Working from home has become a popular alternative to office-based work routines. But before you sign up for a remote work program, there are some special issues you need to consider.
For many employees, working from home sounds like a dream scenario. They can earn a livelihood and achieve their career goals without ever leaving the house, enjoying a work-life balance that allows more flexibility for parenting and other priorities.
As a result, scores of workers have embraced telecommuting and now spend all or part of the workweek in a home-based office. According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1 in 10 Americans now telecommute on a regular basis. Studies have even shown that individuals who work from home can be more productive than their office-based counterparts.
But before you start shopping for a pair of pajamas to serve as your new work wardrobe, you need to realize that telecommuting also has a downside. In fact, some people find that working from home issues actually lower their productivity and creates more problems than it solves.
- Isolation. By definition, a remote work situation is a lonely endeavor. For most telecommuters, loneliness and a lack of human interaction is the biggest challenge they face – even if they routinely interact with coworkers by phone, email or Skype. To stay balanced, try to get out of the house and have live, human interactions at least once during your workday.
- Feeling Out of the Loop. Home-based workers are often out of the loop when it comes to office talk and company culture. Although this may sound appealing, disconnectedness from coworkers and supervisors can have negative consequences for your career. So as much as possible, try to schedule time for office visits and informal, work-related conversations.
- Distractions. Whether you know it or not, your house is a minefield of distractions. TV, Facebook, the refrigerator, kids, pets – you are surrounded by things that can easily consume your focus and send your productivity plummeting to new lows. Since most work from home jobs are flexible, try to arrange your day to work during your most productive hours, dedicating a quiet corner of your house for at-work activities.
- Perceptions. Telecommuters are often thought of as on-call babysitters, errand runners and day laborers. Unfortunately, friends and family members tend to forget that you’re actually doing a job and the perception is that you’re available to lend a hand during work hours. Set the record straight by establishing clear boundaries and politely explaining that even though you’re home, you’re at work.
- Depression. There is increasing evidence that telecommuters suffer from higher-than-average rates of depression. The isolating nature of the work environment and lack of human interaction can lead to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and other symptoms. Left unchecked, these symptoms can become a serious mental health issue, so it’s important to pursue a healthy, balanced lifestyle that includes ample out-of-the-house activities.