For many of those who have the opportunity, telecommunity is an attractive alternative to a more traditional office experience. After all, telecommuters have more flexibility, and don’t have to deal with a commuting or dressing up in office clothes every day.
While most of us are grateful to have the opportunity to work from home, it’s important to know that not everyone thrives in a remote in a home office environment. So if you’re thinking about telecommuting, first consider whether or not you’re cut out for a flexible, remote, independent lifestyle.
What follows is a look at some of the people who may not be cut out for telecommuting
- People who are distracted easily: Even if you have your own dedicated home office, you’ll find things are calling for you. The television, surfing the web, music, social networking, volunteering at school, the fridge, and neighbors gathering for coffee are just a few of the distractions you’ll face each day. If you’re someone who spends more time giving in to temptation than focusing on work, you need to seriously consider whether or not you’ll be a successful telecommuter.
- People who need direction and guidance: When you work remotely you don’t have a supervisor looking over your shoulder or people to ask questions to throughout the day. As a telecommuter supervision doesn’t completely disappear and you’ll have the ability to communicate with your team, but most remote workers are more mindful of their co-workers or clients’ time and ask fewer questions. If you prefer to work in an atmosphere with constant support and guidance, it’s probably best you don’t work remotely – at least not every day.
- People who like to chatter as they work: Some people prefer the camaraderie of co-workers when they’re working. Certainly you can have some of that with Skype, Facebook groups, and interoffice networking apps, but not every place of business offers chat options for non-business related talk. If you’re an independent contractor there might not always be people to talk with throughout the day, either. If you get lonely without people to talk with throughout your day, you might want to reconsider telecommuting.
- People with poor communication skills: If you have poor communication skills, you will not thrive in a telecommute situation. Because you’re not sitting next to the people you collaborate with, you have to keep them informed in other ways. If you can’t communicate adequately or properly you will be frustrated and so will the people you work with.
- People who can’t be available for meetings: Working from a home office doesn’t mean “not available for conferences with my clients or co-workers.” Whether commuting to the office once or twice a month or joining in on team conference calls, you have to make that time. Sure they’re time sucks, but meetings are important for communication, collaboration, and to learn how to work and share with different personality types.
- People who can’t say “no” to friends and relatives: As a telecommuter you might find yourself with more flexibility. For example you can start or end your day later and go out to lunch with local friends. However, you have to know when to draw the line too. The neighborhood coffee klatch is loads of fun, but if it’s going to keep you from your obligations, you’ll have a problem on your hands. Next to good communication, being good at prioritizing is a telecommuter’s most important skill.
- People who don’t work well on a team: Telecommuting and freelancing are perfect for introverts because they don’t have to deal with as many people all day. However, being introverted isn’t the same as not wanting to deal with people at all. A distributed team doesn’t work unless everyone is supportive of each other and there are no toes being stepped on or one person claiming all the glory over all others.
- People who are prone to lateness and tardiness: If you are late for the office all the time or call out of work with more excuses than the average person, you are not a good candidate for telecommuting. You may think you’ll do well since you seem to like being home more than work but the opposite is true. If you can’t be counted on to show up to a place where people are keeping track of your attendance, how can you be trusted to show up when no one is watching?
- People who struggle with deadlines: See above. When you telecommute you’re on your honor to turn in your work on time, with minimal supervision. If you are always late with deadlines, you probably need a more structured environment.
- People who refuse to embrace technology: There’s no reason for anyone not to know how to email or use the Internet in this day and age. If you prefer the good old days and think it’s adorable to be technically illiterate, do reconsider working from home. As a remove worker you’ll need to be online all day. You’ll also need to manage video conference tools, collaboration tools, cloud storage, file sharing and more.
- People who don’t like to account for their time: If it makes you miffed to log your time or tell people what you’ve been doing all day, telecommuting might not be for you. Not every client or employer keeps track – and most that I’ve worked with don’t – but they will question invoices or dispute pay if they feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth. If you can’t account for all the time you’re billing or the work you’re submitting doesn’t match your current salary, people will ask questions. If this makes you angry or you’re insulted by giving an accounting of what you do, you won’t be a good telecommuter.
- People who are disorganized: Disorganization doesn’t only mean a messy desk, it also means not knowing where things are at any given time. As important as being organized and knowing what is going on with all your tasks at any given time is when you work outside of the home, it’s more important when you work remotely. A traditional office experience offers many reminders and (good) triggers for the things you need to get done. Sometimes when you work from home out of sight can mean out of mind.
- People with poor time management skills: If you have several tasks to do daily, you have to be sure to allot times for all. Telecommuting is about knowing how to best manage your time, and how to set important reminders for all you need to get done each day.
- People who spend more time socializing than they do working: Do you spend more time chatting in the ladies room or the water cooler? Is your favorite part of the day when you go out to lunch or after work drinks with your co-workers? If socializing is your most important part of the job your employer is going to remember. What do you think he or she will say when you mention you’d like to work at home?
To be clear, being guilty of one or two of the items on the above list isn’t a deal breaker. Certainly you can work at home and learn how to block out distractions and be a good communicator. But if you have trouble functioning without other people telling you what to do, or helping you to stay organized, you’ll probably want to rethink working at home.
If you would like to try telecommuting but you’re worried you won’t be able to work because you have some of the habits listed above, consider working from home one or two days a week to start (if your company allows it). This way you can honestly assess if you can truly work from home. And if you’re not cut out for telecommuting? That’s fine. We all have different situations that work best for us. There’s no shame in finding out what works – and doesn’t work best for us.