Q. I have the option to work from home, which sounds great. My friends are telling me not to do it because they think I don’t have the discipline to succeed, but how can I give up the chance to try not commuting, working in my pajamas and working out when the gym is empty? Am I putting my job at risk?
A. It can be the best of times; it can be the worst of times. The same is said by many about working from home, working remotely, working virtually or whatever you call not going into an office every day. The weather across the U.S. over the last month has given many employees the opportunity to practice working remotely with mixed results. According to Forrester Research, 34 million Americans work at home at least occasionally and that number is expected to grow to 63 million by 2016, or 43 percent of the workforce.
Technology allows employees to work independently, collaborate with others and eliminate geographic boundaries. Employers run 24 hours utilizing staff across time zones, minimizing the cost of office space and travel and broadening the talent pool they can hire from.
Before you commit to working from home for the long term, consider the benefits and the risks of your success in a new situation. You mentioned the gym and your pajamas, so you have some idea of the benefits, but will those also be your downfall? If you are at the gym, are you accessible to your colleagues? What are the expectations your manager will have about what your hours are and where he/she will expect to find you?
Employees who are successful working from home have dedicated space to work from, all the technology they need and the ability to troubleshoot technology challenges. They have a disciplined routine that involves getting dressed and transitioning to ”work mode." These employees also make sure their manager and colleagues know what they are involved with, the status of work products and deliverables and work hard to ensure they are not forgotten. They develop relationships and when they are in the office, they take the time to connect personally. Is this a good description of how you envision your work from home behavior?
You may find that expectations are harder to meet. Many employees feel that they are tethered to technology and people expect immediate response; more so than they would from someone who might be at lunch, or in a colleague's office. Another factor to consider is that lack of commute time means more work hours and more work product.
Should you try working remotely, (different perception than working from "home,") make sure you and your manager have agreement on what that means; how much and how often you will communicate, the visibility of your calendar to document projects in process, calls and documentation of results. Don’t talk about hanging out in your pajamas or any other behavior that paints you in an unprofessional, non-career minded way. If you aren’t as productive as you thought you would be, name it before someone else does and move back into the office.