Before You Decide to Telecommute

A work from home arrangement isn't always for everyone

Telecommuters (a.k.a., remote workers or teleworkers) enjoy many great benefits, but there are also downsides. Before you decide to explore a remote work arrangement or ask your boss to let you work from home, here's what you should consider and ask yourself.  ~ April 1, 2010

4 questions you can ask yourself before you consider becoming a telecommuter:

1. Do the telecommuting pros outweight the cons for you?

It might seem like working from home--and ditching the commute--is the ideal work situation, but there ware tradeoffs as well. TTelecommuters enjoy:

  • More flexibility and control over working environment and schedule
  • Increased productivity: Fewer distractions from coworkers'/bosses' interruptions and the ability to work at your own pace
  • Less stress: Avoid rush hour, office politics, cubicles, and harsh lighting
  • Greater work/life balance: Stay closer to the people you love and more flexibility with scheduling non-work-related events

However, telecommuters are also more vulnerable to:

  • Isolation: You may feel left out of or miss office socializing
  • Distractions at home: chores, home deliveries, family interruptions, etc. may replace office disruptions
  • Becoming a workaholic: without firm boundaries, you may feel like--or end up--always working

    2. Do you have the personal qualities needed to be a successful remote worker?

    Not everyone is cut out to work remotely, and that's okay. If you don't have certain qualities, however, remote work will be a bust for you and you won't be happy attempting it. Teleworkers need to have:

    • Self-sufficiency and motivation: Since no one's watching over your shoulder, you need to be self-motivated
    • Good communication (especially writing) skills: Email and phone will replace most in-person communications
    • Outside relationships: Since you'll be away from the in-office community, you may need to establish stronger friendships outside of work
    • Organization skills: Your desk and your files are really yours to maintain
    • General technology comfort: Telecommuters need to be able to perform basic computer tasks and use online technologies like email, IM, and web conferencing

      3/ Do you have an appropriate office for remote work?

      Sure, technology makes it easy these days to stay in touch anywhere and anytime, but if your proposed remote work environment is your unfinished leaky basement and all you have is dial-up Internet service, that's a recipe for disaster.

      Thankfully, the tech requirements and general guidelines for setting up a home office are really minimal. If you have a computer, decent Internet connection, and can carve out a comfortable, productive space for working at home--it doesn't have to be an entire room--you should be fine.

        4. Is your job suited for remote work?

        This is a make-or-break question that will be evaluated by your supervisor/employer, so be honest with yourself about how much of your work can be done remotely. Most knowledge-based work can be done outside of the office, but jobs requiring your physical presence (e.g., teaching or medical care) will be tougher to negotiate for telecommuting. A sign of the times, however--half of US school districts offer online courses and online doctor consultations are growing. So even traditional occupations may be translated into telecommuting positions.

        The key here is finding out how well the telecommuting workstyle fits you.