By Christine Timmins Barry
More than 26 million Americans “telecommute” and all signs point to the virtual workforce growing even faster in coming years. Indeed, 56 percent of senior leaders and hiring managers at Fortune 500 companies believe that the number of work-at-home employees will steadily or greatly increase at their companies, according to a recent survey by WorkSimple. With unemployment so high, job-seekers could benefit from this growing at-home job market. The benefits are compelling: better work/life balance and significantly lower commuting and work costs. Here are five pointers to make work at home work for you – and for your company:
1. Find a quiet place to work
It’s easy to be distracted by any number of things at home – the TV, radio, household chores, pets. Pick a location that is quiet, comfortable, and conducive to a productive day, including an ergonomically designed chair. This work space should be a distinct, separate area, ideally one that is designated as your home office.
This may require some upfront expenses, so compare those costs with the savings you can expect from working at home. For example, you may save:
- An average of $1,000 a year by eating lunch at home instead of a restaurant or cafeteria.
- Wear and tear on your car, an average 4.9 cents per mile, according to AAA.
- On insurance. You may be eligible for a low-mileage discount on your car insurance when you work at home.
- On clothing. Your attire need not be as formal in your home office as a corporate office.
In addition, some companies provide paid at-home training programs, again reducing the time and expenses of commuting and having to be in an office. If you want an easy way to calculate those savings, use the Lifestyle Benefits Calculator that we offer would-be applicants to our home agent program at Convergys, a Cincinnati-based relationship-management company that provides customer service from call centers and agent homes in the United States and around the world.
2. Alert others that you should not be disturbed
Let your family and friends know when you’re working so they respect your space and your work time. Some Convergys home agents place a sign on their door, saying “Working. Quiet, Please.”
How quiet depends on the kind of work you’re doing. Virtual customer service – answering inbound customer calls for big brands from your own home – has proven to be one of the fastest-growing at-home work segments. But crying babies and barking dogs are a no-no.
3. Set a schedule and stick to it
Start your day the same as if you were going into the office and follow your normal morning routine. This includes dressing professionally, rather than lounging around in pajamas, and not allowing distractions to delay your schedule or delay important tasks. Having a virtual communication platform such as instant messaging and chat rooms can help make you feel that you’re connected directly to the team.
4. Make a to-do list
Create a list of specific goals for the day and cross them off as you complete them. Having a technology-based communications system, such as online calendaring, keeps an open line of communication for home-based and office-based employees so that they can work together and prioritize tasks.
5. Take scheduled breaks
Everyone needs to take a short break to stay productive. Designate a certain time for personal calls and e-mails, having lunch, doing errands, exercising, and any other non-office-related activities. The key thing to remember to is to let your colleagues know when you are stepping away. You are part of the team, even when you’re at home.
– Christine Timmins Barry is senior vice president of global operations for the customer management business at Convergys Corp..
Source: The Christian Science Monitor
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