Flexible work is thriving in all kinds of industries and geographic locations, driven both by the desires of employees to build more balanced lives and the push by companies to take advantage of the bottom-line benefits it can bring.

In fact, data from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com shows that 4.3 million employees (3.2% of the workforce) work remotely at least half the time, and in the last five years, the number of employers who offer flexible work options has risen by 40%.

These statistics are not surprising to anyone who is actively engaged in today’s workforce. Millennials make up a larger portion of that workforce every day, and they expect flexibility. They are not alone, however, in craving the benefits that options like working from home can bring, as people of all ages seek ways to avoid a soul-crushing commute or enhance time with family or friends.

As their work-life balance improves, remote workers tend to be happier and, often, more productive than their cubicle-bound colleagues. This side effect of telecommuting is obviously attractive to employers, but that isn’t the only benefit they realize. Happier employees are more likely to be loyal, and in today’s competitive market for talent, retention of productive workers is vital. On top of that, embracing a remote workforce can allow a company to reduce costs associated with leasing office space, among many other positives. So, how do you work from home and find a remote job? We’ve included tips for finding a remote job and advice on how to succeed. 

How to Work from Home: Getting Started

If you’re ready to join others in boosting those work-from-home numbers even further, you have plenty of options to help you in your quest for remote work. First, do your research. Take an inventory of your skill set and your career goals, and look for occupations that are a good fit for what you can do, what you want to do, and the flexibility you desire.

During this exploratory period, be sure to tap into your network for advice and guidance. Seek people who have experience working remotely and ask them what they like about it and any struggles they’ve had. Talk to past colleagues who may be able to help you identify a job that is right for you.

Once you have a good idea of what you want to do, think about what kind of company—or even what specific business—would be your dream employer. A quick search can help you find a list of companies that are committed to flexibility, and you’re likely to find plenty of attractive names on such lists. For example, Remote.co lists interviews with 135+ remote companies.

And that’s just the beginning. By scanning job sites that focus on flexible and remote work, you can find literally thousands of options. It’s likely that something will be perfect for you in terms of job requirements, pay, benefits, and flexibility offered.

Finding Success Working from Home

Now that you’ve got a work-from-home job, how do you succeed? There will undoubtedly be a learning curve that shouldn’t be underestimated. But by addressing the higher-priority items, many of the details will naturally fall into place.

Communication Is Key

To land the job you want, make sure you have the skills you need to be an effective remote worker. At the top of that list is communication. To succeed as a virtual team member, you must be able to communicate and collaborate effectively, both verbally and in writing. 

That also means you must be familiar with all of the most common remote communications software and apps in use today, from email programs and videoconferencing platforms to messaging and group chat. You should also be fluent in cloud document sharing systems, like the Google suite, and project management tools. Be prepared to prove that you can use all of these methods of communication during your application and interview process.

You’ll be a step ahead of the competition if you’ve got a good home office already set up, featuring a distraction-free area and all of the hardware and software you’ll need to ensure efficiency and high productivity. Show off your setup during interviews by conducting them from your home.

Finally, as you apply for jobs be sure to emphasize any experience you have telecommuting, doing freelance work, or collaborating with virtual team members. If you can show you’re not completely new to remote work, your potential employer may feel more comfortable hiring you.

Prepping for Adjustments

When you do get a great offer and start your remote job, be prepared for a period of adjustment. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys occasional socializing with colleagues in an office setting, the switch to a more solitary workplace may be shocking at first. Build strong ties with other remote workers on your team, maybe even creating a special telecommuters’ Slack channel, while also boosting collaboration with your colleagues in the office. 

When you wake up in the morning, get dressed and prepare for the workday, just as you would if you worked in an office. Set a defined schedule for your remote work, and make sure your co-workers know when you will be available. It’s important to establish your reliability from the start, but setting defined hours will also help you avoid the problem of work becoming a 24/7 activity.

Be sure to stop working when quitting time comes, and don’t forget to take breaks during the day. Without the social cues provided by colleagues heading to lunch or the break room, it can be easy to skip those mental rest periods, and that could lead to speedy burnout.

Also, consider using task lists and other time-management tools to make sure you meet all of your deadlines and stay on target with your duties. It can be easy to get distracted when you’re working from home, and that’s something you must avoid if you want to stay productive.

Nurture Relationships

Develop a strong relationship with your manager, emphasizing your short-term and long-term career goals and your desires to move up within the company. When appropriate, ask your boss for mentoring and guidance to help you advance. You must be proactive in this regard, because even the best bosses sometimes suffer from an “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome when it comes to promoting virtual workers.

Even as you build those ties with managers and co-workers within the company, don’t neglect your network outside of the business. Keep talking to friends and acquaintances to glean their perspectives and suggestions on how to succeed as a remote worker. And now that you’re in that position yourself, give something back to your network by offering your own advice and ideas to others.

Flexible and remote work are not fads or “nice-to-have” perks. They’re an important part of today’s business culture, and they’re likely to become even more vital as employees and employers note the ways in which they both benefit from such arrangements.

By following these steps—from exploring your first thoughts about working remotely through finding a job and settling in—you can excel as a key member of a virtual team and build the kind of balanced, happy, productive work-life you’ve always wanted. 

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