Working from Home, What do I Need to Know?

My boss and I have decided that I should work from home one day a week to reduce the monstrous carbon footprint I leave from living approximately 40 miles from my office. (It didn’t used to be so far, but the office moved. Booo.)

She’s tasked me with putting together process documents for this venture so that we have a guideline to follow as we would like other salaried employees to be allowed to work from home in the future.

So far I have the following:


[li]Reliable PC with high speed internet access[/li][li]Microsoft Office 2007[/li][li]Land Line telephone connection[/li][li]Printer[/li][li]AOL Instant Messenger (This is what my company uses to communicate over IM)[/li][/ul]

[li]Employee must send IM to manager at assigned start time and be available via IM throughout the day[/li][li]As we often receive high priority requests which require immediate follow up, employee should notify Manager if they will be away from PC to ensure that someone in the dept is always keeping an eye on incoming email[/li][li]In the event of a computer malfunction or the internet or land line going down, employee must report to office[/li][/ul]

Can you think of anything obvious that I’m leaving out? I’m sure there’s more.

I know my work is twitchy about proprietary pricing information going astray…

Ooh, good call! Not much of our stuff goes hard copy and what does isn’t sensitive customer material (We’re the training and quality assurance department of a dot com call center), but I think I’ll recommend it, in case they open this up to other departments where it would be necessary.

My one problem when I work at home is that sometimes Murphy’s law clicks in… as soon as I step away from the phone or computer to use the bathroom, someone tries to reach me. So you might want to set some guidelines with the people you’re working with about your overall accessibility. You are entitled to breaks, even if you are working at home.

It could also be helpful if management would help communicate that as well, since I have found that a certain amount of jealousy/resentment exists because my work (lots of writing, setting my own deadlines, etc) lends itself to working at home, but not everyone has that ability. These are inevitably the people who will try to “catch” you not working.

I’d address childcare issues. It’s amazing how many people believe they can both work and take care of the kids.

Staples had a pretty decent shredder for fairly cheap, I opted for that.

Though what most of my compatriots are most jealous about is the melitta 1:1 sitting on my desk=)

I don’t have to go to teh break room for a hit of tea or coffee =)

Make sure you define who is paying for the computer, the internet access and the software. No matter who pays for it just make sure it’s spelled out to avoid any issues down the line.

My company only has 3 people in it, but as soon as we could we started tacking on $50/mo stipends for Internet access for each employee. We also pay for everyone’s phones - one guy gets Vonage, another has a cell paid for and I just get a stipend for having a land line (so I can fax). We also buy printer ink for whoever needs it because, for the most part, none of us use our printers other than for work stuff.

Software needs to be licensed. I don’t know the answer to this but it might be that if your office is audited and one of your telecommuters uses a pirated version of MS Office, it might be bad news for the company.

I would also make sure there is a centralized storage system for files and emails if you guys won’t be connecting to a VPM or remote desktop system. Especially if the company doesn’t own the computers people will be working on. You don’t want to be losing important documents because somebody’s kid downloaded a virus on the home PC. If everything is stored off-site, then it’s safe.

These are fantastic suggestions. Thank you all for your input, and I welcome any additional feedback.

I mean VPN not VPM :smack:

Perhaps you could take advantage of your IM’s away functions to specify how long you’ll be gone? I’m not sure how formal your office is, but you could use “Out to Lunch”, “Break”, “Out of Office” (clocked out, in other words), and designations for a quick restroom or coffee break. It’d be good to make it clear that the employee needs to update this status.

Don’t steal the light bulbs or the toilet paper. You’ll end up paying for it in the long ru – oh wait, you already have paid for it. Never mind. :smack:

[li]Either a fax or a scanner, so that you can send markups, sketches, signed documents, etc. to the office.[/li][li]If you expect to be on the phone a lot, get a headset.[/li][li]If you don’t have a VPN, then get some high-capacity thumb drives to carry your work back and forth.[/li][li]If you can arrange a dedicated “work” phone line at home, then you can forward your office phone to that number. People phoning you won’t even know you’re not at your desk. When I worked at Cisco, we used IP phones, and I could actually take the phone from my desk at Cisco, plug it into my home router, and it acted like it was at the office, right down to routing internal calls.[/li][li]Spend the money for a comfortable chair. Your back will thank you.[/li][li]If there’s any conceivable way to work at home in a room with a door, do it. Don’t even have your home phone in there. Explain to your spouse and kids (if any) that you may be in the house, but you’re still “at work,” and they shouldn’t interrupt unless it’s important enough that they would have called you at the office.[/li][li]Unless you want to break your back dragging stuff back and forth, see if you can get extra copies (or electronic copies) for home of critical documents like style guides, QA manuals, dictionary, and so forth.[/li][li]Remember that you only owe them the time you’d actually spend at the office. The commute time you’re saving is YOURS![/li][/ul]

  • If you’re not logging onto the company server remotely, you’ll need a storage system for your work stuff and a plan for backing it up. Zip drive, maybe?

  • For my job, I would also need arrangements to receive and send documents (FedEx? Coming when? How often?), the ability to read scanned documents (Adobe reader), a scanner, and a fax machine. But then I work with originals that need to be signed in the original, so that may be just me.

  • Voicemail or answering machine so that you’re covered if you step away from your desk.

  • Any mail (non-priority) going out from your home? Company stationery and stamps or postage machine.

  • Organizational bins or baskets: Stuff I just hauled from the office that I need to address; stuff I’m done with but want to keep at home; stuff I’m done with that needs to be mailed; stuff I’m done with that needs to be hauled back to the office. Etc.

  • Self-discipline to actually get up and drag your ass to the desk, work and not surf the web, not make sixteen trips to the fridge, not pick your toes, stare into space, make paperclip chains.

Get clear lines on computer usage. When and how can you use the computer for personal usage? If you ever use your personally-owned computer for work purposes, under what circumstances and what precautions do you have to follow?

I’ve had the whole spectrum, from companies which allowed you to install any program or file so long as you did so legally, it was not pr0n or malicious, and the only entertainment software you used at work was non-streaming music to others where I couldn’t run the antivirus manually or make the keyboard bilingual.

Our company solves this by making it nearly impossible to get a printer for telecommuting. Honestly, there’s not too many reasons to have to print something out once you’re not in the office anyway. I mean it’s not like you’re going to print it out and march down to so and so in accounting to show it to them.
Also, if you’re trying to reduce your environmental impact, not using the paper in the first place is a good start too. I thought this would be devastating, but after a little getting used it, I find I really don’t need to print that much and if I do, I hold it until I get to the office.

sometimes i dea with amazingly hosed up invocies, and having a hard copy to scribble on makes a huge difference, your eye can mistrack on a screen if a scan is at a wierd angle. SOmetimes you just need a hard copy of something for whatever reason=)

Regarding the internet going down, I would give them time to remedy the situation. Sometimes it just takes 30 min or an hour to come back up. I work in an “immediate response” environment and there is always someone who can pick up the slack for those who are down. It happens to us all the time, worldwide. You just need to be able to let your teammates know you’re down so they can pick up the slack. This is a necessary evil of working from home.

Make sure everyone has a hard copy of all the phone numbers for the rest of the team, both cells and home phones.

Whoa, Nelly! You can’t pick your toes when you work at home? Bah! Back to the office for me.


You need to address long distance calling requirements if that’s part of the job. Either people will have to expense their phone bill each month or you can get calling cards that will address their LD needs.

Another plus is web conferencing. It’s not as good as a meeting in a room, but its better than nothing for collaborating on stuff.

Find out how to qualify for any home office tax advantages.

Get call forwarding and a cell phone for when you have to be away from your desk.

Figure out how to move your phone book and calendar between your home computer and your office computer.

Figure out how to keep track of the most recent changes to your home and office files.

Schedule your work so that the tasks best done at the office are done at the office and the tasks best done at home are done at home.