Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"
Career Advice

Working from Home--A Good or Bad Decision?

At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, I’ve seen a lot of changes in my lifetime.  But unlike some of the previous generations that experienced the first electricity and motorized cars, I think the more significant changes in our lifetimes have occurred not in our personal lives, but in our professional lives.

Sure there have been countless medical advances (and aren’t we all still hoping for more!) and most of us now carry a mini computer around with us that we rarely use to make an actual phone call.  Most of us no longer use “film” or “develop” pictures after vacations and long gone are the days of printing out directions before embarking on the annual family road trip.

But the changes to our professional lives over the last two to three decades are simply amazing.  We’ve seen the introduction and ensuing death of the fax machine.  Office phones now rarely ring as other forms of communication have taken hold.  Travel budgets (and time out of the office!) have been greatly reduced as teams now communicate frequently via web meetings.  Efficiencies made possible via swift technology advances have enabled owners to accomplish more productivity with often less headcount.  And the list continues.

I find one of the most interesting business changes to be the trend toward “Work Remote” agreements.  Just a few short years ago, these arrangements were rare and for many conservative employers completely non-existent.  It was simply expected that all employees be housed in the same brick and mortar structure.  In recent years, employers have realized allowing folks to work from different locations has multiple advantages.  First, it can enable the company to minimize the amount office space required which of course reduces overhead expenses.  Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the flexibility offered by these arrangements can be a great way to retain top employee talent.

With that said, not everyone finds working from home to be a great solution.  In fact, some employees perform at much higher levels in conventional office arrangements.  The question becomes, which is right for you?

  1. Discipline.  Working from a remote location (or home for many folks), requires extreme discipline.  Sure it’s easy to get to the office a little late or take a longer lunch but don’t kid yourself.  Your boss and co-workers will quickly recognize if you aren’t making progress on your assigned work load.  Simply put, with no time clock to punch it becomes critical to respect working hours.
  2. Social Silence. Working remote can be admittedly lonely.  While you may be physically alone in your day, in most cases you are still a part of something larger; however, you’re simply not rubbing elbows with team members.  So, if you thrive in the center of the action, it’s probably not for you.  The upside is that without all of the social interruptions you can accomplish more in less time.  But the downside is that on Monday you may be sharing your weekend highlights with a four-legged friend instead of a co-worker.
  3. Reduced Visibility. While there are certainly exceptions, you should typically expect far less visibility when you aren’t working in a physical office location.  If you like flying under the radar, this element is probably just fine with you; however, it can make climbing the ladder more difficult.  Realistically upper management isn’t exempt from the “out of sight out of mind mentality.”  So if your long range career plans involve taking over the C-Suite, it may be best to keep your physical presence in the office.
  4. Feel the Flex!  Let’s face it, for most of us life is crazy!  There are work pressures, family pressures, and of course it would be nice if we could enjoy that work-life balance that everyone talks about!  Admittedly, entering into a work remote arrangement can definitely add some flexibility to your day.  Since many of your efforts are solo instead of team based, it can certainly be easier to start earlier or end later.  Like many of the benefits these arrangements provide, flexibility can be a beautiful thing.  But like most beautiful things….if abused it can quickly lose the shine.
  5. Proactive Wins.  Working in a satellite location (or your spare bedroom!) requires an element of proactivity so it’s important to know yourself and your strengths.  To succeed in these arrangements, it’s critical you can determine your own priorities and schedule your own work.  Simply put, if your boss needs to push you to accomplish each task, you’re not likely to succeed in a work remote arrangement.
  6. Reduced travel. Since many work remote agreements find employees housed in their home, travel time (not to mention expenses!) are often non-existent in these arrangements.   For commuters who can spend 2-3 hours each day dealing with road rage, traffic jams and wasted time, the thought of taking a few short steps within the house to start the work day can be beyond exciting.
  7. Space for Rent. While there are many factors to consider before moving forward with a work from home arrangement, a suitable work space is certainly a key factor.  Much like your employer wouldn’t dream of sticking you in a closet and expecting great performance, it’s critical that you have access to a functional workspace in your home.  Ideally you need a space separate from your main living area to create an office atmosphere and even better if it has a door that you can close when your work day is over.  Sorry, but if your only option is the couch or the kitchen table, you’ll likely struggle to make a smooth transition.

Let’s face it.  We’re all different and the perfect job for one employee can be a nightmare for the next. So, ultimately it’s all about knowing your strengths, weaknesses and goals so that you can make the best decision for yourself!

I’d love to hear from you….Would you fail or excel in a work remote arrangement?

Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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