Work from Home: A 5 Step Guide to Location Freedom

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While you are on your 5-minute break waiting in line for your mid-morning latte, have you ever wondered who all those people typing away on laptops are at the coffee shops? They’re dressed comfortably, nursing their drinks with half-eaten muffins. And you wonder: what do they do that they can work at Starbucks while you’re cooped up in a windowless cell?

Well, not all these folks are freelancers or writers or students. Many of them hold jobs with traditional companies, companies like Sun Microsystem or Cisco. Increasingly, companies are offering their employees telecommuting opportunities. Allowing staff to work from home some or all of the time can not only increase staff morale (and hence, staff productivity), but it can also have a positive environmental impact. Treehugger estimated back in 2008 that if white-collared employees worked at home twice a week, the U.S. would save 9.7 billion gallons of gasoline a year. That doesn’t include carbon emissions nor stress from driver rage.

But if helping the environment or increasing staff morale doesn’t convince you that the benefits of telecommuting can outweigh the risks, how about saving your marriage?

A few years ago, TedX Raleigh brought in one speaker, Douglas Hanna, CEO of A Small Orange, who spoke earnestly about the new, non-traditional office space, namely, working at home. One fascinating fact he offered was that people with a commute of 45 minutes or longer have a 40% greater chance of getting divorced.

Imagine that.

So what to do if you’re stuck in a cubicle and want to have more location freedom? Of course, not every job allows for telecommuting, but you may be surprised how many could. Before you talk to your boss, here are some suggestions to lay out a compelling case for location freedom.

1. Demonstrate work ethic, integrity, and dependability.

Establish a track record of hard work and ability to not only meet, but to also beat deadlines. Be the person your boss knows s/he can count on, the person that gets things done – and done well. Earn yourself the reputation as someone who is honest and will go above and beyond. If you are someone who leaves promptly at 5 (or 4:59), takes an extra 10 minutes at lunch, or shows up 15 minutes late every day, your case for being someone who can be trusted to work independently may be compromised.

2. Prove that you are self-disciplined and self-motivated.

Show that you are someone who can manage your own time and can multitask. Working from home often poses unique challenges. Whether it is the temptation of sleeping late or playing with the dog, there are many distractions that seem more pleasurable than work. Demonstrate to your boss that you are able to focus, juggle multiple things, and can set and follow your own schedule despite these distractions.

Working from home doesn’t mean a free-for-all. Set up your schedule as you would at home (i.e. 8AM-9AM: respond to emails and phone calls, 9AM-10AM: review budget information). You will be surprised how more efficiently you can get work if you stay focused because you won’t be distracted by officemates popping in and chatting (just don’t get distracted by the puppy wanting you to play fetch for 15 more minutes).

3. Prove that you will stay connected.

Make sure that your home (or whatever chosen space) is equipped with what you need to stay connected with your colleagues: a fast internet connection, telephone, Skype or other teleconferencing capability. Make the case that even though you won’t be physically in the office, you are still present. Perhaps most of your communication is already done via intranet or telephone. Show your boss that your home office is equipped with all the things you need to stay connected and that you will have set office hours during which you are readily available – just like in the office. Set up a dedicated workspace – not one that is shared with the kid’s craft table or the corner of your kitchen counter.

4. Determine which responsibilities can be handled outside of the office.

Lay out your roles and responsibilities. Identify which ones may not require you to be in the office. Place them into categories and see if you can group responsibilities by day (i.e., Mondays through Wednesdays you focus on meetings and other responsibilities that require your presence in the office, Thursdays through Fridays you focus on the paper work you can do out of office).

5. Analyze how much time/money you and your boss would save.

Perhaps your company subsidizes you for parking. Well, working from home will save the company that money. Perhaps your commute is 45 minutes each way, and you can show that saving 1.5 hours a day means you can add an extra hour of productive work every day rather than commuting. Perhaps freeing your cubicle will allow for another available workspace or much-needed conference space, saving your company the expense of build extra rooms.

Make a chart of the different ways that your working out of the office can save the company money, increase your productivity, and renew your commitment to your organization.

Location freedom can be a wonderful boost to your work life (though it is important to keep in mind that working from home can be dangerous if you don’t put boundaries between work and personal life…more on that at a later date).

Consider whether location freedom is right for you, and make the case – it may save your marriage.

This was first published on www.Hummingbirdrcc.com.

Dr. Belinda Chiu is a social change strategist, coach, and facilitator. Like you, she believes that everyone has the transformational ability to reach their potential and beyond. Dr. Chiu incorporates a practice of mindfulness to help individuals harness their natural strengths, achieve results, and carve their own paths towards professional fulfillment. She writes regularly on her website, Hummingbird research coaching consulting.

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