Working from home is a common dream—one that’s become more achievable in recent years as an increasing number of employers embrace telecommuting. Approximately five million US employees have jobs that allow them to work mainly or entirely from home, up 159% from 2005.
Work-from-home jobs typically pay just as well as similar in-office positions and are available from entry level up through senior positions. Of course, not all jobs—nor employers—are structured for work-from-home.
Here’s how to locate and land positions that allow working from home and how to avoid work-from-home scams…
Sectors and employers that often offer telecommuting positions include…
Computer and IT companies. Many tech companies are very willing to work with telecommuters in part because this is a way for them to attract talented tech employees who currently are in great demand and to draw employees from a larger pool of candidates. Plus, they can attract people with experience. Older workers are more likely to telecommute than younger ones. Examples: Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Google and Intuit.
Customer-service and call-center companies. Employees in this sector tend to spend their workdays on the phone, not interacting with in-office coworkers, which makes these positions a good fit for telecommuting. Companies typically require a high-speed Internet connection, a landline phone and a relatively modern computer. The company will provide access to any software you need. Examples: Liveops, Sykes and Transcom.
Education companies. The growth of remote learning has spurred an increase in telecommuting positions for teachers, tutors and professors who connect with students through video systems such as Skype or customized web-based software. Examples: Kaplan, Varsity Tutors, VIPKid and online universities such as Western Governors University and traditional universities that offer online classes.
Governments and government agencies. The federal government launched a telecommuting pilot project in the 1990s and has been expanding it ever since. Several states offer telecommuting positions as well. Positions include economists, statisticians and analysts, among other roles. Examples: The Commonwealth of Virginia, The State of Washington, the US Department of Commerce and the US Department of the Interior.
Health-care companies. If you reach a nurse when you call a health-care provider after business hours, there’s a good chance that nurse is working from home. Telecommuting employees sometimes handle back-office functions such as medical coding as well. Examples: BroadPath Healthcare Solutions, Change Healthcare, CVS Health and Magellan Health.
Financial sector companies. A broad range of telecommuting positions are available in the financial sector, ranging from telephone or live-chat customer-service positions to financial analysis, accounting and account management. Examples: American Express, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase.
In addition to visiting career pages of these or similar employers’ websites, you also can locate telecommuting positions on websites that specialize in these opportunities, such as the websites I work for—Remote.co and FlexJobs.com.
Warning: Don’t search for “work from home” or “work at home” when trying to find telecommuting jobs. Though these phrases are very common in discussions and articles on this topic, they are not widely used by employers in job listings. As a result, the “job listings” on the Internet that contain these phrases are especially likely to be scams.
When You Apply for Remote Jobs
Discuss your previous telecommuting experience in your cover letter, résumé and during interviews. If you have not previously held a position that allowed you to telecommute, emphasize skills you possess, such as your ability to communicate effectively over the phone and via e-mail…your focus and self-motivation…your comfort with technology…and your strong time-management skills.
If your interview for a telecommuting position is conducted over the phone, as is common, take this call on a phone line that has excellent sound quality…and do everything in your power to minimize background noise.
Avoiding the Scams
Many telecommuting opportunities you encounter online actually are scams designed to steal job applicants’ money and/or identities. These scams appear even in legitimate places, such as on job-search websites and LinkedIn. Scammers sometimes even phone job seekers posing as human resources professionals or headhunters.
The goal of these scammers might be to collect personal information such as Social Security numbers from victims in order to steal their identities…and/or to obtain bank account information from victims to steal their money. Example: A scammer might say he/she needs a job applicant’s bank account details in order to arrange direct deposit of paychecks.
Five ways to spot scams…
A link in the job listing doesn’t precisely match the true web address of the company’s careers web page. Before you click on a job-listing link, enter the name of the employer and the word “careers” into a search engine to validate the information in the listing. Be extremely wary if the address in the link doesn’t quite match. Example: The link says Jobs.AmericanExpress-Inc.com…but when you enter “career” and “American Express” into a search engine, you discover that the actual address is Jobs.AmericanExpress.com—there’s no “-inc.”
The description of the work-from-home position offers few or no details. The listing simply extols the company and its work-from-home program. Real job listings stress the requirements. Scammers often avoid listing job requirements—they don’t want to miss potential victims who lack the listed skills.
You receive an unsolicited job offer before you even have an interview. Even when an employer is extremely interested in a candidate, there’s inevitably an interview or two before there’s an offer.
The job involves processing payments through your bank account. Steer clear of “jobs” where your role would involve receiving checks from the company’s customers, depositing those checks in your own bank account, then sending checks from your account to the employer. These jobs are always a scam—the checks you deposit in your account will bounce, and the “employer” will disappear with the money you send in.
You’re asked to pay a fee. Legitimate companies do not charge job hunters to apply.
3 Work-from-Home Myths
Work-from-home jobs are different than people tend to imagine in several important ways…
Myth: Work-from-home employees can live anywhere. In truth, about 95% of work-from-home positions have some geographical requirements. That might be because employers expect these employees to appear in the office on occasion…because the jobs involve visiting clients…and/or because there can be tax, legal and licensing reasons for companies to hire employees who live in specific states.
Myth: Work-from-home employees can work on their own time schedule as long as they put in the required hours. Many positions have fixed schedules—employers want to ensure that clients, bosses and/or coworkers can reach the telecommuting employees when necessary. Some positions have partially flexible hours—remote employees must be available during certain “core hours” but otherwise can decide when they work.
Myth: Most work-from-home jobs are low-level positions. These days, listings for midlevel remote positions that require at least some relevant experience or specialized training (and that often have salaries of $20 per hour or more) outnumber those for entry-level remote jobs. Among the most common telecommute job titles these days are account manager…accountant…business development manager…engineer…program manager…and project manager.
In fact, it is increasingly common for companies to offer a telecommuting option even with relatively lofty positions such as corporate attorney and senior-level web developer.