Tips for Telecommuters

Are you one of the nearly 8 million salaried telecommuters who goes to meetings in bunny slippers each day? Or perhaps you're one of the estimated 41 million people who work in their own home-based business. Either way, working from home has its advantages (Poesy the Dog sleeping soundly at your feet) and disadvantages ("We have a new CEO? When did they announce that?"). Here are a few tips on making telecommuting worthwhile and cost-effective:

1. Decide who pays for what. Both you and your employer are going to be saving some pretty substantial bucks with you working at home. Make sure you agree on who will be paying for the things you need to do for your job. Consider the following: computer, printer, software, telephone charges, faxing, printing, copies, secretarial services, insurance, and service on your equipment.

2. Establish yourself as an independent contractor or an employee. This will affect your tax status and insurance. You're probably aware of the drill if you're an employee. The difference in being a contractor is that you would be technically outside of the organization. You would get the tax benefits of having your own business and you probably would be able to freelance for other companies (which you may not be able to do as an employee). The stickler is that the government has very specific guidelines on what constitutes an employee and what constitutes a contracted worker. Check with your human resources department for the skinny on regulations.

3. Keep good books. Religiously keep track of all your expenses. You'll either be able to turn them in to your boss to get reimbursed, or you'll be able to deduct them from your taxes. Either way, it is to your advantage to keep stuff straight.

4. Keep a schedule. Even though you're working at home, you are still working. Let your co-workers and family know when your working hours are, and stick to them. Your boss, your clients, your kids, and your sanity will all thank you.

5. You will still need day care. Staying with the munchkins is probably one of the main reasons that you want to work at home. But there are times when you will need to go into your "real" office. Make sure you have a place for them to go when it's necessary to be alone.

6. Keep in touch. Feeling isolated is a frequent complaint from telecommuters. Make sure that "out of sight, out of mind" doesn't mean you. Keep in touch by phone and email with your co-workers and supervisors.

7. Accept the fact that you may not be on the fast track anymore. The statistics claim that telecommuters get 18% more promotions and pay increases than their like-skilled office-based co-workers. On an anecdotal level, that's questionable. It's hard to rise up the corporate ladder if you're never there to really know what's going on. Think about that long and hard before you take yourself out of the rat race.

Get tips and learn tricks from others on our discussion boards devoted to Education, Jobs & Professions. Network with those in specific fields, or post questions about job hunting and working from home. Try it out for free for 30 days.


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