The number ofmobile and remote workers is increasingevery day, though quantifying exactly how many people work from home is impossible. Are you officially a teleworker if you work from home occasionally—say, once a week—or must you commit to a daily practice? According to the Telework Research Network,40% of U.S. employees (approximately 50 million) hold jobs that that could be done at home; however, 2009 census data show thatonly 2.9 million employees work from home more than half the time(not including the self-employed). That’s only 2.3% of the workforce— nowhere near our telecommuting potential. While telecommuting’s flexible scheduling and relaxed work environment are often-cited benefits, there are several “green” reasons that make working from home advantageous:
In a recent study, the EPA estimated that $23 billion could be saved in transportation, environmental and energy costs if 20% of the workforce worked from home regularly.
Telecommuting reduces total vehicle-miles traveled each year by more than 35 billion and conserves almost two billion gallons of gas, significantly reducing our fossil fuel dependency.
Employees who work at home reduce or eliminate the need for large offices that require surplus energy for air-conditioning, heating, lighting, and large equipment.
Telecommuters tend to use less paper by saving files digitally and in the cloud, thus reducing storage space, the need for larger office or storage buildings and, of course, trees.
For those interested in telecommuting and improving our planet’s health, here are seven must-haves for the home office—without which you’re less likely to establish a successful telecommuting practice.
A smartphone is your lifeline, period. If you don’t already feel that way about it, you will once you begin telecommuting. One of the benefits of telecommuting is a flexible schedule; nevertheless, without a smartphone, you’ll find it difficult at best to remain on top of your schedule and keep in touch with your in-office coworkers. A smartphone bundles vital organization and communication tools that you will rely on. Should you have to run a quick errand, you can pop it in your bag or pocket and continue to be available if someone needs you while you’re away from your home office.
Although tablets are becoming increasingly popular in professional environments as a work tool, the laptop reigns supreme and has replaced desktops as the primary device for knowledge workers. Laptops are both powerful and portable, making them the optimal tool for both remote and in-office workers.
Access to wireless networks—especially a home wireless network—makes teleworking incredibly versatile. Searching for free Wi-Fi during your travels can be a challenge, but you’ll find that having internet access from anywhere in your house—or out on the patio—is both liberating and convenient.
Routine and boundaries
I write regularly on the importance of establishing a daily routine and creating both internal and external boundaries as a teleworker. These behaviors work interdependently to establish a healthy work-life balance and help teleworkers remain productive without burning out or getting distracted by non-work related activities.
It’s important for a mobile worker who is not always physically available in the office to bridge the gap with team members and clients by being available during office hours via technology. Simple efforts such as promptly responding to emails, using video conferencing technology like iMeet to maintain face-to-face connections despite geographic distance and, for part-time telecommuters, leaving contact information available at your office location and in your email signature will ensure your availability and build your colleagues’ trust.
Successful telecommuting is far more than just sitting at home with your laptop while you work on a document, send emails and avoid rush hour traffic. It’s a craft that must be practiced, one that requires a certain aptitude as well as specific tools. To succeed in your telecommuting practice, think of working from home as being self-employed. Yes, you’re still part of the company and a member of a larger team, but within the four walls of your home or the neighborhood Starbucks, you are also your own supervisor. As such, you’ll need to be self-motivated, self-governing, and self-sufficient. Equipping yourself with the right tools and the right processes up front can get your teleworking “business” on track and help it remain personally profitable.