Working from home – is it for you?

In the age of Internet, 3G and cell phones, there’s no reason that you can’t work from just about anywhere. While a lot of companies still require a butt in a seat in a physical office, there are also a lot that are allowing for working remotely or at least flexibility for employees to choose where they work best.

I work for a company that falls into the latter category – we follow a modified version the Results Only Work Environment model (or ROWE), which basically means that we can work where we want, when we want, as long as the work is getting done and we’re meeting our commitments to our clients and co-workers. While I enjoy the flexibility, I often wonder if working from home is a good system for junior/mid-level staff who are still trying to learn the ropes and make a name for themselves in the workplace. After all (at least in my business of marketing-communications), there’s still something to be said for the “people factor”.

I’ve determined that it’s not a 100% great or terrible set-up. However, if you’re thinking of taking a job where your physical location of doing work is flexible, here are some of my observations:

  • You have to be disciplined: While there are distractions at the office, the distractions at home are different. Oh, I’ll just throw in a load of laundry. Or empty the dishwasher. Or I’ll just have the TV running in the background.It never works. When you’re working from home, you need to be in the mindset that you’re still working and, while it’s okay to do the side stuff, make sure you’re still available to those that need you.
  • It should be a privilege, not a habit: The flexibility of an option to work from home is different from permanently being remote – so don’t treat it that way. Chances are, you still report to people or have someone that reports to you and they need to see your face. Working from home 2-3 days a month is fine. Doing the same 2-3 days a week is annoying. (Unless you do actually work remotely, which is totally different.)
  • If you have the flexibility, take advantage of it: This is one I’m guilty of not doing. We can work from home (or a coffee shop or the library or whatever) and I rarely do it. The fact of the matter is, though, that getting out of the cubicle can be a good change of scenery.
  • Don’t work from home on a meeting-heavy day: It’s always more helpful to be in meetings in person if you can help it. Avoid the dreaded conference call and just be in the office for meetings whenever possible.
  • The pain in the butt “four hour window”:The absolute best days to work from home is when you’re waiting on the cable/plumber/furniture/Internet/fill-in-the-blank guy who’s coming in that famous four-hour window (which, let’s face it, always means the last 30 minutes before your scheduled window runs up) to fix/install something. Don’t speed home when you get the “on my way” reminder call. Just work from home and be productive, despite your service call.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. Did I miss anything?

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