Today’s remote workers have many advantages to making a case for working (or continuing to work) from home.  Technology has leveled the playing field for many of us.  Before the Internet boom, all we had were a telephone, phone books, a rolodex, directories and various newspapers and magazines to find leads if we were in sales.  For me, the internet has increased productivity and efficiency of the recruiting process. Above all else, the economy and rising gas prices usually help to seal the deal.  If you’re in Atlanta, having NO GAS usually makes the case for you.

If you have a position where you could reasonably work from home, you need to talk with your boss to see what the policies for telecommuting are.  But you have to be someone who is disciplined and able to work effectively from home.  To be a successful at working from home, if you are lucky enough to get your boss to agree.  you need to have a few essentials to make your job easier and more efficient:

·         A dedicated office- This is the most important element.  You will be on the phone a lot. A private area free of distractions is best. If you can, try to have a separate room for your office.  When I was looking for my house, I wanted to make sure there was an extra room available for an office. In my apartment, my office was my sunroom.  So I made sure to pick a house with a room that would function well as my office.  I can close the door at the end of the day and be Mom.

·         A dedicated cell phone line- I would recommend two.  A Blackberry or other smart phone to manage your data and unlimited plan with no roaming, and a regular cell phone with an unlimited plan similar to MetroPCS.  They are practical for at home use and while on the road.  Plus you can keep your finger on the pulse of the operations. You still may need a separate land line. But I think you could get away with using a Magic Jack or Skype.  You’ll save on your phone bills and only pay an annual fee way less than a monthly phone bill. I use both Skype and Magic Jack and have had no problems.

·         Efax or other web based fax service- Not many people really fax any more. But it’s helpful for receiving contracts. Everything is housed on your computer.  I believe in a paperless office.

·         Bamboo Pen Tablet- Speaking of a paperless office. I invested in this wonderful little device earlier this year. It allows me to switch to a writing tool in any MS Office program and sign documents. It has the same function as the terminals at the department stores only with a bigger writing area.  I absolutely LOVE this product.

·         PDF Maker- There are times when I need to sign a document and send it to a client but don’t want to mail or fax.  So I scan my document and then convert it to PDF to send via email.  A lot of people aren’t sitting by a fax all day and are on the move.  PDF allows them to view documents even on their Blackberry. Plus PDF allows me to secure my documents so that nobody can make changes to them. There are a few free and paid subscriptions out there.  But if you have the money, invest in Adobe Professional (PDF).

·         An Intranet for your staff and/or clients- If your company doesn’t have a full fledged intranet designed for your company, sign up for a system like HyperOffice.  You can share documents, maintain group calendars, post messages and email and store information for your team or clients. On a smaller scale you can use Google Apps and Yahoo Groups, but they aren’t as functional. Having an intranet is important because not only can your team keep in touch and review the same documents, it is the safe haven for your documents should a disaster occur.  Everyone will have access to the documents you store on it to keep the business running. Check with your IT administrator to see what you are allowed to use and within what parameters.

·         Access to company email and website- Even if you are just a contractor, you still need a professional presence.  Many companies allow staff to access the email server via webmail. As long as you have some security measures in place, I don’t see there being a problem.

·         Internet resources- I detest job boards.  But I will say that depending on what type of staff you need for your business, they can come in handy for quick pipelines. Monster, Careerbuiler and Dice are the big 3 and the most expensive. Instead of investing all of that money in one of these, try alternative sites such as Craig’s List and Linked In.  Also look into niche specialty sites to increase your odds of finding the types of people you need.  If you’re in sales, try sites like ZoomInfo, Spoke, Konnects, Jigsaw, Pipl, Hoovers and Naymez to find sales leads.

·         Standard office tools- A multifunctional printer/fax/scanner/copier is strongly suggested.  You’ll need the right office furniture because you’ll spend a lot of time in there each day.  A headset to give you hands-free conversations with staff and clients.  A stand alone microphone may be useful if you can’t get a wireless headset or don’t want to be chained to your desk.

·         A webcam- This is a tool I introduced into my business and recruiting repertoire a few years ago.  It helps me to do “face to face” interviews with candidates, meet with clients and hiring managers, and conduct staff meetings.  Skype is a service you can use in place of a phone and to conduct web conferences.  Netmeeting from Microsoft is another option for those on Windows 2000 or XP. I love video conferencing because it saves me time, gas, and travel expenses. Again, ask your IT Administrator about usage policies.

·         A dedicated conference number- Some companies have conference calling plans.  But for those who don’t, Freeconference.com allows you to have a dedicated number you can use to conduct conference calls.

·         High speed internet- Dial up doesn’t cut it any more.  We can spend a lot of time on the internet doing research and other work.  Invest in high speed broadband.  You can get it in just about any area now.

·         Security- A virtual private network is usually provided by the company you are working with.  If you are on your own, there are options out there.  OpenVPN, LogMeIn and Cisco Remote Access are examples for free to high end services.  Keeping your data safe and secure should be your main priority. And showing your boss that you value security can be a big gold star for you.

·         Wireless access- Most new laptops come with automatic wireless configuration.  But when you need to take your laptop on the road, it’s best to buy a mobile computing solution.  AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are all vying for the number one spot in this area.  They each have a small drive you can plug and go anywhere.

·         Webmeeting capability- LiveMeeting, Webex, Adobe Live and Skype are the front runners in this space.  Depending on your need, any of these solutions would be ideal. DimDim is another site that is fast becoming popular. I often conduct web conferences, classes and webinars via web. So these tools come in very handy for me.  I can use video and upload a presentation or I can set it to let others see me navigating my own computer.

·         Flash drive or other back up- A flash drive is vital to backing up your data.  I would recommend keeping your candidate data and client records on a flash drive as a BACK UP.  Of course you should still back up your information offsite.  We never know when a hurricane or other natural disaster will hit.  Be prepared. I keep several flash drives- 1 for my candidate database, 1 for my business documents, 1 for client information, and 1 general drive for the rest of my documents. In case of a disaster, it won’t take much time to get me back up and running.

As a Recruiter, being able to function offsite and while I travel is crucial.  It allows me to work anywhere, anytime and I love the freedom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Til Next Time,

Adrienne Graham

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Everyone covets that golden opportunity…working from home. With soaring gas prices, congested rush hour traffic and annoying co-workers, bosses and clients, working from home can be a much welcomed safe haven for some. Most companies, even though they claim to be ahead of the global economic curve, either refuse to consider it, or will only consider it for one or two days a week. Let’s face it, not everyone is right for working at home. But whether you are a corporate warrior or a budding entrepreneur, here are some tips to ensure productivity (and comfort) in working from home.

  • Treat each work day like you’re heading into the office and will be working with clients. Too often we will roll out of bed and fire up the computer, hair looking crazy, in pajamas and a bath robe. Are you crazy? Just because nobody will see you doesn’t mean you need to look crazy! We are in the age of the video conference. If you have (or your employer supplies) video conferencing, it is your duty to get up and get the crust out your eyes, comb that hair and put on some decent clothes. Set a regimen. Get up, wash, put on some business casual attire, have breakfast THEN turn on the computer. Believe me, the better you look, the more productive you will be.
  • Set a regular work schedule. Guess what? Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that its not business as usual for your clients and colleagues. You just happen to not have a long commute. It works for me to break down my days into blocks of projects. For example, Monday is my day to return calls, follow up with clients, set my projects for the week and handle general business housekeeping. Friday is for reports, scouting new clients and networking contacts, and follow ups. Tuesday through Thursday I am focusing on specific tasks (sourcing candidates, interviews, business meetings, conference calls, coaching sessions, candidate summaries, etc.). Setting a schedule and posting it in a visible location will keep you on task.
  • Organize your workspace. Before I had a house, I lived in an apartment that had a sunroom. That was my office. It was annoying to have it constantly spill over to my living areas. Once I bought a laptop, that was all she wrote. My work and living spaces merged. Since I’ve lived in my house, I have separate room for my office. I have gone through great lengths to outfit my office to accommodate my businesses. I have a pretty good set up. Everything has its place. I can host a video conference without the fear of people seeing my bedroom or kitchen! I am in the process of redesigning my workspace for that less is more look. But you can spruce up your office anyway you like. Just make sure you have dedicated space for it. And don’t let it cross over into your home life if you can help it. Close that door or area at the end of the day and especially on Friday.
  • Make sure you get the basics covered. No matter what field you’re in, there are some items that are necessities for the home office. They include a computer, printer/scanner/fax combo, telephone (of course), cell phone, proper lighting, comfortable chair, functional desk and a filing/storage system. Now this can be expanded depending on the type of work you do. You know what you need to make your job easier. Now, if you need additional tools to help on a shoestring budget, there are a ton of cool sites out there for free or low fee. Look into using: Skype (for telephone or video conferencing), Google Apps (Google’s answer to Microsoft Office), Paypal (for receiving payments), Quickbooks (for managing your accounting), Genbook (online appointment scheduler), and a host of other tools to help you do your job better. A quick tip- a paperless office is the way to go. PDF as much as you can. And did you know that Oracle offers a free basic database?
  • Know your limitations. Listen to your body. We have a tendency to push beyond normal working hours because we figure we’re home anyway, why not work. Know when to take breaks. I’ll share a secret. I will often take a 2 hour lunch break each day. It allows me to rest, run errands, surf the net, eat, etc. It is also important to set time boundaries. I try (key word TRY) to not work late into the evening. But there are times when it is unavoidable. If you plan your day properly, you can accomplish everything you need to in the day. Most importantly, make time for family!

These are just a couple of general tips for successfully working at home. To make working from home successful, you must put in as much dedication as you would in an actual office. Prioritize, organize, plan, schedule and execute. That is the formula for success.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham (from her home office!)