Telecommuting sounds perfect in theory: work in your pajamas, watch reruns of Arrested Development on your lunch break, skip the pesky commute. What's not to love?
Staples Inc. published a recent survey on telecommuting which found that 80% of the telecommuting workers surveyed say they now have a better work-life balance. The benefit to employers is that it can reduce overhead and increase productivity. And now even federal agencies are offering telework opportunities.
But it’s not all long lunches and loafing around in your PJs. Here are some questions to consider before you agree to telecommute:
Am I self-disciplined enough to work without someone watching?
Some people need the structure and built-in accountability of a boss and coworkers nearby, and they’d be easily distracted without it. Some workers like to test-drive telecommuting for a couple of days before they commit to a long-term arrangement. You can also try setting up accountability measures like weekly (or daily) phone check-ins or use a project management software to monitor deadlines.
Will I miss the social interaction of an office?
Once the novelty of telecommuting wears off, it can feel lonely at times, especially if you’re someone who craves face-to-face interaction. Alleviate loneliness and stay top of mind by visiting the office on occasion or setting up lunches with your coworkers. You could also join a co-working space or spend time working from a coffee shop if you need to get out of the house. Some companies offer part-time telecommuting so employees can maintain their connections with coworkers while reducing their commute.
Do I have the space that I need?
Not all telecommuting workers have a separate room in their home that they can devote to work. You should at least have an area where you can keep important paperwork or take a phone call without kids or pets interfering. If roommates or family members make it tricky to get the quiet space that you need, consider designating office hours so they’ll know when you’re available and when you’re not.
Will I be able to unplug at the end of the day?
In contrast to people who lack the focus and discipline to work from home, others have a hard time knowing when to call it quits at the end of the day. As the Staples survey discovered, most telecommuters are willing to put in extra time on work since they’re no longer commuting, but in extreme cases, you can burn out if you don’t give yourself time to unwind and participate in non-work activities. Turn off your computer when you finish work and you’ll be less likely to log back on for that one last email that snowballs into an evening of work.
By asking yourself these important questions before you jump into telecommuting, you’ll increase the likelihood of a successful transition, both for you and your company.