The easiest work to do remotely is desk work that doesn’t require hightech equipment or face-to-face interaction with other people, such as:
- reading, writing, or editing
- research, review, or analysis
- auditing or number crunching
- sketching or drawing
- data entry or word processing
- scheduling or planning, and
- communicating via phone, fax, or email.
You can handle tasks like these with nothing more than a good computer, high-speed Internet access, and a reliable phone connection—all staples of the average home office. For example, let’s suppose you normally spend your days at the office preparing reports and speaking to company representatives over the phone. There’s no reason why you can’t prepare those same reports on your laptop or home computer, and speak to those same company representatives from a telephone in your home office.
Even some jobs that you might think would be impossible to do from home— like managing a restaurant or extracting teeth—have deskbased aspects, like balancing books or sending out claim forms to dental insurance companies. Real estate brokers, who spend a good portion of their time shuttling around town and showing homes to potential buyers, also do desk-based work like researching and pricing properties, handling transaction-related paperwork, and speaking on the phone to clients and other brokers.
Now think about whether you can set aside an entire day or more each week to do only the desk-based parts of your job. Can you separate your week into desk days and days you may have to do other types of activities, like meeting with clients or conducting site visits? If so, you’ve got the makings of a teleworkable job.
Teleworkers Who’ve Made the News
USA TODAY Reporter Stephanie Armour found the following examples of teleworkers from around the globe:
Pat Stiley is a workers’ compensation and criminal defense lawyer whose practice is based in Spokane, Washington—but he lives in Belize. He uses the Internet to do legal research and also relies on cybercafés and email. Clients have met with him over the phone.
“Except when I’m interrupted by hurricanes, I’m usually online at least once a day,” Stiley says.
Sid Heaton, 33, of Nevada City, California, worked as a technical writer for a California software firm while telecommuting from Europe. There, he and his wife, Kristanne, spent a year touring castles in Prague, Czech Republic, visiting pubs in Edinburgh, Scotland, and hanging out in other tourist haunts. Heaton worked using a laptop and Internet cafés. “With telecommuting, it’s less about working eight hours a day but more about delivering the product,” says Heaton.
Lisa Berman worked from a flat in London even though her job as a marketing and communications manager with Coopers & Lybrand was based in New York. She made the move overseas after her husband was transferred to England.
“My boss wanted to find a way for me to keep my job by bringing my computer to London with me,” Berman, 36, says. “It can be challenging because of the time differences, but it worked.”
“More telecommuters take work wherever they want,” by Stephanie Armour, December 15, 2000.