Can telecommuting work for your small business?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Magnus Manske

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Magnus Manske

Telecommuting, commonly called a work-from-home option for corporate employees, is not new to the SOHO (small office – home office) community. For many entrepreneurs, we’ve run successful enterprises from a home office long before Marion Behr coined the phrase “home office” in 1978. In fact, the number of small businesses operating from a home office continues to grow as technology expands and improves.

According to Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast, 34 million Americans currently work from home. And, a recent Reuters poll revealed that approximately “one in five workers around the globe, particularly employees in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day.”

It’s clear to see that telecommuting is gaining credibility – despite how my neighbor may feel about my “home-based business” (said with a bit of a condescending tone).

Blissful benefits of working from home

As a “telecommuter” since 1978, I’ve enjoyed many of the perks of working from my home office.

For instance, the Pacific Ocean backdrops the buzz of coaching conversations. My yoga mat is merely two “cubes” from my desk – if my home office was a cubicle farm (which it’s not). Because of infrequent commuting, my auto mechanic needs to nudge me about oil changes. In fact, researchers tell me that I free up an equivalent of 15 to 25 workdays a year because I telecommute. Yipee!

I save on overhead costs, like office rent and utilities. I amass savings on fuel, automotive wear & tear, lunches out, and wardrobe expense – after all, how much does a pair of pajamas cost – just to mention a few of the assets I stockpile with a home office.

I also put up with the pitfalls of working from a home office.

Enduring the drawbacks of telecommuting

My neighbor isn’t the only one that infers that running a company from home doesn’t make for a “real” business and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Well-meaning colleagues, friends, and family may think that since you work from home, you can drop whatever you’re doing to play with them…or fix their computer…or unplug the dishwasher…or unclog the sink…or repair the scanner….or sew a button on their shirt. Ack!

There are the distractions you can do without, such as laundry, home repair projects, dirty dishes, the nonstop disruption of telemarketing calls, and workflow disruption by the retired other half or busy little people…or both.

Those are the days you wonder if Starbucks is hiring.

Knowing thyself wins the telecommuting war

Many entrepreneurs, faced with the same tug of war for their time and attention in their wonderful world of telecommuting, discover that self-awareness is key in determining if working from home is right for them.

Telecommuting is most successful when you understand your primary motivators, your unique requirements for performing at your best, your ability to focus in the midst of who-knows-what, and, most importantly, with no one relying on you to be someplace at a certain time, your capacity of discipline.

Can you work in an office by yourself surrounded by laundry and dirty dishes?

Here are a few pointers to make your telecommute arrangement more fruitful:

  1. Have separate, designated office space to minimize distractions.
  2. Operate with regular office hours.
  3. Establish a separate, and distinct, business telecommunication channel.
  4. Make it crystal clear to well-meaning family and friends who don’t think you work a “real job” that you’re working – even if it is from home.
  5. Never shrink from the pride of running a business from a home office.
  6. Set yourself up for success with the proper tools and technology. After all, working from your home office doesn’t mean you can slack on your professionalism.

Most importantly, remember, you’re in the company of greats:

  • Apple Inc., started by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak from Steve’s garage
  • Hewlett-Packard, whose original location is now a museum, the HP garage
  •, internet retailer founded by Jeff Bezos

Now go get dressed!

This article first appeared at Synnovatia’s business growth blog.

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