With the advancement of technology, many employers are now able to offer their employees the option to telecommute. Trends show more and more companies are using this approach to satisfy some of their workforce requirements. You may be provided an opportunity to telecommute, or perhaps you are looking for a position that is completely virtual. If you have never telecommuted before, there is a lot to consider. There are many personal benefits of telecommuting, but it’s not without drawbacks.
Benefits of Telecommuting
If you’ve ever worked in an office, telecommuting may seem like a dream come true. It certainly offers many advantages, including the following:
- A non-existent commute. Your commute time is reduced to almost zero. And now, you don’t have to worry about taking public transportation or driving to the office, which will save you not only time but money.
- A comfortable work environment. No more cubicles! Your office area is set up with just you in mind. You can have the chair or desk you want since you are responsible for setting up your home work environment. Working in an office also typically includes adhering to a specific and often formal dress code. If you’re telecommuting, you have more flexibility in your attire. An added bonus is that you’ll save money since you don’t have to purchase a full wardrobe specifically for work.
- A flexible schedule. Telecommuting arrangements may include the ability to work a flexible schedule. Each employer is different so be sure to ask while discussing telework requirements.
- A quiet atmosphere. There are many distractions in an office, particularly if you work in cubicles or share an office space with other employees. In your home office, you can minimize just about all distractions. And, telecommuting is a great way to stay clear of the office politics.
- More time with family and friends. The time you normally spent commuting can now be used to spend time with your family and friends, or on other interests or hobbies.
- Saves money. The costs often associated with “going to work” are greatly reduced when you are telecommuting. You are not spending money on train or bus fare, gas or parking, dry cleaning or updates to your work wardrobe, lunches or other impulse buys.
Drawbacks of Telecommuting
That dream come true doesn’t come without a price. Some drawbacks to telecommuting to consider are:
- Isolation. All of the social interaction involved in working in an office is lacking when you telecommute. You won’t be able to chat with co-workers during lunch or stop by someone’s desk to discuss a project.
- Others’ perceptions. You may find your family and friends do not take working from home very seriously, and therefore, treat you as if you don’t work. Your family members may expect you to take care of household chores during your work day simply because you are at home. Friends may drop in, assuming you are free. When you are telecommuting, you are working from home. The location changes, not the work requirements.
- Distractions. The office certainly has its fair share of distractions, but so does your home. Family, pets or friends may want your attention. There are always chores to be done. They will all have to wait until your work day is done!
- Blurred boundaries. Your home life can take over your work life, or vice versa. If you’re a workaholic, it may be hard to resist doing work, even when you’re not on the clock.
- Lack of immediate supervision. Your supervisor will not be monitoring your work in the same manner as if you were working in a traditional office. You alone will be responsible for managing your time properly to ensure that you meet deadlines. You may find it more difficult to approach your supervisor with questions and concerns when working from home.
Tips to Successfully Work From Home
- Create a dedicated office space. Designate a specific place in your home as a work space. Having an area intended for work purposes only can make it easier for you to separate your work life and home life. Try to choose a location in your home where you are less likely to be distracted. Avoid rooms with a TV or bed, or areas that get a lot of foot traffic. Keep all work-related items and supplies in your office space so you don’t misplace them.
- Set regular office hours. Work the same hours each day. Doing so will make it easier for you to remember that you are “on the clock” and need to focus on work during those hours. Keeping a consistent schedule will also help family members understand when it’s work time versus play time, so you can work uninterrupted. Your work schedule should coincide with the hours of your co-workers or client, in the event that you need to contact them during the work day.
- Keep a routine. Much like setting regular office hours, keeping a routine will help you stay focused and avoid distractions. You might be tempted to skip your usual morning shower or eat breakfast after you’ve already started working for the day, but try to avoid these pitfalls. Set aside a specific time for lunch each day to avoid taking overly long lunch breaks.
- Check in with your co-workers. Since you won’t see your co-workers or supervisor in person on a regular basis, check in frequently so they know you are available. Make yourself available via phone and e-mail and consider setting up a Skype account for instant messaging or video calls. Be sure your supervisor knows that you are being productive by sharing your accomplishments.
- Avoid home distractions. You might be tempted to pick up around the house or take on a household project. These are activities for after work. Running errands can also be a distraction. While it’s okay to run a quick errand during your lunch break, errands cannot take over your day.
- Take a break. When you make your schedule, consider adding in a little bit of down time to get away from your desk. It’s easy to sit at your computer all day without getting up when you don’t have co-workers around you. So get up, stretch and maybe even take a quick walk around the block. Breaks can help you be more productive. Just make sure your breaks are in keeping with company policy.
- Leave the house at least once a day. Avoid feeling isolated by getting out of the house. Since you don’t leave home to go to work, you may find it beneficial to take some time at the end of your work day to walk the dog, take the kids to the park, go out with your spouse or friends, or just venture out on your own.
Telecommuting can be a great opportunity, allowing you to save both time and money. However, it’s essential to remain focused and avoid life’s distractions while working from home. Avoid common telecommuting pitfalls by creating a workspace in your home, sticking to a routine and making yourself available to your colleagues. Don’t forget to occasionally get out of the house! By adhering to these practices, you can be a successful telecommuter.
If you need information or personalized assistance with employment or education opportunities, visit the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities website or call 800-342-9647 to talk to a SECO education or career counselor.