Working From Home


TOPICS


INTRODUCTION

The freedom to make your own hours, work where you want, and have more time for family and friends, while making a good income: Those are just a few of the benefits more and more people are choosing with the more flexible lifestyle of working from home.

A 2016 survey of 15,000 Americans showed that 43 percent of this sample had worked remotely, which was a 4 percent point increase in comparison with statistics collected in 2012 . This shift is undeniably the result of an increasing number of professionals looking for work that allows flexibility. Consequently, businesses have had to review their policies and the structures that have dictated their workdays over time. In so doing, there has been a significant transformation of the workplace whereby companies have partially or fully adopted remote workplace models. Additionally, those working from home are doing so for longer periods. Between 2012 and 2016 the number of professionals that worked remotely for a day or less per work week dropped from thirty-four percent to twenty-five percent, while those that did so four to five days in a work week increased from 24 percent to 31 percent. Accordingly, data from 2012 showed that employees working remotely perceived more engagement when they spent little time off-site, while results from 2016 indicated that employees perceive their levels of engagement as approximately equal regardless of whether they spend the majority of their time working in-office or remotely. In fact, the highest engagement rates were evident among professionals who spent 60 to 80 percent of their time off-site.

Here we’ll take a comprehensive look at the various factors associated with working from home, examine the benefits of virtual work, and provide some advice on succeeding—and indeed thriving—in the rapidly emerging work-from-home culture of modern business.

Common Terminology

Several terms are used when people are talking about working from home.

  1. Telecommuting, which describes an employee that works at home using technology such as the internet and telephone.
  2. Remote Work, which also connotes working away from the traditional workplace.
  3. Online jobs, which means that work is done online without having to be in the office.
  4. Virtual jobs, whereby tasks are done in a virtual environment.
  5. Digital platforms, which are sites that allow the selling of goods or renting of assets.
  6. Freelancer, which describes an individual who works on his or her own besides lacking a continuing commitment to one employer.
  7. Independent contractor, which describes a person or entity who avails goods or services under agreed-upon terms.

A closer look at the Work-from-Home

As the work-from-home model has gained traction around the world, it’s increasingly being classified as the future of employee-employer relationships. The reasons are simple: on the whole, people find this lifestyle to be appealing, while it’s becoming more common—and more sensible—for businesses to draw up contracts that allow for more flexibility among their employees. In short, businesses are becoming aware that giving their workers the freedom to work from anywhere they want creates a win-win situation for both parties.

The benefits of working from home for employees and businesses

As anyone who has experience with remote work will know, the benefits are numerous:

  1. Transport and Commuting. Arguably most importantly—at least from the perspective of cost and time—commuting is done away with. Travelling to and from one’s workplace tends to be stressful and unpleasant, and this time could be used up in the execution of more productive functions. Commuting is often one of the most significant costs for employees in busier cities, and in developing countries the impact of unreliable or disrupted public transport can quickly become a toll on workplace and worker alike. When workers don’t have to commuting expenses, they are also less likely to request salary increases to cover their traveling expenditure.
  2. Productivity. Many employees who work remotely report that their productivity increases, particularly because they are in control of their own workspace. For example, those who struggle to work in a loud office environment may be able to find a quiet spot in their home or at a local coffee shop or restaurant with fewer distractions.
  3. Health and Sick Leave. Employees who work from home tend to get sick less often. A survey discovered that those who worked in an office full-time requested an average of around 3.1 sick days per year, while those at home only took an average of 1.8 sick days. The reasons for this are simple enough: most employees agree that one can still work comfortably from home with a mild sickness, whereas those that are based in offices are likely to take a whole day off to evade leaving their houses and possibly spreading their germs to the rest of their team. Working from home also allows one to exercise or stretch as many times as is possible, which is beneficial since it aids in averting back or joint problems, but which one is likely not to do at the office, especially due to embarrassment4. This leads to employees recovering faster from illnesses on average, as well as being able to contribute meaningfully to their jobs when they are suffering a minor illness.
  4. Job Satisfaction. Employees that have the freedom of working from home are usually happier than their counterparts who spend all week in-office. Not only does this lower the chances of them resigning, it makes them more committed—and therefore more valuable—to the firm . This is especially evident among workers with childcare responsibilities, as having greater flexibility to work from their houses makes it easier to spend time with their children and manage their schedules better. Consequently, such an employment relationship is considered an attractive work perk—in fact, workers given the flexibility to manage their own time seldom leave to work for another organization that does not offer the same.
  5. A bigger talent pool. By allowing their employees to work from home, firms can employ the best talent irrespective or where they’re based. As people no longer have to travel to an office location for work, this flexibility eliminates many of the geographic limitations that businesses have faced in the past. Additionally, jobs that offer the flexibility to work remotely are being sought by workers of all ages including new parents and older workers. Millennials in particular find it paramount, as research shows that most in this generation expect to be allowed to harness the capacities availed by technology to work from where they deem appropriate. This means that businesses can not only work with people from other countries; they are better equipped to accommodate disabled persons in their staff. Mothers are now also more easily accommodated, which is helping to reduce the gender gap in the workplace. Ultimately, this means that businesses in the US can leverage the shift towards remote work for the benefits of a more diverse workforce.
  6. Work/Life Balance. An additional benefit of working remotely is the ability for employees to strike a good work-life balance. When employees work remotely, they typically find it easier to make time to manage medical appointments or other commitments during their breaks, which may be challenging if they were based in an office. This doesn’t just benefit employees, though: freed from their nine-to-five schedules, workers are now more inclined to work more flexible hours, meaning they’re more likely to be on call in an emergency. While core hours will still be covered, flexible working setups will mean that businesses are bound to have at least some of their staff working outside of traditional office hours whereby they can be on call all the time.
  7. Office Expenses. Lastly, office overheads are significantly lowered when employees are encouraged to work remotely. When people work from home, a firm’s expenditure on supplies, office space, and technology is reduced dramatically, or altogether eliminated should they opt for a fully-remote setup. These resources can then be used to improve other organizational aspects.

How Does Working From Home Work?

For those wishing to work from the comfort of their own home (or the coffee shop down the road, the petting zoo with the free WiFi or literally anywhere else where connectivity is available), there are numerous forms of remote working to be aware of.

Telecommuting

Telecommuting involves a traditional employer-employee relationship, but the employee is free to work out of office for one or more days each week. Employees who telecommute typically carry out their duties from home while having to follow company protocol to ensure that they are putting in an amount of time appropriate to the organization’s requirements. Of course, the specifics of a telecommuting setup will depend on the specifics of the organization and the employee, as well as the type of work being conducted and the level of interaction the employee needs with clients and/or colleagues. Some workers telecommute on a full-time basis, meaning they are allowed to carry out all their duties off-site with marginal or no face-to-face communication with managers or other workers. On the other hand, there are employees who telecommute part-time and conduct some, but not all of their tasks off-site. In addition, in-office interactions with managers and other workers are typically limited and scheduled. For the latter option, there is usually a limit on the number of consecutive days that an employee can be off-site to allow for scheduling of meetings and interactions with others. The telecommuting programs could also be formal or informal. In a formal telecommuting model, the parties will agree on a contract that stipulates all the aspects concerning an employee’s telecommuting arrangement, including the days they are permitted to work away from the office, hours the employee will be available to clients or colleagues, deadlines for tasks, and frequency with which they should respond to emails and other office communications. In the second option, there is no contract stipulating the terms of the telecommuting arrangement and a company may simply permit flexibility of working from home when necessary.

Additionally, a telecommuting program may be initiated by either the employee or the company. An employee may initiate a telecommuting program because they want to lessen commute time, eliminate disturbances present in the office, or develop a better balance between work and family. Several roles can even benefit from a telecommuting arrangement, particularly those that involve reading or writing, or those that necessitate focused concentration. A company could also initiate telecommuting in an effort to reduce costs or retain highly talented people that find it difficult to work in a traditional setting.

Every worker must be aware of the kind of rules that regulate his or her telecommuting arrangement to avoid any conflicts with the employer. Consequently, most organizations utilize teams to amplify productivity, capitalize on strengths, and address threats. Workers whose organizations allow them to work from home are usually put in virtual teams whereby they can operate without being constrained by time, distance, or organizational boundaries. With the many electronic collaboration technologies available today, face-to-face meetings are becoming less important in day-to-day business operations. Since an increasing number of businesses use video-calling and conferencing technologies, face-to-face meetings can be achieved with telecommuting employees to a certain extent. Therefore, any American who telecommutes must possess certain skills such as an appreciation of human dynamics, an understanding of ways of managing across different cultures and functional areas, and the capability of using communicating technologies.

Freelance Workers

The second option when it comes to managing remote workers is freelancing, which entails businesses making use of workers on a temporary, project or contract basis. This is an increasingly common lifestyle, and one that millions of Americans have adopted since the advent of the internet and telecommunication technologies. Freelance workers fit into one of the five categories mentioned below:

  1. There are independent contractors with no employer, who offer their services from project to project.
  2. There are moonlighters, who may still maintain a traditional job, but engage in freelance work during their free time.
  3. There are diversified workers who have several sources of income from an array of traditional employment and freelancing.
  4. There are temporary workers, who have a single employer or client but whose employment status remains as temporary.
  5. Finally, there are freelance business owners. This category comprises people who identify as freelancers and who operate small businesses of one to five workers. All members of a freelance business tend to engage in freelance work as they share the reward of earning more and realizing a more flexible schedule.

Technology has made freelancing easier for many, since a majority utilizes the internet to look for freelance work today. Four in 10 freelancers have engaged in an online freelance project, meaning that they sourced and completed the work online. In addition to the challenge of finding work, freelancers typically struggled with issues including late payments and ignorance of the skills demanded by potential employers. However, with the widespread use of the internet in business today, a new infrastructure has emerged and dramatically improved the working conditions of this workforce through freelancer support and benefit groups, social networks, online workplaces, co-working spaces, and skill exchanges. These avenues have created excellent platforms for freelancers to find work, connect with other people, and make contacts. Today, there are various online sites that allow clients to post projects, and freelancers to apply for the work. From the number of the proposals they receive, the client can choose one person to undertake the work, and once the project is completed to the client’s satisfaction, payment can be released.

The Future of Working from Home

Traditional workplaces are unlikely to continue as before due to the realities of business today . Many employers are now contracting workers to work from home, with most indicating that they intend to increase the number of remote workers in the coming years. Additionally, the number of workers looking for jobs that allow such flexibility have increased significantly, which has led many to describe the remote working phenomenon as the future of employee-employer relationships. These conversations are happening in organizations across many industries, which will inevitably translate to more workers telecommuting. Employers have to redefine their mindset concerning flexible work - they have had to abandon the perceived link between the time one puts in - particularly in a traditional office setting - and the results a worker produces. A specific amount of time in the office is not an indicator of a strong work ethic. Additionally, employers have to let go of the idea of the association between quality and quantity. The number of hours spent in a work environment does not translate into higher quality goods or services. As such, 9 to 5 jobs are not necessary if an employee can work off-site and still be productive.

Industries Offering Work from Home

The research is clear: flexible work arrangements, such as the choice of when and where to work, result in workers perceiving the organizations they work for to be more supportive, which leads to better job satisfaction and commitment. Many organizations are aware of this fact, which has led to many of them allowing some or all of their employees to telecommute. Such entities can be found in most industries. The technology that is available today makes remote work easier and thus accommodates a myriad of industries. There are several conditions necessary for a successful telecommuting arrangement, and as long as an industry can adopt them, the companies that operate in it can allow their employees to work from home without disruption to their operations.

  • Firstly, a company must ensure eligibility - such arrangements are not for everyone. Some of the personality traits required to succeed in working offsite include professionalism, dependability, communication, and resourcefulness. The nature of one’s work is also imperative, as some jobs (such as the those that necessitate special equipment or have significant security concerns) may prove difficult to carry out remotely.
  • The second condition is that of technological infrastructure support. Firms should ensure optimal support whereby there is adequate bandwidth for telecommuters on the local network, minimal security risks, and increased support.
  • Telecommuters also need to be taught how to use the technologies that will aid in working offsite, in addition to the IT personnel being trained on how to avail technical support to remote workers.
  • Performance evaluation needs to be taken into account, and it’s vital to employ the right performance metrics.
  • Rules and policies must also be created to dictate the terms of telecommuting within a company.

Many industries have managed to restructure their workplaces in such a way to allow their employees to telecommute. To start with, people in customer service usually assist consumers via email or phone calls - something which they could do from anywhere. In essence, these workers could work from home as long as they avail timely support and address customer concerns in a timely and appropriate manner. Secondly, persons in sales usually promote a product or service to potential customers. Communication can be through email or phone, which makes it easy for them to telecommute. Thirdly, individuals that are in the information technology field are tasked with several responsibilities such as programming, software development, website maintenance, and computer repair among many others. As long as one’s computer skills are adequate, it is possible for one to work from home. Lastly, many responsibilities of those in an administration position can be done online, such as managing projects, scheduling, and process communications. Finance and accounting is another industry that is accommodative of remote work, as the handling and auditing of accounts, processing of financial data, or filing of taxes can be done from home without disruption.

Freelancers can also avail their services to organizations in various industries. For example, arts and design, an industry that comprises graphic designers, musicians, and craft and fine artists, is perfectly suited to a remote working setup. Freelancers can also work in the Information Technology field by offering their services as web developers, programmers, or software developers. Here, freelancers are hired to undertake a single task such as coming up with a new kind of software. The media and communications field also features many positions suited to remote work, such as technical writers, translators, and transcribers among many others. The jobs in this industry tend to be project-based, and are usually easy to deliver electronically.

Work from Home Jobs

For employed individuals in the US, working from home is only possible after reaching a telecommuting agreement with their employer. Once an agreement is in place, one can then take the stipulated days in a work week to carry out their duties offsite. Such an outcome is dependent on the perception that an organization’s management has on remote work with respect to a certain role. Additionally, some agreements could allow telecommuting only on some days, whereas there are others that encourage full-time remote working. Today, most organizations are adopting this trend of allowing people to work offsite in some capacity. A 2015 survey showed that several business leaders believe over 50 percent of permanent workers will be working remotely by 2020. Therefore, employees without telecommuting arrangements with their employer are likely to form such arrangements in the future, provided that their roles can be carried out remotely.

Today, the opportunities for salaried workers to work offsite are made available by several organizations in the US, including some major business entities, which operate in different sectors. One such company embracing this new model is Amazon - the leading online retailer. Through its online platform, the business manages to sell a broad array of products including books, movies, music, and household items among many others. It has thousands of employees across the world, and many of these jobs are remote by virtue of the fact that there might not be a local Amazon headquarters in all countries where they have employees. The program for working from home is referred to as Virtual Locations within the company. Nevertheless, these prospects are limited to specific areas such as customer service associates, linguists, solutions architects, field marketing operators, business intelligence engineers, DevOps consultants, and managers. Dell is another multinational that has embraced the idea that technology allows people to work from anywhere. The company allows all its workers to carry out their duties while outside the office. Some of the roles suited to a flexible office arrangement include software engineers, account executives, senior analysts, technical product managers, cyber security personnel and many more.

Cosmetics & Beauty

Workers in the cosmetics and beauty industry can also telecommute, a concept that Avon has adopted. The organization encourages cosmetics and beauty professionals, or even those who have an interest in these industries but don’t necessarily work in them, to join as independent representatives while working full-time or part-time remotely. Workers can earn either through selling products or by engaging in the Sales Leadership program, which involves selling products and recruiting others to join the organization. All representatives engage in direct sales, where they can promote the company’s offerings through one-to-one interactions or on online platforms. The representatives are also given numerous training opportunities through mentoring and access to free online courses through Avon U.

Healthcare

Many other experts from different fields are able to enjoy part-time or full-time remote working today. For example, some healthcare jobs can now be done virtually: video-conferencing can replace one-to-one visits, self-measurement devices can aid in checking vital signs, activity monitors can help monitor movements, and patients can be provided personal alarms to alert their doctor in case of an emergency or issue.

Law

Following the 2008 financial crisis, many lawyers either lost their jobs or had their salaries cut, and the idea of a virtual law firm gained popularity as a result. These entities can also have partners and engage clients like traditional law firms. Architects, as another example, can also perform their work at home. These professionals are usually preoccupied with planning and designing structures such as houses, office buildings, factories and many more.

Arts and Design

There are also many opportunities for freelancers in the arts and design industry. Singers and musicians are often paid to sing or play instruments by releasing records or performing for live audiences. Such undertakings can be done at home. Additionally, craft and fine artists have many opportunities for traditional freelance work through freelancer platforms and social networks, as well as self-selling sites such as Etsy and eBay. Fine artists are usually able to work from the location that is most comfortable for them, and working from a home studio is easily achievable for freelance purposes. Graphic designers may also find it easy to undertake their work from home, which usually involves conceptualising designs, graphics and layouts for various uses including promotions, magazines, and websites.

Information Technology

The information technology field is also well-suited to freelance workers. Web designers, for example, are usually tasked with a site’s aesthetic in addition to its technical aspects including capacity and performance. Back-end developers take care of the overall technical side of a site by coming up with a functional framework, while front-end developers are concerned with designing an appropriate layout and the aesthetics of the website. Then, there are webmasters, and these individuals are tasked with maintaining and updating websites. All these jobs are easily undertaken on a freelance or remote basis.

Many programmers and developers also work remotely. Freelancers can work in this field as computer programmers, whereby they will be responsible for writing and testing the code that facilitates proper functioning of computer applications and software programs. The duties of the individuals in this field necessitate utilizing several software tools, which means that all three professionals can work from home. Therefore, if an individual has the required skills, it is possible to freelance and generate a good income through such jobs. Individuals in these professions need to remain up to date with the newest tools in the industry, which improves their chances of getting jobs. They can advertise their expertise on social media platforms or a personal website. Being involved in communities such as professional organizations is also imperative as people are likely to share job prospects with their friends and colleagues.

Media and Communication

Media and communications freelancers can engage in transcription, Transcription work, for example, can easily be undertaken from home. Today, technology has made it easy for people to record interviews and other conversations and convert them into text. As a freelancer, such recordings can be made available through email or other online platforms. Translation services are another option that can easily be done from home. Translation services are paramount today as they enable communication across languages and cultures. Therefore, freelance translators must ensure that they’re conveying the correct message and tone across cultural barriers. The payment that freelance translators can expect to receive depends on their clients, as smaller translation jobs might not pay much, but larger projects could be more lucrative. Freelance translators typically find work through social networks and freelancer platforms such as Upwork, Guru and PeoplePerHour.

There are also several opportunities for freelance writers with sufficient skill. Copywriting, for example, is a common line of freelance writing work. Copywriters work directly with clients or agencies to write text - or copy - for advertisements, digital media, printed marketing, or virtually any other medium that requires writing of any sort. Developing advertisement concepts involves generating innovative ideas to be used in ad campaigns which may span weeks or months. There are several streams of copywriting, for example business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) copywriting, all of which require a specialised skill-set and the ability to write in different styles and tones. Many freelance copywriters also take ghostwriting jobs, which entail writing material on behalf of another professional for their website or other media profiles.

Data entry is another common freelance job. Data entry operators are responsible for editing or verifying data as it is being input. This data could come in any form, from audio files to hand-written papers. Jobs in this area tend have lower skill and/or qualification requirements, which does mean pay less than other freelance work. Payment is usually hourly, per piece, keystrokes over a defined period, or per word. Essentially, this means the amount that one earns is reliant on the speed at which one can enter data. This work can be undertaken from home effectively, though one must contend with a low pay since independent contractors are not beneficiaries of minimum wage laws. Freelancers looking for data entry jobs can advertise their services on the various social media platforms or create a profile on intermediaries such as Upwork, Guru, and Freelancer.

Scams to Avoid

While there are plenty of legitimate opportunities to find freelance work, it’s important to be aware that scams do exist, and to know how to identify and avoid them. Wire transfers scams, for example, usually take the form of advertisements that offer a commission for dealing with money orders. Such commissions are never paid, and the victims soon realize that they may have been involved in shady financial dealings. High-paying data entry jobs should also be considered with caution. Legitimate data entry jobs pay very little, so when and ad for a data entry gig promises thousands of dollars per week, it’s likely a fraud. Medical billing work scams are also common, where people are cheated into thinking that there is a demand for individuals that can prepare bills for doctors’ offices from their homes. Those who fall for these scams end up buying software and training materials at high costs, and ultimately find no work as the field is dominated by large entities. Fake URL scams are also increasingly common on social networks and other online freelance sites. Scammers tend to use web addresses that are similar to well-known companies to promote work from home job openings. Many apply thinking that the listings are genuine. Ultimately, freelancers should be very careful with the prospects they find, particularly those that require paying for information.

State Specific Information for Working from Home

Though it might sound odd, having a remote job does not necessarily mean you’ll be able to work from any location of your choice. About ninety-five percent of remote jobs usually have location requirements, which means that organizations tend to mandate that a professional be based in a certain city or state. This condition is usually included in most telecommuting arrangements for several reasons including legal motives, professional licensing, training, and to enable regular face-to-face meetings.

Almost every state across the country avails remote jobs, but the states in which one can find freelance work most easily are, in order of remote job listings:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Virginia
  4. New York
  5. Florida
  6. Illinois
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Georgia
  9. North Carolina
  10. Arizona
  11. Massachusetts
  12. Minnesota
  13. New Jersey
  14. Washington
  15. Ohio

Each of these states is home to well-known brands with flexible workplaces, but which require that their employees stay in a certain area. On the other hand, full-time remote workers and freelancers are free to work from anywhere they choose as long as they deliver their assigned workloads on time.

Top Cities to Work from Home

In addition to there being different opportunities for freelancers and remote workers from state to state, some cities are better than others with regards to being able to work from home. Firstly, there is San Francisco, which has a mild climate, fast internet, and various organizations that offer telecommuting arrangements. Washington is the next example: most government employees are allowed to work from home, and the city has good quality internet which makes telecommuting and working from home easier. Thirdly, there is Boston, which is among the coziest cities in the country in addition to many businesses allowing telecommuting. Another city is Chattanooga, which has fast internet speeds besides the cost of living being low. Kansas also boasts Google Fiber, which has allowed the residents to enjoy internet speeds that are 133 percent faster than other cities in the country.

Setting up a Work from Home Office

For freelancers or telecommuters in any industry, having a dedicated work space is essential. There are several tips one can follow to design a home office that promotes maximum efficiency. Mirroring a conventional workplace is important - working in a home office that feels too casual could inhibit one from getting things done, and, as such, one must ensure that the design of the office is appropriate.

To start with, consider the equipment that will be necessary for working. Speed and efficiency are also essential in the home office . Therefore, one needs to purchase the fastest equipment if possible to make sure no time is wasted waiting for things to function. Alternatively, if equipment is provided by your employer, ensure that all the necessary tools are made available. It is also advisable to contact insurance companies to get coverage for this equipment.

Secondly, good lighting is critical. The more natural daylight that gets into the room, the better. Daylight serves as the best evenly balanced source of white light. If the space’s design does not allow much daylight, one can install general and task lighting. Light is very important since sitting in a room with low lighting consistently can cause symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

The third essential aspect is privacy. Working in a room where there are continuous interruptions or background noise makes it difficult to be productive. If a separate room is not available, consider using headphones to cancel out the noise and portable screens to isolate the work area.

Additionally, the layout of a work from home office is crucial. A desk surface will aid in supporting the computer and other items. The organization of your desk is also important - ensure that your work space is clean and tidy, and that you don’t have piles of unnecessary papers littering your desk.

The ergonomics of your work space are also important. A chair that enhances comfort and adjustability goes a long way towards increasing productivity. One can also consider foot rests and soft keyboard pads that allow the wrists to remain relaxed. Ultimately, the more comfortable you are in your work from home office, the more productive and healthy you will be.

Working from Home and Employment Classification

Any person working in the US can fall under one of two legal categories. An employee is referred to as any individual that offers service to another under a contract of hire, and the employer reserves the right to dictate how the work should be performed. On the other hand, an independent contractor is classified as a person that engages in independent employment whereby during a contract, he or she does the job using his or her own methods and is only under the employer’s control for the duration of the project. This distinction has a significant impact on several aspects, such as compensation packages, payment and leave.

There are various laws that protect employees. There is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which necessitates that employers meet the minimum wage and pay overtime. Similarly, in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII prohibits any business from discriminating an employee due to race, religion, color, national origin, or sex . There is also the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which restricts any discrimination towards employees because of their age. The Employment Retirement Security Act dictates several aspects of benefit plans such as the level of benefits with respect to the amount of time an employee has worked at the company. All these laws significantly protect an employee from exploitation and discrimination, but freelancers, as independent contractors, do not enjoy such protection or gain any of benefits associated with permanent employment.

Working from Home and Taxes

In the US, all citizens with an income are expected to pay rates relative to the money they earn. There are two significant ways in which taxation affects freelancers and telecommuters.

Employers are entitled by the law only to pay a worker their share excluding the employment taxes. Therefore, those that telecommute do not receive the share of employment taxes as the employer deducts it, but freelancers are left with the responsibility of declaring their incomes when filing taxes. Secondly, the Internal Revenue Service also allows tax deductions, which allows workers to claim some expenses as non-taxable. If you work from home and have a dedicated office, you’re eligible for a tax break. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the definitions and requirements of the IRS to avoid any potential conflict. Firstly, for one to claim a deduction, it is necessary that some part of his or her home be exclusively and consistently used for business purposes. This designated area needs to be the main place of business, an office where one meets with clients, or a separate structure from the home such as a studio or garage . A home office tax deduction may include a portion of the worker’s home expenses such as rent, utilities, and real estate taxes. There is also a limit on the deduction for some expenses when gross income is lower than the overall business expenses. Self-employed workers need to complete a form stipulating the amount to deduct. Additional requirements apply to workers who work from home as employees, so it’s imperative to understand the legalities of working from home before applying for a tax deduction.

Foreign Employment

It is also possible for a person, citizen, resident alien, or nonresident alien, to work remotely for employers outside the country. The money generated from such arrangements is usually referred to as US source income. Therefore, even with a foreign employer, Social Security and Medicare tax must be withheld by the employer. Consequently, there are some digital platforms that are not based in the US. Even when using these platforms from within the US, one will have to declare the income while filing taxes.

The US allows business to hire foreign workers under several programs such as through the H-1B visa. This visa allows an employer to temporarily employ a foreigner in a specialty occupation. The individual is thus legally allowed to work in the country for three years with the possibility of an extension. Once one is a legal worker, it is possible to have telecommuting arrangements with the employer.

The Remote Working Fact Sheet

Several surveys have been conducted across the US to develop an understanding of the key statistics pertaining to remote workers. The US Department of Labor succeeded in determining the average hours that employed persons spent working in a day in 2017 while at home and at their workplace. The available data helped in compiling the table below:

Status Average hours worked in office Average hours worked at home
Full-time employees 8.44 3.28
Part-time employees 5.73 2.32
Single jobholders 8.02 3.13
Multiple jobholders 8.07 3.12
No high school diploma 8.01 2.59
High school diploma, no college degree 8.33 3.54
Some college or associate degree 8.16 3.4
Bachelor's degree or higher 8.04 3.06
Total 8.02 3.13

In 2017, the Department of Labor also studied the percentage of people who telecommuted and those who worked at their office on the days worked. The collected data aided in the compilation of the table illustrated below:

Status Percent of those who worked at the office Percent of those who worked at home
Full-time employees 83.7 23.5
Part-time employees 76.4 22.4
Single jobholders 83.1 22.3
Multiple jobholders 77.2 31.7
No high school diploma 90.8 12.5
High school diploma, no college degree 86.8 12.4
Some college or associate degree 86.7 18.6
Bachelor's degree or higher 74.3 37.6
Total 82.5 23.4

Consequently, the Department of Labor also showed a comparison of the percentage of employed persons who telecommuted between 2003 and 2016 :

2016 2003
Percent of those that worked at home Percent of those that worked at the office Percent of those that worked at home Percent of those that worked at the office
Total, no less than 15 years 22.3 83.2 18.6 87.2
Sex
Men 21.3 84.0 18.1 88.3
Women 23.6 82.2 19.3 85.9
Employment status
Total, full-time employees 22.4 84.1 17.9 89.0
Total, part-time employees 22.1 79.6 21.7 79.6
Men, full-time employees 21.8 83.9 17.8 89.7
Men, part-time employees 17.3 85.0 20.1 78.4
Women, full-time employees 23.2 84.3 18.1 87.9
Women, party-time employees 24.7 76.6 22.6 80.2
Number of jobs
Single jobholders 21.0 83.7 16.8 87.9
Multiple jobholders 32.1 80.0 32.9 81.9
Educational attainment, at least 25 years
No high school diploma 8.8 85.5 8.6 92.3
High school diploma, no college degree 12.0 89.8 12.9 90.7
Some college or associate degree 20.6 85.4 18.6 87.3
Bachelor's degree only 32.6 77.2 28.0 82.4
Advanced degree 43.1 70.7 39.0 76.4

The Texas government commissioned a report to understand the gig economy across the country (a labor market characterized by freelance work and short-term contracts), and identify the different ways in which it impacts the Texas workforce. The report uncovered that gig workers utilize two primary types of platforms to source jobs or sell items . Digital platforms aid in matching workers with tasks or sellers with a marketplace, and these can be categorized as labor platforms and capital platforms—of the two, labor platforms are experiencing faster growth.

The report also provided some interesting insights about the demographics of gig workers, particularly with respect to their average age. The Millennial Generation, which includes persons aged between 18 and 34 years, has driven this workforce segment significantly. Over the space of a year, no less than 5 percent of millennials earned income from a digital platform, in comparison with the national average of 3.1 percent. There was also a significant age gap between the most frequent users of digital platforms and the rest of the population. Compared to the baby boomer generation, millennials were nine times more likely to generate income through labor platforms, and five times more likely to do the same on capital platforms. The same study also investigated the freelancer market revealed several key facts.

Between 2014 and 2016, the number of freelancers actively working in the US increased from 53 million to 55 million–approximately a 4 percent increase in just two years. It was also estimated that this workforce contributed at least 1 trillion dollars to the US economy in 2016, which makes up a significant share of the nation’s total13. Numerous freelancers also reported that they had left a full-time job in favor of freelancing, as this enabled them to earn more than was possible under a traditional employer. Typically, these workers also managed to work less than 40 hours each week while still feeling that they undertake the right amount of work. One of the most intriguing findings of the report, however, is that the traditional employee-employer relationship will continue to evolve—this could mean better access to the labor markets for some Americans and diminished access to the comfort of benefits and stable incomes awarded by traditional workplaces.

The Pew Research Center undertook a comprehensive survey of adults from 18 years of age that earn an income from digital platforms. In 2016, 24 percent of Americans had generated revenue from digital platforms—a necessity for some and a luxury for others. Eight percent of Americans earned some income through online gigs including online tasks, ride hailing, shopping or delivery, cleaning or laundry, while 18 percent made money through selling something on the internet such as used goods, handmade crafts and consumer goods. Another 1 percent of Americans generated income through renting out their properties online.

Those who make money from digital platforms can also be placed on a spectrum of experience: at one end there are casual users who perform tasks during their free time to earn modest amounts, while at the other end there are dedicated users whose primary income is made through digital platforms. Since labor markets are the most common, the survey looked at the differences between dedicated and casual users across digital platforms. The table below illustrates this in the 8 percent of labor platform users in the US along the spectrum mentioned above.

Tasks they do Percent of dedicated users Percent of casual users
Ride hailing 32 13
Cleaning/laundry 49 69
Motivations
Need to regulate own schedule 45 11
Just for fun or to stay busy 28 62
Lack of other jobs where one lives 25 12
To gain work experience 24 12
Other characteristics
Have household incomes below $30k 57 36
Have high school diplomas or less 52 28
Perceive themselves to be employees of the digital platforms 39 9
Are full-time employees 36 57
Are white 36 54

The same survey also gauged the attitudes held by Americans regarding gig work. A significant percentage of the American workforce engages or has engaged in such work, while even a larger share has made use of these services as clients. The results indicated an array of positive and negative views, as well as some uncertainty concerning the advantages gig work. The findings have been compiled in the table below:

Views on online gig work Percent that answered No Percent that answered Yes Percent that said they were not sure
They are great for those that want flexible work schedules 6 68 26
They are great for older people that have no desire to work full time 10 54 36
They are great entry level jobs for individuals joining the workforce 21 27 41
They let companies take advantage of workers 32 23 46
They place too much financial burden on workers 29 21 50
They are the kind of jobs that people can build careers on 41 16 43

A 2017 study by Upwork (one of the world’s major freelance work platforms) and the Freelancers Union also sheds some light on a few interesting aspects of freelancing in the US. In 2017, 57.3 million Americans undertook some freelance work, 47 percent of which fell into the millennial generation. The study discovered that the growth rate among freelancers has exceeded that of the overall workforce— leading to the conclusion that, by 2027, the majority of the American workforce will work on a freelance basis. Freelancers have also shown an awareness of the transformation: compared to just 45 percent of employees in a traditional work environment who are actively engaged in upskilling, 65 percent of freelance workers do the same. In conjunction with the finding that 54 percent of the American workforce believe the work they currently engage in won’t exist within 20 years, it’s clear that upskilling is a natural response to the way jobs evolve in today’s markets. Accordingly, the modern American workforce thinks quite differently when it comes to the concept of job stability. More people are choosing to enter the freelancing field full-time as many have seen the pursuit of several income streams to be a more reliable source of income than working through a single employer.

The Yearly Income from Working from Home

The organizations that allow their workers to telecommute one day or more per week tend to pay these individuals the same salary as workers who work in-office every day. Nevertheless, some organizations engage fully remote workers in the attempt to reduce some costs, and the salary given to such employees could be slightly less. However, the savings they make by not having to work from an office offset this difference. On the other hand, most freelancers have the freedom to set their own prices, which allows them to earn as much or, even more, than salaried employees.

Some of these freelance jobs avail good, yearly income, as is illustrated in the table below.

Profession Average yearly pay
Automation engineer $105,000
Back-end web developer $100,000
User experience researcher $110,000
Project Manager $85,000
Utilization Manager $92,000
Digital Marketing Analyst $70,000
Product Designer $60,000
Registered Nurse $60,000

Some fields are easier to enter than others. For instance, freelance writers, editors, graphic designers, or proofreaders can expect to earn at least $20 per hour for an average project. On the other hand, those who specialise in making grant proposals meant to raise funds for organizations tend to make at least $40,000 every year, while Freelance animators typically ask between $25 and $106 per hour depending on the project. Programmers tend to make no less than $60 per hour, while transcribers can expect a rate of about $25 per hour. Some freelancers tutor students online on various platforms, and make between $20 and $40 per hour. Ultimately, the hourly rate one can expect comes down not only to one’s role and the industry they work in, but also the level of experience of the individual and the particulars of the project being worked on.

Women who Work from Home

As more organizations offer telecommuting and remote working jobs, the gender gap in employment is levelling out significantly. Most mothers look for flexible jobs that will allow them to earn an income while giving full attention to their kids. Now, with part-time or full-time remote work programs, women can be employed while maintaining their desired work-life balance. Consequently, women are also engaging in the freelance economy - and succeeding at it. An excellent case study is that of Sara Blakely. Her pursuit of comfortable garb motivated her to come up with footless pantyhose during her off hours at home. The brand has continued to grow, and as of 2016, Blakely’s net worth was at $1.19 billion. There are many other examples of people that are now billionaires and millionaires as a result of working from home. Montage Legal Group, for example, founded by two stay-at-home moms, provides legal services to law firms as it enjoys a network of independent attorneys that work from home and charge hourly fees. Traditional law firms can thereby get help in short-term or long-term projects with specialists in the legal field. With the technology available today, stay-at-home moms can work from home and have a fulfilling and successful work life.

Billionaires with Proven Work from Home Records

Over time, several people have proven that working from home can lead to immense success. The first example is that of Jeff Bezos. He had the idea of creating an online retail marketplace, and launched Amazon from his garage. As of 2016, the company’s value is $287 billion, and Bezos’ net worth is $50.8 billion. Another champion of working from home is Mark Zuckerberg, estimated to be worth $47.3 billion, who came up with the idea to create Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard. Jan Koum and Brian Acton are also excellent examples. These two individuals were out of a job, but they used this time to develop a great idea, WhatsApp, that ended up making billions for them. Both founders were earning no less than $20 million every year until they allowed Facebook to acquire the software for $19 billion in 2014. Today, Koum is estimated to have a net worth of $9.1 billion, and Acton is worth $4.6 billion. Most of the work was realized in Acton’s kitchen. Markus Persson, who created the hit videogame Minecraft, came up with the program during his off hours while employed at another company. In 2010, he quit to focus on the game full time and it began grossing over $700 million from 2011, and by 2015 he sold the rights to Microsoft for $2.5 billion.

Telecommuting Core Principles

As enlightening as the results of these reports are, it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that there’s no “one size fits all” rule that can be applied to the process—and indeed the results—of a remote working policy. Some organizations have experienced immensely successful telecommuting arrangements, while others haven’t accrued the same benefit from such programs. However, this difference usually emerges due to some core principles that determine success or failure.

Communication is Key

The first, and arguably most important principle is communication. Every organization requires some form of interpersonal communication—simply put, business cannot exist without some procedure by which information is exchanged between people and conveyed through verbal and nonverbal messages. A virtual environment can make it challenging to explain complex ideas, particularly in situations where other team members don’t have the opportunity to ask questions or have discussions in real time . Because communication is usually not face-to-face in a remote working environment, social cues are limited and the opportunity for conflict is exaggerated. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important that messages be matched with the right medium. When the information is personal or complex, for example, body language should be visible, and it should be possible to convey tone in addition to what is being discussed. In a remote working context, videoconferencing can be. Conversely, for small and non-urgent messages, emails or instant messaging can be utilized. It is also important to note that people are likely to use their preferred method of communication by default, which could make confrontations less productive and increase the chance of conflict. An organization may thus have to necessitate certain media for certain types of communication when workers telecommute. The frequency of this communication is also essential. When there are regular updates, prompt responses to messages, and persons are available at crucial times, a project is likely to go on smoothly.

Coordination keeps us all on the same page

The second principle is that of coordination, which involves working together toward the realization of a common goal. Genuine collaboration is achieved when continuous, meaningful exchanges exist between persons that have a mutual purpose. Coordinating workers that are off-site can be challenging, but it is essential that all persons be working in harmony. Telecommuting arrangements fail when people are unaware of what others are doing and how each task fits together. Collaboration is present when there is a shared context and understanding. It is for this reason that organizations institute processes that facilitate the informal means by which people coordinate when they are in the same office, such as having lunch together or stopping by each other’s desks. The interactions ensure congruity, and without them people do not work in harmony. Therefore, in the case of virtual teams, managers must clearly outline the mission, assign roles, come up with project plans, and institute performance metrics, and all these items need to be documented in a repository that any team member can access when offsite. In so doing, every worker will be knowledgeable on when and how to provide updates, assess deliverables, and make decisions. Consequently, it is not enough just to have processes in place: managers must ensure that they are comprehensively adapted across the organization. By ensuring that each virtual team member follows protocol, coordination can be ensured and no worker will ever be left out of the loop, thereby enabling the realization of common objectives.

Culture is the heart of any business

The third principle is that of culture, which entails the common values, assumptions, and norms present in an organization . For remote teams, members rarely or never meet face-to-face, which makes it easy for them to be preoccupied with their tasks while ignoring the team. This habit may work for some time, but the need to institute a culture that encourages engagement and sustains performance will undoubtedly arise in the long term. The initial step is a process of establishing trust. When the communication and coordination processes work seamlessly, cognitive trust emerges. Nonetheless, affective trust is still necessary, which is challenging to create virtually. It is for this reason that most organizations necessitate bringing team members together – even if only once a year – in an attempt to facilitate connections between colleagues. When face-to-face meetings are not possible, regular, informal calls can be encouraged. Both options ensure that remote team members can deduce the recognition of their fellow workers, and that feelings and lives outside the office are understood. Even though this may be awkward at first, the establishment of personal connections and a communal identity will bring about more engagement and amplified performance. Therefore, for any employee choosing to telecommute or be part of a virtual team, it is important to ensure that the three principles mentioned above are present to ensure flawless completion of tasks.

Freelancing Core Principles

The US Department of Labor has elaborated on some of the core principles that guide best practices for freelance work:

Stand out in a niche of your own

The first principle is that of creating one’s niche. There are many services that one can offer online, and it is important for one to identify those he or she can offer. This can be done by looking at the skills, experiences, and other assets one may possess. The tasks that are available on digital platforms may be general or necessitate a particular skill set. After identifying the kind of work to engage in, it is advisable to learn from others. There are many individuals that are already doing such work and are likely to have shared their experiences online. In this way, one can identify expectations such as income or time required to complete tasks. After deciding to engage in a particular type of work, one needs to stand out from the other freelancers. Therefore, it is advisable that freelancers carve out as unique a niche for themselves as possible, both in the type of work they take on and the services they offer.

Be proactive about finding freelance opportunities

Secondly, one needs to identify the most lucrative opportunities possible. This can be done through third-party entities (such as Upwork, mentioned above) who offer a website or application that connects freelancers with tasks19. Alternatively, one could opt to source jobs through networks of one’s own. Many freelancers use both strategies to ensure a steady flow of jobs. One should thus look for appropriate digital platforms and proceed to sign up. Here, one will likely be required to avail personal details and some information on services he or she can offer. It is paramount to ensure that the profile is complete and professional. Alternatively, one could go on without an intermediary, which also ensures more profits as platforms usually take a cut of the funds released for a given service. To this end, one could use flyers or source connections through community associations. Social media freelancer groups are also great places for finding freelance clients. Regardless of which option one uses, building one’s base is also key. Positive feedback and referrals are important, which is only possible through quality work. Therefore, optimal performance guarantees repeat business.

Be realistic about your capabilities and commitments

The third principle is that of being realistic. Freelancing requires time, budgeting, and adaptability. Therefore, one should get into this field expecting that it will take time to learn the intricacies of pursuing gigs. Reaching the point at which one gets regular work may also take some months. In other words, it is not possible to accumulate a fortune overnight through freelance work. The management of one’s money is also important. Since the gigs one gets may not be stable for some time, one needs to identify other ways of earning. Therefore, if one has a traditional job, one should seriously consider doing them concurrently before choosing to quit a full-time job and concentrate on freelancing. Financial management also comes in when one starts earning. Since freelancers do not earn a regular income, it is advisable to have an emergency fund for unplanned occurrences. Adaptability is also important, as some gigs will prove to be a bad fit. In such instances, it may be prudent to decline undertaking the task to avoid damaging one’s reputation.

Upskill, upskill, upskill

An additional, and vital, principle of freelance work is that of continuous learning. Jobs today are in a constant state of evolution, which necessitates that one remains competitive. There are several free online tutorials on numerous occupations and subjects, and by using them, a freelancer can ensure her skills continue to grow. These tutorials range from simple YouTube videos, to the growing availability of Mass Online Open Courses (MOOCs), many of which are offered by renowned universities and offer students a certificate upon completion. This is not only a great way to learn about new concepts and bolster one’s understanding of areas they’re already familiar with – they also make a great addition to one’s resume and could result in one finding freelance work more easily in the future.

Conclusion

It’s clear that technology has enabled the creation of virtual, persistent and computer-mediated worlds, which allow interactions of different players with the world and with each other. Technology has, in essence, created two types of virtual world: scripted worlds that allow gaming and play in a controlled environment, and those that facilitate social interaction. The latter development is the one that is of consequence to organizations and workers. In the virtual worlds that enable social interaction, every individual that enters assumes a particular identity, and while on these platforms, persons have the freedom of coming up with their own content as they interact with others. Users can also create economies as most digital platforms are environmentally friendly to businesses, making trading and wealth building possible. Through virtual worlds, people can work from the comfort of their homes. Workers can communicate and coordinate with their colleagues to accomplish a goal. Similarly, these platforms allow freelancers to generate an income.

So what does the future hold for telecommuters and freelancers? If history is anything to go by, expect to see a significant increase in the prevalence of both telecommuting employees and freelance workers in the coming years, as well as a blurring of the lines between the two. As technology continues to evolve and provide more opportunity for workers to achieve more outside of the restrictions of a traditional employer-employee relationship, the nature of business in every industry will adapt to accommodate more flexibility, individual responsibility and virtual collectivism. Businesses are already becoming aware of the mutually beneficial nature of more flexible working arrangements, and it’s our bet that this trend will continue over the coming decades.

Are you ready for the future of Working from Home? Join the trailblazers, trend setters and influencers at Avon and take charge of your own career, your time and your paycheck. Sign up today and be a part of the Boss Life.