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The Great Big Guide to Working from Home
Working from home isn’t just a dream, it can be a reality too.
A job that allows you flexibility to balance work with lifestyle is the ultimate goal for many people. Parents, retirees, extreme introverts, those that live in remote areas and those living with a disability or other health concerns are obvious candidates for home-based jobs – but lets face it, a lot of us would happily cut out the commute and work from home if given the choice.
So how do you go about finding a job you can do from home? What can you actually do? Read on!
Common Ways to Work-From-Home
Telecommuting is an arrangement where you are an employee of an organisation but have a work agreement where you do not commute to a central place of work. Often you’ll still have a physical traditional office in the organisation, but work from an alternative location, like home, some of the time. Some teleworkers work from a home office almost 100% of the time and only go into the office on special occasions such as training or major work social events. Telecommuting usually relies on the use of technology such as email, phone, instant messaging and video chat to maintain communication with the office.
A home business is simply a small business that is run from the business owner’s home. Home businesses usually have few employees, often just you, the business operator, and immediate family members. These businesses rarely have customer parking, a shop front or street advertising. Home businesses are commonly associated with a variety of scams, but there are completely legitimate home businesses around if you do your research. Many home businesses are started as a hobby or extra source of income while still employed elsewhere, then become a full time pursuit when the business has grown sufficiently, has been proven to be profitable and generates sufficient income to be a full time pursuit.
Self-employment involves generating your income directly from clients, customers and other organisations rather than working for a business or organisation as an employee. This means finding your own work rather than having work given to you by an employer. Self-employed people are often known as independent contractors or freelancers. It is common in many professional fields such as journalism, screenwriting, copywriting, translating, illustrating, video editing and production, consulting, acting, music, and web design and development.
Work from Home Jobs
Check out our guide to home work opportunities in our Big List of *Real* Work From Home Jobs
Learn about common work from home scams in our guide: Beware of Scammers! 12 Work From Home Schemes to Avoid
Common characteristics of work from home jobs
There are a range of real work-from-home jobs available. In fact, many jobs can potentially be done from home, provided the role:
– Doesn’t require you to be on-site to actually do the work.
– Doesn’t require a high degree of supervision.
– Doesn’t involve regular face-to-face client contact.
– Doesn’t rely on office-based procedures or systems.
– Can be done with a computer, fast internet connection and the right equipment.
In a hyper-connected world many jobs can be easily performed at home – for instance trained bookkeepers have been able to manage computerised accounting systems remotely for years. It’s only getting easier with the adoption of cloud based accounting software and storage technologies. In education & training – an industry we’re intimately familiar with – the internet has freed qualified trainers from geographic restrictions and allows them to deliver quality education worldwide via video conferencing and other technologies.
Don’t think work from home jobs can only be done at a home office! There are many situations where much more active and “hands-on” work can be done from home. For example:
Services such as family day care (aka childcare) can be provided in a home-based setup provided you have the right training and comply with regulations.
Artists and craftspeople have also been known to operate from home. For instance, a blacksmith or metalworker with the right tools and equipment can create custom tools, knives and swords, and other unique metalwork from their own home.
Common work from home equipment and tools
Most telecommuters and freelancers will need the same basic equipment, including:
– Super-fast internet (stable ADSL2+ or fibre connection for video and voice conferences)
– Dedicated phone line
– Dedicated office space
– Answering machine
– Fax machine
– Good office chair and desk
– Mobile phone
Artists, craftspeople and other specialists will obviously need their own unique set of tools and equipment.
Are you really prepared to work from home?
There are definite advantages to work from home and it can make a major difference to your quality of life. Before you idolise remote work as the “holy grail” of your working life, it’s worth remembering there are a lot of disadvantages too. Take the time to learn about the advantage and disadvantages so you can make the right decision for you.
The Perks of Working from Home
So how will working from home make your life better?
Commuting can suck the life out of you. Long commutes in cars have been linked to neck and back pains, high cholesterol, obesity and lack of sleep. It leads to increased worry, anger and can triple your chance of a heart attack.
In some of Australia’s larger cities, it’s not uncommon for people to spend an hour or two in the car each way, every day, to get to work. Think about how you could better spend those 10 to 20 hours a week – exercising, reading, socialising, sleeping or taking care of your kids! Working from home can eliminate (or reduce) your time spent commuting and literally gives you hundreds of hours of your life back every year.
No dress code
Would you choose to wear your work clothes outside of work? Work dress is a whole extra set of clothing you need to buy and maintain. Most of the time, it’s chosen because it looks good and it will help you fit in to a professional environment. Comfort takes second place. Working from home removes the need to maintain a second wardrobe and you can work in whatever you want! Baggy shorts and a t-shirt? Perfect.
Less workplace distractions and office politics
Office politics, drama and gossip – sometimes it’s a wonder any work gets done at all! Unfortunately you rarely get to choose the people with whom you work. It only takes one bad apple or a nasty personality clash to turn the workplace into a poisonous, stressful environment. Working from home is a chance to free yourself from those politics and distractions and simply get on with your work.
Operating out of a home office allows you to claim certain expenses relating to your office as tax deductions. They tend to change each year and there are many conditions on what and how much can be claimed. It’s definitely worth getting a good tax accountant to make you don’t over claim. They will also help you understand the long term implications of each claim (there can be some nasty surprises if you’re not careful!)
Control and flexibility with working time
Imagine your day when working in the office vs working at home:
|6.30am||Get up, shower, eat breakfast||Get up, shower, eat breakfast|
|7.30am||Drive to work||Start work|
|8.30am||Start work||Already working|
|4pm||Still working||Finish work|
|5pm||Finish work, drive home||Go enjoy your life!|
You don’t even need to keep regular office hours (unless it’s a requirement of the job). Do your best work early in the morning? Start at 5am and be finished by early afternoon. Work well late at night? Get on with your work after the rest of the family has gone to bed and the house is quiet.
Chance to enjoy more family time
Consider how much time each day is spent just preparing for and going to and from work. It easily adds up to an hour or more each day! In a full working week that’s more than five hours of your life spent dressing up and commuting. Put that time to better use – spend it with your children, partner and family. Even if they’re not home, it frees you to do chores and other less pleasant tasks so that the time you do have together can be spent doing more interesting and enjoyable things.
Commuting is a major “hidden” expense associated with working outside of home. Buying and maintaining a vehicle, plus filling it with fuel, is seriously expensive. Commuting by bus or train also costs thousands each year. Add to that the cost of “work” clothes, all the work functions you attend at your own expense, charity drives you contribute towards and buying lunches when you forget to bring you own. Suddenly you start to realise the expenses associated with keeping a job actually costs you a lot of money!
Spare the environment
When you think about it, living and working in separate places is very inefficient. Constructing two separate buildings, one for working and one for living in, is extremely wasteful. In many cases your home will be empty half the day while you work. Then your workplace will sit around, unused, for the other half of the day once work is finished. Add to that the resources used to heat or cool both structures, the extra infrastructure to supply utilities to each location – it adds up quickly! That’s before we take into account energy used in commuting or creating and maintaining road & rail networks to facilitate that travel.
No geographic limits
What if you perfect job was based in Sydney but you lived in Perth? It’s not always easy to pack up and move your life from one side of the country to the other to get the job you really want. If you don’t move you might miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. If you could do that job remotely, you could have your cake and eat it too!
The possibilities don’t end at our national borders – a global economy and the internet allow people to pursue work opportunities from home, no matter where in the world their employer is based.
The Drawbacks of Working from Home
You might think working from home is the perfect “cure-all” for your problems. The reality is, working from home isn’t the right solution for everyone. There are a number of undesirable realities which can make working from home a less attractive option than it first appears.
It sounds counter intuitive – after all, you wanted to work from home to have a better work/life balance right? Unlike going into the office where you can physically leave at the end of the day and hopefully just “switch off”, it’s easy to allow work to consume much more of your time and energy. This is especially true for people running a home business or freelancing, where you feel like you need to be available 24/7 or are trying to manage clients in many time zones.
Avoiding office politics and toxic work environments is often cited as one of the reasons people get into working from home. The flip side is you also miss out on the chance to build professional and personal relationships at work, which can be a great source of support when you run into personal and professional problems.
Work is often a large component of an adult’s social life – one of the few places where we’re forced to spend long periods of time with people we didn’t know before. That’s the kind of environment where new friendships can be formed, something that becomes difficult for many of us (especially introverts) as we get older and no longer have school or after school activities to give us an opportunity to mix and mingle with new people.
“Out of sight, out of mind” as the saying goes. Your employer doesn’t see you much, so forgets to offer you mentoring or assigns the best work assignments to your on-site workmates. Making an effort to be a visible presence – attending special meetings, training events and even social functions – can be worth the effort. Even remembering to call, video conference and email your boss and colleagues on a regular basis to touch-base will help everyone remember you’re part of the team.
Getting pay rises
Teleworkers need to push for pay rises and promotions just like they would in the office. Those suffering from “becoming invisible” will find it much harder to get them, so anyone serious about telework needs to ensure their productiveness and output is noticed and measured. If you let it slide, perhaps thinking working from home is reward enough in itself, you’ll miss out of opportunities for pay and promotion, crippling your career and finances in the long term. Worst case, you’ll end up having to justify your very existence to your employer!
Time wasting, distractions and boredom
At one end of the spectrum are time wasters: family and friends asking you to help with chores or inviting you out for coffee or lunch because you are always “available”. Work might even call you in for unexpected meetings at short notice, multiple times a day, with the unexpected commutes eating into your working day.
As a result, it’s important to set boundaries with family and friends so that you don’t waste your ‘work’ time. It can actually be difficult to care for children and still have the long periods of uninterrupted time you need to get your work done. You might find you still need to pay for childcare while you work at home!
It’s also easy to lose motivation and get distracted. Afterall, this is your home too and you’ve probably got plenty of other things there to keep you occupied. Books, television, videogames or maybe you’re lucky enough to live on a beach front and those waves are just too tempting… even menial tasks like cleaning can suddenly become extremely important when the alternative is work (or study, as many students have learned to their chagrin).
It sounds silly right? Cut out all the distractions in a normal office work day – time wasting meetings, colleagues coming over for a chat, morning and afternoon teas – and you could well discover you’re actually far more productive than before. You might even find yourself running out of work to do! That’s great if you’re working to the job, not the clock.
However, you may find yourself being given more and more work to do without being rewarded or recognised for the extra output. Another worry is transitioning back to regular on-site work. If your employer has become used to a certain level of production which you just can’t sustain in a normal working environment, suddenly you look like you’re lazy and slacking off even though you’ve done nothing wrong!
Loss of ambition
“Lifestyle perks” are one of the major benefits of working from home – the ability to juggle work and personal needs plus cut out time wasted commuting. That doesn’t mean you should give up your ambition and drive. Lifestyle perks are just the bonus; working from home can actually be a great way to propel your career forward by allowing you to cut costs and run a leaner business; or increase your productivity and free you to focus on producing higher-quality work. Keep sight of your professional and career goals and make sure you’re still on track to achieve them.
Getting enough work
Self-employment can be tough. When you work for someone else, it’s their responsibility to find work for you, so you have the luxury of focusing only on your work. Self-employment shifts that responsibility onto your own shoulders. You may find yourself spending too much “work” time looking for work instead of actually doing it. Worse, you might not find it at all. You’ll probably need to dedicate time to marketing yourself on a regular basis – just to make sure those jobs keep rolling in – so factor it into your decision to start your own business or become a contractor.
No longer can you call up the IT department and immediately have someone come to your desk to fix all your problems! When you’re self-employed it’s your responsibility to maintain your computer and network so you can actually work. If you’re a teleworker or telecommuter your employer might provide all your equipment for you, but the reality is it’s much harder for work’s tech support to visit you on site if something goes wrong. When things inevitably wrong you can be stuck, unable to work and falling behind on your tasks.
With slow and poor quality internet access common in some suburbs and especially in more remote areas, staying connected to the internet can be an issue too. When the internet goes down at the office, everyone is working under the same conditions and delays are more acceptable. When the internet goes down at home, you’re the only one who is inconvenienced. If you’re having frequent problems with your internet, it can reflect poorly on you personally when you’re not accessible to customers and co-workers, or you will start falling behind on your workload.
Other considerations when working from home
Tax and Superannuation
If you’re running your own home business or are self employed, you’ll need to start paying your own taxes! You will need to put aside money for payroll taxes so you’re not slapped with a massive tax bill come EOFY. Registering for an ABN is essential if you’re supplying services to other businesses because they can withhold the maximum income tax from payments to you if you don’t have an ABN.
It’s also good idea to register for GST so you can charge GST on the goods and services you provide and actually becomes essential when you reach a certain level of income. This means regular reporting (usually quarterly) and much more complicated finances that might require the services of a BAS-certified bookkeeper to manage.
Don’t forget you’re also responsible for your own superannuation payments. It takes discipline to put money aside for superannuation regularly, particularly when times are tight. If you don’t you could be robbing yourself of your own retirement fund.
Work Health and Safety
Good work health and safety is still essential for home-based workers. Your employer has a duty of care to provide a safe work environment which was highlighted by a court case over injuries sustained at home by a Telstra telecommuter. Your employer may want to send a trained health and safety assessor to inspect your home office setup and conduct a risk assessment of your home. Even if you’re self-employed, it’s a good idea to keep up standards of WHS – after all, it’s your life and health on the line.
Are you still planning to work from home?
Now that we’ve explored the realities of the work-from-home lifestyle, it’s time to look at REAL work from home jobs! Check out our massive guide to real jobs that CAN be done from home here:
Unfortunately, many scammers take advantage of people looking for genuine work. Learn about some of the most common schemes and protect yourself with our guide: