The Ugly Truths About Telecommuting And How To Prevent ThemBy Lisa Skapinker on June 13, 2012 in The Watercooler
The benefits of working from home have been well documented, spurring jealousy from many an office worker. Telecommuters can set their own work hours, work from wherever they choose, avoid long commutes, and enjoy some semblance of work-life balance. But what are the downsides of telecommuting?
The Washington Post recently outlined several of the ‘ugly truths’ about telecommuting. While working from home has its advantages, there are several undeniable drawbacks of not working in a traditional office setting. Here are some of the ugly truths about telecommuting — and how you can prevent them.
Challenge: When you don’t have the built-in accountability of sitting in the office, it’s easy to waste precious working hours reading articles (Buzzfeed lists are especially culpable here), watching TV, running errands, etc. Without a manager dictating what your schedule should be, it’s hard to get motivated to work — especially for younger employees who lack the built-in discipline one gains from years of office experience.
Solution: “Do the hard thing first,” freelance entertainment writer/producer Katherine Brodsky suggests. “It may seem simple, but it makes a huge difference. Start the day by doing the hardest thing; it will do amazing things for your discipline. And feel free to reward yourself with a short stroll or a leisurely coffee having gotten that ‘hard thing’ out of the way.”
Another simple but extremely helpful way to be more disciplined is to designate a specific area as your work space and get dressed in the morning as if you are going into an office. Beth Mann, owner of Hot Buttered Media, advises, “Everyone dreams about working in their pajamas but the truth is, sleepwear can lead to a certain apathetic approach to work. Sure, it’s comfortable, but we all equate robes and pajamas with relaxation. Sometimes you need to get up, shower and get dressed, like it’s a 9-to-5 office job, just to alert your subconscious that you’re serious about work.” And, by having a designated work space, you can more easily get into the mindset that you’re powering on to do work, not to browse the Internet.
2. Work-Life Balance
Challenge: Without a set work schedule that dictates when employees power off and go home each day, it can actually become harder to implement times to not be working. Since you don’t have that routine, you’re more likely to be working late at night, early in the morning, on weekends, and during other odd times. And, as the Washington Post points out, your colleagues may expect you to be available at all times, since you’re always at home and therefore always at work, correct?
Solution: Kari DePhillips, owner of The Content Factory, suggests dedicating time when colleagues aren’t allowed to contact you each week. “I implemented Kari-Free Wednesdays, where nobody on staff can contact me and I don’t schedule appointments with clients. This way, I have a dedicated ‘catch up’ day in the middle of the week that helps keep me from falling behind.”
Furthermore, be clear with your coworkers about when you are and aren’t available for work-related communications. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should be expected to be available 24/7. Don’t feel guilty about working from home, and don’t feel the need to compensate by always being available. You deserve work-life balance too, telecommuter!
Challenge: Working from home is undoubtably lonely. You can’t simply open your office door and chat up your friends or go to lunch with colleagues or easily grab drinks after work with your team. There’s no one to vent to or gossip with at the water cooler. And staying cooped up inside your home can lead to cabin fever.
Solution: Social media is not a replacement for face-to-face communications, but it can be very helpful in staying connected to your team and not feeling isolated. Whether it’s work-related or just chatting to say hi, reach out to your coworkers through your social channels, be it your chat function or Facebook or a dedicated company social channel. This can also be really helpful for getting motivated. When you see how excited your colleagues are about a project or a goal, you’ll feel excited about it too and motivated to work hard.
Entrepreneur Daniel Maloney also suggests telecommuters “start every morning with a ritual that’s outside of your house. Go get a cup of coffee, go to the gym, etc. It’ll force you to wake up at a “normal” hour and get dressed, so when you do return home to work, it’ll feel like you’ve already had a productive start to your day.”