For those of you that dream of a job that gives you the flexibility of working from home partially or full-time, it might come as a huge surprise that there are people out there who do not feel the same, don’t take advantage of the opportunity, or flat out go back to an office space after a trial of telecommuting.
That’s what we said. But actually, it does make a lot of sense once you hear the cons to working from home. As we shared in part two of our Work From Home series, there are a good amount of pros to working from home, and lots of different people can take full advantage of the opportunity for reasons ranging from taking care of loved ones, to extended free-time. But, what are the cons? We cast a wide net and posted this question in forums and got a very diverse set of answers –
- It’s not the right setting: many people feel that they need to be in a specific setting to get work done, and their homes don’t count. Without a dedicated space, supervision, or structured agenda, it is hard for some to concentrate and exert self-discipline to complete tasks. This is mostly an issue for people that work from home on a limited basis, as they get more work done during the days they go to the office. For those who work from home full-time, there isn’t much of a choice, deadlines still come knocking at the door, even if it’s your house door.
- It’s too distracting: maybe people do have the discipline to get work done, but the interruptions abound: babies/toddlers that are too young to understand their parent is home but busy (remember the kids that interrupted their dad being interviewed live on BBC News?), pets requiring attention, mail deliveries during conference calls, family staying home sick or on holiday, etc. Since telecommuting is just now becoming more widespread, the majority of bystanders don’t quite know what to make of your presence at home, but also being unavailable.
- Work-life balance: as we mentioned on the pros piece, this one is a point for both camps. When you don’t have to commute and have more flexibility to complete your assignments, it may be easier to manage your time and dedicate more of the wasted minutes into productive outcomes. But that may become a problem if you’re working from the moment you roll out of bed until you tuck yourself back in. Depending on your workload, it may be incredibly hard to disconnect because, well, you might as well get it done now anyway. It becomes a vicious cycle because you have nowhere to leave your work behind. You need to set your own boundaries, and that’s very hard to stick to for people with deadlines or who truly love the work.
- Lack of human contact: this was a big one for many respondents. Making friends past college is a daunting task, and taking the office setting out of the equation might make it extra hard to form connections and socialize on a regular basis. Many people who try telecommuting list lack of human contact/camaraderie/etc. as the main reason they find their way back to an office setting. Some went as far as saying that by not working at an office, they were limited in their ability to learn new skills from others or be mentored, because it’s much harder to foster those types of relationships virtually. You also most likely miss Secret Santa, holiday parties, etc.
- Lack of personal care: it can be extremely tempting to roll out of bed in your pajamas, start answering e-mails, participate in conference calls, make and eat a quick lunch, finish up the day and… you’re still in pajamas. A number of respondents mentioned their wardrobes suffered since they wear mostly “athleisure” clothing and are not inspired to purchase nice clothes since they’ll be home most of the time anyway. Telecommuters across the board say that they had to learn to make it a point to shower and change before opening their computers as part of a routine that pushes them out of the “I’m home” mindset. They said this was key in increasing their productivity.
- Difficulty in managing teams: just like with the pros, there’s at least one con from the managerial side about working from home, and that is the hardship that comes with having direct reports that can’t be easily monitored in person. Some managers dislike following up through e-mail or phone calls and wish they could just walk up to a cubicle to ask for an update on a project. They also cite difficulties building team culture.
When we think about it, these all sound like extremely valid reasons why working from home might not be the right fit for everyone. For centuries, the workplace has been a pillar of our society, and through generations we have been getting educated to join the workforce – outside of our homes. The telecommuting trend, which is said to have started in the 70s is a relatively new concept that may not be the easiest to implement across the board, especially with so many indoctrinated generations in the mix.
For the final installment of this series, we will share some valuable tips on how to make the most out of your telecommuting experience, especially when you’re struggling to stay sane and have the best of both worlds. Feel free to share your own below, and let us know what has worked best for you!