Telecommuting is a happening trend. A good deal of Fast Internet USA’s new business and upgrades in the last 6 months have been folks moving to work from home either creating a business or working remotely for a business.
If you look online for pictures regarding telecommuting, you will see a lot with folks sitting at desks with a cat in their lap, or a dog behind them on the sofa, a child hitting the worker over the head with a dinosaur toy while the adult talks on the phone. Here is a classic - a worker sipping an espresso, munching a croissant at a sidewalk cafe in (what looks like) Paris…For Real?!? Or the person sitting wrapped in a big blanky on a recliner in front of a fire- working on their computer. My favorite is this one -
just because of the simple unrealistic nature of the drink: Ok, I’d like to know who gets a drink like this at work let alone at home. Back in the 80’s a staff meeting meant a catered lunch from a local Italian restaurant. It degraded to
pizza or sub sandwiches in the 90’s with a bottle of coke/diet coke. Now you feel lucky to get a small green drink or bottled water matched with a granola bar or string cheese. Oh but I digress.
Working remotely has many descriptive names which all mean something slightly different but to the person described - it is all about the same thing: working at home (for yourself or someone else).
Categories of folks who work from Home: (Click down arrow to see more).
Telecommuting which implies an office elsewhere while the worker is at home.
Hybrid worker seems to be more about integrating work into all times of life and locations - some time in the office, some time remotely at home or at a cafe, and availability at the gym and while at the store. Definition: Hybrid work is a flexible work model that supports a blend of in-office, remote, and on-the-go workers. It offers employees the autonomy to choose to work wherever and however they are most productive.
Remote worker - which implies anywhere else other than the office location more than half the time and implies that the employee lives outside a reasonable commuting distance from their employer - like my brother living in Colorado Springs and working for an outfit in Newport Beach, CA.
There has been a trend towards telecommuting since 2015 - which is surprisingly pre-COVID. And the increase has become so significant that even local large companies such as Multicare have utilized teams working remotely for phone answering and sending the calls to their destination.
“Research Summary: Since the start of the COVID-19, the number of people working from home, voluntarily or involuntarily, has increased dramatically. Further, despite the fluctuating threat of the Pandemic today, remote work only seems to be growing more popular. According to our extensive research:
It barely raises an eyebrow any longer to hear that your niece works from home. Actually this news can now evoke an approving slow nod. I think it used to raise an eyebrow because of the scenarios described above - the dinosaur bonking, the roaring fire…but
Studies show that remote workers are more productive: (Click down arrow to view)
And there are benefits to the individual - emotionally, physically, and financially which explains why Global Workplace Analytics found that 37% of remote employees would take a 10% pay cut to continue to work from home.
Oh, and I can’t fail to mention the statistical environmental benefits: According to research by Global Workplace Analytics in 2019, if those who could work remotely telecommute, even just 50% of the time, it would equal the equivalent of removing all of New York State’s workforce off the road.
Don’t forget that individually you could qualify for a tax break in telecommuting by writing off the home office space. You should consult with a financial advisor or tax specialist. It is based on the measurements of the space and if that space is used for any other purposes (technically, it should be reserved only for your home office). This could be a smart way to turn an unused bedroom, attic, or basement space into a home office that you can deduct from taxes and save a significant chunk of money. If you purchase equipment for your home office, like furniture or computer gear, this can also be deducted from your taxes providing you use them primarily for work. Your home office can be tax deductible if you plan accordingly.
What are the Pitfalls in Telecommuting?
Well, the kid with the dinosaur comes to mind first. Second, the cappuccino is an issue - but that is an easy fix. But really, having clear policies and expectations (even if it is just you, yourself and, well, you) having Key Performance Indicators to measure and set boundaries will be key for Work-Life-Balance.
What do you need to make this transition?
Be Proud - You are a Joining a Growing Trend
As someone who talks to and assists many of you in moving towards working from home, I think it is advisable to not be sheepish about or try to hide the fact that you work from home - or run a very successful career or business from home. I think you will find more and more that you will get the slow approving (and impressed) nod rather than the skeptical eyebrow raise. I would venture to say that 60% of the time when you interface with a business, that business is remote. When I call Zoho support at 8:30am our time, it is about 9pm in India; I can hear traffic and chickens in the background - sometimes a small dog barking. And yes, they usually admit they are working from home.
Create a Work Space
Create a space with a door you can close (head bonking children armed with dinosaurs) to close out noise from your end and the rest of the house giving yourself a boundary between work and home. It is a good thing to close this door in your house when DONE and in your mind. It is recommended to have natural light and sufficient - but not harsh - lighting. Noise control - so whatever is going on in the house won’t impact your business dealings. Cork wall coverings help a lot with noise control as well as rubberized flooring or dense carpet.
2. Phone systems and headsets
Invest in a phone system that allows all locations to sound like they are at one location - such as Ooma (we are a dealer and can help you with this). This would allow Jane in Deer Park to answer the phone with your business name, put the caller on hold (and the caller would hear your on hold music) and then transfer them to you. Oh, but wait! You are at your kid’s baseball game. That is ok, because you have the Ooma app on your cell phone and if you have not put it on “Do not disturb” mode, it will ring on your cell phone. You can put the call on hold (and they will hear the same music on hold) while you walk away from the game. You can create a three way call to Jodi in TumTum to take an order and then step off the call by muting your phone or putting it on hold so they can continue just the two of them. Pretty slick.
Kathy Colkitt, working in the mortgage industry uses Ring Central and finds it suits her business needs.
Using a sound canceling set of headphones will allow the caller to hear only you (and you to hear only the caller) and not the phone conversation of your office mate (if you have one) or the dog snoring, or the cat dealing with a fur ball (very disturbing).
3. Computer / Printer / Office Furniture
Most folks have a computer, printer and some kind of furniture that would at least allow you to get started. If your employer is part of the transition, they will most likely have a system to provide with security in place. It is highly recommended to invest in ergonomic gear. Here is a great link: 7 Things You Need for an Ergonomically Correct Workstation
You may not be aware - but I am acutely aware - of the overwhelming number of acronyms such as SAAS - Software As A Service. This describes cloud software that automatically updates as users (from many locations) work on your platform from any device. Every industry has recommendations from CRM (see what I mean customer relation management) to DM (data management). And all have different levels of security. Research for your industry and if your employer is moving you to remote, they will definitely have this in place already for you.
a. Virtual team hub – Your organization is probably using one of the top project management software out there. These platforms should provide some type of virtual hubs where announcements, feedback, discussion, and other general discussions are made. Through these, you are always updated with what’s happening in your company. Also, you can easily connect with your colleagues even when you are not in the office. b. Contextual communication – Your productivity applications also provide various communication channels within the context of your work. For example, Dropbox, Google Docs, and Office 365 allow you to communicate with your colleagues while collaborating with them. Also, project management tools will enable you to discuss projects and tasks without leaving these platforms. c. Direct communication channels – You are probably most familiar with these applications. You should have software to conduct one-on-one meetings, video conferencing, or even chat conversations. Slack, Zoom, and Skype are just a few examples of the best communication software systems in the market. d. Emergency channels – Your supervisor or teammates should have a way to contact you in case you lose Internet connection or during power outages. Make sure to provide your mobile phone number to the relevant people in your organization. You may also use mobile apps, such as Telegram or Viber. e. Ooma phone or similar system allows seamless hold and transfers of calls which will feel to the prospect as if you are all in one location. (Thanks for the plug financesonline.com!)
Oh! And of course you will need Internet (It is what you have been waiting for, isn’t it).
5. Fast Internet - Reliable Internet -is the challenge. Living and working remotely - internet isn’t as good typically as in town with DSL. But let me tell you, we do our best to provide you with what will work best for you.
6. VPN (acronym again - Virtual Private Network) is a security device that creates a secure encrypted tunnel connection from a device to a VPN server based in the selected country (see business cloud VPN for more). The user device is assigned an actual static IP address (Internet Protocol address - it is like the fingerprint of your computer - that EXACT computer), and all their data is routed via an encrypted tunnel. This works best with LTE or DSL (I need a cappuccino; these acronyms are like being bonked on the head with a dinosaur). You can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with your satellite internet service, but it isn’t ideal. Satellite internet already has latency issues (see BLOG and scroll down to Latency), and VPNs can cause lag just because they add an additional stop on the path to and from your network.
Video conferencing requires live streaming (see BLOG and scroll down to LiveStreaming). DSL works best for live streaming, but it isn’t available except in town here. LTE works well but sometimes can be glitchy - and it is best to turn off other devices and limiting other activities using data simultaneously. Video conferencing is not great with satellite internet but can be improved if you turn off other devices (including Alexa and security cameras just during the call and), make sure no one is streaming a TV show for instance. There are also settings on your modem that can be adjusted (give us a call or email if you want more information). Switch other live streaming (like TV and movies) to downloads by using PlayOn.
Here are some tips to improve your live meetings through LTE or Satellite; These tips came out of a conversation with our client Kathy Colkitt who works in the mortgage industry.
Kathy recommends keeping the internet hard wired directly into the computer.
Use a WiFi mesh extender (hard wire this directly even though it can bluetooth - it is more effective in her opinion hard wired) to optimize the signal.
I recommend to all our LTE customers that they turn off the receiver once a week for 15 minutes and reboot everything.
Additionally, Fast Internet USA recommends (LTE and Satellite) to schedule any programs on your computer, phone or tablet that update to off hours so no interruption in the intensity of internet connection.
Clear cookies regularly.
Turn off Alexa, security cameras and make sure that no one is live streaming a movie or TV show while you are in a live conference.
And there you have it - Work ~ Life Balance Solved!
Although we can’t help with the cappuccino, we can help with your internet. Feel free to call us to help optimize your system. We are local, reliable and here to help.