Working at home may seem like a dream come true, but for many people it turns out to be a nightmare. Despite the allure of rolling out of bed and going across the hall to work, if you don’t have the right temperament, working at home could derail your career.
“Sure, you can wear what you want and start when you like, but losing the structure provided by a regular office job can be detrimental to success,” Andrew Rosen, founder and editor of the career advice blog www.Jobacle.com. “Work-from-home jobs are best suited for people who hold themselves accountable and have good self-awareness.”
Telecommuting or working from home is growing in popularity and provides benefits for both employers and those that work for them. Companies are embracing it partly because they see it as a perk they can use to recruit and retain good workers. Employees are drawn to it because it can mean less time commuting, less money spent on office attire and more flexibility. Freelancing is also becoming more commonplace since the economy has forced many laid off workers to reevaluate how they work. With freelancing, there’s more flexibility in the hours you work compared to working at home for a company, but you still need to have the same personality traits.
“People who do it well are entrepreneurial,” says Gary Swart, chief executive at oDesk, the online work site. “They work well independently.”
If you crave companionship at work, aren’t self-motivated and need a lot of hand holding from higher ups then you may not be suited for a work at home job. When you work at home, a lot of the communications is via email and instant messenger so you need to be comfortable with those means of communications.
“A person who works from home should be someone who understands how to structure their time and knows how to communicate effectively,” says Rosen. “Since many stay-at-home jobs require regular email/text/phone communication, these jobs are best suited for people who are able to write/speak in a clear and concise manner.”
A person that is ideal for a stay at home job is also one that isn’t easily distracted. Whether it’s a mail delivery, a barking dog or an unexpected visitor, if you can’t tune out those everyday distractions, chances are you won’t get much work done. “Working from home requires a certain type of rigidity that allows you to focus on the task at hand and back-burner home items for a later date,” says Rosen.
According to Kathleen Downs, a recruiting manager at Robert Half International, one of the keys to working successfully at home is to make sure you maintain communications with your boss and co-workers on a regular basis. The last thing you want to happen is have your boss think you are slacking off or worse not complete an assignment because you weren’t sure what was expected.
“You have to maintain regular communications with the person you report to and definitely plan to do business with your manager and colleagues in person when possible,” says Downs. “You have to really understand what your manager expects and deliver on it.”
In addition to keeping the communication line open, working at home requires you to treat part of your home as the office. That means having an established work area and one that is distraction free. “You have to have a workplace and it can’t be sitting in front of the T.V.,” says Downs. “You have to go to your workplace and put in the time exactly as you would in the office.” For some people, the whole idea of working in their pajamas all day is what’s appealing about working at home, but for others the ritual of getting up, getting dressed and walking across the hall is what’s needed to get in to work mode. One isn’t better than the other. What matters is that you are focused and ready to work when you start.
Setting and sticking to your hours is another important ingredient to working at home successfully. According to Swart of oDesk, even freelancers need to establish their work hours ahead of time and make sure to stick to them even if work starts at midnight.
“You have to set your hours and keep them. You almost have to treat it as if you are in the office,” he says. “When working from home you have to maintain a level of self-discipline that often doesn’t come naturally.”