Has the commute to the office gotten old? Are you constantly distracted at work? Or do you simply do your best work when your cat’s the only one looking over your shoulder?
Whatever the reason, when the thought of becoming a telecommuter crosses your mind, you could be at an important career crossroads. Get it right, and the quality of your life could greatly improve. Get it wrong, and… well, let’s not think about that right now.
What you should be thinking about is the following: if your employer allows you to telecommute part or all of your working hours, you need to know if it’s right for you before putting your business suits in mothballs.
Carefully consider the following 10 points:
Communication skills. Because remote employees’ interactions are mostly by email and phone, they need to be masters of communication. First, they need to respond in a timely manner and always project requirements, including deadlines.
Furthermore, since there’s much less room for facial expressions and tone of voice, it’s crucial to choose the right—and the right amount of—words. If your emails are reminiscent of telenovela episodes and your calls leave the other person playing twenty questions, invest some time in brushing up your communication skills before saying goodbye to the office.
Attire. Do you love the feeling of sauntering into work wearing your new Armani outfit? Does the polished leather scent of your Montblanc briefcase still give you thrills? If dressing the part is an important aspect of why you love your job, then working from home is most likely going to make you miserable. But if being comfortable means wearing jeans and an old college shirt or even your pajamas to work, hop on board that telecommuting train now!
Commuting. Commuting is expensive and time consuming. However, many people enjoy those couple of hours to themselves in between work and family life. Others come up with their best ideas while driving. If either of these scenarios applies to you, think twice before trading in your sedan for a bicycle. But if traffic jams and tollbooths depress you and you desperately want some extra hours in your day, call your Internet provider to upgrade your connection to time warp speed.
Space. Even if it’s just a cubicle, you have your own workspace at the office. And you’re going to need one at home if you telecommute. It can be as small as a converted linen closet or as large as a repurposed guest room, but it has to be functional. If working from home means your dishwasher will be doubling as a filing cabinet, rethink your plans.
Equipment. US News reports that you’ll need good, up-to-date hardware and software to efficiently work from home. Even if your employer reimburses you for equipment, it’s up to you to maintain updates and upgrades, as well as security. So if for you “the cloud” is still something that rain falls out of and “anti-virus” is a flu shot, brush up your IT knowledge and acquire the right equipment before working from home.
Motivation and goals. A 2013 study of call center workers by Stanford University found that participants who worked from home reported greater productivity, as well as increased job satisfaction. Clearly, they were able to motivate themselves and meet the goals their jobs required.
As a telecommuter, you have to motivate yourself and set your own goals every day, since there’s nobody there to do it for you. If your supervisor always has to remind you coffee break is over and it’s time to finish that long-overdue report, remote work is likely to be a slippery slope.
Structure. At the office, much of your day is dictated by meetings, face-to-face teamwork and breaks, and you structure the rest of your work around those events. Working remotely means you have to create your own structure: one that enables you to be productive, as well as available when someone at the office needs you. So if, left to your own devices, you’re likely to spend all morning choosing the right colour sticky notes for your office while an important assignment goes unattended, you’d best keep that suit on.
Concentration. At the office, pretty much everything’s about work. At home, there are many more things to distract you, from housework to entertainment. If cleaning your laptop screen incites you to clean all the windows in your home or if YouTube is constantly luring you away from your work, develop your concentration skills before leaving the office in the dust.
Collaboration. If you’re an independent spirit who prefers to do things on your own, working from home can help propel your skills and achievements to the next level. But if you thrive in the collaborative environment of an office, becoming a professional hermit isn’t likely to be your salvation.
Friends and family. Be warned: friends and family are likely to think that when you work from home, you’re always free for a chat and a cup of coffee. If you can clearly set boundaries around your professional time and enforce them consistently, you’re golden. If you can’t handle your best friend’s pout or your mother’s snippy response when you inform them that, though you're home, you're busy, best stay working safely inside office walls.
Think about these points and consider what the reality of working from home would mean for you. And if you're confident that a little freedom and distance would only make you happier and more productive, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss your options.
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