When meeting someone for the first time, many of us often ask the question “What do you do for a living?”
Many of us might also be surprised if the person responds: “I work from home.”
Today, the concept of working from home is still a hard one to grasp. When many consider the idea of working from home, the picture of someone in their pajamas typing away at a home office computer comes to mind. Although chances are we all know and respect someone who has a remote position, there is still a stigma that comes with this working style. People assume working from home to be easier than traditional work, and question how much individuals can accomplish throughout the day.
Working from home, or telecommuting, has become increasingly popular in recent years. As technology expands the realm of possibility for communication systems, corporations and organizations are finding it easier to hire remote employees. Working remotely can offer flexibility within the workplace and provide huge savings opportunities for individuals and companies. According to a recent article from CNN Money, individuals who work remotely save on average around $4,000 each year, and companies who employ remote employees are looking at savings around $11,000. However, leaders of major corporations remain at odds over the subject. In 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines after ending telecommuting options for the company, and IBM has recently followed suit.
As a residential leadership consultant, I have been able to dive into the world of working remotely. Living in the chapter house full-time means my work and my home are always one in the same. The officers who I work with, or my “clients,” meet me at the house each day where we plan and discuss the events in the weeks ahead. I typically hold anywhere from four to seven meetings per day, seven days a week. My office has become a small meeting room which houses a wooden conference table and chairs. I keep all of my meetings at this location for consistency and to trigger my brain to distinguish when I am “at work.” Additionally, I only see my supervisor and teammates in person a few times throughout the year, but technology helps keep us in touch each week.
For those of you who might be considering making the switch to telecommuting, here are some of the major benefits I have found compared to working in a traditional setting:
- Goodbye, commute. If you are anything like me, how you start your day determines how you will feel throughout the rest of the day. Having a traditional job that put me at the mercy of my vehicle, traffic, stoplights, and other drivers each morning was a constant source of stress. I would start my days feeling rushed and angry, which are hard feelings to shake. Working remotely has completely eliminated these negative feelings. My commute from my bedroom to my meeting space takes no more than a minute. Seriously.
- Forget something? No problem. I cannot count the number of times working a traditional job in which I would take off and leave something valuable at home, such as my wallet, my cell phone, or my lunch. When this happened, I would have a nagging feeling all day until I was sure the items were safe. My focus would diminish. With the elimination of the commute, the hassle of making sure all personal belongings are with you also disappears. At any point throughout the day, I can grab a jacket, reference a book I own, or add an extra cookie to my afternoon snack.
- Breaks can be breaks. No matter what occupation you have, I believe everyone looks forward to the point in the work day where you can step away, even if only for a few moments. I’ve spent years with co-workers in traditional jobs watching the clock, counting down the minutes until we were on break. However, in certain work settings, breaks can hardly feel like breaks at all. Break rooms, in my experience, are often small and unkempt, with rigid chairs, a stale pot of coffee, and a flickering television. Hardly the makings for a relaxing escape. When it comes to working from home, breaks have a different energy about them. I often spend spare minutes between meetings out on the back patio of the chapter house, enjoying the sunshine.
Appealing as all of these aspects might be, nothing is ever perfect. Here are a few of the drawbacks you can expect after making the switch:
- Being your own boss. Working from home, at first, can feel extremely difficult. Transitioning from a traditional work setting to a place of remote solitude takes time. Although you may still be interacting with people throughout the day, as I do, there is a difference from this type of interaction versus being out in the general public or surrounded by cubicles full of co-workers. There is a natural accountability that comes into play when other employees and levels of management are housed in the same space. Although I am not my own boss, some days I have to be. Working from home requires a high level of self- sufficient motivation and integrity. I must hold myself accountable to my scheduled meetings, my deadlines, and my level of effort and engagement each day. For those of you who enjoy having others to keep you on track, working remotely could be difficult for you.
- Tough day? Where do you go? Many workers after a long day cannot wait to get home and unwind, to relish in the feeling of being somewhere private, safe and comfortable. There is a natural separation between work and home, and the feelings associated with each. As I have worked remotely, I have found these feelings begin to blur. I do not experience the same feelings of wanting to be home after work, because my brain inherently knows I have never left. Instead, I often find myself wanting to remove myself from the house for awhile. Many nights after my last meeting, I find myself driving to the grocery store or a coffee shop, just to experience new scenery. I find the relief and comfort that used to be associated with coming home, I now feel when I enter these spaces.
- Narrowing your scope. Working from home limits the type of work that can be achieved, which is why not all businesses are able to adopt a telecommuting model. Expect to spend a majority of your hours simply relaying information in various ways, to connect those on the outside with the progress you have made at home. Your successes will rarely be witnessed, but this does not invalidate their worth.
Despite these drawbacks, I have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to have a remote position, especially at such a young age. I believe it is something everyone should seek at some point throughout their career, to expand their perspective of what work can look like. I learn more about myself, my preferences, and my strengths each day. Given the option, I hope to return to remote work again in my future.