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Work from Home – Is it for you?

It’s not surprising that we hear a lot of interest in working from home at this time of year. Many of you spent some relaxing hours this summer at the cottage or resort, or just in a lawn chair in your own back yard. Your cubicle at the office seemed a million miles away and you wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. Add to that the spectre of winter commuting – only a cold, slushy line on the distant horizon right now, but coming faster than you think – and Not Going Back starts to sound very appealing.

The problem with that scenario is the need to continue earning a paycheck. But for some of our contract personnel (and even some of those we place as permanent employees), telework is a viable, and practical, work option. That deck chair overlooking the water is where they take their coffee breaks.

But how to get from office-base to home-base? Consider some of the following factors. And if you -- and your employer -- fit the profile for telework, consider making your move.

Is your job homebase-compatible?

Some jobs (editor, web designer) are very obviously a good match for homebasing. Others (cashier, surgeon) very obviously are not. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Assess your role in detail. How much of your essential communication with your co-workers is done via meetings and emails, and how much is done via informal information exchange through the day? What will you miss out on if you’re not physically present? Many homebasers find that “out of sight, out of mind” applies to them as well. Will your ability to do your job suffer if you’re not visible at all times?

Does your employer/client have a homebase-compatible working culture?

Some employers simply do not permit teleworking, for a variety of reasons. Others encourage it, because it cuts expenses if workers do not require regular desks in the office. Some… are in the middle. Check around to see if your company has an official telework policy, and what departments actually have people working at home. Do they prefer part-time telework over full-time? Do they have requirements for an “everybody here” day of the week? How do they make sure that all team members are up to date and in sync with each other?

Is the technology base available to support homebasing?

Does your employer permit company data to be taken off-premises, and/or accessed via remote connection? If your job requires regular team meetings, are they held in a location with good-quality speakerphones to allow you to dial in? Is your home Internet connection up for the kind of speed/data volumes you will need to do your work? How about your home computer, and your in-house virus protection and security? Does your workplace IT team support homebasers too, or will you be on your own if you run into a problem?

Are YOU a good candidate for homebase?

Time to take an honest look at yourself. Without the workplace environment and coworkers/supervisors all around you, can you stay focused and productive? Are you a self-starter? Are you willing to put more effort into staying in touch with the rest of your team, if you won’t be seeing them daily? Will you be just as available to phone calls and emails as you would be at work? Will you feel too isolated spending your day on your own?

Can you make a case for homebasing?

Time to see if you can trade in your commute, even for just one or two days a week. Approach your supervisor with a plan for how homebasing could work for you. Describe how you propose to be just as available, just as connected, just as productive as you would be at the office. Suggest a trial period to experiment with the model. Consider proposing only part-time work-at-home, with a commitment to meet and evaluate after one or two months. If your work requires you to interact with people across multiple time zones, point out that telework allows you to space out your work day and be available in separated “chunks” of time for better time zone coverage. Start small and develop a track record of success.

If you are starting a new job, offer to be in the office full-time for the first six to eight months, to ensure that you are solidly acquainted with your coworkers and the work environment before starting “off-site”.

Telework is not for everyone, but with fuel prices soaring and communication technologies shrinking distances worldwide, it may just be the right option for you.

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