We live in a world constantly in motion. I mean, we’ve turned our phones into miniature computers so that we can stay connected every minute, of every day, in every place imaginable. So, it should come as no surprise that, according to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people telecommuting in the U.S. has increased 73% from 2005 to 2011. This statistic, along with the fantasy of never having to change out of your pajamas, may leave you wondering: Is telecommuting right for me?
We’ve talked with a few remote workers to try to answer this question for you. Here are a some things to keep in mind when considering a position as a telecommuter.
1. Are You Self-Motivated?
Working remotely, you will not have a supervisor who is able to walk a couple of feet and check up on you. This can be a relief, but it can also lead to a lack of focus and result in a failure to get your work done. All of the telecommuters I interviewed agreed that it takes a certain personality type to successfully work remotely. You have to be very self-motivated, independent, and goal-oriented.
Ramsay Leimenstoll telecommutes as Online Marketing & Sales Manager at Keep&Share, where she is paid by the hour. When first starting out, she allowed herself to procrastinate or to get distracted during “normal office hours.” The result? She’d have to extend her work hours past dinner, a time she would’ve rather used for non-work-related pastimes.
2. Do You Have A Strong Understanding of Your Responsibilities?
Even if you have conquered the urge to procrastinate, and are self-motivated, you need to have a strong understanding of your responsibilities in order to produce work.
Carrie McCullagh, Agency Relations Manager at AfterCollege, explains that she could not have worked remotely right out of college. During her first years at AfterCollege it was helpful to have a manager close by to explain things when necessary and to help define her position with the company.
Kelly Taylor, a former classmate of mine, and account coordinator at MADE PR, on the other hand, worked remotely for two companies almost immediately after graduating. Both remote positions were with start-up companies (LuckyBolt and MADE PR). Because of this, Kelly was working with her employees to create her role, so a clear definition was not expected. Kelly learned to look at her workload and plan her day accordingly. There was no confusion about her role; she received assignments and completed them. Some days had more work than others, and on those days she would start earlier and end later. The great thing she found was that as a remote worker, when she was finished with her work, she was free to do what she liked right away.
3. Has Your Company Had Past Experience With Virtual Workers?
It can be helpful if a company has employed virtual workers in the past. This way, they know what to expect. If a company does not have much experience with virtual workers, it may be hard for them to wrap their minds around the fact that you are doing as much much work from home as you would in the office. They may also be somewhat naive to your needs working from home, such as how strong of a dialogue they need to keep with you via email, phone, or scheduled face-to-face meetings.
At Ramsay Leimenstoll’s company, Keep&Share, all employees work virtually. Everyone who works for the company uses the same collaborative calendar. This way, everyone can see what each other is doing, and even though they’re not interacting in person, they can still maintain straightforward communication.
4. What Will You Be Providing and What Will Your Employer Provide?
Working remotely can be very cost effective, but you have to also keep in mind the supplies needed when creating a home office or an office space. You will be saving money on commuting, but there may be other costs involved that you didn’t think about.
Jennifer Rutt, Senior Director of University Relations with AfterCollege, reminds us that it can be damaging to our bodies working in a non-office space. This means that, if you are working from home, you’ll need to have a desk, chair, and other supplies. Be aware of whether you’ll be supplying these things, or if the company will. It all adds up.
Aaron Good is the Senior Messaging and Archiving Engineer and a telecommuter for Xerox. He is hired by other companies for ITO. Aaron was provided with a computer when he first started working remotely, but has supplied himself with all of his other office necessities. He also notes that he no longer has the carefree constant temperature control of an office—he has to pay for it himself. “The first thing that surprised me in the transition was having to spend more on heating and cooling than I did previously. It gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter!”
5. Are You Capable of Scheduling a “Reasonable” Day?
Something that came up with a lot of the telecommuters I interviewed was the fact that they had to make a conscious decision to leave the house. Working from home means that you don’t really have a need to go anywhere. Give yourself office hours. Allow yourself a lunch break and take it as an opportunity to go somewhere.
Ramsay Leimenstoll sometimes finds it hard not to work that “one more hour.” Keep in mind that it’s unhealthy for you as well as annoying for your friends. Just because you can work another hour doesn’t mean you should.
Be aware of the opposite problem as well. If it’s during office hours, be doing the work you would be doing in the office. Aaron Good advises telecommuters to be aware of the impression made if every time you answer your phone you are out “running errands.” (It’s not a good one).
More Tips From The Telecommuters
Make sure you like what you’re doing: Self-motivation is key…“If you hate what you’re doing, you’ll struggle to stay motivated. Seek out jobs that genuinely excite you.”
-Kelly Taylor, PR Assistant/Account Coordinator, MADE PR. Currently telecommutes.
Create Boundaries: “I had a house guest staying with me for a month and when he opened the door without knocking, stood behind me sipping his coffee, and started telling me about his plans for the day, I had to ask him, ‘Is this information you would call me to tell me, or drive to the office to tell me, or email me? If not, please close the door and leave as I am working.’”
-Aaron Good, Senior Messaging and Archiving Engineer at Xerox. Has telecommuted for three years.
Make sure to remember how to communicate with people: “If you’re not a particularly empathetic person, you can sometimes lose track of how you sound via email or on the phone. Use the blog Ask A Manager to keep all of your office etiquette up to par. Even if you’re not face to face with someone every day, you’re still making an impression on them.”
-Ramsay Leimenstoll, Online Marketing & Sales Manager at Keep&Share. Has been working remotely for eight months.
Try to only work (at least with clients) during normal office hours: “You may think that sending an email at 12:00 a.m. looks like you’re putting in an extra amount of work, but to the person receiving the email, you look a little crazy.”
-Jennifer Rutt, Senior Director of University Relations at AfterCollege. Has worked virtually a total of ten years.
Create a non-work related social life: “Working from home can be lonely. If you don’t know many people in your area, say, if you’ve just graduated, be sure to take time to go out and make friends.”
-Carrie McCullagh, Agency Relations Manager at AfterCollege. Has telecommuted for five years.
Think working remotely is better than working in an office? We have two Mobilegear Mobile Worker Kits filled with a bunch of great items that can transform any kitchen or coffee shop table into an awesome office space.
Enter to win a Mobilegear Mobile Worker Kit in either of these two ways:
1. Leave a comment below about why you think remote work trumps office work.
Remember to make your profile public if entering through Instagram so that we can see your video!
1. Contest runs from Wednesday June 26 until Wednesday July 10, 2013.
2. We have two prizes to give away: one to the best comment and one to the best video.
3. AfterCollege will judge entries by the quality of response.