Telecommuting has become synonymous with convenience, flexible schedules and, yes, pajamas. You don’t have to commute, spend money on transportation or dress up.
But despite the appeal and laid-back reputation, there are challenges.
“Not everybody is cut out for working from home,” says Jack Aiello, a psychology professor at Rutgers University.
From your work style to your work space, here’s what to consider before working from home.
- Your personality
Certain personalities make effective at-home employees.
“Above all else, two things are required to be a successful work-at-homer: the ability to be a self-directed, focused planner and a healthy dose of introversion,” Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor emeritus at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, said in an email.
- Your environment
If you live with other people, Aiello says, it’s essential to have a separate space where you won’t be interrupted. You need at least a door that closes you off from the rest of the house.
Be realistic about potential distractions. “Some people can’t help but go on eBay,” Aiello says. “Some people can’t help themselves from playing computer games. There are all kinds of things that get in the way when they don’t have someone over their shoulder.”
And while society may paint a picture of at-home workers on the couch, binge-watching Netflix, some telecommuters have a tendency to work too much because they never leave their work environment.
Remedy this with boundaries, says Cassidy Solis, senior adviser for workplace flexibility with the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade association.
- Your employer
Finally, your employer and supervisor will have a lot to do with your success at home.
IBM made news in May when it called telecommuters back to the workplace. As companies re-evaluate telecommuting, so should employees.
Ask about whether you’ll be included in meetings and how frequently you’ll get feedback from management. Teleconferencing and regular check-ins can help alleviate feelings of isolation by fostering a team environment, Aiello says.
You’ll want to discuss your schedule as well. You may work more efficiently in a position that allows for time at home as well as in the office.
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that employees who spend at least some of their time working remotely have higher engagement than employees who never work remotely. The magic formula for engagement happens when employees spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time working off site, the report found.