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Working From Home

Employment Advice For Persons With Developmental Disabilities

drawing of a person thinking about their career

Artwork provided by an individual supported by Reena.

Dear Joanna,

I am a copy editor who had to change the way I work this past year.  Due to my disabilities, I have to attend weekly doctors’ appointments as well as take medication with side effects. As a result, I moved from the traditional workplace environment to working from home. When I wake up in the morning, I rush to the computer in my pajamas and start my work day. It’s definitely isolating and I miss the informal and fun conversations with co-workers, especially during lunch hour, that I used to have in my former jobs. Sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself to focus on the job at hand. Do you have any tips for home-based employees?

Signed: Home Alone

Dear Home Alone,

There are pros and cons of working from home. However, you are far from being alone. Modern technology has changed the way we work. Home-based businesses and work are booming in our economy. In fact, Statistics Canada 2011 survey states that more than one million Canadians work from home. And there are sites like this one with a list of the best jobs to work remotely.

Here are some suggestions of best practices from blogger Smith that could maximize your success when working from home in addition to my past experience as a self-employed sales and marketing professional with a home-based office.

  • Keeping professional. Being stylish, up-to-date in your wardrobe. Caring about your looks, how you dress and presentation can make a huge difference in your motivation and impact your efficiency and productivity. When you dress professional, even if you are at home, you feel professional and in charge. . Avoid work-out clothes. If you work five days a week, have outfits ready for each day, just like you did when you working at an office. Your work from home is not a retirement home for all your faded, ill-fitting and ripped clothes, Plus, you always want to be ready for a last minute meeting or a Skype meeting. It is part of your branding, marketing and selling of yourself. Always be comfortable yet professional.
  • The Remote Home Office Setup. Wilcox stresses that a functioning office will make you more productive and professional. Having the latest technology can do wonders for this. A desk that is large enough for a computer desktop or laptop and equipment is key. A good phone and connection with a headset can help you to avoid echoing during online or landline phone calls or Skype meetings. For example, the wired headset helps to avoid echo during online calls, or skype meeting. Situate your office in a quiet place where you can think and with a door that shuts, especially if you live with other people or if you have a family.  A stable internet connection with a good back-up system goes a long way.
  • Take breaks. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look after yourself.  Schedule breaks  and lunchtime as you did when you were working in a traditional office.  Make sure you have an “out of office” automatic email reply or “I’ll be back in a hour” message on your voicemail.  Don’t disappear especially if you are part of a team of which some employees are also remote. A simple “Good morning, everyone” to let people know that you’re at your desk ready to start work on the project, and no longer at home or in bed.
  • Keep connected. Reena’s Human Resources Director Sonia Kapila suggests that when you are working from home, set a schedule and ensure constant contact with your team, co-workers and/or partners. Making a phone call first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day and keep connected.  Using Skype or other online meeting tools ( to conduct work related meetings or simple conversations goes a long way to keeping in touch and feeling motivated. Also, go into the office as much as possible, even if it’s only for one meeting a week, or drop by for a lunch outing with your co-workers, as being re-connected with your team and business world goes a long way in feeling involved.
  • Continue networking. In addition to joining groups in your sector through online websites and social media forums, I would recommend that when you are able, try to get out of your home at least once a week. I’d join as many networking groups in your field that offer in face events and meetings. And if your company offers any types of activities or volunteering opportunities, I’d sign up as these are other ways to meet people, and keep current in your field

Regards: Joanna

To submit your questions and comments to this column in confidence, please email Joanna Samuels, Employment Resource Specialist at Reena.