I used to imagine myself working in newsroom or covering breaking stories from the field. Instead, I am working via computer with a company based in another state.
This is called “telecommuting” — and it’s is likely here to stay.
First and foremost, I am grateful for the opportunity to work from home. It’s a good match for my lifestyle, as I tend to work throughout the day rather than just 9-5. As long as I stay disciplined and organized, I can set my own schedule.
But, there are a few downsides. Most of all, it can be difficult to stay sane when I spend most of my time with a dog — no offense to Tracker.
Considering I only graduated three months ago, I’m no expert on the subject. Still, I have learned a few telecommuting tips and tricks along the way that have made life easier. Why not institute them from the get-go?
The rise of telecommuting
The number of people turning to telecommuting is growing. According to American Community Survey information, 1.7 million more employees worked from home in 2009 than in 2000. Currently, this represents 20 percent of the workforce. However, experts believe the percentage could climb past 40 percent by the end of this decade.
These statistics have greatly affected society, the economy and the environment: With fewer people commuting to work, there are fewer cars on the highway and less gas emitted into the air. In fact, a recent article in The Lawrence Journal World said that telecommuting is “arguably the greenest improvement in the workplace.”
The disadvantages of telecommuting
Is what is good for the environment also good for society? That is less evident. Although telecommuting theoretically means more time with family, it can also mean added stress and frustration.
In a 2010 article for The New York Times, telecommuter and mom Sylvia Marino said that, unlike traditional office workers, she feels as though the boundaries between work and life are blurred. She said, “If someone calls me, I feel that I’m expected to pick up the phone within three rings — no matter what time of day or night.”
There are also dozens of small inconveniences that come along with telecommuting. For example, without face-to-face interactions, it can be difficult to read coworkers emotions and paralanguage. This means it is also harder to form interpersonal relationships.
The advantages of telecommuting
In spite of the drawbacks, there are also many advantages to telecommuting — which is probably why it has gained so much popularity.
For the employer, telecommuting means reduced real estate costs. It also means increased employee retention, even in spite of dwindling interpersonal relationships. According to an advice column in The New York Times, telecommuting has also been proven to increase productivity “in the double digits.”
For the employee, telecommuting may mean more time for actual work, rather than time spent getting ready and driving across town. It can also be beneficial for families, as they can be more stable and less vulnerable to across-the-country moves.
How to telecommute successfully
- Develop a routine: Even though I don’t stick to a 9-5 schedule, I perform best when I wake up at a good time, workout and sit down at my desk by 8 or so. That way, I get the majority of my work done during the morning and am able to remain flexible in the my afternoon.
- Create a work space: It helps me to feel like I’m “going to work,” even when I’m staying home. I do this by using a home office with a desk, bookcase and — most importantly — a door to shut our everything else.
- Figure out your boss’ expectations: Without a boss looking over my shoulder ever hour, it can be difficult to know if I’m on track. Based on my experiences, the best way to deal with this is to have a conversation right off the bat with my boss about what is expected of me. Of course, more questions will come up later, but this lays a good foundation.
More about telecommuting…
- Fast Company: How to Work From Home Like You Mean It
- The Rainmaker Group: 10 Measures to Look For in a Telecommuter
- New York Times: Telecommuting During Tough Times
- PC World: 17 Telecommuting Disadvantages
- New York Times: Debunking the Myths of the Telecommute