For many, telecommuting brings to mind images of lounging around the house in pajamas free from the distractions of the office — the fluorescent lights, the drab cubicles, the office politics. Earning money from the familiar comfort of your own home may seem like the perfect setup. But depending on your situation, it could be a dream come true — or your worst nightmare.
With over 16 million telecommuters logging on from home, telecommuting is steadily growing in the United States, according to a survey by the International Telework Association and Council.
Research shows those who thrive in the at-home workplace are self-motivated individuals who are highly disciplined and have only moderate needs for social interaction. The best telecommuters are generally people who require little supervision and are good at solving their own problems.
Even though it may sound ideal, telecommuting is definitely not for everyone. Before you start stocking up on supplies for your home office, keep in mind the following suggestions:
After you begin working from home your co-workers who are still stuck at the office may take some convincing that you’re actually being productive and not sitting around watching episodes of Dr. Phil. Expect plenty of sarcasm and questions about whether you actually got dressed that morning.
Make sure you stay in touch with co-workers via e-mail and phone throughout the day. This helps convince them that you are actually doing work and not lounging on the couch making marshmallow necklaces.
Friends who call during the day to “chat” may think that just because you’re working from home, you’re not doing anything important. Either get caller ID or gently remind them that you’re working and you’ll call them back after 5 p.m.
Be prepared to have no tech support. Make sure you’ve got a friend who can help you fix your computer problems because you’ll probably be the office tech support’s last priority. If you’re single, take a second look at that computer geek who gave you his (or her) number last week.
Develop an insider’s knowledge of cafes that have both good coffee and high-speed Internet access for laptops. Getting out of the house during the day reduces “telecommuter psychosis,” or that cooped-up, cabin-fever feeling you get after staring at the same walls day in and day out.
Your cat will become your new best friend. If you weren’t already attached to Snowball, he will suddenly take on a very prominent role in your life. Your feline (or canine for that matter) will quickly replace the office receptionist as the person you go to for moral support.
You’ll miss out on office gossip. Remember all those hushed conversations with your co-workers? Jokes shared around the water cooler? You will now be having all those conversations with Snowball. But this may not be such a bad thing. If the office politics where you work are particularly Machiavellian, staying under the radar may be good for your career.
Going grocery shopping will become the social highlight of your day. You will relish opportunities to exchange small talk with the check-out clerk. At least she answers you, unlike Snowball, and hearing a real-life, human voice will sound shockingly novel.
Don’t brag too much about how superior you feel for reducing the amount of air pollution and traffic congestion. It will only inspire your co-workers to begin plotting your demise.
Depending on how your procrastination manifests itself, your house may suddenly become spotless. Dishes will get washed, the refrigerator will be cleaned, CDs will suddenly become organized alphabetically, photos will be arranged in albums and dirty laundry won’t touch the floor. While this may be a good thing in the short term, remember that the longer your house stays clean, the lower the grade on your next performance review.
If you have young children or a new baby, keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to be a full-time office worker and a full-time nanny at the same time. Anyone who thinks you can participate in conference calls and write up coherent reports with a screaming, drooling, pooping person in your lap has clearly never tried.
Carefully consider the number of days you will telecommute each week. If you choose to work entirely from home, make sure to show up regularly for meetings. Otherwise, your co-workers will begin to forget what you look like or may wonder why they weren’t invited to your going-away party.