Why Telecommuting Isn’t for Everyone?

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Today, it’s not uncommon for a majority, if not the entirety of new startups to be comprised of remote workers. On the surface, it seems like a win-win for everyone. Remote workers are touted to be more productive and businesses can save on office expenses. A number of countries have even been encouraging such arrangements for the environmental benefit of having fewer cars and a reduced dependency on fossil fuels.

However, it’s come to light that only a minority of people will actually have significant benefits from working from home. There are now several widely recognized drawbacks to telecommuting, which we’ve laid out below. If you think you’ll enjoy working from home, be sure to check out this Skype alternatives list.

1.) You need a certain personality type to make it sustainable

A recent study on workers from CTrip, a 16,000 person NASDAQ listed company based in China seems to indicate that for most people, the performance boost that comes from working from home tapers off after several months. Employees who volunteered for the work from home experiment were randomly assigned to either work at home or from an office for a set period of time.

While almost all the employees became more productive, only were able to maintain a higher level of productivity as their baseline after some time.  It turns out that generally speaking, only employees who were already high performers or were self-driven were able to maintain this high level of productivity. Most other employees did not fare as well when they were unable to directly interact with colleagues. In the end, it was found that it was probably more important to be able to have employees be able to choose where to work.

2.) Direct interactions with other people are important for getting new ideas.

Major companies such as Google, Facebook, and Zappos scaled back work from home arrangements after finding out that regular interactions with other coworkers are crucial for developing all kinds of ideas. As a matter of fact, Zappos even uses the “collisionable hours” as a metric for workspace effectiveness. The open plan, free-flowing office spaces at Facebook and Google are also intended to draw out this kind of collaborative creativity from their employees.

3.) Remote workers can easily develop health issues

The isolation and the sedentary lifestyle of many remote workers can easily lead to a host of physical and mental health conditions. Going back to the first point, it seems that in order to make regular telecommutes sustainable, the worker has also got to be on top of other less obvious aspects of their life as well.

Commuting to work often involves at least a few opportunities for physical activity. When an employee works from home, they have the seductive option of doing next to nothing, being virtual shut-ins. If you telecommute, it’s important to prioritize exercise, socialization, and eating as much as you do productivity.

4.) Personal boundaries get blurred

Telecommuting with kids at home is especially problematic, not so much for the worker, but for the children. Small children may not necessarily understand why you cannot give them your undivided attention. This can make it difficult, or even traumatic for them, especially at such a young age.

5.) Employees can feel less a part of the team

Out of sight, out of mind certainly applies to people who telecommute. It’s all too easy to forget that people who you contact over Skype are actually real people. As a result, remote workers often get left out of all kinds of social activities. Managers may even outright forget about them when it comes to recommending them for promotions.

What other downsides to telecommuting can you share? Tell us!

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