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Work From Home, Not From a Desk

The common concept of working from home involves a pasty-faced desk jockey pecking away at a keyboard; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Just as a lucrative career need not require a 4-year degree, working from home need not require sitting at a desk all day long. Active parents who work from home can appreciate this epiphany. Of course, any remote employment does require some computer connectivity for administrative purposes, even if it’s only to record hours works, invoices sent, fees collected, and appointments on a calendar.

Career options beyond a desk

Remote jobs for active people tend to focus on health and fitness and outdoor activities, but need not be confined to those arenas. Popular part-time occupations that one can either perform as an employee, franchisee, or entrepreneur include:

  • Dog walker. Busy, full-time workers love their furry companions. Those who have neither the space nor the time to take their dogs for daily walks often hire people to do just that. Especially if you live in an urban area with a dog park and if you have experience with dogs, this may be just the active, part-time employment that get you out of the house while the kids are in school. As employees, dog walkers can earn around $15 per hour; however, as entrepreneurs, you can set your fees to whatever the market will bear.
  • Courier. Especially in congested cities, couriers transport important packages from place to place quickly. Whether you work for a courier company or freelance, this job gets you away from the desk and can offer a wage at about $14 to $16 per hour. As a freelance courier, you determine your hours of operation and the territory for delivery. Before deciding to pursue a job as a courier, be aware of hazards ranging from strained muscles to traffic accidents to dangerous neighborhoods. 
  • Landscaper/yard care. Trickier to manage as a part-time occupation, putting your knowledge of plants to work keeps you outside even as you work up a sweat and create beautiful, functional outdoor spaces with other people’s money. And you get paid for it, too. Wages for mowing and landscaping average $11 to $13 per hour.
  • Massage therapist. This career option does require training and licensing. With an average rate of $60 per hour for freelance massage therapists, the business of massage offers more than simply lucrative benefits. Especially if you freelance, you can determine the hours you work and the location of service. You may elect to set up a massage studio in your home, at a dedicated site, or even at clients’ offices and homes.
  • Farmhand. If you enjoy the farm life involving the hard, physical labor of mucking stalls, baling hay, and working with livestock, check out your local agricultural operations. From upscale boarding stables to factory farms, get your animal fix and earn an average salary around $11 per hour. If you have little or no experience with farm work, be warned that farming is an extremely dangerous profession, because you work with large equipment and unpredictable animals.
  • Instructor. The type of instructor depends upon your skills, availability, and equipment. If you have a closet full of trophies and ribbons from ballroom dance competitions or equestrian events, consider giving dance lessons or riding lessons. Perhaps you were a tennis star in high school or college or maybe you have a second or third degree black belt in martial arts: put that skill and knowledge to good use in teaching others how to play the sport. Or maybe you’re a skilled musician, singer, sculptor, or painter: teach others the intricacies and joy of your creative endeavor. Depending upon your location, fees range wildly by activity and lesson duration.
  • Hairstylist. This option also requires training and licensing. Many hair studios offer booth spaces for rent, so you need not invest in infrastructure, just supplies and small equipment. Or you can sign on as an employee with an established salon. The median hourly wage for hairdressers ranges from $9 to $12 per hour.
  • Urban farmer. Perhaps you have a more entrepreneurial inclination and a green thumb and sufficient yard to plant a garden or keep a few bee hives. Consider establishing yourself as an urban farmer. Urban farming is fast becoming popular as a way not only to save money on groceries, but to ensure ready access to fresh, seasonal produce. In a relatively small space, your garden can produce bushels of fresh, tasty vegetables and beautiful flowers that you can sell at a local farmer’s market or a roadside stand. Bee hives produce honey and beeswax, as well as bolster your local population of pollinators. Informed customers gladly pay more for fresh, locally grown produce and herbs. Maximize the productivity of your limited space with a garden sphere or other terraced gardening method. Jellies made from home-grown fruit, canning excess vegetables, and baked goods expand what you can offer to customers.
  • Chauffeur. Whether you register with Uber or Lyft or start your own taxi service, ferrying people from place to place enables you to work when you want, accept the customers you want, and cover the territory you want. Platforms such as Uber and Lyft set fares and process payments for you. They also give you the opportunity to earn bonuses. Riderstar notes that Lyft and Uber drivers earn similar wages at around $25 per hour, but that Lyft drivers earn more in tips.

Only your imagination and skills limit the opportunities for part-time jobs that work with your availability and don’t chain you to a desk.

Managing the risk

Don’t dismiss the hazards of remote work that gets you out of the house. From muscle injuries to muggings, no off-site job guarantees a perfectly safe environment. According to Occupational Health & Safety Online, remote workers cannot depend upon their employers to minimize the risks in their workspaces. Occupational hazards for remote workers include both physical and mental injury.

Even if you encase yourself in cotton wool and bubble wrap, risk cannot be eliminated. Therefore, you must manage it. The Best of Business offers a list of feasible techniques for remote workers to manage risk. Some of those techniques may smack of Big Brother and NSA surveillance, but keeping tabs on your whereabouts and activities helps first responders and family members help you when the unfortunate does happen.

Aside from the obvious hazards of dog bites, equipment malfunctions, traffic accidents, strained muscles, assault, and other physical hazards arising from jobs that don’t tie you to a desk, the greatest risk to remote workers is loneliness. Studies show that the effect of loneliness is comparable to smoking. Isolation takes its toll and increases the risk of mortality by 29 percent, which makes human interaction even more crucial for the remote worker.

The other main hazard of remote work concerns the reduced separation between the job and home life. Everybody needs to take a break from work, and flexible hours often morph into all-the-time hours in the pursuit of earning a larger income. The lack of separation contributes to burnout, which manifests as apathy accompanied by psychological weariness and physical exhaustion.

Before accepting a job offer for remote employment, inquire as to what the company does to assist in maintaining employees’ mental and physical health. Companies that care for their employees can take advantage of simple interventions that yield significant impact, such as encouraging after-work group activities. However, when it comes to remote employment, the burden of maintaining good work-life balance remains with the employee (or freelancer). Tackling the issue in advance proves that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regardless of your job status as employee or contractor, make the effort to connect with other people beyond the realm of business interaction. They may include volunteer activity, taking classes, joining a recreational sports league, or simply scheduling regular telephone calls and get-togethers with friends.

Weighing the benefits

The benefits of flexible, remote work generally outweigh the risks if employer and worker manage those risks properly. Employers benefit from improved productivity, lower overhead, and increased employee satisfaction which leads to reduced employee churn. Remote workers appreciate the flexibility that accommodates the needs of their personal lives (e.g., medical appointments, children’s extracurricular activities, etc.), the wherewithal to manage their own time, and the opportunity to exercise both responsibility and authority in the progression of their work and career. Where off-site employment once meant sitting at home stuffing envelopes or other mindless drudgery, it now offers a wide array of opportunity that aligns with interests, skills, and availability.