Many people dream of snagging a telecommute job not realizing that there can be some very real drawbacks and that sometimes those drawbacks can be deal-breakers. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.
One of the main challenges is the isolation. It can be really difficult to feel connected to your co-workers when you don’t have that “face time”. Judi Sohn of WebWorkerDaily telecommutes for two different companies and recently talked about how she copes with those challenges in her post, Telecommuting – Out of Sight Doesn’t Have to Mean Out of Mind. Judi points out:
When you’re physically in the office simply doing your job, your presence is a constant reminder to the rest of your team of the value you add to the company. No virtual project management site can replace the spontaneous collaboration that happens in the hallway. And when the boss is looking for someone to play a role on a key project, odds are her first thought isn’t going to be that guy sitting 200 miles away.
So how do you sit in your pajamas all day and stay connected to your peers?
It depends on the company, and it depends on you.
It depends on you because you have got to be much more consistent and diligent with keeping up communications than your in-office colleagues do. Not only does this affect your productivity but it also affects your co-workers’ perception of you.
Imagine how your coworkers would feel if they asked you a question in person and you routinely ignored them for a few hoursâ€¦or a few days? Whether it’s IM, Twitter, Skype, the telephone or the inbox, you need to get on top of the communication tool that’s as readily accessible to you and your coworkers during business hours as conversation.
If you’re not accessible, believe me, the first assumption is that you’re napping, watching tv or engaged in some other such reprehensible non-work-related behavior. Talk about instant resentment.
According to John C. Daub (or “Hsoi” as he has dubbed himself) telecommuting is not always the picture of perfection that people imagine. Hsoi’s a telecommuting software engineer, has been formally telecommuting for 9 years. In his recent post, How to succeed at working from home he says,
The keys to successful telecommuting are discipline and responsibility. Sure you’re at home, sure you can work naked if you want to. But all of your favorite distractions are right at your fingertips: the tv, books, whatever you like to do for hobbies, your bed/couch for napping, all your favorite foods in the kitchen, and probably other people (spouse, kids, roommates, etc.). You have to overcome these distractions and/or learn how to manage them because you still must produce and get your work done on time.
I have to agree. Not everybody would be an effective telecommuter. You’ve got to be able to create a working schedule and environment and then stick to it… most of the time that is. What good is working at home if you don’t ever take advantage of being at home? As Hsoi looks at it, there’s no reason not to enjoy the benefits from time to time:
I’ll take a 5-10 minute break in the middle of my workday to just go down and talk with my wife and kids. Why not? I’m here, I can do that, so I’ll take advantage of that. The office-bound chat with each other during the day (the “water-cooler”), so chatting with your “officemates” is really no different. And do allow yourself to be accessible and keep in perspective just what’s truly important. For instance, sometimes my kids knock on my office door during my workday. If I’m truly in a zone and can’t be interrupted that’s one thing. But most of the time all the kids want is 30 seconds of my time to show me the LEGO creation they built or the comic strip they drew. I take that time because which am I going to regret later? that I didn’t stay unwaveringly focused on my work? or that I missed out on my kids growing up?
Right on Hsoi. That’s how I feel. It’s a fine line to walk though and not everyone has the discipline to know where that line needs to be.
It’s also about how your company views telecommuting. I came across a post, Telecommute. Kill a career? which cites a study that found that over 60% of 1,320 global executives surveyed by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International said they believe that telecommuters are less likely to advance in their careers in comparison to employees working in traditional office settings. Company executives want face time with their employees, the study said.
Dameon Welch-Abernathy of WebWorker Daily agrees:
As someone who has telecommuted full time for almost a decade, I can say that my career has probably been “stunted” as a result of telecommuting. There are certain opportunities I missed out on or were simply not available to me as a result of not being in the office full time. I have also missed out on a lot of distractions as a result, such as office politics.
Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Not everyone has to continually strive to get to the “next level” in order to be happy. Dameon feels it’s more important to be able to pay the bills, to continue to do something he’s excited to be doing and to enjoy his job.