The Top Five Essentials to Working at Home

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June 19, 2008
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

Are you ready to ditch the office and work at home?

Two-thirds of CPAs already are, to one extent or another.

Some two out of three accountants are regularly working from home these days — running a full-time home-based practice, a part-time side business or just lugging home the daily overflow from the office. And with gas prices busting $4 per gallon, it's getting more attractive every day.

But it's not for everybody. Working at home requires some very real and sometimes limiting conditions. According to the CPAs whom I'm hearing from, five key factors are emerging as essential to working at home successfully:

  1. The right attitude and self-discipline
  2. The right technology set-up
  3. A quiet, dedicated workplace
  4. Experience and maturity
  5. Good communications with co-workers and clients

Considering the tempting distractions of home and family (and maybe the backyard hammock), it's perhaps not surprising that "the right attitude and self-discipline" surface as the most important factors.

But technology is also clearly essential.

"Have the right equipment at home to keep the workflow going smoothly. It's very stressful to find out you are working on something and discover that your software at home isn't right," says Jeannie Mills of Dunbar, West Va., who has an arrangement with her company to work from home a few hours per week.

She also advises, "Have a work area that mirrors a professional setting."

David Lowrance in Hollis, N.H., agrees. "Distractions and delays from home-based working are inevitable," he says.

While seeking to isolate work from the family, CPAs who are making a living where they live also grapple with being isolated from co-workers. It tops the list of biggest problems or challenges, which includes the following:

  1. Isolation from peers
  2. Meeting clients and colleagues in a professional setting
  3. Lack of administrative support
  4. Lack of collaboration
  5. Reliable benchmarks for performance

Lori Shrout, a practitioner in Santa Monica, Calif., loves the fact she doesn't need to commute on the southern California freeways when she works from home once a week. But, she adds, "There's a certain amount of energy in the office that just doesn't translate."

True, fraternizing with co-workers can be fun and productive. But then you can also get a lot more work done without them sometimes. Sandra Howerton, who runs a practice at her home in Oklahoma City, says, "I don't have the stresses involved with office politics you experience in a corporate environment."

Of course, there's also the problem of trying to impress clients. Robbie Paul, a public practitioner in El Paso, Texas, who works at home five to 10 hours per week, says his big issue is "Clients don't take you seriously."

On the other hand, he loves being able to work in his pajamas. And who can complain about that?

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg or Watch him.

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