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.

Are There Any Challenges?

For some, working at home can be isolating. Sure, you can head to the library, a coworking space or coffee shop, but it doesn’t have the same social vibe as an office community.

Going solo also requires more discipline than an in-house gig. “Unlike stepping into an office, there is no trigger that says now it’s work time,” Reynolds says. “You have to be able to self-manage.” It’s even truer for freelancers, who have to power through the tedious aspects of being their own boss (think: admin tasks like invoicing clients).

The lack of face-time can also be an obstacle. When your boss doesn’t see you on a daily basis, you risk not being top of mind for promotions and key projects. “You have to proactively put yourself out there,” Reynolds says. “Without outright bragging about your accomplishments, keep people regularly updated about where you’re succeeding and struggling.”

You don’t want your networking skills to stagnate, either. So if your office has an internal messaging system, be active, suggests New York-based career coach Lynn Berger—even just to ask people about their weekend. And if possible, come into the office occasionally for meetings and to catch up with colleagues. “Even if it’s just once a month or every other month, it goes a long way toward warming up your relationships,” Reynolds says.

For freelancers, maintain regular communication with clients—including those you’re not actively working with at the moment. “Some people are concerned about overloading freelancers,” Reynolds says. “Aim to touch base once a season to let them know you’re available to take on work.”

Are You Cut Out for Working From Home?

Some personalities are work-at-home naturals, so be honest when assessing your own. Because reaching out comes easily to social butterflies, they have no trouble building crucial ties with clients and coworkers, Reynolds says. On the other hand, while shy people can stay connected at the office with a quick smile or wave, it’s more difficult in a remote environment.

Next, ask yourself whether you usually assume that people have good intentions, or have a tendency to get paranoid. “Since everything is virtual, there is a greater risk of miscommunication,” Reynolds says. For example, without the context of body language or tone of voice in an email, you might not be able to detect sarcasm.

Finally, gauge your level of willpower. Get-stuff-done-now types typically find it easy to self-motivate at home, while procrastinators or those who struggle with organization may struggle to stay on top of deadlines without the built-in structure office life provides.

Berger suggests putting yourself through a low-stakes test run: On Friday, list out all the chores you’d like to get done by Sunday, then assess your performance at the end of the weekend. Were you able to resist surfing the Internet or going out with friends both nights? Did you feel good or drained during the process? Consider this a taste of what’s to come if you make the switch to working from home.

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