Working remotely is growing in popularity across the nation. In fact, 3.7 million people work at least part-time from home. Since 2005, the number of work-at-home employees has grown by 115 percent.
The option may be available for you too. The volume of employers who allow telecommuting has grown 40 percent over the last five years, although it makes up a very small percentage of employers in the U.S.
If your boss doesn’t allow work from home flexibility, you might think about starting your own business or doing contract work. After all, 86 percent of employees say that they work better when they work from home.
There’s certainly a lot of freedom that comes with working remotely, but it’s not always as simple as you might think. In fact, there’s a dark side to working remotely you should know before jumping in.
You must be self-disciplined and self-motivated.
Although deadlines and time-tracking don’t disappear when you leave the office, there’s no one at home to watch and make sure you accomplish your work. If you don’t have the motivation or self-discipline to stay focused, working from home will be a challenge.
“People who do it well are entrepreneurial,” says Gary Swart, chief executive at the online work site oDesk. “They work well independently. A person who works from home should be someone who understands how to structure their time and knows how to communicate effectively. 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.”
These habits can be learned, and there’s certainly a learning curve for those working remotely for the first time. However, be prepared for the changes.
Your friends, family, and neighbors might not understand.
Work-life balance will be a struggle, especially when you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand. People might ask you to babysit, run errands in the middle of the day, make appointments, and participate in other unscheduled surprises. Getting people to understand that being home doesn’t mean you’re available is a timeless challenge.
You might wonder where your social life has gone.
No more lunch dates with the office gang or going out for drinks with your co-workers on Friday night. You’ll talk to fewer people, and your work friends might not be there for you.
It’s nothing personal. It simply becomes difficult to connect with people when you don’t see them every day. If your social life is something you love, working from home might not be for you.
It’s easy to get less than 2,000 steps a day.
The average employee who works outside the office will get between 7,000 and 12,000 steps a day, indicating a relatively active lifestyle. When your daily commute consists of 10 steps from your kitchen to your office, you’ll be significantly less active than you were before.
“Not everyone who works from home gains weight, but I did,” says Chonce, a freelance writer and author of the blog My Debt Epiphany. “Working from home can create a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to health problems now and in the future. Even though I love the work I do, I know it’s not right to lose time and end up sitting at the computer each day. This is why I try to stand when I can, take walks during the day, stay hydrated and head to the gym a few times a week.”
Promotions are more difficult to achieve.
In an MIT Sloan Management Review, researchers found that in-office workers were perceived as more reliable and responsible than those who worked from home. “Those who spent time with management outside of working hours got an even greater benefit, with bosses being 25% more likely to describe them as ‘committed’ and ‘dedicated,’” the report stated.
Since you’re not present, your work might go unnoticed. You might be twice as productive as your in-office coworkers, but your lack of physical presence could stand in the way of a promotion.
You might have to do your own taxes.
Some people become stressed at the idea of taxes. If you become your own boss or do contract work, you’re usually in charge of paying quarterly taxes, which is a big surprise if you weren’t planning for that throughout the year.
Some remote workers also have the challenge of taxes in foreign countries if they work there for any reason. Before you start working remotely in any location, talk to your accountant about preparation to minimize your tax burden.