When the coronavirus pandemic happened, one of the things people were not prepared for was to work from home. A fair amount of people did end up working from home. Many people are still working from home and companies are finding out this is a better solution for everyone. This is one area of preparedness that I think very few people give any thought to but needs to be addressed because in most situations you will be doing some kind of work from home.
As someone who works from home and away from home, I have always thought about what I would need to work at home completely. Since I work in a critical industry in my daytime job, I will probably never work completely from home. However, my writing/blogging job and my eBay business already require me to have certain equipment to work at home.
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is what do you usually use at the office or your job. You should make a detailed list of everything you use every day and every week. For me, I would need:
- a reliable computer
- reliable wi-fi
- some of my files
- my flash drive with all my documents
- stamped envelopes
- a place to hold all the tickets I process
- plat maps for dispatching
- printer and printer ink
- blank contracts
- printer paper
- possibly a work cell phone or compensation for the use of my cell phone
Wi-fi might be your biggest issue. I know people will also use their mobile hot-spots and data on their cell phones to connect to the internet, but those often have limits. Even plans that say they are unlimited will slow down after a certain amount of usage. Getting wi-fi or broadband in the home is the best bet. However, another problem can arise which is having enough wi-fi for everyone's usage. In that case, you need to look for products that blanket your home in wi-fi like a Google Nest or wi-fi boosters to increase the amount of wi-fi in your home. You also may need to upgrade your plan to the highest amount that you can afford.
You also will need to set up a schedule with everyone. Set working hours at home that coordinate with everyone's schedule. If your hours can be flexible, use that in your favor. If you are the only one home, this will not be a problem. If you are home with your family, you need to make a plan that works with everyone. Who can do their online schoolwork in the morning? Who can work in the afternoon or even the evening? Then you can make the best of the situation.
I would also be scheduling everything else too. Who needs to go back into the office during the week? Who needs to pick up items from the school? Who should make lunch and supper every day? Who does what chores? Having a meal plan and a sensible family schedule will make your life a little less chaotic too. Using a big calendar and planner would help tremendously at keeping everyone on the same page.
You also need to be flexible, but firm. Your job is important and not secondary to what is going on at home. As a mother, I know it is easy to put my needs last, but I also know that my job is what keeps the bills paid. You need to make sure you have set working hours and that everyone is aware of those hours. You should also make it known that you can be interrupted by certain things, but that you need to get your work done so that the bills can still get paid.
Having a dedicated area to work will also decrease your stress and chaos. While I have a home office, I would still set up a spot in my office for my daytime work items. You can do something similar. You could have a desk or a table with your computer and printer for your work. You can set it up in a corner of the dining room or your bedroom depending on how much quiet you need when you are working. If you have to be on the phone a lot, I would pick an area in the house where you have the most privacy. With a dedicated work area, you can also leave your work in that spot unbothered. Your work items will not be strewn across the house.
If your work is not providing the equipment you need to work at home, you need to have good working equipment. It sounds like a given, but how long have you had a computer that has been out of date or a printer that you have been limping along with? How old is your router? This is a good time to invest in equipment that will serve your family better.
When your company announces that you are going to be working from home, you should bring home all the office supplies you need to use or regularly use. Those items can add up fast in expense so you should grab what you need to use. I use a lot of sticky notes, pens, and paperclips so I know I would need to bring those home.
Another area that might need to be addressed is how you will share documents with everyone since you can not just print them out and drop them on a desk. Whether you decide to use a system like Dropbox or Google Docs or just email it to everyone, you need to find a common way to share files and documents.
Unless you are salary, you need to keep track of your working hours on paper. Some workplaces have an online sign-in system for employees, but I would still keep track of how much you worked. Some companies were choosing to pay forty hour work weeks to employees no matter what. However, if you are consistently working more than forty hours, you need to be compensated for that time.
Because you are working at home, you should keep track of all receipts for your employer and potentially your taxes. Depending on how you are classified working at home, you may be able to deduct a percentage of those expenses (including internet, cell phone, and utilities) on your taxes. Your employer should also be compensating you for any purchases you made concerning your job that they would have normally paid for at work. There are gray areas and items that some employers will not pay for like a new computer or an upgraded system. These are things you need to address with your employer. However, again, depending on how you are classified, you may be able to deduct on your taxes.
Another area to address with your employer is the expense of internet, cell phone, and increased usage of expenses such as utilities. Your company's overhead will decrease with you working at home, but your overhead has now increased with you working at home. Some companies will do nothing about this because they are already paying you to work from home. However, I would still ask for an added weekly or monthly bonus to help cover these increased expenses. Working at home during a pandemic lockdown is not something within your control and you ultimately should not be paying for all of it. While this is something that is also not within your employer's control, you know they are still making money while having decreased overhead expenses. Asking for a small bonus to cover your expenses is not out of line.
You may have other things that need to be addressed while working from home because everyone's situation is not the same. However, I do see more people working from home in the future due to many factors. Being prepared for this possibility ahead of time will make the transition easier when it happens.
Thanks for reading,
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