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Conversations About Working from Home

As working from home becomes more common among enterprises, you might find yourself engaged in a conversation such as occurred recently among me and a couple of my colleagues. While different motivations might start such an exchange for you, I would expect you’ll find some of the concerns and advice much the same.
In our case, the first employee -- I’ll call him “John” for the sake of anonymity -- took on a new role, which came along with a work-from-home mandate. He sought advice from me and “Kevin,” both of us experienced work-at-home employees. Here’s how our conversation unfolded.
John wrote:
I need a little guidance. I plan on heading to the house shortly (in a week or so). My boss tells me there is no additional [employer-provided] benefit for work from home other than the $20 a month for internet. Sounds about right but I was very disappointed, seeing that I will have more expense by working from home.
So here are a few questions for you:
How are you handling phone service? Are you using your cell, using your existing home line, or did you have a second line installed?
What work address are you using?
Do you know of any other work from home tidbits you can share?
Kevin responded:
Hey John,
There are no additional benefits for working at home, other than the $20 internet reimbursement. You can, however, file taxes differently if you itemize, and work at home. I'm adding in Darin in case he may be doing taxes this way -- I do not itemize for taxes, so a moot point for me, and wouldn't equal the standard deduction in my case.
I use an existing home line with unlimited long distance, call waiting, caller ID, the whole 9 yards. I had to do this when my boss complained about our teams' voice quality awhile back, and I was trying to use a VOIP phone. I have a firewall at home, which allows me to use VOIP, and have a multi-function printer. They run about $1k at CDW, and [purchase] requires approval. If I had cell service, or better internet bandwidth, I would use cell or VOIP and not have the landline. I think the best way to manage this is to get a Google Voice number if possible, and list that as your main number, then you can route that Google Voice number to a VOIP line, cell, etc,. as you desire, or travel. I assume you have the cell service and good ISP bandwidth, so the cheaper VOIP/cell solutions should work for you.
I list my home address in PeopleSoft, but when you are ”work at home,“ it will list as “contact HR for address.” If I order things in ServiceNow for myself, I make sure to list the address to ship to in the notes.
- Don't work too much. You will say, "I will just go check emails after dinner," and then be there for 4 hours at the computer until bedtime. I am single, so many times, it keeps me out of trouble, but is a dangerous trap for go-getters like us. Darin may be able to offer better tips on family/work mix.
- Get those around you to recognize that you are at work, even if at home. My retired mother pesters me many days, as do neighbors. I keep telling them, pretend I got in my car and drove to work. Just because I am home, doesn't mean I'm not working. You must have a separate office away from family, and noise.
- Many people keep their same routine as when they went into the office. Same schedule, getting dressed, etc. I do not. I wear shorts/t-shirt in summer, sweats in the winter.
- Enjoy the additional flexibility. Always a bonus when you can knock out a home chore while on a droning conference call. I find that once I go live in chat, the work comes to you, so there isn't a whole lot of downtime being at home.
You don't need supervision or motivation to do the same job at home as you did in an office, so won't even mention anything for that. You will be more productive with less "drive by" visits from co-workers :)
Darin, add anything for John as needed.
I added in:
Kevin is spot on with everything.
It can be easy to get carried away and put in too many hours. Often, I have to force myself to walk away at the end of the day, even when I'm not caught up on my work. It bugs the heck out of my OCD tendencies, but I figure it would happen even if I still commuted to work.
I live outside of the city, so DSL is my “broadband,” if you can call it that, at about 3-4Mb download speeds. My VOIP phone runs fine on it as long as I do not run video chats at the same time. I have enabled QOS on my router; disable SIP ALG etc., to properly manage my VOIP phone conversations and it works well despite my crummy internet speeds.
I have a bedroom turned into an office. For a couple of months, I put a sign on the door which said, "STOP do not disturb." It was more for my wife than my kids. I could not work from home without this dedicated office.
I don't talk about working from home with many other folks in the company. Some get jealous.
I spoke to my tax accountant about my work-from-home situation. In my particular case, there was no tax benefit. Your mileage may vary.
Thank you and I wish you the best.
As you can see from this brief exchange, employees heading into their first work-at-home experiences will have a variety of questions. Are you prepared to give your colleagues adequate guidance, technology-related or not?