Telecommuting Can Save Money, But It Doesn'€™t Come Without Costs
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AT A GLANCE
  • Four million Americans did freelance work in 2015, and 37 percent of the workforce say they’ve telecommuted.
  • Pros: You can save time and money and get more work done. Cons: It’s lonely and requires effort to stay connected.
  • To avoid being isolated or passed over for promotions, stay disciplined, schedule face time and get visibility for work.

Imagine if your pre-work routine looked something like this: Roll out from under the covers a few minutes before 9 a.m., throw on some cozy slippers and sweatpants and make yourself breakfast. Then sit down at your desk in a sunny office or even outside on the porch, flip open your laptop and get ready to start the day. No commute. No cramped cubicle with florescent lights. No crappy office coffee.

With a lifestyle like that, it’s no wonder so many people are working from home these days. According to a report from Freelancers Union and Upwork, 54 million Americans—or one-third of U.S. workers—did freelance work last year. And a Gallup poll found that 37 percent of the workforce say they’ve telecommuted.

While a comfy couch and unlimited TV access may sound like a recipe for distraction, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Nearly three-quarters of people agree that remote workers are just as or more productive than their office-bound counterparts. (Research from Stanford University backs that up.)

Half of freelancers say they wouldn’t stop freelancing for any amount of money, citing freedom and flexibility as the main drivers behind their choice. A majority earn more than they did when they held a traditional job, nearly half expect their income to rise in the coming year and 83 percent believe their brightest days lie ahead.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? But before giving it a go, pour careful consideration into your decision. There are both pros and cons to cutting the cubicle cord—and qualities that make some independent workers better poised for success than others.

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What Are the Benefits of Working From Home?

For starters, it can equal a major happiness upgrade. According to FlexJobs research, 97 percent of people agree that working from home positively affects their health and overall quality of life.

“You have more control,” says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs. Depending on your schedule, you might be able to sneak in a workout class or organize your hours according to when you’re most productive, rather than sticking to 9-5. You can also handle unexpected things that pop up, like a family obligation, without taking a day off.

Plus, it saves you time and money: There’s no lengthy commute (which studies have shown is big stressor), and you aren’t forking over your credit card for gas, tolls and other transportation costs—or a work wardrobe and dry-cleaning.

Telecommuting can boost your performance, too. “There are fewer distractions, and the meetings people attend remotely tend to be much more strategic,” Reynolds says. “When you’re dialing in, you focus on getting things done, and it doesn’t drag out as much because it’s not a social event.” Those gains in efficiency and output can have a long-term impact on your career trajectory.

October 3, 2016

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