The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting
More and more employers are seeing the upside of letting employees telecommute - benefits mainly related to lower expenses: 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.
Many employees wish they could telecommute, but remote work is not for everyone. To see if it's best for you, read on!
If, after reading this article, you think telecommuting is a good option for you, I've included some tips for obtaining a remote position or turning your current in-office job to a virtual job.
It seems that the common conception of people working from home involves a person in their pajamas, sipping coffee in front of the computer. In fact, that describes me! I like to get a jump on e-mails and messages that have piled up during the evening and early morning, then I take a shower break, put on some comfy clothes, and tackle larger work tasks.
For me, this is a major upside because:
- I can work at my own pace, in logical segments.
- I'm highly productive due to a lack of disruptions.
- I still attend all meetings via phone or video conference. These technologies allow out-of-office attendees to participate, 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 (each way) in incredibly stressful traffic - this also gives me 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 makeup 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.
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 6 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.
- Out of sight, out of mind: Once in a while, I'd go to the office, and the reaction I got from people was utter surprise, and comments like, "I didn't know you still worked here!" Of course, the team I worked with daily knew I was doing my job, 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, an additional monitor, and some basic office supplies (although some employers will provide these items).
- Sometimes, having no 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 daycare 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, there are those awkward calls from your boss with screaming kids in the background. Unless you are willing to still take the kids to daycare 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.
- There's a limited pool of job types that are conducive to telecommuting.
Finding that Telecommuting Job
Generally, the rule of thumb is that employers looking for or allowing a telecommuting position are looking for highly productive, super-reliable employees.
Finding a New Remote Job
So, if you do nationwide searches for telecommuting jobs, be prepared to offer up an amazing résume and references about what a hard worker you are, self-directed, work well without constant supervision, dependable, reliable, always deliver within deadline, etc.
Hopefully, you'll already have some telecommuting experience to show that you can handle that working situation.
Along with all the traditional job search methods, check out sites that list only remote jobs, such as Jobspresso.co. Some of the major job boards, particularly Indeed.com, now allow you to enter "remote" in the location field.
Turning Your Existing Job into a Remote Job
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.
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.