Working from home

13 Mar

Working from home is the perfect solution for many parents who need to juggle looking after their family with earning a living. Whether you are self-employed or employed by a company, being home-based removes the need for commuting, allows greater flexibility of hours and helps professionals maintain a better work-life balance.

With increasing numbers of employees working at home – or using home as a working base for at least part of the week – let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of being employed and based from home.

Benefits for employed home workers

Commuting savings. You can save on the hidden costs associated with commuting to work including car wear and tear, fuel, road taxes and parking

Wardrobe savings. As long as you don’t have any meetings to attend during your working day, you can cut down on your working wardrobe and dry cleaning bills

Childcare savings: Save money on older children’s care arrangements

Productivity: Less distractions from coworker banter, great talkers, office politics and unimportant meetings all mean you can get on with your work uninterrupted and hopefully have far greater productivity

Working environment: You can determine your own working environment, lighting, temperature and music playing.

Disadvantages for home workers

Isolation. Homeworkers can suffer from a feeling of isolation and loneliness having been removed from their bosses and coworkers. You have to be more determined and resourceful about getting to know new employees and staying in touch with your colleagues.

Distractions. Office distractions are replaced by home distractions. Interruptions from children, neighbours or family can be disruptive. Make it clear to all that even though you are at home, you are working and unavailable. Similarly, you might be tempted to engage in household matters and chores during working hours.

Draw a line between work and home time. Natural workaholics could work forever at all hours of the day. You might feel there are greater self-imposed pressures to prove that, as a homeworker, you are more productive than your office-based colleagues. Ensure that your home life does not suffer

Keeping up with change and promotions. A lot can change from day to day in a company, so it’s important to be kept abreast of all news. Also the danger of being overlooked is quite real when your are not as visible as other employees. Keep communications open with your manager and make regular visits to the office to avoid the out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome.

Working from home is not suitable for everyone. You need to be dedicated, self-motivated without losing drive and momentum and be prepared to withstand home distractions. Often a partial arrangement where you report into the office once or twice a week is best as it allows for interaction with colleagues and supervisors whilst giving you the flexibility of working from home.

Benefits for employers

There are a clear number of benefits for the business that employs you, such as:

  • Improved retention of employees. Home working can helps retain working parents who have childcare responsibilities.
  • A wider pool of applicants from which to recruit. For example, disabled people may prefer to work from home.
  • Productivity gains. Hopefully you will have fewer interruptions, less commuting time or can fit work in and around a child’s illness.
  • Increased staff motivation. Stress and sickness levels are proven to reduce when home working is introduced.
  • Financial savings. The need for office space and other facilities can be reduced and some travel costs can be reduced.

 

However, if you are an employer, what are the potential drawbacks?

Harnessing IT to your advantage

Advancements in technology in the past five years have made working from home a much easier option for those who work for themselves as well employees.

Remote computer access

This is an amazing piece of software, you no longer need to take your laptop with you on business. Just sign up and it’s as if you are working from your home office www.gotomypc.com

  • Alternative telephone voice over IP (VoIP)
    Free calls to any Skype user, with the option to buy a Skype phone number and make extremely cheap worldwide calls www.skype.com
  • Teleconferencing via webcams – www.skype.com or Microsoft Instant Messenger and most other ISP email provider
  • Virtual secretarial services
    Such as Busy Lizzie (of course) www.busylizzie.ie
  • Website-based text messages
    Most mobile providers will provide you with a certain amount of free texts/month to send via their websites.
  • You Tube
    A great resource to upload informative videos about you and your business for free
  • All in one mobile
    Look at PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant or smart phones), such as Blackberry, Android or iPhones.

Working at home: tips for keeping on top of administration

Running a small business can be a very rewarding experience, and with record numbers of startups recorded by the DTI in 2010, the urge to go it alone is as strong as ever. On the other hand, starting up can bring with it a number of stresses which the permanent employee is blissfully unaware of. One potential area of stress can arise when your administration has been left to the last minute, or seems out of control.

Here are some tips for keeping on top of your small business office and administration.

1. Tidy up
There’s nothing worse than trying to run a business from an untidy room or office. Mess brings stress and should be sorted out as your first priority. Ensure that all work surfaces are clutter free and try to keep an area of your home dedicated purely to running your business.

2. Paperwork

Choose a filing system that suits you and organise chunks of paperwork into logical piles. An ever-growing pile of unrelated paperwork gets harder to sort out each day, and chances are, somewhere near the bottom of the pile will be a request for payment or something else which would have been dealt with if systems were in place.

3. Accountancy

From my experience, the one area of admin which you really must ensure gets your full attention is accounting-related. More than anything else, you should keep accurate and up-to-date records of all your income and expenditure on a spreadsheet or using accountancy software. Ensure you are never late posting VAT returns, completing your Annual return, or submitting liability payments to Revenue. Find a decent accountant who will be able to help a great deal with this and ensure you get as much tax relief as possible.

4. Respond to email

Given that the Internet is playing a greater part in the lives of all small business people, email communication has replaced more old-fashioned forms of communication to a great degree. We’d recommend trying to respond to emails within 48 hours. Sometimes this isn’t always possible of course but potential clients don’t like having to wait.

5. Systems

Everyone will have a different way of organising their time and tasks. Find out what areas of administration cause you stress and create a system to get around the problem. For example, if you receive a high volume of email enquiries of a similar nature, simply create a template response and copy and paste the reply. Keep files for different areas of your business so that you can find that self-assessment form without having to root through a pile of household bills, takeaway menus and marketing proposals!

Whatever works for you is the best solution. From my own experience, when I’m organised I get twice as much work done, which is better for my own feeling of satisfaction, and better for business.

Tara Dalrymple is Director of Busy Lizzie. The Busy Lizzie team provides unparalleled outsourcing packages to SMEs such as web and print design, secretarial support, e-marketing, book keeping, office decluttering, project and event management. Email info@busylizzie.ie or visit www.busylizzie.ie

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