Want to Work From Home? Here Are 5 Possible Pitfalls to Consider First by Dr. Sanam Hafeez
Studies, surveys and census information show that about eight million Americans work from home at least part of the week. This amount is considerably higher today than it was back in the early 2000s. This section of the workforce is expected to grow in the coming years as online resources continue catering to this setup. The improvement of internet connectivity, collaborative applications and software, as well as the proliferation of studies showing increases in employee productivity when working from home, have contributed to the general change of mind on this work/lifestyle choice.
But is working from home for everybody? What characteristics make for a more successful remote employee? What are some of the drawbacks for individuals working at home? As online tools and telecommuting become more commonplace, more conversations need to be had about what characteristics and job responsibilities a team member needs to have in order to carry out their duties successfully while working from home. Not all personalities are the same and that employees need to be assessed in order to determine where they would, not only feel happiest but also be more productive.
Here is what you should take into account if you are thinking of working remotely:
- Isolation: Everyone who has ever had to wake up to go to work on a Monday with little sleep, low energy or a personal issue gnawing at their mind, has felt the annoyance of having to go to the office and attend a Monday meeting. This does not mean, however, that working from home is ideal for you. Nearly everyone will experience that feeling of wanting to stay home instead of heading into work. For the majority of people going to work adds meaning and stimulation to their day. Introverts may have an easier time acclimating to the lack of human interaction in a work-from-home situation, but for extroverts, the lack of camaraderie and the isolation they may feel at home may be an essential deterrent that leads them to opt for an on-site position. In a two-year Stanford University study on productivity and remote work, more than half of the study group felt too isolated at home and indicated their change of heart when it came to working from home 100 percent of the time.
- Little Separation of Home and Work: Home is where the heart is. For many of us, opening the door to our house or apartment after a long day brings a feeling of calmness from the constant stimuli of the workday. For people who consistently work at home there might be issues separating work from play, rest and family. For an organized person who can confine their work to an established workstation within the home, this might be less of an issue but for those of us who study in bed or like to work on the dinner table or couch this presents a challenge. Sleep hygiene is one of the areas where this also comes to play because our bed should be for sleep and sex. If you are scattering papers across the place you sleep and spending hours upon hours working in bed, there is no signaled change to the brain that the bed is for sleep. Making it difficult later on to wind down.
- Distractions: A cardinal rule for determining whether to work at home or in the office should always be, know thyself. This means you are being honest with yourself as to your abilities to navigate and ignore temptations and distractions on your own without the structure of an office and team environment. People who are self-disciplined tend to do well working from home because their personality is conducive to holding themselves accountable. But if you know that in the absence of a manager or co-workers you would fall victim to distractions like the TV, food or other to-do items, then choosing to stay in office may be an important self-reflective decision you need to make for you and your career.
- The Dependence of Family on Your Time: One problem with working at home if you have a lot of dependents or people that count on you is the perception to those around you that you are not busy. This means that if you are at home and something comes up, even if not urgent, you may be asked to deal with it. This is something to consider and a conversation to be had with those you care about. People who are people-pleasers may have a difficult time adhering to their work in a moment when someone they care about needs a favor. If you still decide to work from home consider having systems in place to deal with needs that come up. Such systems might include pharmacy delivery services, food delivery and medical transport for older adults. This may help in navigating some issues.
- A Decrease in Company Rapport: For those of us with an invested interest in growing within a company and investing in our career, working from home may not be the best choice in lieu of an office option. While many companies are growing off of a collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit of remote work, companies that have headquartered spaces need people present. Presence breeds familiarity and familiarity drives rapport. If a big client crisis happens, the first to know are those in the office, and if you are at home, working remotely, you might lose out on the opportunity to give your input. While people who are great multi-taskers may still be able to navigate these types of situations by checking in with the in-office team regularly, those who tend to stick to their to-do list and work more reactively may find themselves plateauing with the company after some time.
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