Working at Home: The pros and cons of working remotely for a company from your home.

posted 2000-Mar-25
I have been solely telecommuting from St. Louis to Philadelphia since July of 1999. My work is web-tech design and implementation. I recently went back to work at the main office for a week, so I am able to make a good comparison between the two. Following are some of the less-obvious pros and cons I've found about working from home full-time:

CONS:

  1. The biggest problem, and not often addressed, is social isolation. When in Philadelphia, I loved working alongside my coworkers. It's a very fun environment. To not see or talk to another person all day, every day, is very depressing. [And, as an aside, you'll find that not opening your mouth nearly as much causes the smell of your breath to become worse, and to degrade more quickly.] There are cycles of good weeks and bad weeks. (Depression level exacerbated by project difficulty/confusion level.) I find that here, remotely, 3pm comes very slowly, and drags on forever into 5pm. At the office, 5pm would show up and I couldn't believe it happened. Time went much more quickly with others.
  2. You need a VPN (virtual private network). I'm the first full-time telecommuter, and my company still doesn't have a VPN in place, so it's more difficult to work on the same project with other people. I don't have access to all the files I need, and have to make phone/email requests to get them pushed to the server I can FTP to. Make sure that your company has all the technical requirements and infrastructure in place before you pilot the program.
  3. Interactivity suffers. It's just not f2f. When working on a project without source control, it's important to be able to yell to your neighbor, "I have to do a mass find/replace...don't touch anything for 30 seconds." You just can't have that kind of interactivity remotely. Because of this it's most efficient to get large, isolated chunks of work that can be done solo with little interaction. However, I personally need variety in my day, and if I'm on a tedious project, there's no way I can do it all day long, even with 10 minute breaks interspersed.
  4. It's harder to make friends in a new area. I moved fresh to St. Louis, and don't have co-workers to show me the local areas and to organize poker games with. Fortunately my fiancée goes to college, and I've found a pick-up group of Ultimate Frisbee players.
  5. Distractions abound. I don't have children, so I'm safe there, but I do have cats, and delivery people and television. You must be committed to your work (or your office must have some good checks and balances in place to ensure that you aren't slacking). On the whole, I am more productive here (measured by work accomplished/time period). [This may partly explain why time disappeared so fast at the office--I got less done.]
  6. It's easy to do too much work. My office is in my house...I try to stop at a certain time, but sometimes I find myself wanting to solve a problem and working after/during dinner. Great for the employer, not so good for keeping you from getting burnt out.

PROS:

  1. Fabulous location. Depends on how nice your home office is--I have a fabulous room on the 2nd floor with windows on three sides that all open! In nice weather, overlooking my backyard and garden, as the trees swish in the window and warm air flows through...that's fabulous. And, even if you don't have a great office in the house, where your house is may be very important. For example, I love my job, I love my company, but I couldn't commute from St. Louis to Philadelphia every day.
  2. You can easily do extra work. The flipside to con #6 above. You don't have to stay late at the office, annoying your spouse, when you have more work to do. You don't have to drive xx minutes to/from the office after dinner. You just go do the needed work and then *poof* you're home again. Nice.
  3. Your own hours. Because the projects tend to be very 'me' oriented, if I feel the need to take a break and watch TV for an hour, or go for a walk, I can. I can always make it up later.
  4. Work computer/home computer the same. No synchronization of email/programs/files. All work functionality is yours at home. Your company should pay for the equipment, too, so you may get nicer equipment at home than you'd be willing to pay for yourself. Add to that an ergonomic chair/desk (really should be bought by your employer) and you're getting some sweet equipment for off-work enjoyment.
  5. Oh, there are other pros too, but I'm too lazy to type them all. :) You can probably imagine for yourself what you will like about working from home, all day.

ADVICE:

  1. Visit the office occasionally. Not only to keep from being 'marginalized', but to keep in touch with worker friends and keep social interactions alive. Find a way to make the company pay for the trip if it's a big one :)
  2. Get a social life. Do something outside the house. It's important.
  3. Finally, don't get the sole bathroom in your house remodelled--working all day without a working toilet is a problem! :)
Joe Gornick
03:07PM ET
2002-Jul-10
>> Get a social life.

Why would someone need a social life? I don't ;)

Just leaving my remarks :)

- Joe
MyName IsNot Important
04:58PM ET
2004-Feb-25
I've been working from home since 1996 for a major corporation, and can never go back to life in a cubicle. I have 4 children who are home-schooled by my very talented and patient bride, and they are an even greater reason for me to work at home. Don't worry about distractions... they can be managed. I enjoyed this page very much. Your comments are excellent.

Advice to others: Don't worry about socialization of your children - do you really want your children being taught how to socialize by the kinds of children that they meet in junior high school? No! There are plenty of out-of-the-house activities that you can take your children to where they get to learn how to socialize with mature adults (church and its activities is a big one). Isn't that the goal anyway, to have enough social skills to be able to interact with mature adults?

Why do I belabor this point? This is the number one criticism and question of our chosen lifestyle... "Don't you worry about your kids' socialization?" What hogwash.

The real irony here is that most everyone who has asked me that question has been totally inept at basic social skills themself.
Almost Convinced
12:37AM ET
2004-Sep-11
I have been pondering about working at home for a while now. Being a contact designer, I work pretty much independently and at my own time. Recently I have been looking for a portable computer which I could use to do programming in the field (I mean field with trees and grass and cow dung).

It is nice to hear/read from someone else's experience.

Thank you for all you advices. I could relate to most of it.

AC
hal
09:12PM ET
2005-Jul-11
It great working from home. No more office gossip and knowing anything other than the job. Sending emails is clean, and I don't have to worry about being interrupted when working at the site.

When I am working away from home, my diet is worse because the food outside the home (fast food joints) are waiting for me to visit. When, at home I cook and I am more aware about what I eat.

Also, its great to save energy and conserve fuel which saves me a approximately $350.00 per month.

It think when a company allows personnel to "jack-in" from home, it shows trust and respect to the workers and in return, we give back to the employer no excuses as to why the job couldn't get done. In other words, employees will work harder and consistant.

The bad thing: not knowing when to sign off the system.
But overall, its better to work from home period and it it is a win win.
carol cook
02:48PM ET
2005-Oct-22
I am hunting for work at home,I do publishing,crafts,computer clerical office,just to name a few of exp.I have.I have looked the net over and all I get is join this site to get jobs,or join here we will train you,online systems,bull I don't go for that crap.and if I had money to join a directory company,I wouldn't need a job,I have read your comments,are there anyone who knows where to get a real home job without paying?thank you carol cook
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