For years now, steady advances in mobile communications technology -- including smart phones, high-speed Internet and wireless laptops -- have boosted personal productivity, both at work and at home. But for home-based employees, these handy gadgets have completely transformed their work-life balance, according to findings reported from the June 2009 Kelly Global Workforce Index.
The ranks of home-based workers have grown in step with every new development in technology. Let's face it: We'd all rather commute down our own hallways than across town in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But are you actually set up for it?
While some types of work, and some types of employees, are better suited to remote working arrangements, there are also some essential technologies you'll need to have in place to be truly effective. Contemplate these key points as you set your remote career in motion:
Jobs and skills that fit home employment
Before anything, consider the nature of your existing job skills, or of the home-based position you'd like to attain. Some types of work are especially well-suited for work in the home environment, including:
1. Administrative or clerical
2. Consulting in fields such as engineering, finance, HR, IT or science
3. Contact / call center
4. Customer service
5. Creative services
6. Field sales
7. Professional services like accounting, tax or legal
9. Telesales / telemarketing
11. Writing and editing
12. Web design and development
Of these categories, customer service and call center jobs in particular will continue to present options for workers seeking a home-based lifestyle. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.06 million customer service representatives were employed in the United States in 2004. That number is expected to rise 23 percent to 2.53 million by 2014 -- all while more companies are expected to employ more home-based agents, for related savings on their infrastructure and other cost efficiencies.
Technology drives how and where we work
Recent findings from a 2009 Kelly Global Workforce Index survey indicate that the explosion of mobile communications technology is driving big changes in employee behavior and a shift in our work-life balance. Eighty-four percent of respondents said technology has boosted their personal productivity.
Seventy-five percent of respondents agreed that the opportunity provided by devices such as smart phones and laptops to remain in contact with work is a positive development -- even though almost one-third are working longer hours as a result. In deciding where to work next, 87 percent reported that a policy for working remotely would be an important factor.
George Corona, Kelly Services executive vice president and chief operating officer, confirmed that the spread of mobile technologies is transforming the way that people interact with their work and their attitudes towards employment. "There is an overwhelming view that the technology provides greater flexibility in working arrangements and a better balance between work and personal life," Corona noted.
The survey showed that globally, while Gen Y workers (ages 18-29) are at the forefront of the technology-driven lift in productivity, Gen X (ages 30-47) and baby boomers (ages 48-65) are each experiencing significant efficiency gains as well.
Technical job requirements for at-home work
A number of personal skills are commonly expected of home-based employees, like exceptional motivation, time management, self-discipline and the determination needed to succeed without much direct supervision.
But many capable applicants often overlook the common technical aspects required in working from home, including a host of basic necessities, depending on your desired assignment:
· A dedicated work space free from household distractions
· A desk, chair and work station
· A filing cabinet, drawers, shelving and office supplies
· A personal computer or laptop, with speakers and sound card preferred
· A reliable high-speed or broadband Internet connection
· A dedicated phone land line, printer and fax machine
· Windows 2003 or higher, plus office, data security and e-mail software
· A quality headset
The good news? Preferred employers often make home-based workers eligible for a wide range of employee discounts to help obtain this required equipment. Responsibility for installing and maintaining all equipment usually falls on the employee, with IT support.
"The revolution in personal communications has improved work-life balance through flexible work practices, working from home and other family-friendly arrangements, while delivering a significant boost to organizational efficiency," Corona concludes. And with technology marching ever forward, these seem like improvements that are here to stay.
Without a doubt, the convenience of working from home can allow you to eliminate the time, hassle and expense of commuting; save gas; and spend more time each day doing the things you enjoy. But like any good idea, just be sure that when you're ready to make the switch to home-based employment, you have the right skills and technology in place to thrive.