How to Overcome the Challenges of Telecommuting

Working from home can be great but be aware of the disadvantages

Woman telecommuting

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Have you had the opportunity to telecommute aka work from home? The idea is appealing and could be the answer to what to do when you have sick kids or a horrendous commute. But once it becomes part of your regular schedule you may discover a few disadvantages. So before you begin telecommuting consider these disadvantages so you can plan accordingly.

The disadvantages of telecommuting are tied to the main advantage which is you don't have to go into an office every day. But while that sounds great, consider the downsides.

Becoming Isolated

Loneliness is the number one disadvantage of telecommuting. If you're working from home full-time, you may start to time your coffee break to the arrival of the mailman. 

To help battle this disadvantage look for ways to connect with the outside world other than your PC or phone. You can appreciate the conversation at the bus stop more or meet up with a neighbor for a lunchtime walk or run. If you want to grow your career sign up for networking events and go out monthly to meet some new people. Find your tribe outside of your work to help grow a more fulfilling career. 

Missing out on Shop Talk 

You're so much more productive when you telecommute because you don't waste time chit-chatting with co-workers. But the gossip serves an important purpose -- building relationships, allowing for casual brainstorming and information sharing.

If you telecommute, make sure to regularly call or message colleagues and stop by the office to keep your network strong. Every month identify the important meetings and events you'd like to attend in person and then let others know you'll be there. You want to avoid being blindsided by layoffs, being unaware of a new corporate strategy or missing an opportunity to participate in high-profile projects.

Becoming the Fallback Child Care Provider 

When you're working from home, people sometimes forget the "working" part. You run the risk of neighbors, teachers and even your spouse taking for granted that you will be in the home working during work hours. While it may be simple to let a repair person in the house now and then, you don't want to be called on for multiple errands and childcare when you're supposed to be doing your job.

Be sure to set your daily, weekly, and monthly work, family, and maybe house priorities. Then let others in your life know about these priorities to help set expectations of your availability. You can use a shared online calendar or whiteboard calendar so everyone knows where your schedule is at. Yes, this is one more piece of work you have to do, but it helps avoid confusion, hurt feelings, and aggravation. 

Battle the Feeling of Work-Family Conflict 

If you have young children at home, it can be hard for them to understand that although you are physically present you are unable to care for them. They may refuse consolation from their babysitter if they know you're only a few feet away. Older children and even spouses may fail to respect your work time and interrupt for just a "quick question."

To help with this conflict set boundaries. Create a home office where you stay in and they stay out. This means that when the workday starts you have everything you need for morning work. Yes, you'll need to break out every once in a while but to help your child understand that you are mentally not around you could try physically not being there. Another option is to pretend to leave for work and sneak back into your home office! 

As for the afternoon hours if you expect the kids and your husband to come home soon, put a "do not disturb" sign up when they absolutely cannot come in for that "quick question". If you have a high priority task you must finish, set the boundary, either the night before or a note they can read when they come home, that you must have quiet to finish your work and then you are all theirs for the rest of the night. 

Edited by Elizabeth McGrory