When we wrote the first edition of our Telecommuter's Handbook in 1990, we promised the publisher we'd list 100 companies that give employees the option of working from home at least part time. What a mistake! After months of research we could only find 50.
If you are the type who has a lot of control over your life, you are going to feel less stress
Today, telecommuting has come far, but plenty of giant office buildings are still staffed by people who would probably be better off working from home. According to a recent New York Times article, "telecommuting has risen 79 percent between 2005 and 2012, and now makes up 2.6 percent of the American work force or 3.2 million workers."
That's a small number. It can't include all those running an e-commerce business, like you. Still, this stat got us thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of working from home. We've been doing it for more than 20 years and decided to share what we've found.
- Work when you're at your best. When your office is just a short walk down the hallway, you usually set your own schedule, and that means working when you're at your best, making you more productive.
Many experts have pegged that boost at 20 percent or more. For some, that time is in the morning. For others, it's afternoon or night. For instance, Brad, as a night owl, thinks nothing of working from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., while I snooze away. On the other hand, I wake up at the crack of dawn itching to get at the keyboard (or at least the coffee machine and then the keyboard).
- More freedom means less stress. In 1989, we interviewed a psychologist for our telecommuting book. We asked her about the advantages of working from home and she said a lot of it boiled down to control. If you are the type who has a lot of control over your life, you are going to feel less stress than the guy in the warehouse who has a quota to meet or the person staffed with handling ever-ringing phones.
You may have your own kind of stress, but it's not the same because you're the boss.
Sometimes you need a real human saying good job
- Family can come first. Finally, when your kid is sick or when you're sick, working from home comes in very handy. You can answer emails while your child rests or while you lie in bed. You can't do that in most offices.
- You can get lonely. Brad's been working from home for more than 20 years and while it brings all the boons noted earlier, he still spends much of his day alone. So be sure you love your pets! More importantly, be sure you're not the type who needs to interact with others throughout the day to lift your spirits if you're thinking of working from home or already do so.
- Feedback is rare. Deb and I rarely get much feedback as freelancers, certainly not as much as we would if we sat in offices with bosses nearby. Instead, our main reward are the checks we get, which we're not saying aren't important—it's just that sometimes you need a real human saying, "good job!" You may get feedback through emails from your shoppers, but it's probably not as much as you would get if you worked in an office surrounded by people.
- Distractions are everywhere. Fortunately the Internet, with its hyperlinks and hyper speed, works out well (most of the time) for people who are hyper-attentive by nature. And, as we have said previously, many entrepreneurs have ADHD and are hyper-attentive. So they will get their work done wherever they are. But if you sit at a desk with a newspaper article you want to read nearby, or too close to the TV, you may get distracted and have to make up that time later.
You may also easily wind up working more hours per day than you should since your office is so near by. Closing the door really does help with that.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to answer this set of questions: Did you get your work done
- Indulgences are easily indulged. Lastly, there are those things you love. Brad is a fitness nut, and while having an elliptical machine at home is mostly a good thing, it also means that sometimes calories are burned when words should be written. If you're a foodie, you may find that the refrigerator (stocked with your own stuff) seems to call your name when you should be listing. The same goes for other things.
It's worth it!
All in all, though, working from home is definitely worthwhile! There's nothing like zipping right out onto Main Street where we live at 10 a.m. when most people are already where they need to be, going to the local Safeway or post office when nobody's there, or making doctor's appointments without having to grab your day planner first.
The trick is to do it well. At the end of the day, you need to be able to answer this set of questions: Did you get your work done? Did you ship those orders when you said you would? Or get those listings up on time?
If your answer is "no," you may need to reaffirm your commitment to working from home—and set up a few guidelines to keep you on track.
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Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The
Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.
For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website, bradanddeb.com.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.