Look before you leap on the telecommuting bandwagon.
Given the opportunity to work at home, most of us would jump on the
telecommuting bandwagon without a second thought. What's not to like? The
worst fear might be running out of paper for the printer, or missing that
lightning-fast T-1 connection at work for the 56k modem on the home
computer. So what are the real downsides? Not everyone is well suited to
telecommuting, despite the convenience, and you need to keep your absence
from the office from becoming a disadvantage to your career.
Not that telecommuting, flextime, compressed workweeks and the like aren't
fully accepted by many employers. They are. Arthur Andersen LLP, for
example, offers all these things to their employees after two years' tenure
with the corporation. If you have a good work record, you qualify for a day
or two off in exchange for working longer days when you're at the office.�
Start earlier, or work later, it's up to the employee. The days of punching
the clock at 9 and 5 are gone, thanks to technology and more flexibility on
behalf of employers. Telecommuters also want to balance family needs by
working at home. Employers have to consider it, especially in today's
economy where skilled workers are at a premium, if they expect to hire and
retain productive employees.
Nonetheless, you'll be wise to look before you leap into telecommuting or a
flexible work arrangement. Remember what you'll be missing. Are you the
kind of person who thrives on office routine and face-to-face conversations?�
You won't have the luxury of strolling to your boss or co-worker's office to
brainstorm about a problem, nor the opportunity for spontaneously
interrupting or overhearing conversations that you might want to hear. What
does that mean to you at job performance review time? Try to make sure your
work product is still noticed by your boss, by scheduling a weekly meeting or
periodic phone conversations. One way to avoid that isolation is to maintain
a workstation, if possible, for working at the office a day or two every week.
The convenience of working at home can be a blessing and a curse. Sure, not
having to be at a certain place at a certain time, when every other frazzled
commuter is trying to get there too is a real godsend. And picking your own
hours is the ultimate freedom. But that lack of structure is the danger.�
Will you be tempted to overwork because the computer is always there,
beckoning you to check the email? Or will you lack discipline to work enough
hours to be productive, and give in to distractions you don't have at work?�
People who need motivation and structure provided by the workplace need to
become self-motivated and learn to schedule themselves.
Compressed workweeks can put real pressure on your stamina and energy, too,
if you try to compress too much work into the day. Some experts advise
against taking Monday off, especially since it tends to be the action-packed
kick-off to the week in many organizations. Splitting the workweek instead
by taking Wednesday off, for example, lets you recharge yourself between
those long workdays.
Sources used to create this article include Brenda G. Russell and the Chicago