The Upside (and Downside) of Telecommuting
by Robert McNicholas on October, 31 2014
During a stress-filled journey to the office, who hasn’t thought Oh, man, if only I could work from home? It’s sort of like a secondary American dream. If only we didn’t have to leave the house; if only we didn’t have to don a suit for work; if only we didn’t have to sit for two hours in peak traffic every day; if only we could telecommute.
Guess what? Telecommuting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Oh, sure, it has its perks. But there are definite downsides to working from home.
The Two Kinds of Telecommuters
Telecommuting is pretty loosely defined. In some cases, anyone who doesn’t work in a physical office counts as a telecommuter. This means that even your taxi driver—although he or she may not think so—could be counted as working from home. But for our purposes, we are going to define telecommuting rather strictly. In this post, telecommuting is working from your home office (or your local coffee shop, if that’s what it takes) all the time.
Why do we make this distinction? Because there’s a difference between occasionally working from home and doing it full-time. If the weather is bad, traffic is particularly forbidding, or circumstances just allow it, the occasional day spent working at your home office is awesome. Many employees appreciate that kind of flexibility. But working at home full-time? That’s a different ballgame.
Why Working at Home Is Great
There’s no doubt that working at home can be convenient, especially if you’re self-employed and you can set your own schedule. You get to choose your own vacation times and, within reason, choose when you’re going to work. And yes, you can work in your pajamas if the mood strikes.
There is even a subset of telecommuting workers known as digital nomads, people who travel while taking their work with them. All they need is an Internet connection and laptop. This kind of meshing of dream and necessity is the golden ideal of telecommuting, at least in many people’s minds.
Exercising at work is another trend. Would you exercise while working?
Why Working at Home is Hard
All of the above sounds pretty cool. Who wouldn’t like more control over their schedule and the opportunity to travel the world while still earning money? The problem is, it’s not always that way.
If you work at home, it can actually be harder to establish boundaries between your work life and your home life. You may find yourself working longer hours than you otherwise would, all to get the project done. It’s also very common to have problems setting boundaries with family members and friends; just because you’re “at home” doesn’t mean you have time to sign for packages, pick up the dog from the groomer, or run a few errands. It’s surprisingly hard to get grown adults to realize you are actually working, let alone getting small children to grasp the concept.
There’s also more opportunity for distraction when you work from home. Without the boss strolling through now and again, it’s easy to put off settling down to work for a quick game or two, a trip to the fridge, or just one more episode of Chopped.
Finally, there’s loneliness. Some people have no issues with this. They are happy to work by themselves and find that they are more productive doing so. For others, the lack of someone physically there to bounce ideas off of can put a major damper on their performance.
So there you have it. Working from home in a nutshell. For some people, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. For others, the problems are much more substantial than they at first realized. What would you do? If the opportunity arose to work from home, would you take it?
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