Whenever gasoline prices go up, working from home becomes more popular. The saving on fuel and time are just immediate benefits of telecommuting.
Some are even willing to take a salary cut to be able to work from home. According to a survey from technology job website Dice, 35 per cent of 937 IT professionals surveyed in the US in mid-March said they would accept up to a 10 per cent pay cut to telecommute in light of soaring gas prices.
Working from home also means on a slow day, you're free to catch up with house chores, run errands, relax on the couch or just surf the internet without worrying who is looking over your shoulder. Additionally, you enjoy flexible work hours and the numerous cost cuts you can make on office attire, lunches and child care.
It is even good for the environment.
Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it?
Not always. Telecommuting has its own disadvantages. To start with, managing life and work becomes more challenging when both need to be done in the same space. Additionally, office relations are harder to maintain and develop when you're not physically there.
Here are a few points you need to consider if you decide to take a job which involves working from home:
Work schedule flexibility is an advantage to telecommuting, particularly for jobs that don't involve for instance customer service or hardly require you to be online at particular times. However, once the temptation to postpone tasks to evenings and weekends overcome your routine, it is easy to drift into a continuous work-play cycle.
The result will be a negative impact on your professional performance, your ability to meet deadlines and even the quality of your life. While no one can deny that some overlapping is inevitable, sound time management can help you both professionally and personally.
Someone once told me when people say they are independent consultants, freelancers or working from home, he usually assumed they were just unemployed. While I am sure people with more exposure to modern business practices don't think the same way, I often encounter people who don't take telecommuters seriously. It is very important, therefore, if you're working from home to establish sound understanding of your job requirements with your family and friends. For instance, a professional environment is a must if you're taking part in phone conference or even client calls.
If the culture of telecommuting is well-established in your company, you might find it easier to connect with your boss and co-workers than a person who is telecommuting while most of team is physically present.
A major issue with being just a name on e-mails and Skype is to maintain empathy within the team. Feedback delivered in written forms or over the phone is usually cold and a supervisor may find it less spontaneous to drop an e-mail saying "Good job".
The unknown factor
Telecommuters are the last to know. While you might not miss the office gossip, you may want to hear about this training opportunity that will help put you on track for a promotion or a job opportunity that has just opened as early as everyone else.
You also always have to factor the unknown due to not being there when the decision was made, or simply the feeling of being out of the loop.
The only way to deal with this unknown factor is to be bold in investigating the circumstances when you're not sure, and communicate your concerns. By doing so, you may establish the rule that you require a broader picture of what is going on. It also signals to your employer an interest in corporate goals that goes beyond your immediate domain.
Water cooler conversations are not all gossip. If you're working from home, you need to establish connections that allow chats with co-workers in a more casual way than e-mails. Some office may have their chatting or messaging applications, or you can just use one of the common applications like Skype, Yahoo Messenger and others. The point is to draw on the benefits of brainstorming and collective thinking. Such chats can also provide informal feedback and an insight of the corporate direction and other workers' circumstances — particularly those who are also working from the so-called comfort of their homes.
Working or living
- Define a professional space and work hours.
- Communicate with coworkers and supervisors for feedback.
- Don't lose opportunities for brainstorming.
- Be involved in goals and plans beyond your immediate scope.
Rania Oteify, a former Business Features Editor at Gulf News, is a freelance journalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah.