sardonicThere have been times that I’ll be talking to a friend about some frustration at work and inevitably a sardonic smile creeps across their face as if to say, “Oh yeah, you poor thing.  It must suck to work at home.”

Yes, working at home has some really great benefits that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  But it also has it’s downside.  Some of them are just minor irritations, but some can be major hurdles to overcome.

CIO published an article recently on 17 Telecommuting Pet Peeves. Those of you who work from home will recognize many of these issues.

Technology gets in the way. You can’t count on coworkers or clients to have the PC skills or hardware necessary to set up a remote meeting with screen sharing, webcams, etc. A lot of time is wasted sorting out those issues. Nor is this problem limited to others: When your own Internet access gets flaky, you can’t get your work done.

Over the past year, I’ve had some modem and hard drive issues that would have been a real problem when I was telecommuting.  With a home business, you have perhaps a bit more flexibility but for the telecommuter this can be more than just an irritation.

You miss the “meeting after the meeting.” You see it all the time when you’re in the office: The meeting is supposedly over, everyone says their farewells, and the folks in the office hang up the speakerphone. Almost immediately, the conversation continues around the conference table in a far less inhibited way than it did when everyone was involved.

This is so true.  Often this is the time that small groups get together and hash out logistics of how and when they will meet, complete tasks, etc.  The telecommuter misses out on this.

Some of the challenges are more impactful.

It’s hard to read emotions from afar. This might sound like a “little” thing, but it has big ramifications: you miss body language, intonation and serendipitous hallway encounters that help build an organization’s integument. Despite e-mail, instant messaging and social networks, it’s not the same.

And along the same lines…

The lack of immediate, nonverbal feedback. When you attend a meeting in person, you can see when people look uncomfortable at an idea you propose, or when their body language indicates they are offended by a joke you tell. It’s hard to fix social or team problems that you can’t see.

This can be a big one.  Little incidents like this can build up a much larger picture over time of how you are seen by your supervisor and your peers.  If you are totally ignorant of this perception it can really cause a problem and can even impact job security.

These may seem like mere irritations but they can really add up for the telecommuter.  So, while I wouldn’t trade working at home for the world, there are drawbacks that many people don’t see.

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4 Responses to “The Downsides of Telecommuting”

  1. telesaur says:

    I wonder if veteran telecommuters start to overcome the lack of “non-verbal feedback” with greater sensitivity to vocal inflections. Of course, if the call drops, that perceived awkward silence would be excruciating!

    I think that as long as teleworkers are aware of the challenges they face, they aren’t impassable obstacles at all. Nice post, thanks!

  2. sharon says:

    Thanks telesaur. I’ll bet you’re right…you probably would become more sensitive over time. Evolving technology is breaking down barriers every day. Teleconferencing can help to solve some of these issues, although you’d still miss any eye-rolling going on off camera ;)

  3. mig forex says:

    How do you look for information for your blog content?

  4. sharon says:

    Well, I subscribe to a keyword blog search through Google and I have several blogs that I read regularly. I also look through the news stories each day to see if there is anything relevant and interesting there.

    I also use Twitter, Myspace and Facebook to find people to interview for human interest posts and quotes.

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