Monday, June 20, 2011

Working from Home - Is it for You?

Guest post by Marcia Bartol, EO, Greater Bangor Association of REALTORS®

More than ever, many employers and employees are considering the pros and cons of working from home.

The greatest advantage to the employer is that there is no overhead such as mortgage or rent, heat, electricity and other costs associated with maintaining or renting space. But the advantages/disadvantages of an employee working from home also must be considered, so I’ve put together some things to think about, from the perspective of a work-from-home association executive:

Outside interruptions. Working at home often means outside interruptions. Visitors will stop in for coffee, family members may need my help with something … others don’t often think of you as being “at work”. (My favorite thing is the business call I’m on that sounds “less than professional” when the dog starts barking at a squirrel he sees in the backyard.) Be firm with your friends and family from the beginning. Let them know that you are typically on the job during regular office hours.

Conference/meeting space. Not having a large office with a conference room where meetings are held means your files are not readily available at such meetings. I often bring my laptop so I can provide answers to questions regarding budget, bylaws, membership numbers ... Also, keep in mind you’ll have to “pack up” for membership meetings and education events – bringing the banner, flags, gavel, cash bag, handouts, and any other items of interest to the general membership. Make yourself a list of “must-haves” and put everything in one tote that’s ready to go when you need it. When you need space for small events or conferences, call on your affiliates – they are usually more than willing to help out.

Office space. If your home doesn’t have a designated office, you will need to convert an extra room. In my case, my workspace is in the same room as my “home office” – where I pay bills and have my desktop computer and personal files. I have an L-shaped desk, so I try to keep association business on one side and personal business on the other. I have file cabinets, but when those are full, I have to box up files that have to be kept. Trying to find space for those boxes can be a challenge, so plan ahead. A bonus to this inconvenience, however, comes at tax time. Check with your tax accountant about taking a home office deduction of a percentage of your utilities, property taxes, and insurance.

Personal space. An employee who works from home needs to remember that he/she is entitled to personal space. Avoid giving out your physical address. I often get calls from people who want to drop something off. I tell them that we don’t have a physical office and to just put it in the mail that day... sometimes if they’re really persistent I tell them that I have to be somewhere and can meet them nearby.

Separate work and personal time. I’m a salaried employee, so I don’t punch a time clock. My laptop Inbox is open all day every day – including weekends – and it’s very difficult for me to keep business hours. If I see an email where a member needs help with something, I’ll do it at 10:00 at night or on a Sunday morning. And if I take time off, I’m really not good at removing myself completely. If you work at home, you really should strive to separate your work hours and personal hours. Remember, this is your job, not your life.

Working at home can be very beneficial – not having to shovel out immediately after a snowstorm so you can get to work, flexibility to make appointments and attend your children’s activities, not spreading germs when you’re coughing and sneezing, but still feel well enough to work – but it’s not for everyone. Be sure to consider all aspects before you make what can be a life-changing decision that affects your entire household.


David M. Patt, CAE said...

Great advice, especially the section regarding separation of work and personal time.

Jennifer Richards said...

Finally! Someone else who understands! Great post!