I have been out of the work force for 10 years and want to re-enter the job market. I have clerical and bookkeeping experience. I also have some mobility issues and so I would prefer to work from home. Are there employers who would consider hiring me to work from my home? Signed, Aspiring Telecommuter
Dear Aspiring Telecommuter:
Yes, more and more employers are offering telecommuting options to their employees, because it’s a great, low-cost way to attract and retain good staff plus it saves employers money on office space and other related costs.
In fact, some employers have found that their telecommuting employees are actually more productive. Many telecommuters work harder than normal, because they feel like they have to prove they are working. Telecommuters also tend to be more productive, because they have fewer distractions (e.g., meetings, office parties, fire drills, water-cooler chat, etc.), but this of course depends on how disciplined they are.
Telecommuting can be a great way to fit work into your life or just avoid the long commute, but many home-office workers feel isolated and worry that they are overlooked when it comes to promotions and advancement opportunities. You should give this some careful thought before agreeing to work from home.
You could focus your job search on clerical/bookkeeping positions and then pitch the idea of telecommuting during the job interview. If the employer is still skeptical, you could suggest a three-month trial period to evaluate how the arrangement is working.
You could also try focusing your job search on companies and industries that lend themselves to telecommuting.
Telemarketing, collections, technical support, book keeping and research (surveying) jobs can all be done using only a telephone and computer. In fact, I know an executive who had an assistant that worked from home in the evenings. He said it was great. He emailed her work all day and when he came into the office in the morning, it was all done.
Be wary of “work from home” type jobs advertised on the Internet and other places. Some “employers” ask for an upfront training fee, exaggerate your earning potential, or require you to buy some special software. Up-front fees are a red flag and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
You could also contact some local accounting, bookkeeping or temporary-employment firms to enquire about contract work you could do out of your home.
For more home-based business ideas, visit http://alis.alberta.ca and search the tip sheets for “telecommuting”.
If you do decide to work from home, you need to find out if you will be working as an employee or an independent contractor. Check out http://alis.alberta.ca/pdf/cshop/contractor.pdf if you want help clarifying your role.
If you are an employee, you need to find out who pays for what (e.g., telephone bill, computer equipment, Internet access, office supplies, etc.). Your employer may also have questions about the safety and security of your office, e.g., ergonomics and how you will protect the information you have.
If you are an independent contractor, you need to check how running a home-based business could impact your home’s insurance, taxes, and zoning. You will also have to set up your office, including furniture, a phone with a good long-distance calling plan, plus a reliable computer with high-speed Internet access. Your client(s) may also be interested in how you will be storing and protecting their information.
Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.