Many people like the idea of telecommuting, or working from the house. You can work in your pajamas, avoid the rush hour traffic, and stay away from the office politics. These are big advantages, and cannot be discounted.
However, working from home is not for everyone. Some who work remotely complain about the feeling of isolation, lack of networking opportunities, and having to balance work and family responsibilities.
The purpose here is not to discourage telecommuting; rather, I want to share the challenges faced by off-site employees. Before accepting these types of positions, make sure you understand the requirements. A notable characteristic of telecommuters is the ability to work with little guidance or direction. By their nature, they are self-starters, task-oriented, and able to work without the need for constant encouragement.
#1: You love interacting with people.
If you are the type of person who loves hanging out with co-workers, going to the morning and afternoon coffee breaks, and participating in the weekly Happy Hour session, telecommuting is probably not for you. Working from home means that you are away from the office, and interaction is done by email, instant messaging, Skyping, or texting.
Those who need the physical interaction with other employees are going to have a tough time adjusting to telecommuting. Avoid accepting a position merely because it allows you the flexibility to work from your home. You must consider what excites you about the work environment.
#2: You have a hard time separating family from work activities.
Working from home means that your family is going to be near you – in the same house! While you can be productive when your spouse is at work, and the kids at school, how do you maintain that level of effectiveness at 4 p.m. when the family is at home?
A colleague who works from home for a major insurance carrier told me that it was tough for her to do her activities while her husband and kids were playing outside the house. She could hear them having a great time, but she had an EOB deadline preventing her from joining the fun.
Even though you work from home, you still have requirements and deadlines. If they go undone, your boss will wonder if you are the right person to handle remote work. Failing to deliver on expectations is magnified with telecommuters because productivity is based on deliverables. If you fail to deliver, you are failing to meet expectations.
#3: You are a Theory X employee.
If you remember from your management class, McGregor labeled workers as either Theory X or Theory Y. Theory Y employees love challenges, and seek opportunities to be accountable. In short, they are go-getters.
On the other hand, Theory X employees shun accountability and instead want to be told what must get done. I used to have an employee who had the following Post-It note on your monitor: “Don’t make me think! Just tell me what to do!” That’s the definition of a Theory X person.
Theory X and telecommuting don’t mix. A person lacking initiative will fail as a remote worker. If you are more of an order-taker and less of a thinker, stay away from home-based employment.
The point here is that telecommuting is not for everyone. You must do an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. While working from home offers many benefits, there are sacrifices as well. If you prefer a smile and a pat on the back, and if you enjoy the sense of belonging to a team, keep the office position. You may not be able to work in your pajamas, but at least you will be happy.