For many people, working from home is the ultimate career fantasy. And it’s no wonder why — between the hours and dollars saved in your morning commute, the lack of a dress code and the flexibility to spend more time with your family, there’s a lot of appeal to remote work. However, working from home is put on a pedestal so much that people often have unrealistic expectations about what it entails.
To get the straight scoop, we chatted with Leslie Jorgensen, CEO of Supporting Strategies — a company that offers outsourced bookkeeping and operational support for small, growing businesses. Jorgensen shared some of the most persistent myths about working from home, as well as what the reality behind them is.
1. My boss would never let me work from home.
It’s true that whether or not you can work from home is largely dependent on where you work, but many people assume that they can’t work from home as a default without actually talking to their employer about it. The truth is, Jorgensen says, more and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home.
“Without question, we’re seeing an increasing number of organizations offer some type of work-from-home benefit,” Jorgensen shares. “Today, around 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce works from home at least half of the time. This is up from 1.8 percent roughly a decade ago representing a 115 percent increase.”
Jorgensen credits this largely due to the advent of cloud-based business platforms, remote communication tech and an increasingly competitive talent market in which employers must offer increasingly top-notch benefits to attract candidates. Working from home is often a fairly simple benefit for employers to implement, as the costs are low, the ROI is high and a majority of positions in corporate settings are computer-based and do not require a physical presence.
However, if you’re still nervous about approaching your manager to discuss the possibility of remote work, you can always start small.
“It may be easier to start by asking them to allow you to work from home just a day or two a week. If you prove your reliability and maintain or even increase your productivity in doing so, it could be an easier sell to go 100 percent virtual down the road,” Jorgensen says. “You could point to the numerous resources available online that expound on the increased employee morale, engagement and retention rates enjoyed by employers who offer flexible work environments. These organizations tend to have reduced overhead, absenteeism and tardiness as well as an increased ability to recruit outstanding employees.”
2. Work-from-home opportunities are almost always scams.
While it’s true that there are a few people out there who will take advantage of those looking to work from home with scams and illegitimate job postings, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of real remote jobs available — you just have to approach your job hunt with a critical eye.
“With any job, you’re going to want to do your research… This is where a site like Glassdoor is invaluable,” Jorgensen says. “Read about the company you want to join and get a sense of their culture. Do they seem on board with this growing remote trend? What are current and former employees saying about them? Are they reputable? As you go through the interview process, which will more likely than not leverage a mix of both phone and video screening, you’re going to want to ask all the natural questions you would when joining any organization, remote or otherwise.”
In addition to using sites like Glassdoor to find remote positions, you can also use your network to find opportunities.
“Consider how to leverage professional networking sites like LinkedIn to facilitate an introduction to those currently working for that company,” Jorgensen shares. “Search for current employees, see which mutual connections you share and see if you can secure a conversation. With luck, you may be able to land an introduction to HR or the relevant hiring manager, separating you from the pack of other applicants.”
3. I won’t have to work as much or as hard if I’m remote.
While there may not be anybody there physically to monitor how you’re using your time, working remotely doesn’t mean that you’ll be putting in less effort or hours — in fact, it often means the opposite, Jorgensen says.
“Most remote employees are surprised to find themselves working more as opposed to less when compared to when they were in on-site positions. After all, there is no commute to account for and the work is always within arms’ reach,” she points out.
Besides, even if your boss isn’t keeping an eye on your computer the whole time to make sure you aren’t goofing off, you’re still going to be held to the same performance standards as you were before — perhaps even higher ones now that you’ve been given so much trust. Because of this, you might find yourself burning out more than you expected.
“A different type of discipline is required in this case to make sure you’re achieving a sustainable work/life balance,” Jorgensen suggests.
4. Working from home will hurt my chances of advancing in my career.
Again, this will largely depend on what kind of company you’re working for, but for the most part, if you have a strong relationship with your team, there’s no reason to think that people will take you less seriously just because you're working from home.
“If the organization is forward-thinking in this regard and fully embraces the notion that you will attract and retain top talent by offering telecommuting options to your employees, then certainly they are taking this into account with their succession planning when it comes time to promote individuals from within. If you’re an exceptional employee with a company in this mindset, why wouldn’t you be allowed to grow?” Jorgensen says. “In our organization, for example, we have individuals who are remotely managing large teams. In the right organization, remote work and career growth are not mutually exclusive.”
To make sure that you aren’t seen as “out of sight and out of mind,” though, you can always be proactive about promoting yourself to make sure that your contributions are being seen and valued.
5. Working from home is a dream come true.
Yes, there are definitely big perks to working from home. But just because you can save money on transportation and wake up ten minutes before you’re on the clock doesn’t mean that working from home is without any drawbacks.
“If you’re going to make the jump over to [being] a remote employee, you need to be self-aware. Are you ok with not physically working side-by-side with other human beings? Will you miss that watercooler environment too much? Without your supervisor or peers in the next cubicle, are you disciplined enough to stay on task? Are you easily distracted? You have to be honest with yourself,” Jorgensen advises.
After all, if you’re seriously considering working from home, it’s important not to idealize it too much — otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.
“There could be an adjustment period as you get used to working from home. You must be comfortable setting a ‘work’ time even though there may be some dishes in the sink calling your name,” Jorgensen says.
But if you learn to excel at self-motivation, finding balance between work and play and holding yourself accountable, then working from home may very well be the perfect situation for you.