Many people relish the idea of working from home without fully understanding all that comes with it. Understanding the advantages and challenges, as well as strategies for improving productivity and balancing your work and home life, can keep you mentally healthy and happy.
Advantages of virtual employment
A flexible work schedule is a bonus, but not a guarantee. Some jobs require strict adherence to schedules because of the nature of the work or the client's needs. Others allow you to flex hours according to your workload and family needs.
Saves both time and money. Working from home reduces or eliminates commuting, parking and wardrobe costs. It can also allow you to spend more time with the family or doing other activities when your workday ends.
Increases productivity. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, over 70 percent of managers agree that virtual employees' productivity increases or remains the same, and 80 percent of employees believe that working virtually increases their productivity.
Challenges of virtual employment
Separating work and home time may be difficult. You might be tempted to keep working past your normal hours because it is convenient. You might be tempted to check email at night or complete tasks after the kids go to bed to get ahead in the morning. Before you know it, your work life might consume your home life.
Isolation from workplace social network and leadership recognition. From time to time, you may experience resentment from coworkers who are working in the office. You may feel like you are not part of the group because you are physically disconnected from the office.
Establishing work from home boundaries
Setting boundaries between your work and home life can make your career experience better for both you and your client or company.
Create a private workspace. Set up an office space in your home and use it only for working. If possible, have a door you can close, or use a screen to separate your workspace. Keep all work supplies and files in your office space. Invest in necessary equipment, such as a computer, telephone, printer, fax or copy machine. Business expenses like equipment and supplies might be a tax deduction.
Set boundaries, schedule and focus. Minimize distractions. Keep your work and personal email and phone numbers separate. Take regular breaks. At the end of your day, turn off your computer and work phone and leave your office space. Let friends and family know your work schedule and help them understand you are at work, even if you are working from home. Avoid household tasks during work time. Avoid work tasks during household and family time.
Stay connected with work and the outside world. Keep in touch with coworkers, other team members and management. Designate regular times to connect by phone, video calls, or visits to the office. Schedule meetings, get-togethers and lunches with coworkers, clients or other virtual workers. Join or form a local networking group for virtual employees. These groups often meet regularly for breakfast or lunch to brainstorm ideas and share experiences. Get involved in your community, particularly if you are new to the area. Volunteer, join a gym or seek activities where you can meet people with similar interests. Make sure your supervisory chain is aware of your contributions, accomplishments and successes.
Know your personality type, strengths and weaknesses. Successful virtual employees often have the following traits:
- Self-motivated and high-performance focused
- Independent, knowledgeable and skillful
- Comfortable with solitude
- Strong time management and organizational skills
- Strong communication and networking skills
Virtual employment can provide the flexibility and portability you may be looking for. Be sure you understand the challenges of working from home and ways to overcome them before pursuing a virtual career. Talk with your family about your motivation to work from home and get their buy-in. Seek out mentors or others who hold virtual positions.
Contact a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to discuss employment and mentoring options. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.