Considering the transition to telecommuter? Here are common pitfalls of working at home — and what you can do to overcome them
It’s been more than a year since several prominent companies made headlines by banning telecommuting, yet the practice remains a growing workplace trend.
According to our recent survey, more than eight out of 10 telecommuting employees reported improvements in their stress levels, and seven out of 10 said that working at home boosts their productivity and emotional well-being.
Employees benefit from the right of flexible work. But that right comes with great responsibility. Many workers choose not to telecommute because their homes have too many distractions or not enough space. Others felt like collaboration and teamwork suffered when they were physically distant from teammates and managers.
To achieve work-life balance and experience the many benefits of a virtual work environment, telecommuters must avoid these four common pitfalls. (Click here to tweet this list.)
Either by circumstance or design, many telecommuters work in physical isolation. Even if they’re are surrounded by children, spouses and/or pets at home, the detachment from work colleagues can cause teleworkers to feel distant or out of the loop.
Highly extroverted individuals should take their home offices on the road and use technologies such as mobile productivity apps and VPN to work from more lively, social settings. Local coffee shops, coworking spaces or other shared workspaces can help more social teleworkers stay energized and productive.
2. Personal distractions
When working from home, work and personal lives converge, and it’s easy to become distracted by that pile of laundry or by Fido nibbling your pant leg. In fact, telecommuters have identified household chores, television and pets as the biggest distractions while working from home.
Compartmentalize your work and personal worlds by creating a work-only zone in your home, whether it’s a full-blown home office or simply a nook in a bedroom. Remove personal distractions, such as piles of laundry or grocery lists, to keep your home office all business.
3. Work-life imbalance
It should be easier to achieve work-life balance when working at home, right? Not necessarily. Telecommuters tend to work an average of six to seven hours longer each week than their office-bound counterparts. The comfort of working from home, coupled with around-the-clock connectivity, can cause telecommuters to work long past business hours.
To achieve a successful balance, formalize your work routine by establishing firm start and stop times. Develop disconnection techniques throughout the day, such as going for a walk, disabling work email notifications or simply changing clothes. Work shouldn’t overtake life, and life shouldn’t overtake work.
4. Lack of face time
Telecommuters risk the danger of becoming out of sight, out of mind. Whether intentional or not, a study by MIT Sloan Management Review shows that managers often promote workers who show presenteeism. Because teleworkers are passively present via emails, IMs and conference calls, they often get lower performance reviews, smaller raises and fewer promotions.
Ask your employer to equip you with technology that enables human interaction and team camaraderie, such as desktop video conferencing, social intranets, document collaboration and more to ensure you’re getting your virtual face time.
Achieving an equitable balance of family, career and personal time can be a real challenge for people working at home. But with the right strategies in place, you can find a balance between the telecommuting pros and cons to attain true work-life balance.
Sean O’Brien is the strategic voice of PGi, managing the company’s internal and external communications, including his role as the primary spokesperson for PGi. He works directly with PGi Chairman and CEO Boland T. Jones, President Ted Schrafft and the executive team to craft and communicate PGi’s vision, strategy and corporate objectives.