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Should I try working from home?




Moya, a resident of Kingston has written to say: "I would like to embark on my own business, one of those work-from-home businesses. I have had great success with the products that I would market. I love them very much and I am excited to tell people about them, encouraging people to use them, with the added bonus of earning an income from doing so. The additional rewards are also great. It's all about healthy living and lifestyle change.

I am currently employed full-time - five days per week, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I cannot work this "business" around my full-time job due to constraints with my time (I have other obligations) and physical energy. Could you give me all the ideas, pros and cons, to consider before making this move?"

Moya should note that while she has done well at selling health products in the past, the disposable income among Jamaicans is still declining and she may soon find that sales are less in the coming months. Reflecting on this, she may want to delay leaving her full time job for a while. Will the possible proceeds from her new occupation support her needs as well as provide a basis for growth?

For the long term outlook, the response comes from Kathleen Robertson, associate counsellor from Family Life Ministries in Kingston and participant in the change management programme run by this organisation for Jamaican workplaces. Ms. Robertson notes:

First what all, Moya will have to consider what are her competencies in selling and running a business and in working on her own.

In making the decision to leave one's job and centre income earning activities at home, one should not be "following fashion", looking at experience of others who may have done the same thing.

What are her true skills and aptitudes for running her own business? One positive of working from home is a more relaxed working environment. There are some individuals who do not work very well under and produce better when left to themselves and without the distractions of the workplace.'

However it requires discipline and you will need to set regular working hours that you working on a schedule. Otherwise you might miss deadlines, having ignored the required volume of work within a set time period which you need.

Is Moya a good salesperson? Having tried this on the side and succeeded it might be an indication that she can continue to do well.

For those who wish to test their business skills, it is a good idea to create and complete a project with clear targets achieved. You may also conduct a mini-feasibility study. Talk to other people in the field to see what their experiences have been so that you do not make the same mistakes that they have made.

Moya will also be facing increasing expenses at home like telephone, fax and email. The operating expenses will now go to the home account rather than the work account of an organisation.

There are also convenience considerations to be looked at. Is there space to store the products? Use of the home space for work could be a source of family conflict. Another inconvenience could be calls coming in at hours when others in the household need to rest. Working at home could disrupt the whole flow of family interaction.

Leaving her full time job would require discussion of spouse and dependents. She will have to make projections for earning so everyone is comfortable and will buy into the idea. Possible conflict will be minimised.

Partners will be asking why did you leave your job?, and experience fears about financial security . You may also require their financial support until you are financially self sufficient. Partners will also be bearing emotional burdens when you experience frustrations and disappointments. You may experience orders which don't come in or come in late, upsetting spending plans.

You will need to be organised. You may be unable to hire someone to answer the phone and do letters, and this you will have to do yourself. Let clients know when they call. In this way you will avoid getting calls at all hours. I know individuals who have set definite hours and dressed themselves to go to office space at home.

Tax time can also be stressful with no accountant. Get information on the professional services you will need and source help from friends or agencies which will do services on a hourly or part time basis.

The positives of working from home are more flexible working hours and working at your own pace. Some individuals work better in the morning in the wee hours. Others work late at night best. If you are a mother with young children you can set your working hours around their schedule.

But, what if there is no one but you at home? Working at home might involve loss of social contact as one is no longer in contact with work mates everyday. Compensate by entering new social networks in clubs, church and community so that you will not spend all 24 hours at home without interaction and feedback.

Moya may have to think about the stigma attached to working at home. Many Jamaicans define themselves by what they do and where they work. Working from home is seen as unglamorous, not as good, nor as worthwhile as saying you are a manager with this and that company.

Judge your strengths and abilities and value yourself accordingly. Consider that working from home could be a path to earning independently and possibly earning more. Think about the intangible benefits of peace of mind. It is a matter of personal goals. Go with a singleness of purpose. A lot of big businesses started out in someone's home.

**Email Kathleen Robertson at khrobs@anngel.com

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