Many individuals will experience working in a traditional environment, whether it be a store, office, and so on, at least once in their lifetimes. Yet there is another job category, telecommuting, that often flies under the radar. Telecommuting, which most commonly refers to working from home via the phone and internet, may be a useful career alternative for any parent in need of a job with more flexible hours and a more manageable workload. Telecommuting jobs, like all jobs, have both their pros and cons. Weighing the benefits and drawbacks can help determine whether a telecommuting career will suit your needs while helping you reach your professional goals.
- No Commute: The most obvious benefit. Since telecommuting means working from home (except for perhaps the occasional meeting), there is no commute, leaving more time for daily tasks, family fun, or self-care.
- Increased Productivity: Working from home eliminates classic workplace distractions such as loud machinery, noisy co-workers, and smelly lunches. Without these factors, it is easier to stay on track and get work done on time, if not earlier than needed.
- Saves You Money: Telecommuters can save money on gas, public transportation, parking, professional attire, food, and even day care, depending on the hours. In fact, it is estimated that telecommuters save an average of $2,000 to $6,500 a year—just for part-time work!
- Improves Health: With a traditional 9-to-5 comes a lot of stress due to deadlines, traffic, tensions with co-workers, and quotas. Telecommuting reduces that stress by allowing you to work from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. Additionally, there is no fear of running into sick co-workers or grimy office equipment. As a result, telecommuters are generally healthier than traditional commuters.
- Isolation: When working from home, human interaction is limited to the occasional phone call or Skype session. This may make it more difficult to coordinate and brainstorm with co-workers on projects. Furthermore, without being able to bounce ideas off others rapidly, creativity may be stifled, leading to delays in progress.
- Hard to Track: When going into an office, it is easier to be held accountable for the work you do. This is because people can see you and know whether you are working or slacking off. At home, there is usually no need to really “clock in.” This can make it more difficult to keep track of hours and may lead to some errors when it comes to compensation.
- Strained Relationships: In some office environments, telecommuting is not available to all employees, which can cause some co-workers to get competitive or jealous if they are not chosen for a telecommuting position. This can decrease morale and make it more difficult to work with co-workers.
- It Is Not Very Common… Yet: While research suggests that telecommuting jobs are on the rise and that more companies may start to adopt the practice, many employers may be reluctant to allow telecommuting, especially if they have never tried it before. If your current boss refuses to permit the switch to telecommuting, it may not be worth it to begin a hunt for a new career.
The switch to telecommuting is not always an easy or fast process. It takes time and requires commitment and communication between the employer(s) and the employee (you). It may prove useful to make your own personal pro and con list before deciding to ask your employer whether he or she would be willing to allow telecommuting.