Telecommuting is becoming more popular, and there are a couple of big advantages and reasons why. However, there are also some cons or disadvantages to telecommuting.
So in this article, we’ll look at:
Telecommuting jobs are positions that don’t require the worker to be in a specified office location. They allow the employee to work from home, a co-working space, or anywhere else with a sufficient internet connection and necessary equipment. These jobs are also referred to as teleworking positions or remote positions.
Year-over-year, it’s becoming more common to see full-time employees telecommuting. Many large companies have begun letting some employees work from home, although in the past 2-3 years, some of these companies took back some of this freedom and asked employees to return to the office.
Still, the overall trend looks positive and I expect more people to work from home in the coming years.
Also, some smaller tech organizations are already 100% remote. These companies often refer to themselves as “distributed” companies, when their entire staff is working remotely.
Now that you know the definition or meaning of the word, let’s look at the pros and cons of telecommuting…
This is my favorite benefit of working remotely. By teleworking, you have no commute. This saves you time each day, which you can use to exercise, sleep in later, or get an earlier start to your work.
Also, commuting is frustrating. Sitting in traffic staring at brake-lights or cramming yourself onto a train with barely enough room to stand is NOT fun. Combine that with bad winter weather, rain, and waking up earlier than you want, and it’s no wonder that most people do not like to commute!
So you’re going to not only have more time, but you’ll start your workday energized and positive, instead of worn out and frustrated.
I remember hating my morning commute when I lived in Boston, and I always felt like I lost half of my energy by the time I made it into the office. As soon as I went into business for myself and started working from home, I felt much better!
So this is one of the biggest pros of telecommuting.
Next, you won’t have any coworkers dropping by your office or cubicle at bad times and interrupting your focus!
This is another huge benefit of teleworking that you don’t truly realize until you try it. You’re going to get much more work done in less time… assuming you can stay disciplined and keep your day structured (that’s one big challenge that we’ll talk up later, in our section on the disadvantages of teleworking).
Of course, your family can still distract you, so you’ll need to dedicate a good work-space where you’re able to focus at home.
This is another one of my favorite perks of remote work. When you work from home, you can step out to shop for groceries at 2 PM, or you can go to the gym at lunchtime. You can also receive deliveries, meet repair people, etc.
Now, I know some people who do this type of thing with their office job – for example, they’ll take a two-hour lunch, use it to go to the gym, and then work until 6 PM.
But it’s still a lot easier when you’re at home all day anyway.
Grocery stores are empty. None of the gym equipment is taken. And there’s no traffic on the roads when you go out. It’s a dream come true for getting errands done.
That rounds out what I feel are the top three benefits of telecommuting, however, there are far more advantages, so let’s keep going with the list.
Because you won’t have a commute, it’s possible that you can start working earlier in the morning and therefore finish earlier in the afternoon.
This means you can pick your kids up from school, coach one of their sports teams, and do all sorts of things that you didn’t have time for when you were stuck at the office until 5 or 6 PM.
This will depend on your job, of course. Some jobs, like customer support positions, require you to be available for a specified window of time.
But for many jobs, like software development, it’s possible you can begin early and end early. Just ask!
Because you’re not needing to commute when you work from home, you’re also helping the environment. I call this the “green” advantage to telecommuting.
Also, when employers and employees agree on working from home, it means the business doesn’t need as much office space! They don’t need so many lights on, so many big air conditioners running all day, etc. This all saves energy and helps the environment.
So the more employees working from home, the fewer cars and trains running, and the less office space we need!
Employees who work at home will have more time to cook meals. So you don’t need to spend your weekends preparing meals ahead of time, and you won’t need to spend your hard-earned cash buying lunches at the office.
That $10 per day on lunch really adds up, so you can save quite a bit by cooking your lunches. It’s also a nice way to break up the workday and gather your thoughts.
Meals cooked at home tend to be healthier, too (less fat/oil, for example). So that’s another upside to teleworking!
When telecommuting, you can take an afternoon and go to a coffee shop, you can sign up at a co-working space, you can move from your desk to your couch for a couple of hours, etc.
Essentially, you can add a bit of variety in where you work, which keeps you energized and keeps the work interesting.
I know quite a few successful freelancers and remote employees who will do a few hours of focused work at home in the morning, and then move to a co-working space when they want more energy and social interaction.
Teleworking allows you to create this mix!
Without your boss in the same building, you’re a lot less likely to have them breathing down your neck and checking each little thing you do.
That means fewer interruptions and less stress for you. Just don’t take advantage – I’ve heard a lot of stories of remote employees falling behind and not keeping up their productivity. That’s a very fast way to potentially lose your remote position, or be called back into the office!
So if anything, aim to be MORE productive at home.
We just looked at the pros of working from home, but there are also some major cons and challenges. First is the need to be self-disciplined and to structure your day.
I’ve asked more than 50 people who work from home what their keys to success are, and 75% of them mentioned scheduling your day as either their #1 or #2 tip.
If you can’t stay disciplined, schedule your day, and stick to it, you’re going to struggle as a remote worker.
So depending on what type of habits you have and how much willpower you have, this is one of the major cons/challenges that remote employees face.
Employees who work 100% from home often tell me they miss the small, everyday interactions with coworkers. Conversations at the coffee machine or in the elevator, or sitting with coworkers at lunch.
To combat this feeling of isolation, try to continue meeting coworkers for lunch, coffee, or dinners if possible! That’s one great way to stay energized, fend off loneliness, and share ideas about what you’re working on!
I’m self-employed (CareerSidekick is my full-time business), but that’s one of my favorite ways to break up the day. I often have lunch with a colleague who does similar work to me, and we share ideas about what we’re working on.
Because you’re spending less time face-to-face with colleagues, it’s going to take longer to bond with coworkers and more effort to maintain those bonds.
It’s human nature to feel more connected when we’re actually interacting face-to-face. However, the next best thing is video calls, so try to do this whenever possible. There’s a huge difference between a video call and a regular voice call in my experience (in terms of how personal it feels), so that’s one way to balance out this disadvantage.
And of course, try to meet people in-person when you can, as mentioned in the previous tip! There’s really no substitute for that in the long term.
The next disadvantage of teleworking is that you may have fewer tools, technologies, and office supplies available to you. Corporate offices are typically well-stocked with printers, scanners, large computer monitors, staplers, sticky notes, and much more. Plus, they usually have an IT support staff on-hand.
So these are a few of the things that employees working from home miss out on.
However, if a company has a large number of telecommuters, they’ll usually have an IT/technology department available to help remotely. And you can buy yourself a large computer monitor and other great equipment for your home (ask your employer if they’ll pay for it!)
I know quite a few people who live in small apartments. They’re always at the office, at the gym, etc. So, why spend a ton of money on an apartment that they’re barely using?
However, if you work from home, you may find that this small living space is not ideal.
Don’t worry though, you can counteract this disadvantage by signing up at a co-working space! That’s what I do personally. I tend to rent relatively small apartments (usually 1 bedroom), but I join a nice co-working space in my city.
I mentioned this when we covered the pros of teleworking… but if you have a partner and kids at home, it can be difficult to stay focused.
So while you’ll avoid distractions from coworkers, you still need to set up rules and a schedule that allows you to get your work done!
Don’t expect to be comfortable and productive in your first week of teleworking. Like most big changes, it’s going to require time to adjust.
You’re going to have trouble focusing and feel like you’re lacking structure or routine. You’re going to miss certain things (like seeing coworkers in-person, assuming you liked any of your coworkers!)
But over time, most employees find a way to adjust and enjoy remote work. Not all remote employees find a way to be as productive as they were at the office, though.
Now that you know the pros and cons of telecommuting, you may be wondering where you can find these jobs.
To start, we have a list of 18 remote/telecommute job boards that cover all sorts of jobs and industries.
Also, LinkedIn’s job search tool allows you to put “Remote” in the location field so that you’ll only see remote jobs.
Those are the two best resources to find telecommuting job listings online. If you have any friends or colleagues who have remote positions, ask them how they got the position, too. They may even tell you that their company is hiring!
Networking and asking questions can never hurt, and is often the fastest way to get a job.
Also, be aware that many of the jobs that end up being remote are simply listed as regular jobs online. Remote work is something that you can ask about and negotiate for during the interview process. So it’s a mistake to only target positions advertised as “telecommuting jobs”.
Remote work has its challenges and drawbacks and takes time to adjust to. However, for me, and for many people I’ve talked to, the pros outweigh the cons.
I’ve been working from home (and from coffee shops and co-working spaces) for five years and absolutely love it.
There are so many advantages to telecommuting and remote work, from not needing to commute, to having more control over your day… all while avoiding unnecessary interruptions and distractions.
So in the end, it’s absolutely worth it!
I’d encourage anyone who has the opportunity to work remotely to at least give it a try! If you’re like me, you may never want to go back!