Category Archives: Business

Are You Need One Job for Work From Home

So, you’ve realized all the amazing benefits of remote working—like being able to earn a living from your living room and being more focused and effective at what you do—and you’re ready to go online and get a remote job.

Or are you? Before you go after that position, you need to know how to shine when you’re looking for a remote job. Of course, all the standard job search rules apply—have an updated and proofread resume, make sure your social media is squeaky clean, and have well thought-out questions for the interview. But employers hiring remote workers are looking for a little bit more. So, make sure you show that you have these seven key skills covered if you want to land a remote job.

 

1. Organization

When you work remotely, your boss won’t be looking over your shoulder—or even able to stop by your cubicle—to see if you’re staying on top of your tasks. You’ve got to keep yourself on track.

To prove that you always know what needs to be done and when, emphasize in your resume, application email, and interview the jobs or projects you’ve done that have required managing many moving pieces, and talk about how you kept everything coordinated.

For example, perhaps you were responsible for both creating content for the company blog and answering customer service emails—and you balanced the priorities perfectly. Or, maybe you gathered stories from contributors, contracted with the printer, and oversaw the distribution of the newsletter each month as a volunteer at your child’s school. Give the details of how you did that, and remember to refer to the tools you use—like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp for project management or Google Drive or Dropbox for collaboration—since these are exactly the kinds of tools you’ll be using for remote working.

 

2. Communication

Keeping in touch when you work remotely is absolutely crucial—think email, online chat, video meetings, and maybe phone and text messages, too.

You should be familiar with the most common tools used, and, when it comes time to contact your potential employer, you should show that you’re willing and able to use them. That means offering to have an interview via Google+ Hangouts or Skype or to jump on an online chat to go through the details of your test assignment.

You also need to have top-notch communication. Be very prompt to reply to any contact from employers. Keep your messages clear, concise, and correct (in other words, read, edit, and then proofread one more time before pressing “send”). And be extra sure you have all your equipment and home office in order well before any video calls.

 

3. Time-Consciousness

Since you’ll probably be working in a different region than at least some, if not all, of your team, you’ll have to be extra aware of time zones. And, because remote working sometimes makes it difficult to know what your co-workers are doing at any particular moment, you also need to be sensitive about using their time.

So, make a point to include dates and time zones when you suggest or agree to meetings or deadlines with an interviewer. So, if you’re in San Francisco and the company is in New York, you can say, “I’d be happy to talk with you tomorrow, Monday March 16, at 10 AM Pacific Time (San Francisco) / 1 PM Eastern Time (NYC).”

Then, when you are talking with a prospective employer, make sure that you respect the time limits set. Or, if there weren’t any set in advance, at the beginning of the conversation, say something like, “It’s great to get to talk to you. I want to make sure we can cover everything we need to—can you let me know how much time you have now?” And then be sure to wrap up the talk before then.

Negotiate Besides Salary

By now, you probably know that a salary is negotiable.

But that’s just one of the workplace policies and perks up for discussion. Whether it’s explicitly said or not, things like flexible working arrangements, maternity or paternity leave, and even the projects you get to work on may not be set in stone.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should start making demands during first-round interviews or during week one of a new job. But if you’re a valued team member, or starting a senior position, you have a lot more leeway.

“Employees at the start of their career may not have much leverage,” says David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a Stamford, CT–based human resources outsourcing and consulting company. “But those with five or more years experience are often in a position to work with their employers to find solutions that make their job a better fit for their lifestyle.”

So, get ready to speak up. Here are five things beyond your salary that you may be able to negotiate—and expert advice on the best way to approach each.

 

1. Flex Time

Contrary to popular belief, many of us aren’t working strict 9-to-5s. Four out of five employees around the world with graduate degrees report having access to flexible working arrangements of some sort, according to a 2013 survey from nonprofit research group Catalyst.

Lest you think flex time is primarily of interest to working moms, the survey found that 50% of all workers without children at home declared flexible working arrangements “very or extremely important.” “Compressed workweeks, reduced work schedules, job sharing, and staggered start and end times are no longer the exception to the rule,” says Anna Beninger, senior research associate at Catalyst who authored the report.

 

How to Get It

First, figure out what exactly it is that you want—instead of asking for broad “flex time,” you should ask for a specific modification, like working from home on Fridays, or leaving an hour early twice a week. Once you’ve narrowed that down, advises Beninger, “ask your supervisor or HR if there’s an existing policy in place, or if they’d consider it.”

Then, she advises, come up with a detailed plan of how you’d fulfill—or even exceed—your current responsibilities under the flex working arrangement, and present it to your supervisor orally or in writing (depending on your comfort level and relationship). If your supervisor is reluctant, consider suggesting a trial period: You would work the modified schedule for six to eight weeks, then make the arrangement more permanent if they’re pleased with your contributions during that time.

 

2. Promotions and Titles

Think you’re only able to jump a spot on the org chart when it’s time for your annual review? Think again. “If you’ve added value to your organization, even over a several-month period, you may be eligible for a promotion,” says New York City–based career coach and counselor Lynn Berger. “If that’s the case, you should pursue it,” she adds. “The longer you wait to move to your next position, the longer it will take you to move toward your major career goals.”

 

How to Get It

Lay the groundwork by proving yourself a valuable employee (you can start with these tips straight from real bosses) and keeping an eye out for opportunities to ask for advancement. When you approach your manager to ask for consideration, you want to make a good case.

Take an Adult Snow Day

One blessed day two winters ago, the city where I lived urged residents to stay home and off the roads and public transit. Shortly thereafter, a much-anticipated email from my boss arrived, notifying us that the office was closed. We were all to work from home.

It was cause for celebration in the form of homemade pancakes, followed by a snowball fight with my partner and our dog, followed by steaming cups of hot chocolate and a long, lazy afternoon nap.

But, first, I begrudgingly realized, I would have to attend to my inbox. And write that article I was supposed to have into my editor by EOD. Oh, and I’d have to edit the daily newsletter. I prayed that it would only go through one round of edits and not three or four as was sometimes the case when my boss decided she didn’t like my choice of imagery or the word I used to describe Beyonce’s parenting skills.

As is true with most jobs, there’s always something to be done—whether that’s on a snow day or at 6 PM on a Tuesday when you’re trying to meet your buddy at the gym. Here’s how to handle working (read: hardly working) during a blizzard, even if your boss is the micro-managing type.

 

1. Check Your Email

After your inbox alerts you to the fact that your office is closed or that you don’t need to go to work if it’s “difficult for you to get there,” you’ll want to deal with any outstanding emails right away. Reply to your boss first, if she was the one to share the snow-day news. If the office manager or someone else wrote the company-wide email, touch base with your manager. Let her know specifically what’s on your agenda for the day and what you plan to turn in before EOD. Respond to any emails that require speedy responses, and mark the others unread to deal with the next day.

Then, turn the volume all the way up on your computer and make your way into the kitchen where bacon awaits. If anyone pings you, you’ll hear the alert, and you’ll get to it just as soon as it’s safe to leave the frying pan.

 

2. Tackle Projects of Priority

You’ll want to do this before noon so you can—you guessed it—go out and play! My partner works for himself, so luckily, we didn’t have to deal with two people’s WFH schedules and unavoidable responsibilities. While I edited the company newsletter, I sent him to turn on a TV show I could have on in the background, promising him that I needed only 30, 40 minutes, tops. Whatever your priority is, get to it first. Even if you have until end of the workday, you’ll regret putting it aside. Face the work that needs attention straight away and make sure whoever needs to know of its completion is aware that you’ve done it.

Then, once any urgent projects are completed, you can commence binge-watching Hulu’s latest original series while you languor in your PJs. You’re on group-chat, not video chat, after all. And on that note, if you’re expected to be on chat, be on it all day. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in front of your computer—if you haven’t downloaded the app on your phone, today’s the day to do it.

Asking for the Perfect Flexible Schedule

There’s a lot of talk about flexible schedules these days—working from home one day a week (or always!); working four-day weeks instead of five; or shifting the traditional 9-to-5 to something that works around your family, hobbies, or preferred working schedule, just to name a few.

But while you’ve probably heard of these options, you may have pushed them aside, thinking that a flexible work schedule “just wouldn’t work” for your job or company.

Well, I’m here to tell you that, in many cases, it can. And it can definitely make a huge difference in your life: Yes, it can improve your sleep, relationships, and hobbies, but it can also help you maintain your health and vigor on the job.

While it probably wouldn’t have worked in some of my previous jobs, like when I worked in investment banking or when I was on the buy-side, I recently took a corporate job, where it did. Here’s what I learned through the process of asking for more flexibility and a change to my schedule—and how you can do it, too.

 

1. Prioritize Your Most Important Needs

As you think about what type of flexible schedule will work best for you, ask yourself: What are the two most important needs in your life outside of your day job? What are the schedule adjustments that would most dramatically affect your stress level and happiness? Is it making time for your daily workout class, or is it needing to make calls during normal business hours for that startup idea you’re trying to get off the ground? Having two schedule changes to propose is often helpful because it allows room for a potential compromise to get at least one.

For me, I wanted to work from home on Fridays so that I could have less distraction from impromptu office meetings and friendly interruptions, thus leading to less of a to-do list over the weekend. Plus, I could get laundry and other tasks done while on conference calls, again leaving more time for purely my interests over the weekend. I also wanted to start my workday later than my boss, who has a long commute and gets into the office before 6 AM in order to leave in time to pick up her kids from school.

From there, you can strategize how your work schedule might be adjusted to meet these needs. If you are running a nonprofit on the side and need to be at some weekday events, say, maybe you can designate specific hours of being logged into your work later in the evening or on an off day to tie up your responsibilities. Or if you need to make a morning swim session to prepare for the triathlon you’ve been training for, instead designate a period of time before heading off to the gym, or an hour before bed, to pre-address anything going on in the morning while you’re away.

Of course, your schedule and preferences aren’t all you’ll have to think about, which brings me to…

 

2. Understand What an Appropriate Ask Can Be

Every workplace has a culture that allows for different types of flexibility. There will be some aspects that you will not be able to change, and that’s important to understand before you go any further.

First, read your employee handbook to see if there are major ground rules that you need to observe. At my job, for example, it’s acceptable to get a workout in during the day as long as you’re finishing your workload on time and not leaving during critical work periods. But if you’re on market hours, you probably won’t be able to leave during the middle of trading.

It’s also worth asking a couple veteran employees how they manage other priorities and view the company’s perception on non-work related activities and to pay attention to what others on your team are doing. If you have a group that runs at lunch, it’ll be easier to join them than to ask to leave early to go to the gym. Or if you have a group that leaves to make their children’s sports, you may be able to adapt your needs to coincide with their time away.

Facts About This Growing Trend

In both jobs I’ve had since finishing school, there has been the option to work somewhere other than the office, whether it be my apartment for the day or my mom’s house when I visit her.

I’m not the only lucky one. People all over the United States are starting to experience this perk at their jobs, too. Some recruiters are even interviewing candidates for positions that are specifically remote, meaning the employee would be based in a completely different city or state than the headquarters.

And while you may think working from home would be a major distraction (TV to watch, dishes to wash, oh my!), 77% feel they are more productive than when they work in the office. Check out some more fun facts below about this growing trend and the people who do it.

We’re talking about making yourself presentable, and you do that primarily through clothing, shoes, accessories. You may be able to get away with staying in your yoga pants all day on a rainy Sunday, but they likely won’t pass muster in the office. When survey participants were asked how much they spend on clothing, shoes and accessories for work in a given year, 47% said they spend $250 or more and one in 10 employees (or 13%) admitted to spending $750 or more.

Of course, even if you work for yourself or don’t report to an office ever, you’ve still got to get dressed, and you’ve still got to eat. Having a job that you’re physically required to be at doesn’t necessarily have to add to your wardrobe expenses, particularly if you know how to make smart clothing purchases, but it’s probable that it will somehow. And if you’re on the job search, well you’re likely spending money to travel to interviews, and let’s not forget about the money you’re putting toward printing copies of your resume on pretty, ecru-colored paper.

Another Good Reason Going Into the Office Every Day

Whether you’re taking the bus, driving your car, or participating in a car pool, getting to work every day is costly. Maybe you pay to park in a garage, or you commute via train. You buy a coffee on your way into work and a piece of fruit or an egg sandwich some mornings. You button up in compliance with the office’s business casual dress code, and you even sometimes put money toward networking events. According to CareerBuilder, you’re spending an average of $276 to $3,300 per year on these various commuting-related expenditures.

The national survey looked at approximately 3,000 full time employees across a range of industries in both big and small companies. Harris Poll, who conducted the survey, examined how much people spend on gas or public transportation as well as how much money they put toward daycare or petcare—or both. If you’re one of the 50% of people who buys lunch each day, the amount you spend per workday obviously goes up significantly. But even if you always make your coffee at home, diligently pack food each day, and bring your dog to work at an office that’s within walking distance of your home, you’re still not off the hook.

We’re talking about making yourself presentable, and you do that primarily through clothing, shoes, accessories. You may be able to get away with staying in your yoga pants all day on a rainy Sunday, but they likely won’t pass muster in the office. When survey participants were asked how much they spend on clothing, shoes and accessories for work in a given year, 47% said they spend $250 or more and one in 10 employees (or 13%) admitted to spending $750 or more.

Of course, even if you work for yourself or don’t report to an office ever, you’ve still got to get dressed, and you’ve still got to eat. Having a job that you’re physically required to be at doesn’t necessarily have to add to your wardrobe expenses, particularly if you know how to make smart clothing purchases, but it’s probable that it will somehow. And if you’re on the job search, well you’re likely spending money to travel to interviews, and let’s not forget about the money you’re putting toward printing copies of your resume on pretty, ecru-colored paper.

If there’s one not-quite-obvious thing that the survey results indicate, it’s that we are more in need of flexible work policies and the option to work remotely on occasion. Think of how skipping the commute just one day a week would reduce the money you spend each week on getting to and from work—and everything that’s involved in that process. Whether you’re just saving money on the cost of a subway ride, on fuel for your car, or lunch because you forgot to plan ahead (again!), there’s no question that you’ll save more. The clothing you don’t need to get dry-cleaned? The dog walker you don’t need to schedule? I’m seeing dollar signs.

Home Days Are Actually Productive

From small startups to large corporations, the option to occasionally work from homeis becoming an increasingly popular benefit. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a good number of you have already made use of this perk. As with anything, though, working remotely is only as productive as you make it.

While you might not be constantly pulled aside for on-the-fly conversations and last-minute requests, you might find it hard to sit down and actually make things happen when you have instant access to your bed, TV, and countless other distractions. But this can be exactly what you need to help you plow through your to-do list, lighten your workload, and recharge your energy—as long as you’re strategic about it.

Want to learn what you can do to turn your non-office days days into major wins? Check out the tips below.

 

1. Set Up Your Sanctuary, Wherever That Might Be

Most offices are designed with productivity in mind—your living room, not especially. If you want to make big things happen, you need to make sure you’re in a setting that encourages you to do so. A lot of people recommend setting up a formal workspace in an isolated room (or even getting decked out in business-casual attire while you’re at it), but I think it’s all about creating a happy space for yourself.

As long as you choose somewhere that’s relatively quiet and free from interruptions (no roommates, significant others, or pets to get in your way), you should work wherever you feel most comfortable, whether that’s in a home office, your bed, or even outside on your front porch. Before determining your space, however, take a good, objective look at yourself and your work style. If you’re liable to doze off taking up residence with your computer on your bed, it might not be the best place for you to tackle tasks.

Other environmental hacks that might be worth taking into consideration as you create your sanctuary: surrounding yourself in natural light to decrease stress, adding a few small plants to your workplace to promote creativity, listening to music to improve your mood, and, interestingly enough, working in a room with high ceilings to enhance abstract thinking and increase your attention to detail. You may only be able to do one or two of these hacks, but take advantage of what you can while you’re not stuck in the office.

 

2. Build a WFH-Optimized Agenda

I’m a big believer in agendas regardless of location, but when you’re working from home, they’re particularly important. Without a manager to check in on you or hardworking co-workers to inevitably create an environment of productivity, you alone need to hold yourself accountable—and there’s no better way to do that than by creating (and following) a solid plan.

The first step to devising a tailored agenda is choosing the right tasks. Working from home offers you an amazing opportunity to stay focused for long periods of time without distraction, which is perfect for intensive, independent projects like blog posts, proposals, and presentations, or anything else that involves a lot of careful thought and creativity.

Even if the deadline for a project like that isn’t imminently looming over your head, it’s worth getting a head start—you rarely get this much uninterrupted time to work, so save the routine maintenance for when you’re back in the office. Once you have your to-dos outlined, work them into a realistic schedule.

How to be Full Time Freelancer

According to the Freelancer’s Union, as of Fall 2015, almost 54 million Americans considered themselves freelancers, and nearly two-thirds of those people “made the jump by choice.”

But interestingly, the results of a 2015 survey conducted by Contently show that only about one-third of freelancers would decline “a full-time job in [their] field, with identical pay plus benefits…” Part of that may stem from the fact that, along with the perks respondents identified—like making their own hours and choosing what they work on—there are also concrete challenges. One-third of those surveyed listed “securing enough work” as their greatest struggle, and another 14% indicated they had trouble making enough money.

If you are (or would like to be) a full-time freelancer, you’ll need to prepare for and address the real issues that might come your way so you can be as successful as possible. Luckily, there are a ton of resources out there to support you in your endeavor—and we’ve gathered them all in one place:

You have a talent or skill that’s in demand. Colleagues and friends alike ask you if you’ll proofread their work, if you’ll design a logo for their latest ventures, if you’ll share your marketing expertise, if you’ll photograph their events, or if you’ll explain the latest social media trends. You know you could be charging for that thing you’re particularly good at, and you find the idea of freelancing pretty enticing.

Before you jump in with both feet, remember that working for yourself means more than wearing whatever you please and not having to share the team fridge. You’ll want to think through where you’ll work (Do you have a designated area at home, complete with a desk? Does it make sense to invest in a co-working space?), what hours you’ll keep (so you don’t get pulled into errands and lunches you really don’t have time for), and other seemingly small but super important things like having a phone plan that accommodates lengthy client calls and dependable Wi-Fi.

I’d recommend reading this article by Kate Kendall, the founder of the “talent marketplace” CloudPeeps. Kendall lays out a feasible plan for analyzing what separates you from the pack, finding your first clients, and getting real about just how paltry your income may be (at least initially).

How to Ask Your Boss Naturaly

So you want to work from home. Maybe you’re moving further away from the office, maybe you’ve recently had a baby , or maybe you know you’d be more productive not being chained to your cube, trying to block out the ambient chatter of your co-workers nine hours each day.

The good news is, more and more companies are agreeing to part- or full-time telecommuting arrangements for their employees. So if you want to work from home, and you have a good reason, don’t be afraid to ask. I did—and here are the tips I learned for bettering your odds that you and your boss can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

 

1. Weigh the Potential

These days, so many of us do work that can be completed from any location with an internet connection. But—not all positions are suited to working from home, and it’s important to know that before you begin. Do you do mostly solo work, or do you interact with people from different departments on a daily basis? Are you mainly on the phone and email, or do you attend lots of in-person meetings ? Do you supervise others ? Be honest with yourself about whether or not telecommuting would really make sense for your gig. Unfortunately, your desire to work from home and the practicality of the arrangement may not always be in sync.

Next, outline your responsibilities and detail how much time you spend working on each one. Make note of the tasks that might be more difficult to complete from home, as well as those that would be easier. You’ll need to show your boss how, exactly, working from home will impact your position.

Finally, make sure you think about your timing. If you’re new on the job or gunning for a promotion , now is probably not the time to be spending your days out the office.

 

2. Formulate a Plan

Rather than just having a casual conversation, it’s better to design a formal proposal—for your boss to take the arrangement seriously, you’ll want to show that you do, too.

First, propose a specific schedule of the days and hours you will work remotely, explaining that you will be fully available by phone, email, IM, or whatever, during those hours. Your plan is also more likely to be considered if you start off asking for a temporary, part-time schedule, say, two days each week to be revisited after 60-90 days.

Then, outline the benefits of your proposed arrangement. Remember, the arguments that will appeal most to your boss are ones that have the “what’s in it for me?” factor. Sure, telecommuting may relieve you of a killer commute, but it will also mean that you can start work earlier (and more refreshed) by avoiding 60 minutes in the car each morning. Present it that way. Be prepared to show at least three ways that telecommuting will make you a better employee and a better asset to the company.

 

3. Identify and Address Concerns

Alleviating possible concerns—i.e., concerns about your productivity or IT security issues—should also be a big part of your proposal. Try to put yourself in your boss’ shoes , think about what her biggest questions or hold-ups might be, and be prepared with solutions. For example, propose face-to-face weekly catch-up meetings or weekly task lists to serve as accountability that you’re not just watching daytime TV. Or, suggest working with your IT department to ensure that your equipment is safe. Many companies also have secure VPNs (virtual private networks) that you can log into and enjoy the same security benefits as if you were in the office. Doing your research, especially on these concerns, will show that you’ve thought through every facet of the arrangement.

All Work Flex Schedules Soon

Several months ago, I was talking to a college senior about her career plans. She wanted a job with flexible hours, and I asked why. The young woman said she wanted the freedom to take a short nap right after lunch when her energy flagged the most and the ability to work late at night when her brain was sharpest.

If I had made a comment like this when looking for my first job 16 years ago, I would have been laughed out of the room. But coming from a college student today, the request doesn’t sound all that strange.

According to a new study by Bentley University, 77% of Millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. Given their comfort with digital technology that allows them to work anytime and anywhere, this statistic hardly comes as a surprise. But as the Millennial generation becomes the majority, we can expect flex time and telecommuting to become a common workplace practice rather than a special privilege.

In fact, by around 2030, the Millennial majority will likely have done away with the 9-to-5 workday entirely. Here are four key reasons why Millennials will insist that flex-work hours happen sooner rather than later

 

1. Work-Family Balance

Leslie Doolittle, assistant dean and director of academic support services at Bentley University, has found that work doesn’t define Millennials as much as it does older generations. Doolittle says family, friends, and making a difference in the community are more central to Millennials than they are to older people.

Given this, demands on Millennials’ personal time are bound to increase as they balance work commitments with raising young children. And, as they are closely connected to their parents, they are likely to be personally involved in caring for them as they age.

The trade-off, of course, is catching up on email at 10 PM or finishing a project on a Saturday morning to make up the time, but in my experience, that’s one that most Millennials are fine with making.

 

2. Continuing Skills Education

According to research conducted by The Hartford, 50% of Millennials desire training and development from their employer. And companies are listening. Bersin by Deloitte said that U.S. spending on corporate training grew by 15% in 2013 (the highest growth rate in seven years).

In addition, many companies are fulfilling the Millennial desire for “experience-hopping” through leadership rotation programs that allow them to test out different areas of a company. The renowned General Electric rotation program is a great example, which allows young employees to experience various functions within GE, such as finance, sales, manufacturing, and engineering.

In any case, Millennials will be spending time taking classes and working additional jobs to skill up, and some of this activity is bound to occur during the classic workday.

 

3. The Disappearing Corporate Office

By 2030, professionals will work mostly from home using super-fast data terminals. Most companies will have nixed their permanent physical office locations in favor of chains of interconnected hubs with different plans for individuals to access space. Meetings will routinely occur virtually and across geographies and time zones, rendering air travel to visit clients or partners unnecessary. And if the office isn’t necessary—why are set office hours?