Making Telecommuting Work for You
Technology has always had an impact on the way we earn a living. Just as the Industrial Revolution brought a large class of people out of the fields and into the factory, today an increasing number of workers are forgoing the 9-to-5 office grind in favor of telecommuting. For those able to do so, telecommuting has a number of advantages. The ability to set your own hours and avoid a lengthy commute are both major perks.
But does telecommuting really provide a better work/life balance? Consider the following working tips that will allow you to enjoy all the benefits of working remotely without falling into some common traps telecommuters face.
The Rise of Telecommuting
There’s no question telecommuting is on the rise in a range of different sectors and industries. A 2015 Gallup poll found 37% of all employees have worked from home at some point — a big jump from just 9% in 1995. Of these, employees telecommute an average of 6.4 days a month, with 24% telecommuting more than 10 days a month.
While these numbers are still low relative to the larger working population, there’s evidence they will continue to grow. Further research conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com found:
- Between 80% and 90% of employees say they would prefer to work from home on either a full- or part-time basis
- 50% of the American workforce is employed in a position that could allow for some degree of remote working
- Many employees already enjoy considerable mobility — studies have shown workers at Fortune 1000 companies are typically away from their desk between 50-60% of the day
Together, these stats clearly indicate there is room for telecommuting to grow in the years to come.
Who Is Telecommuting Now?
When discussing telecommuting, it’s important to differentiate between salaried employees who work remotely either some or all of the time, and freelancers or self-employed individuals. Both have a distinct demographic profile. While freelancers tend to be younger, the average telecommuter is 49. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, these telecommuters make $58,000, work for a company with at least 100 employees, and they have a college education.
The Gallup survey provides some more granular data on who is telecommuting:
- 55% are college graduates
- 52% have an average household income of $75,000 or more
- 44% are employed in a white collar profession, such as executive/management, technical, sales or administrative roles
Pros and Cons of Working From Home
The same FlexJobs survey cited above also provides a key insight into the appeal of telecommuting in general. The majority of respondents claimed they wanted more work-life balance — but is telecommuting the best way to achieve that, or is it just trading one obligation for another? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of working from home:
- Pro: Convenience — According to an article in Forbes, some 50% of Americans report that their commute significantly affects how they feel about their job. Particularly in major urban centers, where spending upwards of an hour in traffic or on public transit is common, there’s a definite appeal to working from home. Working from home means freedom to sleep in, to get chores done during the day, and to work in one’s sweatpants — benefits anyone who has ever had to dress up and drag themselves out the door to catch an early bus can appreciate.
- Con: Lack of Support — It’s easy to complain about one’s coworkers, but for many office workers, they are an important source of support. Work is where friendships are formed and connections made. Telecommuting may mean less office gossip, but there’s a strong argument that gossip serves an important social function for adults. From the professional side of things, daily, face-to-face interaction makes it easier to build relationships with others who can potentially serve as a reference or important contact for you later in your career.
- Pro: Flexibility — Working from home gives you the freedom to work whenever and wherever you want. Whether it’s in your home office, at a coffee shop or at the beach, telecommuting can give you an incredible amount of flexibility. A growing class of people with mobile jobs are even combining work and travel — startups such as Unsettled Adventures cater to this sense of responsible wanderlust by offering “co-working vacations” to exotic destinations around the world.
- Con: Productivity — Too often, however, the reality of telecommuting ends up being a far cry from this jet-setting ideal. In fact, most people — particularly mid-career professionals who have spent most of their working lives in a formal office — find their productivity suffers when taken out of a structured work environment. Unless you’re a very self-motivated individual, working from home usually means late nights and missed deadlines, which can impact your potential for advancement in the future.
- Pro or Con: Cost Saving — Telecommuting means you spend less on fuel or transit passes, office clothes and dry-cleaning, lunches out, and other daily expenses that build up over time. At the same time, your office’s telecommuting policy may require you to purchase your own device, pay for your own internet and make improvements to your home office. Whether or not these expenses outweigh the savings can only be determined by looking closely at your budget.
How to Work From Home More Effectively
If you have the opportunity to work from home, here are some ways to make the most of it and stay as productive as you would in an office:
- Build a Routine — Get up at a set time every day, schedule breaks and have a defined time when you’re off the clock.
- Have a Dedicated Workspace — Whether it’s a home office or a special booth at your favorite cafe, having a space you consider “yours” can be incredibly beneficial.
- Recognize When You’re Most Productive — Pay attention to how your natural work habits develop over time and plan your day accordingly.
- Make Yourself Accessible — By maintaining open lines of communication with staff, clients and management, you’ll feel more connected and be more effective at responding to incidents as they develop. Investing in the right business phone system can make this easier.
- Practice Distraction in Moderation — Limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook and Twitter, but recognize the importance of stepping away from work periodically.
You, too, can reap the benefits of working from home, a growing trend that will only get more popular in the years to come. What are your favorite tips for staying productive when telecommuting? Let us know in the comments section.