We see it heavily advertised on our Facebook feeds: “Work from home! No startup costs. Make money from your house today!” I did, and I want to tell you my story.
First, work-from-home ads are often scams in which you will not only make no money, but might also give your personal information to someone who will misuse it or sell it on the dark web.
Or these ads might be for multi-level marketing companies (MLMs), often targeting stay-at-home moms, the elderly, or the disabled — people who physically can’t work or can’t leave their homes for whatever reason. Marketers prey on these people, who often need to make money to survive.
MLMs are also known as pyramid schemes. Not all MLMs are bad, but you should do your research. Scour internet forums; find accounts from people who have worked where you are considering working; evaluate how long they have been in business. The Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau are also good places to see if there are any negative reviews about a company.
Telecommuting to work remote is another way to work from home. Being a so-called “digital nomad” is becoming increasingly popular.
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How Common Is Working From Home?
As businesses struggle to find people due to the low unemployment rate, they're casting a broader reach, and it shows. Between 2015 and 2016, the global telecommuter population went up by 11.7 percent, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Companies also want to save money by paying contractors to do certain jobs instead of full-time employees.
The internet provides the ability to open up job searches nation- and worldwide. Potential remote employees need to have a good work ethic, reliable internet connection, a computer, and if doing customer service for an American company, speak English.
Amazon Work-From-Home Jobs
I’ve worked remotely for Amazon for about three months now. My official title is seasonal remote shipping and delivery support associate. In short, I’m a customer service representative taking calls from Amazon customers and delivery drivers from across the U.S. and Canada.
I first applied for the position earlier in the year on the job-posting site Indeed. The idea of working from home appealed to me because I had previous experience with remote work in the information technology world. As such, I was familiar with how to do it.
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I got an email saying I was hired at the end of July, and I started working at Amazon in the middle of August. After I was officially hired, Amazon sent me a laptop and headset in the mail, which I received a couple of days before my first day of work.
I didn’t have to buy any additional equipment to do my job other than what the company provided. However, Amazon suggested that we use a second monitor and a mouse, since the laptop’s screen was relatively small and we’d be working with a lot of different systems. I used a mouse and fired up my TV to use as a second monitor.
Every day, I connected to Amazon’s network using a VPN, or virtual private network. This is a clever piece of software that essentially tricks my computer into thinking that I’m on-campus at an Amazon customer service center and gives me access to all of Amazon’s internal systems, an Amazon work email, and everything I needed for taking calls.
Amazon gave me a team manager during my training, who I was lucky enough to keep working with after my training ended, as well. I was also assigned to a team that corresponds roughly with my geographic area, the southeast U.S. Many of my coworkers live in Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia.
The Challenges of Amazon Work-From-Home Jobs
I went through a month of paid training to learn the ins and outs of Amazon customer service before I was thrust into the chaos. Being one of more than 25,000 customer service representatives at Amazon is no easy feat.
Amazon shipped over five billion packages through its Prime service in 2017, according to Business Wire. That’s just fewer than 14 million packages per day.
Taking back-to-back calls with customers complaining, yelling, and berating you for up to 11 hours a day during peak season isn't for the faint of heart.
It takes a special person to be able to provide quality service through the thick of it all, especially taking the heat for things you didn’t personally do.
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How to Work From Home: 4 Top Tips
If you’re going to be successful in a demanding work-from-home or remote position, it’s important to remember a few things:
1. Balance Work With Personal Time
If you don’t have “you” time in-between your stints of work, then your work and personal lives will become intertwined, and both will suffer. You’ll end up working when you should be relaxing, and it will eventually become all work and no play. As the saying goes, you will indeed be a dull boy (or girl).
Get out of the house at least a few times a week and socialize, or you’ll likely go crazy. Staying in your room all the time can eat away at your mental health and lead to issues with anxiety and depression.
I know this first-hand. Having no in-person team to interact with can take a toll on your mind. Stay healthy and reach out to someone for help if you need it.
2. Create a Dedicated Workspace
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you’ll need a dedicated desk or office space for your work. I can’t tell you how crucial it is.
Working from home — and being comfortable doing so — is an exercise in mental strength, discipline, and organization.
It’s what you make of it, and in order to be productive, you need to be distraction-free and at ease. Have a comfy office chair, a desk that’s the right height, and some bottled water or healthy snacks to stay hydrated and full.
It also means that you shouldn't have the TV on in the background. That will just distract you. Plus, you should limit web browsing to work-related topics. That’s right, no Shane Dawson YouTube videos during work hours.
For example, Amazon has regulations that you agree to abide by when you become a remote employee. The company reserves the right to send representatives to your home to inspect your work environment and ensure that it’s up to Amazon’s standards.
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3. Dress for Work
This may come as a surprise, but having the ability to work in your PJs doesn’t mean you should. In fact, I’ve found that carrying out my day as if I were preparing to work a regular job, including getting dressed appropriately, helps me get in the right mindset. It’s all about transitioning your from sleep and relaxation to work and productivity.
4. Research Remote Work Options
There are some quality sites that help you achieve success as a remote employee. Some resources I recommend are Remote.co, We Work Remotely (WWR), and Indeed's remote jobs page. We Work Remotely even has additional resources and a community dedicated to people who work from home.
You can also find freelance jobs using sites like Fiverr and Truelancer.
Is a Remote Job a Good Idea, After All?
For me personally, working from home was not a great fit. I’m social, so I need to interact directly with coworkers, friends, and customers (and not just those who are yelling at me for something I had nothing to do with). Working from home was a great learning experience for me, and it’s worthwhile for some.
If you have mobility issues or have limited to no transportation, becoming a remote employee can be a valuable opportunity. Just make sure to do all the necessary research to understand what you’re signing up for. Don’t become prey to some unscrupulous scoundrel. But at the same time, don’t throw away a good opportunity.
Also remember this: If the company is promising you something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. And last, if you’re someone like me who enjoys something more akin to a traditional work environment, I suggest you reconsider the idea of working from home.