Returning to work
Working from home is something most of us would love to do. Being able to work part-time and structure work around your family is so appealing. Current skills shortages combined with globalisation and technological advances are changing the mindsets of organisations about working flexibly. Flexible work options such as part-time work, job sharing, flexi-hours, telecommuting and working from home are becoming more prevalent in organisations.
Many big companies, in Gauteng especially, are embracing flexi-hours for their employees. This is as a result of the growing problem of traffic congestion. As much as 3. 5 working days per year are spent stuck in traffic. Compared with working normal hours, flexible working hours include staff members working from home and the option to negotiate working hours according to their needs, but this is unfortunately the exception and not the rule. If, however, you are lucky enough to arrange for flexi-hours by working from home – even if it's only for part of your week, then read on.
The solution to work-life balance?
For many people, working from home or becoming self-employed is the solution to the work-life balance conundrum. The autonomy and comfort of working from home instead of the mundane commute to and from work, early mornings and office politics make working from home sound very appealing.
Yet personality is a key factor and working from home does not suit everyone. If you are the kind of person who loves the everyday social contact with peers or enjoys working in a close-knit team, then working from home is probably not for you.
Working from home requires a level of self-discipline, motivation and organisation that not everyone possesses. If you think working from home is a solution to the issue of childcare, think again. If you are expected to be on call during the day, you will require childcare.
If you want to explore self-employment opportunities, do your research first and be wary of fraudulent websites that advertise work-from-home opportunities. Always read the fine print and check whether the organisation is legitimate before signing up.
Work from home advantages
Independence and control in your workday with the ability to structure work hours around your own schedule and your family commitments
Chance to enjoy more family and personal time
Save time and money on transport costs
No office politics and distractions
Greater flexibility in your working hours
Tax advantages – depending on which type of business you have, you may be able to claim on utility costs and office equipment
Work from home disadvantages
Interruptions from family and general household distractions
Working from home is not the answer to the childcare dilemma – you will still require a carer for your child
Can be isolating and lonely, as there is limited social interaction with colleagues or anyone to bounce your ideas off
Lack of technical support and equipment including login issues and slower downloads
Lack of work structure – you may find it difficult to separate work from home life
You have to be self-motivated and organised
You may experience negative reactions from co-workers and clients (if this happens, you need to talk to your manager)
What you will need to work from home
A computer or laptop
A dedicated phone line
An answering machine
A mobile phone
Email and internet access
A comfortable chair and desk
Copy, scan & fax facilities (optional)
Tips for success
Notify your regular clients that you will be working from home for part of the week.
Be organised, as it will improve your productivity. Structure your workday and keep distractions at bay. Conversely, don’t be in work mode all the time i.e. don’t check your email when you’re off duty.
Obtain good resources – see the list above, as it will help your productivity.
Network – speaking to people in your field (networking) will help you remain focused and motivated.
Keep up with personal and professional contacts by emailing them regularly and calling occasionally.
Stick to a schedule. Treat your days like a “regular” workday. Many people have found that an 8-5 or 9-6 schedule really helps keep them on track and stay productive.
Separate your “work” area from your “living” area. This includes your phone and computer.
Get dressed every day. Don’t wear pyjamas all day. It will make you feel less work-like.
Take breaks. Get away from the computer and don’t work through lunch.
Keep your weekends. Working from home shouldn’t change your work:life balance.
Keep your work area clear of personal paperwork and other projects that may distract you.
Have goals for what you want to accomplish each week.
Request feedback from clients, your employer and other people you work with on a regular basis. This can help you identify shortcomings and keep you motivated to keep improving your skills.
Jobs suitable for working from home
Work that can be performed without reliance on office-based systems and procedures
Work that has a long lead-time
Writing and report-based jobs
Work without a high degree of supervision or monitoring required
Work that does not require a lot of face-to-face client or customer contact at the workplace
It is fair to say that some aspects of most office-based jobs can be performed at home because of the heavy reliance on computers and email. Build a business case and negotiate with your manager or prospective employer.
For more information see Working moms or Parenting.