The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting
Many employees wish they could telecommute, but telecommuting is not for everyone. Sometimes working in-office is best or a combination of working in-office and at home.
If, after reading this article, you still think telecommuting is a great option for you, I've included some tips at the end on obtaining a telecommuting position or turning your job from in-office to a telecommuting job.
It seems that the common conception of people working from home involves an unshowered employee in their pajamas and slippers, sipping coffee in front of the computer. In fact, that describes me! I like to get a jump on e-mail that has piled up during the evening and early morning, then I head to the shower, put some comfy clothes on, and have breakfast before tackling the larger work tasks.
For me, this is a major upside because:
- I can wake up naturally - not to a blaring alarm clock - I think this is a healthier way to live.
- I can work at my own pace, in logical segments.
- I'm highly productive due to a lack of disruptions, including general employee chattiness.
- I still attend all meetings via phone link or web meeting software. These technologies allow out-of-office attendees to interact in the meeting, view or present work product, or conduct private one-on-one visual conversations. (I comb my hair for those.)
- I no longer have to drive an hour to an hour and 15 minutes (each way) in incredibly stressful traffic - this also gives me 2 to 2 1/2 more hours each day to spend on actual work. In addition, it saves me a ton on gas and car maintenance.
- I don't have to pack a lunch.
- I save a ton on business apparel and dry cleaning.
- I save money on make-up and other products used to make people more presentable in public.
- I don't have to fake happy to people at work when I've just endured a blaring alarm clock and a stressful commute.
More and more employers are seeing the upside of telecommuting employees: mainly related to reduced office size, phone service, office furniture, utilities, paper, copy machines, and all the other services and products that are needed for an office to run efficiently.
But, is telecommuting right for you?
I ran into some of these factors that I wasn't expecting:
- You must be completely self-motivated and in no way a procrastinator.
- Although it's true that some days I only have about 4 hours of work to do, there are plenty of days, nights, and weekends when I'm working 14-16 hours a day to meet a deadline.
- I think I became a bit anti-social. I found that it was harder to talk to people since I got out of practice.
- Out of sight, out of mind: Once in a while, I'd go into work for various reasons, and the reaction I got from most people was utter surprise, and comments like, "I didn't know you still worked here!" Of course, the team I worked with daily knew of my existence, but everyone else thought I was dead or gone.
- Jealousy: Some people didn't understand why I was allowed to work from home and they were not.
- My friends and family also developed this weird belief that since I wasn't out at the office, I wasn't working. They assumed I could do mid-week favors for them since I, apparently, was available.
- Some additional expenses like upgraded internet, web-conferencing software, an additional monitor, a printer, paper, and some basic office supplies (although some employers will provide these items).
- After going home from the office, I just felt kind of alone - no moral support, which I previously had interpreted as interruptions.
- Sometimes, without those interruptions, I get so involved in my work that I forget to get up and stretch. Thankfully, I have a little dog who needs to go for a walk around the block once in a while.
- Although not the case for me, I've talked to plenty of mothers or fathers who wanted to stay at home with the kids to save on day care expenses or just spend more time with them. These people found that telecommuting did not work for them and went back to working in-office due to the constant interruptions and lack of productivity. They just couldn't hold a train of thought with constant diaper changing, crying babies, and demands for Cheerios. Also, awkward are those calls from your boss with screaming kids in the background. Unless you are willing to still take the kids to day care or hire in-home help, this option is probably not for you.
- Some telecommuting positions start as or change to contract work, rather than salaried with benefits. The cost of losing paid time off, health insurance, and a company-sponsored 401K must be calculated carefully. A written agreement is crucial to make sure you'll be working enough hours at a high enough hourly rate to cover your living expenses.
- Some jobs are simply not suited to telecommuting - especially those that require a lot of face time with clients or staff.
Finding that Telecommuting Job
Generally, the rule of thumb is that employers looking for or allowing a telecommuting position are looking for high-producing, super-reliable employees.
So, if you do nationwide searches for telecommuting jobs, be prepared to offer up an amazing resume and references about what a hard worker you are, self-directed, works well without constant supervision, dependable, reliable, always produces within deadline, etc.
Hopefully, you'll already have some telecommuting experience to show that you can handle that working situation.
If you are an in-office worker, you may need to do some convincing - so prepare your 'argument' thoughtfully. Always have the mindset that this change will be great for the company. I had proved my work ethic over three years before I approached my boss about telecommuting. I convinced him that I would be much more productive, would have more hours to devote to my work, and would free up some office resources. Since my boss works in another state anyway, it wasn't a foreign concept to him as it can be in the case with more traditional companies.
Initially, we decided to try telecommuting 2 days per week, which over the next few months, turned into full-time telecommuting.
In all, I feel very fortunate to be able to telecommute, and have balanced my life over time - making sure I have plenty of outside social contact. When I wonder if I made the right choice, all I have to do is think about that (bleeping) commute to and from work, and I breathe a sigh of non-car-emission-filled relief.