It's the holy grail of work-life balance -- the ability to stay in the career you love, completely control your work hours and still receive the same salary. You can achieve all this -- and then some -- working from home with these tools.
A home office. Whether it's a spare room above the garage or a little nook right off the kitchen, you'll need a space where you'll work -- and only work there. After all, you'll need a polished and professional-looking space should you need to receive clients for your job or if you have Skype meetings with your boss. An office will also get you into the mindset that you're officially on the clock.
The right equipment. You'll need to outfit your home office with the proper tools to get the job done as efficiently as possible. Your computer, like the rest of your office equipment -- should be in fairly good condition. Depending on the type of work that you do, you may need a separate phone/fax line. But whether you're a botanist or a bookkeeper, high speed Internet is a must, along with updated software for your industry.
A babysitter. If you think that you can say sayonara to your babysitter now that you'll be telecommuting, think again. Now more than ever you'll need a nanny (or four) to watch little ones during work hours. Why? With you now being home, it may be very difficult for your kids to understand the concept that you're working and shouldn't be disturbed. To avoid being bombarded with incessant Goldfish cracker requests, it's best to have a person who can take care of your kids -- or better yet, take them outside to play.
Organization. Without a micromanaging boss breathing down your neck, you can keep your home office as neat (or as sloppy) as you'd like. However, when you work from home, the only way you can stay focused -- and sane -- is by being highly organized. From business receipts to your overflowing email inbox, make sure that you stay on top of both your office space and your actual work to keep your workflow organized.
Be knowledgeable. Just because you've been in your career for years doesn't mean that you've learned all there is to know in your field. Staying ahead of the competition is crucial when you telecommute, so be sure to register for free webinars in your industry or even take a class or two. That added knowledge will continue to make you a valuable asset to your organization.
A can-do attitude. When you worked in an office and your computer crashed, you called IT. Now, when your computer displays the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) or your Internet stops working for no apparent reason, you'll need to problem-solve -- and quickly. Try figuring out solutions on your own, and when all else fails, YouTube has some of the most amazing how-to videos that can get you through virtually any quandary. As you brave each new battle, you'll build strength and confidence knowing that you can truly do it all.
Focus. By far, focus is one of the hardest skills to master when you work from home. After all, if you work for a few minutes and then wander into the kitchen to grab some grapes, only to sit at the computer and surf through your friend's latest vacay photos on Facebook for forty minutes, you won't get much work done. Try to train yourself to sit down at your desk and start working without any distractions from your kids -- or more importantly, yourself.
Dedication. Without being in an actual office, you might lose sight of the bigger picture, which is performing at your best for the betterment of your company. Try to tackle your work with the ultimate goal of trying to be a vital asset to your organization, and producing the quality of work that you can be proud of. You can attempt this by setting daily goals for yourself and accomplishing them. Most of all, dedication will come from being grateful for a flex schedule that allows you to pick up your sick child from school -- at 10:00 AM -- and have her back home and in bed 15 minutes later.
Excellent communication skills. Working in an office with your colleagues meant crystal clear clarifications whenever you had a question about a client. Now your communication consists of a flurry of back-and-forth emails. But don't read between the lines; if you don't understand something, reach out and ask. And in lieu of face-to-face contact, you'll also need to be proactive in keeping your boss abreast of what you're working on. Staying in touch with your company when you telecommute is important, so your boss can "see" that you are actually working... when you're working from your home office.
Structure. Sure, one of the biggest perks of telecommuting is that you can work at 2:00 AM if you want to. Working erratic hours, though, is going to make you feel scattered -- and your workload will suffer. So be sure to try to maintain a consistent, uninterrupted schedule. That way you'll take advantage of the fact that by working from home, you'll accomplish far more than you ever dreamed -- and all on your own schedule.
Armed with these skills and your professional knowledge, you'll work from home successfully in no time.
Jennifer Parris is the Career Writer for FlexJobs, an award-winning service that helps job-seekers find professional opportunities that offer work flexibility, such as telecommuting, freelance, part-time or alternative schedules. To learn more about Jennifer, visit FlexJobs.com or tweet @flexjobs.