Pre-baby I was on a team where everyone worked from home one day per week. Yoga pant Mondays, the best. After having Cade, hubs and I decided it was time to make my dream of working entirely from home a reality. So I quit my regular job, hung out my shingle as a consultant and made my home office my permanent office.
In the year I worked from home 100%, I learned a lot about working from home, working for myself and the crazy balance of being a working mom. There’s enough in those topics to write a whole book on each one. But for today, I’m gonna focus on one: how to know if working from home is right for you.
Before you decide to work from home, either as a traditional employee or as a business owner or contractor, consider these questions.
Are you generally disciplined and focused? Or will the distractions of laundry, dishes and Ellen be more than you can handle?
- Do you have a designated work location? An area that is just for work will help minimize distractions. Ideally this includes a good desk chair, proper lighting and is relatively quiet.
- Do you have reliable cell service and internet? You are likely to be on LOTS of calls since you aren’t at the meetings in-person. If your house is a dead zone for cell service, this is going to be tough. Similarly, you will likely be online a lot and you want not just reliable internet service, but fast internet service.
- Is your home properly equipped in other ways? What are the other things you need to effectively work from home? A printer? A fax machine? Are you or can you be equipped for that?
- What will your childcare situation be like? Oh this one warrants a whole post of its own. Take it from someone who tried to work full-time from home while caring for her baby, it is not a sustainable every day scenario. Sick days, once a week, sure. It happens. But you will likely end up in the looney bin (just ask my husband) if you think you can do this every week for 30-40 hours. You need childcare!
- What are your spouse’s beliefs and expectations about working from home? Everyone has that friend who “works from home” yet seems to be at the gym mid-morning and gardening every afternoon. If your spouse believes this is what working from home will be like for you (i.e. less work, more play/domestic work), and you think you’ll actually be working at your job, you are in trouble. Make sure you are on the same page about the working part.
Get an A+ on the work from home quiz? Woohoo! Now start drafting the boss an email about WFH (note the acronym, it’s about to be your new best friend).
If you didn’t get an A+ but still want to get there, look at the area where you need to improve and take action. Then ease into it. Ask your boss for an afternoon from home while you wait on the plumber. If a few days like that go well, maybe you can ask for one day a week from home or even one day every other week. Employers are eager to retain good talent and a flexible schedule is a lot more cost effective than a raise or more vacation time. If done well, it’s a win-win for everyone.