Holly Hanna has built a successful home-based business. Here, she shares her experiences of working from home and how remote employees can improve productivity, stave off loneliness and stay in synch with skeptical coworkers back at the office.
So far in our quest to explore how and where flexible working is accomplished, we’ve uncovered some pretty inspiring stories from world-leading organizations.
We heard from software giant GitHub, a code collaboration platform with over 10 million users, who explained how they manage a core team of over 335 people based in different global locations.
Then we heard from Sara Sutton Fell, flexible working evangelist and founder of FlexJobs, who told us how her company manages a mix of permanent, part-time and freelance employees in homes and offices across the U.S.
Those stories have given us a fascinating glimpse into flexible working through the eyes of an organization. But what about employees themselves?
Meet Holly Hanna – ‘Work at Home Woman’
To find out, we contacted Holly Hanna – aka The Work at Home Woman – a successful home-based entrepreneur and working parent. Holly is an advocate for telecommuting businesses and one of the most respected voices in her field, offering resources for work-at-home women and campaigning for greater working flexibility.
Yet she also knows that working from home has its challenges, and isn’t a magic formula for work/life balance.
So why is it that a fast-growing proportion of employees, freelancers and business owners – just like Holly – are ditching the nine-to-five to work from home?
“I think people in general are looking to attain more control over their lives and working remotely helps them to achieve this,” she said, explaining that flexible working helps employees “work hours that fit their lifestyle and family commitments”.
In addition to raising awareness of home-based working advantages, Holly is dedicated to empowering women “to balance life on their own terms” and helping working parents to identify new job and legitimate freelancing opportunities.
Cost reduction “win-win for all involved”
She explains that working from home helps both worker and employer to reduce expenditure, largely by cutting out the time-sapping daily commute. But there are many other ways flexible working reduces costs – including lunch bills, vehicle running costs, gas, dry cleaning, business attire, and child care.
“It also decreases spending on a corporate level, since employers don’t have to pay for additional office space, furniture, and supplies,” she added. “It’s a win-win for all parties involved.”
Of course while the balance sheet might be singing, there are some disadvantages to working from home.
One of them is isolation, and Holly herself has some tips on how to manage feelings of loneliness – particularly for those who are accustomed to working in busy offices.
“Make it a priority to get out of the house and seek the support and assistance that you need,” she advises.
“Working a few hours at a coffee shop or co-office (coworking) space may be enough to feel like you’re not alone. If this doesn’t do the trick, try joining a group or club where you can interact with people on a regular basis.”
Working parents may already have busy schedules, in which case the opportunity to work from a quiet home environment – during school or nursery hours – is often a welcome reprieve.
“Good ole face-to-face interaction”
And as for retaining an element of teamwork with remote workers, Holly has a number of suggestions up her sleeve.
“Be proactive about keeping in contact with your colleagues and manager. A phone call, text, email, or Skype chat can be a good way to keep in touch. But it’s no substitute for good ole face-to-face interaction, so make regular arrangements to meet with your boss and team.”
Along with this, she urges telecommuters to be responsive to incoming communications. “Try to answer phone calls as they come in, and emails in a timely manner. There is such a thing as email perception, so the faster you can respond, the better impression you make.”
Rule out “guess work”
Despite the prevalence of instant telecommunications, the corporate world is still coming to terms with flexible and remote working. Traditional office environments and managers still believe they have to ‘see’ workers to know that they are working, so it’s important for remote or home-based employees to maintain a ‘presence’ – albeit virtually – at all times.
“Last but not least, sit down with your boss and create a set of ground rules and performance related goals for working from home,” she added.
“Having a detailed system in place will help to monitor your progress, and will let your co-workers and boss see exactly what you’re working on, taking the guess work out of what you do all day.”