Statistics Canada recently released a report Canadian Social Trends that reflects the steady increase in the work from home population. With 3.6 million at-home workers, 1.8 million of these being self-employed workers and the other half made up of corporate employees, it's becoming increasingly important for these workers to apply strategies to make working from home an effective and productive work environment.
Working from home or a virtual office is more viable than ever. Technology has paved the way for the non-traditional workplace. Anyone can work just about anywhere providing they have the strategies to make it work. The recent statistics speak to this in volumes.
Although working from home has its distinct advantages as the 3.6 million home workers can most likely attest to, this work environment requires not only the technology to make it happen, it also requires the mindset to ensure its success.
The virtual office mindset incorporates the external elements, the tech savvy knowledge and know-how to effectively work in a virtual environment. Just as important, it is also about the internal elements all virtual office workers need in order to be successful.
The internal elements are those items that keep us happy, healthy, motivated, and productive. Without them, no amount of high-tech equipment or computer knowledge will make your work from home journey a success.
One such internal element is the need for work-life balance. Unlike corporate employees who in most cases have a set routine, work starts at 9:00am and ends at 5:00pm when they leave the office, this isnot so for those working from home. The line often becomes blurred.
According to the Canadian Social Trends (Dec. 7, 2010) report, data collected from the General Social Survey shows that corporate employees who work at home do not have a greater sense of balance between job and home life. It was noted that those individuals who worked at home more than 10 hours per week in 2008, were more likely to be dissatisfied with work-life balance then those individuals who had never worked from home . 54% of those individuals who were dissatisfied with their work-life balance attributed their dissatisfaction to spending too much time working.
As these numbers show, working from home has its real challenges. It is much too easy for a virtual office worker to over commit their time and energy if there is no distinct separation between the work and the home. It's imperative for those working from home to set clear boundaries with others and themselves so it's understood when work begins and when work ends. Setting boundaries and being disciplined to uphold them is one step of many needed to achieve the work-life balance that is necessary for a low stress, healthy work at home environment.
Another challenge virtual office workers face is the isolation factor. Although some individuals who work from home still have face to face contact with others, especially if they are a corporate employee working from home on a part time basis, those who are self-employed and set up shop at home may have minimal or no contact at all with those outside the home. With communication tools such as email, Voice over IP and web conferences, an individual has numerous methods of communicating and conducting business without ever having to leave their home. While some personality types may handle being alone without difficulty, someone who is an extrovert and needs that personal contact may feel the sting of isolation much more.
For these individuals it's important to incorporate strategies into their daily or weekly routine to help combat the feelings of isolation which can ultimately lead to lack of motivation, loneliness and in extreme cases depression. Making an extra effort to schedule outings and personal contact on a regular basis will help combat feelings of isolation and help promote good mental and physical health.
Although the dream of working from home is becoming very much a reality for the Canadian work force, in order to succeed you have to have the complete mindset, the virtual office mindset. Being aware of the external and internal elements needed in order to be successful in a virtual work environment will ensure your virtual office dream doesn't turn into a very real nightmare.
Michelle Jamison is the author of “The Virtu@l Office Essentials”. The Virtu@l Office Essentials is an excellent book for anyone who is considering or who is currently working in a non-traditional workplace.