So You Want to Work from Home? Consider These Things First

Finally, my three month job search has come to an end (yey…and more importantly, ‘whew’)! I must say that I was incredibly fortunate to have a manager that was supportive of my personal situation that necessitated me moving almost 200 miles away from the office; which obviously precluded my ability to come into the office everyday.

Enter the world of working remotely.

Due to major organizational changes occuring at the company, the option for me to work remotely was not to be a permanent one. Many people balked at that I shook their heads, relaying to me what a shame that was. But in all honesty, although the situation was perfect for the time being (moving as a solo parent is seriously no joke and trying to get things set up and situated is a full time job in and of itself); I could see early on its limitations and how much it was at odds with my long-term professional goals.

So Then What Is The Problem Then?

While I loved not having a commute, and being available at home for all of the installations and deliveries that seemed to happen non-stop (especially in that first month)…I quickly missed my office work buddies. In fact, I even missed the office furniture and technology. I did not have a printer at home. Nor did I have the mission control set up of dual monitors mounted on movable arms and a standing desk and a $300 ergonomically comfy chair. Sure, if working remotely would be my permanent gig, I might have very well invested in all of these items. But the company would not have reimbursed me for it. And let’s be honest here…my top budget for a printer/scanner combo would be about $200 (so without a doubt, seriously inferior to anything that would available in my office).

These were the immediate pain points. But in the long term, there were several others; such as:

Stagnant Career Growth

While it was certainly not intentional, I was being left out of ‘on the floor’ discussions and exchanges of information. Fortunately for me, I am the type who poses questions on a pro-active basis, so I was always up to speed. Even so, I noticed my peers, especially ones that were hired around the same time that I was, were being promoted and being offered further opportunities to grow professionally. On top of that, I could not identify any other remote employees that had been promoted or mentored into higher level roles. Several weeks ago, I came across this article that touted working from home as a ‘career killer’. At that point, I would have to say that I agreed with that sentiment.

It Is Not The Pot of Gold of Happiness for Working Mothers

I am a member of several working Mom groups on Facebook and at least once every two weeks, a post pops up from a mother who is looking for work-from-home job opportunities. Many of these inquiries arise from moms who want to earn an income, but are stay-at-home mothers who want the best of both worlds. Yeah…how about ‘no’. The truth of the matter is no job that pays a decent salary, even if you are employed as a remote employee, can be performed while you are caring for children. If you think you can pull this off, then you are shortchanging both your employer and your children.

It Takes (a Lot of) Discipline

Sure, logging in at your scheduled start time is easy. I mean, you don’t even have to get dressed or brush your teeth to do so! But you will want to do these things at some point in the day, right (we hope)? And how about that personal phone call that comes in? Or reading the top news of the day online when you should be responding to emails. Did lunch run over by 15…20…30 minutes? Did you have to hop in the car and pick up something from the grocery store….then apologize for not responding to a IM message promptly?

If you are an employee with a conscience, then you feel bad and instead of logging off/out at your designated time, you ‘make up’ for lost hours at night. This creates an exhausting scenario where you feel you can never really step away from work.

Management and Company Infrastructure Must Be Well Equipped to Deal With Remote Employees

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect manager or boss. Even so, only a minority of the ones today have experience managing remote employees; and even fewer do it well. Frequent, scheduled communication is key. You also need to give remote employees the tools and information that is needed to perform their jobs successfully. Do they have the IT technician’s cell phone number if there is a network outage? Have employee and company goals been clearly communicated? Are regular, recurring one-on-one meetings scheduled? What efforts are being made to help the remote employee feel like a fully integrated team member?

In Conclusion

In no way am I out to discourage those who make the choice to work remotely or to pursue work-from-home job opportunities. Without a doubt, these positions offer many advantages and are a good fit for many people. My goal here is to simply offer a more realistic view of these opportunities, and my personal experience as a remote employee.