Want to Work From Home? Tactics to Help You Start Telecommuting
Want to Work From Home? Tactics to Help You Start Telecommuting

It’s a comment I get all the time: “So you work from home? How can I get that gig?”

Seven years and three jobs ago, I was a traditional office employee, too, struggling every weekday to beat traffic and make it to my downtown Seattle cubicle on time. Every time I was late to the daycare to pick up my kids (they charged a $1-per-minute fine after 6 p.m.!), I dreamed of working at home – definitely from the couch, maybe in my pajamas.

Since then, I have tried pretty much every version of a flexible workplace there is. I have run a home business out of – you guessed it – my home. I have worked as a freelancer from my dining table. And now I work full time for a company without physical offices, meaning my week is divided among coffee shops, my home office and the homes of co-workers. Often, business meetings take place by phone in the minivan.

Through all this experience, and by networking with a community of others who telecommute, I have learned that the way to build flexibility into your work life is to … just do it. But do it strategically.

Making Sense of Your Options

Before you decide to move on or make a go of telecommuting at your current job, it’s useful to understand what jobs are well suited for telecommuting. FlexJobs, a site focused on telecommuting and other flexible jobs, took a look back at 2014 and found the 50 most surprising work-from-home jobs posted over the year. Their list included fish biologist, psychologist, social worker, branding coach, reading expert, corporate trainer, magazine editor, grants manager and spa specialist (I’m not sure what that is, but sign me up!).

“Across the board, most industries are finding ways to get flexible,” said Kathy Gardner, spokeswoman for FlexJobs. “We think certain industries will continue to dominate the flexible work arena, including health care, customer service, sales, computer and IT, administrative and education. But as the overall job market continues to strengthen, all employers will need to find creative ways to entice the best talent.”

Making Your Case

Many companies have work-from-home policies in place already, so be sure to check with your HR department or boss if you’re thinking about adding flexibility to your current job.

If there’s no policy, or if working remotely is uncommon on your team or in your department, you’ll need to make your case. “The key is to prepare a proposal ahead of time which outlines the benefits of this arrangement for the employer and gives the employer a sense of what it would look like to have their employee working from home,” Gardner said. “Offer a trial period so the manager can get used to the arrangement. Stress the positives, like increased productivity and efficiency, reduced absences, lowered operating costs.”

“You have to give your boss a way to measure your productivity when you're working remotely,” said Michelle Goodman, Seattle author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and My So-Called Freelance Life. “Maybe there are weekly deliverables you can promise, for example. And you should always answer emails or direct messages within the hour during designated work-from-home hours.” Goodman also suggests checking out workoptions.com, which offers templates for pitching a flexible schedule.

Making a Move

If you decide to explore the market for a new job, focus your search in part on the flex factor. “Search for keywords like telecommuting job and remote job rather than work-from-home job, because it's a common scam phrase,” Gardner said. She also recommends researching each company's flexible work policies and using this free guide to the best companies for flexible jobs, a database of over 30,000 companies that have offered flexible jobs in the past.

When I decided I wanted to telecommute as an employee, I searched for a company that integrated flexible work options, and when I found it, I asked a lot of questions about how employees communicated effectively while telecommuting and what the expectations were for work hours and availability. The answers I received convinced me that flexibility was a core part of the company culture and that this “office” would be a great fit.

Making It Work

Once you find your perfect flexible job, you’ll need to take some steps to ensure the longed-for scenario actually works for you.

For me, this entailed setting up a home office; deciding how often I would work outside the house at coffee shops (balancing my need for environmental stimulation with my limited coffee funds!); and learning how to turn off work when it’s family and personal time, which means, in my case, managing team and client expectations and setting email limits and work boundaries after hours. I enjoy the benefits of telecommuting, like picking my children up from school in the afternoon. But I’m also constantly calibrating the balance between finishing my work day later on and overworking because I live at my office.

I’ve learned that while I can stay in my pajamas some days, I usually don’t feel productive that way. Still, it’s nice to have a gig that gives me the option.

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Author Natalie Singer-Velush

Natalie Singer-Velush

Guest writer Natalie Singer-Velush is a Seattle mom, former managing editor of ParentMap and a veteran of the freelance and work-from-home scene. She’s a longtime journalist and an award-winning writer with more than a decade of experience creating content on topics ranging from politics to parenting.

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