Millions of Americans have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many workers have been able to continue working but have resorted to working from home. The concept of doing remote work was once quite coveted. However, the challenges that come with it are now being realized.
How to Set Up Your Home Office
If you’re able to work from home, it’s now time to set up a home office. Here are a few suggestions for what you may need for your home office:
- Furniture: desk, filing cabinet, chair, lamp, bookshelf, and storage units
- Accessories: desk organizer, stapler, hole punch, bulletin board, whiteboard, charger port, desk calendar, and planner
- Electronics: PC or laptop, printer, scanner, headphones, speakers, and ergonomic keyboard
- Office supplies: paper, binders, pens, sticky notes, pencils, USB drives, notepads, paper clips, binder clips, and folders
Can You Claim the Home Office Tax Deduction?
You may be able to claim the home office deduction on your taxes next year if you have a qualified home office and work from home. The basic requirements are: (1) regular and exclusive use and (2) principal place of business. This means your home office must be the main location for your business, and it must be exclusively used for business.
Some of the expenses you may be able to deduct are utility bills, homeowner’s insurance, security, wi-fi expenses, general repairs and maintenance, and any direct expenses associated with your home office, such as furniture and supplies; so, hold on to these records.
If you have an employer and are temporarily working from home due to the health crisis, you probably won’t be able to take the home office deduction. However, with today’s ever-changing financial world, it’s a possibility. Talk to a tax consultant about this or read more on this tax deduction here.
9 Tips for Working from Home Productively
- Upgrade Your Home Office. If you already have a home office set up, you may want to upgrade your gear or break out the equipment you should be using. Check out CNET’s awesome recommendations for everything from a standing desk to the latest webcam.
- Download Useful Work-from-Home Apps. VentureHarbour lists the top working remotely apps to be Slack, Zoom, Toggl, Google Drive, and Calendar. Use the best tools to share, communicate, and juggle multiple projects; these will save you time and money.
- Set Ground Rules for Your Office. Create clear rules for when you are available, what can be done in your workspace, and what you can do during working hours. Structure your day as you would have it in the workplace. Communicate clear expectations with family members or others who are around you during business hours.
- Schedule Breaks. Don’t overwork yourself without breaking up your day. You risk burnout. Take regular 15-minute breaks and a lunch break.
- Look for Learning and Training Opportunities. Consider taking training courses to learn how to do something new. Increase your typing skills, take online classes, and expand your Microsoft skills by learning Word and Excel short-cuts so you can work more efficiently.
- Ask Your Employer for What You Need. If you need an upgrade in your equipment or to order more office supplies, don’t hesitate to ask your company. Most businesses are more than accommodating right now. They are just happy you are willing and able to work from home, so work with them to get what you need to do your job well.
- Enjoy the Perks of Working from Home. It won’t be forever. Ditch the high heels, use your break times to play with your children or pets, and use your usual “commute to work” time to bake, cook, exercise, or to do something else you enjoy, like knitting.
- Keep Normal Business Hours. Stay off social media during your working hours. Maintain the same sense of professionalism when you are at home, so you don’t develop bad habits.
- Maintain Normalcy and Keep a Schedule. If you are treating every day like it’s Mardi Gras, you are going to be in for a rude awakening when you have to return to the office. Here are some a few tips:
- Set your alarm and wake up the same time each morning.
- Go to bed at your regular bedtime.
- Try to keep normal business hours
- Eat your meals at usual times.
Common Work-from-Home Problems and Solutions
Problem: Lack of Face-to-Face Supervision
Solution: Establish a routine check-in with supervisors. It’s often thought that working at home leads to “slacking off;” in reality, at-home workers take fewer breaks and overwork themselves more than those who work in a company office. Successful employee-supervisor relationships need effective communication. A simple daily call or email can solve this problem.
Problem: Social Isolation
Solution: Having video conferences, holding informal virtual team calls to just “check-in” with everyone, or giving presentations online can help with this problem. The Harvard Business Review had some unique ideas, including virtual pizza parties or virtual office parties, where care packages can be opened and enjoyed simultaneously with the team.
Problem: Too Many Distractions
Solution: Supervisors should offer encouragement and emotional support, especially if they are adjusting to a new work environment, such as working from home. Research shows that employees look to their supervisors for cues on how to react; therefore, leaders are encouraged to sincerely ask how the employee is adjusting to the remote working situation and to affirm confidence in the employee by addressing any concerns with understanding.
Problem: A Lack of Information
Solution: Employees who work from home need to have access to more than just email. They need richer technology such as that which can be provided via mobile-based individual messaging, team collaboration tools, or video conferencing. If the company does not have access to this type of technology, consult with the IT department, or go ahead and research tools like Slack, Zoom, Trello, and Microsoft Teams to see how inexpensive and easy it is to adopt such technology.
How to Prepare Yourself to Return to Work
Are you still employed but stuck at home? Here are a few things you can do if you cannot physically go to work:
- Create or work on your company’s blog or website.
- Video conference via Skype with clients or coworkers.
- Create video tutorials for your workplace.
- Get involved in career associations.
- Hire that freelancer you haven’t had time to interview.
- Write manuals, eBooks, or worksheets for your job.
- Get in touch with a marketing or social media consultant.
- Organize your work for when it resumes.
- Get a calendar or planner set up.
- Set SMART marketing goals.
- Prioritize your duties with a to-do list.
- Create a daily schedule for yourself and stick to it.
How to Prepare for Work When Unemployed
According to Business Insider, a record 3.3 million jobless claims were filed for the week ending March 21, up from 281,000 from the week before. Are you struggling with unemployment but stuck at home? Consider doing the following to begin your job search:
- Revise, update, or create your resume. You may want to hire someone to help you if you are not familiar with resume formats. Hire a freelancer, an expert in resume creation and editing.
- Write cover letters for jobs you are interested in.
- Update your social media profiles, especially the professional ones like Linked-in, and find the right connections.
- Create or update your portfolio. Have it ready for interviews. Make a digital version that you can include with your resume when you apply for work online.
- Apply for jobs online. Check out the website of your local newspaper, or head over to job websites like Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, and Simply Hired.
Where to Find Legit Remote Work from Hiring Companies
Another option, of course, is to work at home. This could mean finding a full-time remote position or a simple freelance project.
- Forbes has a massive list of the top 100 international companies for 2020 that offer work-from-home opportunities, including part-time and long-term positions, and entry-level jobs like data entry specialists.
- Business Insider lists 9 comprehensive websites that offer remote positions and freelance jobs. Each site has its own database full of job listings for any remote worker.
- Clark has a list of 13 legitimate work-from-home job opportunities, including Amazon and American Express.
- Skill Crush gives you a list of over 25 websites to use when looking for remote work online for 2020, including work-from-home jobs and specific industry job boards.
- The Penny Hoarder has 15 legitimate work-from-home websites that will help you find the right remote job.
If you have recently become an at-home worker, you may be having difficulty adjusting to your new environment. You should now have some great ideas on how to set up your home office, how to stay productive when you are working from home, and how to find simple solutions to common working-from-home problems.