Working remotely – typically from one’s home – offers many benefits, productivity improvements and direct cost savings that are simply not available when working in an office co-located with your team mates under the gaze of management.
Previously I provided a post on The Downside of Co-located Teams. To be sure – and fair – there are certainly downsides to working remotely. Over my 25 year career in IT and consulting, I’ve worked from home quite a bit with my longest stretch being the most recent 2.5 years. Here’s a list of what I consider some downsides of working at home:
1. Out of Sight – Out of Mind
Probably the number one drawback for remote workers is they are not physically visible to management and executives who typically have control over one’s destiny at the company. Being seen at your desk early in the morning and/or late at night, whether you’re actually working or not, can positively color others impression of your work habits and value to the company.
2. You May Start to Work Too Much
Without the physical separation a daily commute inserts between your work and home life, certain personalities may go overboard on the amount of time they spend working and encounter difficulty separating their private life from their business life.
3. Picking from the Grapevine
You don't get face time with your coworkers, so it is more difficult to find out about new projects you might be interested in and upcoming changes and events that may impact you and your career.
4. Ease of Access to Others
When working remotely, reaching out to a distant co-worker involves making a phone call, sending an email, an IM or some other method rather than just walking over to their desk.
5. Family & Home Interruptions
Remote workers with nearby significant others, kids and close friends may be more easily distracted when these loved ones just barge into your home office and distract you from your obligations.
6. Stress on Relationships
Studies do say that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” If you’re in a relationship with another person(s), seeing too much of that person(s) can certainly add stress.
7. Free Snacks and Meals
The leftover bagels, fruit trays and remnants of sales lunches are not available to remote workers. Moreover, those occasional pizza parties and other free meals at the office are unavailable.
8. Varied Lunch Partners
The camaraderie and social aspects of dining with team mates is not readily available to remote workers.
9. Community Service
Many organizations place a high value of employee community service. Remote workers may be prevented from participating in certain service events like heart walks or require extra effort to participate in events like food and toy drives.
Certain people – especially extroverts – can find working remotely to be an isolating and lonely existence. Pretty much all of the above items – if not consciously acknowledged and addressed by some means – can lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness.
12. Office Infrastructure and Supplies
Remote workers typically don’t have ready access to copiers, printers and office supplies. Some companies also don’t provide much, if any, assistance in regards to desks, chairs, proper lighting and other office amenities.
But Maybe Not?
Depending on the distance to your office, whether you live with others, and whether or not your entire team and all the 3rd parties your team interacts with on a regular basis are located in the same physical space, many of the above points may not apply. And there are many ways to ameliorate or obviate the downside of working remotely. In a future post I’ll share some ideas and tips that have worked for me over the years.
In the meantime, be sure to check out “Why Working at Home is Both Awesome and Horrible”