Anyone who has worked in an office for a significant amount of time has had the same thought at some point, “How great would it be to work from home every day?” It can be incredibly rewarding as long as you go into it with the right expectations and avoid some classic pitfalls.
One of the first things you need to consider is if your company is prepared to handle remote workers. Check out our previous article to see what the company can do to make things easier for everyone. The other major hurdle is if your job absolutely requires you to be on-site. It would be hard to be a construction worker that worked from home, I’d imagine. The Development team at DealerOn really only requires that we have a computer and an internet connection, so let’s dive in!
Let’s start by listing some of the main benefits to working remotely. The carrot comes before the stick.
The Commute — the average commute time in the United States is now 26.4 minutes each way. In larger/dense urban areas this can be as high as 60–90 minutes. A long commute can be stressful and doubly so when it’s due to traffic that can be frustrating and unpredictable. For most of the country that time is wasted by driving your own car due to lack of public transportation options. I’m sure you’d agree that you could find something better to do with an extra hour or three in your day!
Comfort — even the nicest office probably isn’t as comfortable to you as your own place. You’re in sole control of the thermostat, you can blast your music as loud as you want, and no one will make a face if you skip the shoes all day. You also have the final say in your furniture options. Do make sure you still get dressed for work though. Nobody wants to see you on camera in your robe.
Peace and Quiet — some offices can be noisy and chaotic. Background conversations, phones, and printers can all provide a din that hangs over you like a cloud, sapping your concentration. One solution is to wear headphones to drown everything else out but nothing beats the silence of your own private space.
Multitasking/Flexibility —if you’re home all day it becomes much easier to stay on top of certain chores. Laundry and dishes are two tasks that can be started before work and then finished on your lunch break. You’re already there if an important package needs a signature or is at risk of being stolen. If you have pets, they’ll love just having you around and the more frequent bathroom breaks. You can also be there if you have a child staying home sick and still be productive, depending on their age.
Telecommuting sounds amazing, why aren’t we all doing this right now?!?! Besides resistance by management, there are a few reasons why it doesn’t work for everyone.
Distractions — in the multitasking section, I made sure to only mention before/after work and lunch breaks because it can also be easy to get distracted by all of the things to do in your house. I’ve got an amazing library of video games, movies, and TV shows. I also have more housework than I have desire to do said housework at night. Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting your work for home projects and entertainment just because it’s so convenient now.
Children are another giant distraction that can tank your concentration. It’s easy to think of working from home as a great way to save money on babysitting but kids under a certain age need constant supervision and mental stimulation. They don’t understand that you’re “at work” and you don’t have time to hear a full recap of the latest episode of PJ Masks. If they’re usually in school or daycare but have to stay home sick it can be less of an issue because they’ll spend most of the day in bed. There’s no hard and fast rule on what the minimum age is for kids to stay home but understand that you have work to do and be able to entertain themselves.
Communication —if your coworkers are all in the same office and you work remotely, it can be hard to have the same quality of communication as your teammates. We covered some of the bigger roadblocks in the previous article, like using Slack and video conferencing, but just having the tools isn’t enough. Since your manager/teammates can’t physically see you at any given time, it’s easier for them to forget about you or not know what you’re working on. Combat that by being almost overly-communicative. Be extra talkative in the chat rooms, direct message teammates with questions, have your camera on whenever possible for the meetings. You’re a member of the team so make sure you’re constantly accessible and in the conversation (during work hours).
Another wrinkle that can affect communication with your team is time zone differences. Maybe you’re working remotely in another part of the country or on the other side of the planet. Your two options are to adjust to the home office times or work your local time. If you’re working your own times, make sure to get things you need from your teammates during the overlap and save items you can do during your alone time for the offset hours. Nothing is more frustrating than needing someone else to answer something but knowing they won’t be available for half a day.
Loneliness — this one affects people differently but it’s worth noting because many new remote workers don’t consider it before making the change. When you’re working in an office, there’s almost always someone to talk to about work or just what’s going on in the news or pop culture. Too much of this might be why you want to telecommute in the first place. The problem is that too much isolation can have negative effects on you. If your company isn’t using chat/video conferencing, you might go an entire day without saying anything out loud. Make sure to break this up by meeting someone for lunch or doing social things after hours. It’s hard to know if this will be an issue for you until you go through it. Don’t brush this one off, there’s a reason solitary confinement is seen as a punishment in prison.
Blurred lines — when your home and office are the same place, it can be easy to never “leave” work. Having a room dedicated as The Office can help (and might be a nice tax write off**) but even if you don’t have space for that, just holding yourself to normal working hours is important. Take a break every hour or two to get out of your seat and stretch your legs, get away from your desk to eat lunch, and know when you’re going to stop for the night. Avoiding mental burnout is better for your health than the short term gains of the extra work.
Working from home can be a pretty sweet gig if your company is open to it and you know what you’re getting in to. All of the complications that I listed are manageable as long as you set some ground rules for yourself. If you’re still unsure, try working from home one or two days a week as a trial. Once you adjust, the hardest obstacle you’ll face is not responding with a Nelson Muntz image anytime somebody complains about their commute.
** Consult a real life CPA on how to deduct a home office from your taxes