m pulling in thousands upon thousands of dollars per day, or however the spam ads go. I mean, I function very well in a full time position working from a home office.

From chatting with other people, and from my own experience, telecommuting full-time looks really attractive. And it does have a lot of positive points. Not having to drag myself into the office is a huge perk, just by itself. But working from home has its downside as well. I’ll get to that below.

This sort-of-wonderful life is becoming a lot more common these days, for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that much of the work once confined to an office can be done remotely, thanks to great Internet connections and the technology to go with it.

So, how does one shift from working in an office to working from home? There are a few ways to get started.

First, are you in a career that would be conducive to telework? Jobs like writing, editing, accounting, transcription, and other desk-oriented careers are the best-suited to teleworking. In fact, employees in most of these fields already have work-from-home guidelines in place.

If you’re not in a career that would easily allow you to work from home–you’re a nurse or a doctor, or you work in a trade like plumbing or carpentry, or you’re in the service industry–transitioning to telework will take more time and effort.

Once you’ve determined that starting point–what career you have, versus what you’d like to do, you can take the following steps:

— Make the case for telework, to yourself and your boss. Outline why you’d like to work from home, including personal reasons (e.g., you’d like an easier commute or no commute, you want to be closer to your kids’ daycare, etc.). Can you accomplish the same tasks at home as you can at the office?

— Propose a telework schedule to your supervisor. You don’t have to leap into full-time telework, and I don’t advise doing it. The change can be difficult. And your boss will probably object to that idea. But compromising a bit–proposing that you work from home two or three days per week, maximum–may sway the decision in your favor.

Now let’s say, for whatever reason, your proposal doesn’t work. (Maybe you work at Yahoo or someplace else with ridiculous telecommute bans.) Or, you’re in a job that won’t transition to telework. That presents a different challenge. You can:

— Look for another job in your field that allows teleworking, or

— Create the teleworking job that you want, within or outside of your field.

Now, I’m not saying these last two options are ideal, quick or easy to implement. But if you really want to get out of the job rut you’re currently in, if you’ve ever had to trudge 3 miles along an icy road because your boss said you had to be in the office even when the city buses refused to run; if you just want a change–you should consider a bigger change.

In future updates I’ll go into some of the intricacies of teleworking successfully. Stay tuned.


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