The Work From Home Handbook
Diana Fitzpatrick, J.D. and Stephen Fishman, J.D.
January 2008, 1st Edition
Make going to the office optional!
Haven’t you ever wished that you didn’t have to waste hours in rush-hour traffic on your commute to the office? Had more time with your kids? Or simply had the luxury to go to work in your pajamas?
Co-produced with USA TODAY, The Work From Home Handbook is an excellent resource for anyone who dreams of a work-from-home career. You can find the option that best suits your personal, financial and professional goals through the book’s systematic, step-by-step advice.
This book shows you how to:
- Find out where and how you work best
- Prepare a great proposal for your current employer
- Demonstrate productivity in your home office
If your current employer is inflexible, this book also covers finding a new "beyond the office" job, or becoming an independent contractor.
Filled with solid tips, real-life examples, practical advice and – best of all – inspiration, The Work From Home Handbook can help you transform and achieve a healthy balance in your life and career.
Seventy-nine of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” last year allowed – even encouraged – employees to work from home at least 20 percent of the time. More than two thirds of all American companies offered some telework options in 2005. And the country’s largest employer – the U.S. government – encourages employees to work from home “to the maximum extent possible.” Don’t be left behind. Find out how you can chose this career option for yourself.
Diana Fitzpatrick is a legal editor at Nolo, editing and authoring small business books including The Work From Home Handbook. She is a graduate of NYU School of Law and Barnard College. Prior to joining Nolo, Fitzpatrick worked for the City Attorney's Office in San Francisco in the finance and bond department. Diana blogs on small business strategies and legal information for business owners on Nolo's Small Business Legal Blog.
Diana's Other Pages
Stephen Fishman is the author of many Nolo books, including Deduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes, Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide, Tax Deductions for Professionals, and Home Business Tax Deductions: Keep What You Earn--plus many other legal and business books. He received his law degree from the University of Southern California in 1979. After time in government and private practice, he became a full-time legal writer in 1983.
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Can You Really Make It Work?
1. Working at Home: The Win-Win Solution
- How Your Company Wins
- How You and Your Family Wins
2. Are You Ready for Life Without the Water Cooler
- Part or Full-Time Telework?
- Will You Like Flying Solo?
- Being Your Own Boss
- Stepping Off the Fast Track
- Where Will the Desk Go?
- Getting Out of the House
- Who Will Mind the Kids?
3. Can You Do Your Job at Home?
- Desk Jobs Work Best
- Can You Be a Team Player From Home?
- Can Your Job Be Neatly Scheduled?
- Does Your Job Require Personal or Client Contact?
- What Equipment Will You Need?
- Does Business Travel Already Take You Away From the Office?
- If Your Current Job Isn’t Teleworkable
4. Making Your Case
- Is Your Office Ready for Teleworkers?
- Transform Your Personal Reasons Into Business Reasons
- Line Up the Facts That Support Teleworking
- Writing Up Your Telework Proposal
- Presenting Your Proposal
- Be Ready for Objections
5. Finding a New, Teleworkable Job
- Find a Telework-Friendly Employer
- Find an Advertised Work-at-Home Job
- Telework Jobs You Might Not Find Advertised
- Avoid Schemes and Scams
6. Go Freelance!
- Is Freelancing for You?
- Finding That First Freelance Job
- Setting Rates
- Entering into Client Agreements
- Taxes for Freelancers
7. Telework and Taxes
- Paying for Your Work-Related Expenses
- The Home Office Deduction
- Working for an Employer in Another State
- Filing Your Taxes
8. Strategies for Work-at-Home Success
- Ready, Set, What?
- Draw Limits for Friends and Family
- Show Your Stuff
- Come Out of Your Cave
- Keep Yourself in the Loop
- Don’t Hit "Send" When You’re Mad
- Check in With Yourself
- Check in With Your Manager and Coworkers
- Explore the Possibilities
Working at Home: The Win-Win Solution
How Your Company Wins 4
How You and Your Family Win 6
Do more (and better) work in less time 7
No more commuting your life away 7
Work on your own schedule 10
Find work-life balance 11
No matter how much you like your office job, getting back and forth to work each day can be sheer drudgery. And the total hours you spend at work, away from home and loved ones, probably add up to over 40 per week. If this lifestyle is wearing on you, there’s a powerful alternative: working from home. Even if you stay home only one or two days a week, it can help you reclaim your life by saving you time, money, and unnecessary stress. Imagine having no train schedule to follow, no shirt to press, no rush-hour traffic to contend with. Instead, you could start your day with a trip to the gym or a leisurely cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. Then, when you were ready, you could settle down to some productive work.
Just a few short years ago, the only people able to enjoy the benefits of working from home were either self-employed or doing menial contract work—your basic envelope stuffing. Today, high-speed Internet access, wireless laptops, and BlackBerrys for remote email have made it possible for many people to work anytime and anywhere—whether from a home office in Bangor, Maine, or an airport in Bangkok, Thailand.
And the world is catching on. Leading U.S. employers are realizing that telework (also called telecommuting) offers benefits for them as well, as their teleworkers become happier and more productive employees. This book will show you how to join the tens of thousands of people who have done what it takes—negotiated with their boss, found a new job, or begun freelancing—to work at home and find balance in their lives.
How Your Company Wins
These days, employers who know they can be in instant communication with their employees through BlackBerrys, instant messaging, and wireless laptops don’t worry that teleworkers will spend their days raiding the fridge or watching soap operas. They’re also seeing that modern technology allows employees to be productive no matter where they are. The result is that more employers are focusing on the work being done rather than the number of hours spent at a desk. The numbers tell the story of this trend:
• 12.4 million employees—roughly 8% of the American workforce—worked from home at least one day a month in 2006.
• Well over two-thirds of all U.S. companies offered some telework options in 2005.
Employers who’ve given telework a try often report that teleworkers are actually more productive than their counterparts in the office. Airplane manufacturer Boeing found that average work productivity increased between 15% and 30%, and IBM observed a 10% and 20% increase in productivity. At AT&T—a company at the forefront of the telework movement—managers who telework have consistently reported gaining one hour of productive work for every day they work from home.
Productivity increases are not the only upside for employers. Companies that offer telework save money on office space because teleworkers often share space with other employees or give up their offices entirely. Offering telework has also become an effective tool for recruiting and retaining employees at all levels. This is particularly true as both gasoline prices and housing costs have risen, forcing employees to live far from their workplaces and making their commutes more expensive.
Another boost to teleworking came in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, when companies in the affected areas scrambled to remain operational. They realized that their off-site workplaces and workers were largely responsible for keeping them functional.
Telework is also socially responsible: Environmental concerns, particularly global warming and energy consumption, have provided another impetus to telework. Employers and employees alike have come to see telework as a way to reduce fuel consumption and other environmental impacts and also help clear up our overcrowded roads. A study commissioned by the Consumer Electronics Assocation found that the estimated 3.9 million full-time teleworkers in the U.S. reduced gasoline consumption by about 840 million gallons and carbon dioxide emission by almost 14 million tons—the equivalent of taking 2 million vehicles off the road per year.
Telework can provide employment opportunities for disabled persons. In fact, if a disability prevents you from doing a job on-site, federal law may be on your side. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for employees or qualified applicants with disabilities. One way employers may be able to meet this legal obligation is to offer telework. For more on using telework as a reasonable accommodation, see www.eeoc.gov/facts/telework.html.
How You and Your Family Win
It’s amazing how a simple change can transform your life. By taking your work home, you can find more time to spend with your family, more flexibility to pursue your interests outside of work, and more satisfaction with your life at work. To put it simply, working from home is a win-win solution.
Do more (and better) work in less time
As we all know, it’s not always easy to get work done at the office. There’s rarely quiet time during regular business hours to sit and concentrate. Office workers are regularly interrupted by ringing phones, impromptu meetings, and coworkers popping by to chitchat. This can be as frustrating for an employee as it is for the employer who is paying for this nonproductive work time.
Working at home can free you from these distractions, giving you long blocks of time to focus on your work. (Of course, your home may present its own distractions, but we’ll talk later about ways to deal with those.) Ideally, your productivity will increase, as will the quality of your work product. At the same time, you’ll get to enjoy the personal satisfaction of focusing on your work and getting it done.
No more commuting your life away
It’s depressing but true: U.S. workers actually spend more time commuting than vacationing each year. The average employed American commutes more than 24 minutes each way, losing the better part of an hour in transit every work day. Workers in major U.S. cities often spend even more time getting to and from work. Topping the list are New York City residents, who waste an average of 76.6 minutes on their daily commutes.
Let’s suppose your commute to work is half an hour door to door. Over the course of a year, that would add up to 240 hours on the road—the equivalent of six 40-hour work weeks! Those are six weeks you could have spent enjoying your backyard or training for a marathon.
Commuting is bad for your social life. For every ten minutes we spend commuting, our social connections are cut by 10%. Find out more in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, a book by Harvard University Professor Robert Putnam.
Save money. Everyone is feeling the effects of high gas prices, but few are hit as hard as commuters. For some, keeping their tank filled now costs as much as a mortgage payment. Some employers have responded with programs that promote mass transit, shuttle buses, carpools, and, in some cases, teleworking. For example, The National Recreation and Park Association, a Virginia-based nonprofit, came up with a once-a-week telework option for all of its 70 workers. Employees are also taking action. In a recent survey of 2,000 at-home call center agents, 36% said gas prices drove their decision to work at home.
Another major commuter-related cost is housing. Housing costs have gone through the roof. Nearly half of all renters, according to the 2005 Census, are spending 30% or more of their gross income on housing. And over a third of homeowners with mortgages are spending a similar amount on their house and related expenses. This means that a family earning $60,000 would be spending $18,000 or more just on rent or mortgage and tax payments.
The best jobs tend to be in or near metropolitan centers—which is also where real estate prices are highest. All too often, we’re left to choose between a staggeringly high mortgage and an unbearably long commute.
Calculate the cost of your commute. To find out how much you could save by not driving to work each day, Commuter Challenge has a terrific calculator at www.commuterchallenge.org. Click the “Commuters” tab, then “Commute Cost Calculator.”
Reduce stress. Work is stressful enough. Add the challenge of a tough commute, and it’s no wonder so many people feel like they’re hanging off the edge of a cliff. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can walk or bicycle to work, your daily commute is probably one of the most unpleasant parts of your day. If you drive, you may have to contend with rush hour traffic, the daily aggressions of other drivers, and the challenges of driving in rain, sleet, and snow. If you take mass transit, you may have the constant worry of missing your departure, the discomfort of sitting (or standing) in cramped quarters next to perfect strangers, or the hassle of switching trains or buses.
Studies show that this daily strain can pack a serious wallop to your physical and emotional health. In fact, commuters may be under more stress than riot police and combat pilots. Hewlett Packard researcher Dr. David Lewis explains that riot policemen and combat pilots “have things they can do to combat the stress that is being triggered by the event. But the commuter, particularly on a train, cannot do anything about it at all.” Sound familiar? The result can be high blood pressure and other physiological and psychological effects.
If the stress of commuting were to end when you reached your destination, then perhaps it wouldn’t be so worrisome. But commuting stress spills out and affects other areas of life, too. Workers with long commutes are likely to develop problems with their health, sleep patterns, and family and social relationships. These side effects are particularly hard on women, many of whom are already stressed to the max by the competing demands of work and family.
Reclaim lost time. Gaining time to do the things you love is one of the biggest advantages to working at home. Those formerly lost hours might be spent volunteering at your local soup kitchen, kicking around a football with your son, or catching up on some reading. And you also gain those little pockets of time during the day—your former coffee breaks, lunch hour, and bored moments staring at a computer screen trying to look busy. Instead of standing around the water cooler or comparing notes on the latest TV series, you can use those free moments at home to plan your next vacation or throw in a load of laundry. Suddenly, your chores and errands can fit seamlessly into your day.
Work on your own schedule
Depending on the nature of your job, working from home might give you the flexibility to work during the hours that make the most sense for your life. If you’d like your afternoons free to spend with your children after school, you could choose to start your workday at 7 a.m. and end it by 3 p.m. Or if you’d like to get in an early morning swim or a round of golf, you might make up the missed time by working into the early evening. Whatever your lifestyle, working at home can free you to accomplish more in your day without compromising the time you put into your work.
Find work-life balance
Balancing work with the rest of our lives can be just plain hard. Many of us feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Going in to work—and being away from home for long stretches—has a great deal to do with these feelings. We spend hours on the road, have little flexibility in how and when we work, and often don’t see the ones we love before dinnertime.
Look How Hard We’re Working
For too many, the 40-hour workweek is a distant memory. On average, men now work 49 hours a week and women 43.5 hours. What’s more:
• 67% of employees say they don't have enough time with their children
• 55% of employees say they don't have enough time for themselves
• 45% of employees feel pulled and stretched thin between their responsibilities at home and at work, and
• 37% of employees say it’s hard to take time off during the workday when personal or families issues arise.
Source: Testimony from Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, to the Subcommittee on Children & Families of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee in 2004 (http://familiesandwork.org/3w/testimony.html).
Given the many benefits of working from home, it’s no wonder that teleworkers are much happier with their jobs and their lives than their counterparts at the office. An AT&T study found that almost two out of three teleworkers (63%) were more satisfied with their jobs after they started working from home, and an even higher percentage were happier with their lives outside of work. A study by IBM uncovered similar results: Teleworkers were the group who anticipated staying with the company the longest and had the highest job satisfaction.