The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

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Aug. 23, 2005 — -- With soaring gas prices, it's no wonder that many American workers are dreaming about eliminating their commutes and working from home. Tory Johnson, CEO of the recruitment firm Women For Hire, offers advice on evaluating whether or not it's the right move for you.

Here are some signs that working from home might not be ideal for you:

If you like or need a lot of direction and feedback to prevent you from getting distracted or losing focus, then working alone isn't advisable. You're likely to do better in a more structured office environment.

If you're a social butterfly who looks forward to connecting with colleagues in person every day, then the loneliness and isolation of working from home probably isn't for you. Many people want and need the personal connections and stimulation that come from working closely with other people on a daily basis.

Working from home often provides great solutions to child care challenges and enables parents to provide for their kids' care. However, if eliminating a child care dilemma or expense is your only motivation for working from home, you ought to rethink this plan. Not everyone can juggle the multiple demands of work and kids simultaneously under the same roof. It takes careful planning, patience and discipline to make this arrangement work.

But on the flipside, there are several key qualities that might make you an ideal candidate for working successfully from home:

If you're a lab technician or a cashier, your work can't be done anywhere. However, if you're in sales, public relations or marketing, chances are you could work away from the corporate office. Many companies have innovative work-from-home programs for their employees. For example, all 1,100 of JetBlue's reservation agents work from their homes.

If you work well without requiring constant feedback and direction, then being on your own would work. You must also possess the ability on your own to put in a full day's work, even with nontraditional hours. And just as importantly, you must be willing and able to stop working, so you're not chained to your desk 24/7, which would have the potential of negatively impacting your family life.

Do you think you'd be able to handle technical problems without having an on-site support team to troubleshoot your computer glitches? Could you work without needing an assistant or receptionist to handle your calls? For work-at-home employees, those support systems and conveniences are often -- if not always -- absent.

The dining room table can't double as your office. It's essential to have a dedicated work space that you can enter and leave during working hours, whatever those may be. This helps to keep your work organized and eliminate distractions, and it puts you into the working mode when you're in that special space.

Assuming you want to give it a try, it takes some effort to convince your boss that you're ready for this.

Here are the best ways to approach your employer about working from home:

Every Fortune 500 has some type of "telework" program in place. If your company currently allows some people to work from home, you'll have an easier time making a case for yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about how your company currently approaches this. Even in the absence of programs, you can initiate one.

There's extensive research that supports increased productivity among home-based employees. There's little truth to the notion that home-based workers slack off; in fact, they often put it more hours than their traditional colleagues. AT&T, for example, calculated a savings of $180 million in 2004 because of its telework program in the U.S., partly due to savings in real estate, but also a significant overall increase in employee productivity. Don't just focus on how you would benefit, but make sure your employer understand the benefits to the company as well.

In general, a great employee in the office will be a great employee at home. So use your previous track record of results as groundwork for how you'll be measured as a home-based employee. Set up specific benchmarks to determine your level of productivity and figure out a specific process for communicating your work to colleagues and bosses. If necessary, offer to work from home two or three days per week before jumping into a full-time schedule. This builds trust among your colleagues and also enables you to ease into a new routine.

Click Here for more advice on career success from Women for Hire.You can learn more in Tory Johnson's books, including "Women For Hire's Get-Ahead Guide to Career Success."

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