The option to work from home isn't just a privilege reserved for freelancers or the self-employed. These days, a growing number of companies are offering employees the opportunity to work remotely, either on a part-time or full-time basis.
Working from home certainly has its share of benefits, so much so that workers are 87% more likely to love their jobs if they're able to telecommute. But working from home has some disadvantages, too. Whether you're thinking of doing so on occasion or want to permanently give up your cubicle in favor of a home office, here are a few distinct drawbacks to be aware of.
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1. You may have a harder time building relationships with colleagues
There's something to be said for sitting down with a coworker to hash out a project plan, or discussing a marketing strategy face to face. But if you work from home, your interactions with colleagues will most likely be limited to phone and email alone. Even video conferencing won't emulate the experience of looking a coworker or manager in the eye and stating your case for a certain tactic or approach.
When it comes to communication, body language and eye contact carry a lot of weight. It's not surprising, then, that more than two-thirds of professionals prefer face-to-face meetings, according to a Hilton Worldwide study. When you work from home, you not only limit your contact with other people at your company, but you also create a situation where you're less likely to get to know your colleagues on a personal level -- which could also affect your relationships.
2. You might struggle to collaborate with others
In fast-paced office environments, major decisions often happen on the fly. So if you're the one person on your team who isn't always available for on-the-spot, impromptu meetings, there's a good chance your coworkers will inevitably wind up hashing things out without you.
Along these lines, you might fall into the classic "out of sight, out of mind" trap when it comes to major milestones like heading up new projects or getting promoted. If your boss needs to delegate a huge amount of responsibility on the fly, but you're not physically present when he or she looks around the room, you could end up losing out big time.
3. You may get distracted more easily
Let's be clear: Office workers see their share of distractions, from chatty colleagues to social media and personal email, both of which tend to be accessible even in corporate environments. But when you work from home, the opportunities for distraction are virtually endless. After all, what's to stop you from taking a quick break here and there to throw in some laundry, sort through the mail, or even indulge in a much-needed nap on the couch?
Unless you're a truly disciplined worker by nature, you may come to find that telecommuting actually hurts your career by making you less productive. If you are going to try it out, be sure to have a dedicated workspace that lends itself to concentration. Working at the kitchen table while your children run circles around you isn't exactly a formula for success.
4. You might give people the wrong idea
One lesser-known drawback of working from home boils down to perception -- that you're a person of leisure during the day because you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder. The reality, however, is that full-time employees who work from home have the same deadlines and responsibilities as those who work in an office. That means you might have to work extra hard to convince your mother-in-law that you're not available for brunch at 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday, or explain to your child's teacher that you can't volunteer at the school's upcoming midday program because you have a meeting at that time. Granted, not everyone who works from home will struggle to convince the rest of the world that he or she has a real, legitimate job, but it's a pitfall to be aware of nonetheless.
Consider a compromise
Since working from home isn't all roses, rather than take the plunge full-time, you might think about telecommuting on a part-time basis and working in an actual office the rest of the week. Doing so can help eliminate some of the aforementioned challenges, such as not getting face time with your manager or coworkers. It might also help soften the blow should your employer decide to revoke that privilege in the future, which is something a number of large companies (think Yahoo! and IBM) have done in recent years.
While working from home can help you avoid a terrible commute and offer certain flexibility, it's not for everyone. It pays to consider both the pros and cons of such an arrangement before jumping on the bandwagon yourself.
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