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Pitfalls of telecommuting

  • Story Highlights
  • Telecommuter's sudden, constant presence can cause tension, disruption
  • Some find they miss the social aspects of working with other people
  • Staying focused on work, being visible in the office are also concerns
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Editor's Note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com. This article first appeared in October 2005.

(CareerBuilder.com) -- When we think about telecommuting, we often focus on the blissful freedoms that come with it. Freedom to set our own hours, raid the refrigerator ... even take early morning calls in our underwear.

There are other conveniences as well: no more rush hour traffic and more time for family interaction.

Yet as great as all that sounds, telecommuting can have its drawbacks, as well. Here are some of the challenges telecommuters face as well as suggestions for how to overcome them.

Family 'turf' problems

When your family or significant other(s) are not used to having you around the house, your sudden and constant presence can cause tension and disruption.

Children who are used to having the run of the house can resent having to stay quiet and out of the telecommuter's work area. Spouses forget that the telecommuter is actually working and can shift an unreasonable amount of household responsibility upon him or her.

To avoid these types of tensions, set up your workspace in a quiet area away from the central traffic of the house. Establish work/life boundaries. And don't even think about trying to work and watch small children at the same time!

Let the other members of your household know that even though you're home, you're on the job and need to block out eight or nine hours to complete your daily work.

Social isolation

Some telecommuters find they miss the social aspects of working with other people.

Irline, a copywriter and new mother, thought working from home would be ideal, because she could be close to her daughter during the day.

However, once Irline began her arrangement, she no longer found her job satisfying; she missed the collegial atmosphere of her office and said her work suffered.

"As an extrovert, I get energy from those around me," Irline reflects. "I thrive on social interaction... being able to wander down the hall and kick around ideas with my co-workers helps my creativity and keeps me charged."

While some people can compensate by keeping in contact by phone or e-mail, others need social contact on a frequent basis in order to work productively. Irline ended up going back to the office and telecommuting just one day a week.

Staying focused

Some find it difficult to work from home because it is full of distractions and diversions but devoid of anyone to manage them and keep them on track.

Neighbors drop by to chat, the school calls for volunteers or a particularly juicy episode of Oprah is airing. Only the most organized, independent and disciplined of workers will be successful telecommuting.

To stay on course, keep in close contact with your boss and co-workers to ensure you meet their expectations. Develop a regular routine and set goals and deadlines for completing your work. Find ways to reward yourself for being productive.

Being visible

Still others are concerned that by not physically being in the office they will be forgotten or overlooked for plum assignments and promotions.

To make sure you don't become a case of out-of-sight/out-of-mind, make yourself available for meetings, conferences and industry events.

Schedule a lunch date with your boss and co-workers at least once a week and keep your boss apprised of your progress and accomplishments.

And finally, don't let concerns of telecommuting become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember managing your career is more about performance than presence. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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