About 10% of Americans telecommute at least once a week, working remotely from home or perhaps their favorite coffee shop. The number of telecommuters is predicted to increase dramatically over the next five years. But depending on who you believe, telecommuting either saves companies money, benefits the environment, and helps workers to be more productive, or is just another way for workers to slack off while getting paid. We believe there are both pros and cons to telecommuting and that understanding some of the disadvantages to telecommuting in any state – Pennsylvania, New York, California, Texas, Rhode Island – will help you stay just as focused and productive as your office desk-bound co-workers.
Lack of social interaction:
Working from home or going to school at an online school like Norwich University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Keiser University, Walden University, or Western Governors University can be lonely. Since you’re confined to your house, you don’t get to take a break with your fellow co-workers and hang out at the proverbial water cooler. To avoid becoming too isolated, make it a point to use the phone to speak with clients and co-workers, and classmates. Set up face-to-face meetings outside of your home whenever possible, and schedule a daily break where you can take a walk to a local bistro and practice your social skills with real live human beings.
Lack of motivation and discipline:
At home, away from the bustling energy of a busy office, you may find it hard to stay motivated for the duration of a seven- or eight-hour workday. Your own lack of discipline, as well as interruptions from friends and family, can seriously hurt your productivity. To stay motivated and focused, experienced telecommuters suggest grooming and actually dressing for work each day (don’t skip brushing your teeth or work in your pajamas), and maintain a specific area of your home for work and work only.
If you work at home and have children, your physical presence may be confusing for them, especially while you’re trying to remain detached and focused on your work. If your partner doesn’t work at home and assumes you can drop what you’re doing and take care of a child-related crisis, you may become the “fallback child-care provider.” Take time to schedule everything with regard to child-related duties, and explain to your children that even though you’re at home, you need to spend the day “at work.” (Maybe give your kid an extra hug after you say this!) You might want to consider hiring a babysitter to manage your kids at least during the work hours.
Neighbors who forget that you are “at work”
And then there are those neighbors who, knowing you work at home, assume that you are the neighborhood’s “go-to” person when it comes to signing for packages, letting repairmen into a home, or even helping them with someone else’s children! You’ll need to set some boundaries with not only your spouse and children, but other family members and neighbors as well, and remind them interruptions add an unnecessary number of hours to your workday.
Less chance for promotion
There is evidence that being out of sight means being out of mind, especially when it comes to how your manager is evaluating your performance and determining whether or not you get a raise or promotion. What’s more, your company may have you and your fellow telecommuters at the top of a layoff list in the event of an economic downturn. To prevent these two scenarios, many telecommuters opt for a hybrid work schedule where they work both at home and in the office, which gives them valuable “face time” with their co-workers and boss.
Working too many hours
While working remotely from home, each time you are interrupted by a non-work related issue, be it a call from your spouse, a visit from a nosy neighbor, or the necessity of domestic chores, you lose the time needed to do your work. An eight-hour workday can quickly become a 12-hour day! Remember, there’s a big difference between working at home and taking a day-off to take care of errands or a sick child. When working remotely, try to avoid including in your workday too many non-work-related tasks.
Hard to monitor productivity:
For companies, employers, and managers, it can be challenging to monitor and track the productivity of a telecommuter. Companies should have a protocol in place to ensure that daily tasks and long-term projects are being addressed and completed in a timely manner by telecommuting employees. And managers should make it a point to set and communicate clear ground rules to their telecommuting employees regarding working hours and quotas.
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