Are Your Work at Home Goals Realistic?

by Barb Niehaus

How many times while battling rush hour congestion have you pondered the concept of working from home? No mad dashing to get the kids ready and out of the door for day care? No wardrobe or inflated gas prices to worry about. The liberty of being the boss working around your determined time schedule.

Sound wonderful? It is. As a veteran telecommuter of 14 years, I can attest that the perks certainly outweigh the disadvantages. Can't conjure up any disadvantages? Granted, there aren't many, but there are a few that you need to consider prior to embarking on your telecommuting search.

Freelancing/ Independent Contractor Status - The majority of my work-at-home tenure has consisted of this type of arrangement. While my pay rate may be higher than if I worked onsite, there are no benefits. I am not entitled to company health benefits, pension plans, sick days or any other perks that most traditional employees receive.

Taxes - I am responsible for paying my own taxes which can equate to a nightmare at tax time if I have not paid in adequate quarterlies. If you choose option, it is imperative that you are self-disciplined enough to sock a certain percentage away each paycheck in escrow for your quarterly estimated taxes. Talk to your tax-preparer to determine approximately what portion of each check you need to be setting aside for Uncle Sam.

Time - Studies have proved that teleworkers consistently log more hours than onsite employees. It's tough to "leave" work every day when your office is 10 feet down the hall. There's always one more project that needs attention when walking by. Schedule normal working hours and upon leaving your office for the day, shut the door and call it quits. That stack of work will still be there in the morning.

The Work-At-Home Mind Frame - Initially, it's very tempting to "play". This is where self-discipline really needs to be a top priority. Set regular working hours. Limit personal calls until evening or better yet, turn your voice mail on to halt unnecessary interruptions. Schedule errands for a designated lunch hour. If your home or apartment is not large enough to accommodate an office, find a quiet area free of distractions to work from. On days that your schedule is particularly heavy, arrange for childcare for the little ones. Start a co-op with other area telecommuters or stay-at-home parents.

If you currently posses the ability to work independently and to multi-task, set goals for yourself each day and you are looking for the "perfect balance between work and family", then you're ready to telecommute!