Telecommuting Downsides

There are a few downsides to telecommuting that everyone should know about before getting started. Here are a few of the most significant ones along with a few things you can do to help minimize them:

Isolation

Obviously, working alone in a home or remote office can lead to a feeling of isolation and loneliness. This is especially a problem for those of us with strong amiable tendencies. People with strong social skills have a need to interact with others in order to process ideas and even get energy or encouragement to keep moving forward with difficult projects. Here are a few things amiable people can do to minimize the feelings of isolation:

  • Use the phone or instant messaging more frequently to interact with teammates to discuss business issues or that demanding customer
  • Attend face-to-face meetings as often as possible to refresh team relationships
  • Volunteer for that business trip to meet with customers
  • Take colleagues to lunch to talk about work and other issues
  • Make a concerted effort to speak up in virtual meetings, but be sure what your questions or comments are well thought out. There is nothing worse than a remote meeting participant with nothing intelligent to add to a conversation.

Out-of-Sight

A big concern of many would-be telecommuters is that they will be out of sight of their manager when they work from home. We are all human, even managers. It is always much easier for a manager to get to know someone at a personal level when they see them every day in a traditional office setting. Managers are more likely to have a positive feeling about someone with whom they are familiar. Here are a few things you can do as a telecommuter to virtually connect with your manager:

  • Be sure to spend at least 30 minutes a week with your manager in your one-on-ones.
  • Use Instant Messaging to greet your manager when they come on-line in the morning. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them with that critical presentation they have coming up.
  • Make a point to attend on-site meetings periodically to reconnect with your manager and teammates. Since these interactions are infrequent, they have an even more powerful impact than frequenct interactions.

Burn-out

The biggest danger to a telecommuter is burnout. Because work is so easy to get to, often just a few steps away in the home office space, it is very easy to check e-mail, spend just a few more minutes working on that proposal, or answering voicemail. You can also feel obligated to work extra hard to be sure your manager doesn’t perceive you as not being productive. Also, because there are none of the usual cues that exist in a traditional office setting to tell you to wind down your workday (such as other people getting up to go home), a teleworker must find other ways to signal the end of the workday. Here are a few suggestions on how to cope with these burn-out issues:

  • Set a reminder on your calendar to stop your day at a reasonable time. Set the alarm earlier in the day to compensate for that late night teleconference with Bejing, so that you keep your work hours from growing past a half day per day.
  • Work by an open window with the blinds open so you can pickup the daylight hours cue
  • Setup an aggrement with other teleworkers to remind each other to ‘go home’
  • Pace yourself. Don’t just jump out of bed and immediately start to work. Take time to get dressed in casual work attire, freshen up, and eat some breakfast before diving in to work.
  • Block some time on your calendar for lunch. Try not to work through lunch, figuring you’ll catch a bite later. Later often never comes and you will find yourself running out of energy about mid afternoon.

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