The Logistics of Part-Time Telecommuting

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An increasing number of employers now allow part-time telecommuting for their full-time employees. These workers might choose a set part-time telecommuting schedule of certain days per week or may work from home occasionally, when necessary or desired. While this may seem like a great situation––and, in fact, it can be––there are specific challenges associated with this type of arrangement.

Organizing for Your Part-Time Telecommuting Job

Unlike a full-time telecommuter, whose home office is a permanent fixture of the home, the part-time telecommuter likely brings key elements of her home office back and forth.

So, to be sure everything gets transported from one location to the other smoothly, a checklist is a must. At the beginning, write it down or use this Part-Time Telecommuter's Checklist to develop your own. In time you may be able to keep track this checklist in your head. However, every time you work from home you may need different items. On the day before you plan to telecommute jot down anything not necessarily on the checklist, i.e. notes from today's staff meeting or a report you're reading.

In addition to a checklist, a routine can help keep you from leaving behind items. For instance, put your cell phone in the same place at home so that you remember to take it to the office. When you unplug your laptop at the office, put your mouse on top of it. If you use a key card for office access, leave it in your traveling bag when you're working from home. At home keep all your work items together and make it one of your work-at-home ground rules that no one is allowed to "borrow" any of it.

Items You May Need for Part Time-Telecommuting

To make part-time commuting a success you will need to be well equipped at both home and work. The things you'll need to make your part-time commute a success will vary from person to person and job to job. This list of equipment for the part-time telecommuter will help you sort out questions, such as:

  • Do I need a new computer? Should it be a laptop or notebook?
  • How will I carry my things to and from the office?
  • What supplies will I need at home?

Setting Up Your Home Office

The set up of your home office depends on how often you plan to work at home. If it is only occasionally, you may want to limit how much time and money you invest in your home office. However, you may feel differently if you will be working from home frequently.

Either way, you will need a space to call your own while you are working from home. As a part-time telecommuter you may not be able to set aside a space exclusively for work use, but on the days you are using your home office, it should be all business.

If you are using your home phone line be sure to use professional phone etiquette, i.e. answer professionally, change the answering machine, be sure no one else is using it, etc. But it's better to either have a separate phone line for business or to use a cell phone if your reception is good enough.

One thing to keep in mind about the home office of a part-time telecommuting employee is that the rules for its tax deductibility are different than for iindependent contractors. Read more about these tax rules.

Back-Up Planning

Once you've got the commute and your home office figured out, you'll have to confront one of the biggest problems faced by part-time telecommuters: Forgetting something important either at home or at the office. Most likely, it will happen to you. You'll arrive at work only to realize that your mouse has stayed behind in your home office. Or you'll come to the dreaded conclusion that you have to go back to the office because you left a key printout there.

Checklist and routines can minimize the likelihood of this, but you'll need a plan to deal with it if it does. Consider these questions: If you have to go to the office, do you have back-up child care? Do you have a colleague at the office who would be willing to fax you something or help with another task? Do you have other work you can accomplish at home if you are not able to complete what you planned?