Having Worked Remotely For 13 Years In Leadership Roles For Silicon Valley Giants I Will Share ALL The TRUE Pro’s & Cons Of Telecommuting.
The Benefits Of Remote Working / Telecommuting
No Commuting – Time Saved Every Day
No commuting is one of my favorite benefits to working from home. Removing the commute form your life has a huge number of knock-on effects. Which will be covered in the following sections.
My local office is approximately a 45-minute drive away. By skipping the commute I save 90 minutes per day. The average person has roughly 30 days of vacation and public holidays per year. So, removing the weekends and vacations from the year we have 230 working days or commute days per year. Let’s guess that your career will span 35 years because of course, you plan to retire early.
This equates to 90 minutes X 230 days X 35 years = 12,075 hours of commuting.
This means you could save 503 days of your life, 72 weeks or 1.3 years.
Removing a typical commute could save you 1.3 years of your life
Lower Carbon Footprint
Not only do you save over a year of your life while not commuting, but you also can have a good conscience about the environment. If you drive 30 miles per day to work that equates to 241,500 miles in your career.
According to Carbonfootprint.com, in the scenario above, if your commute was 30 miles per day (48 kilometers) you would increase the worlds CO2 emissions by 55.5 metric tons. So you would save 55.5 metrics tons of CO2 over your career.
You may save 55.5 tons of CO2 emissions over your career.
If you do still commute, you will need to plant 5 trees and have them working full time for 40 years to absorb that amount of CO2.
Decreased Commuting Costs
Not only saving time and the environment, but you will actually save money too. It costs you 60.8 cents per mile on average according to the AAA in a 2017 report. This means that traveling 30 miles per day, 230 days per year over 35 years will save you $164,200. Yes, you read it correctly. I double checked the math on it, it’s true.
You will save $264,220 dollars over your career by not commuting
Decreased Chance Of A Motor Accident
According to the Federal Highway Commission, the average number of miles per car accident for the average US driver is 165,000. In our example of 30 miles per day, you would cover 241,500 miles.
This means you would avoid one car accident in your lifetime. Also, 1 in 77 car accidents is fatal, so that means it is undeniably better to telecommute than really commute.
Decreased Clothing Costs
I know it seems bizarre but if you work in a professional environment or office with a formal attire dress code, you will also save on business clothing. As a male, I know that I have to have at least 4 suits for the office and update them on a yearly basis plus at least 10 shirts at $50 each. With these costs, you could save $1300 per year. For women, the saving is similar, as I conducted a study of my wife’s wardrobe and surmised that her looking good for work is a pricey business.
Working from home also decreases stress in two ways. Firstly, you do not have the stress of commuting to work in the morning. Secondly, you do not encounter the high levels of stress involved in personality clashes or workplace politics.
If you need to take a break or have a power nap to freshen your mind you can, because you have more flexibility. There are no prying eyes watching your every move and judging you like in the office, that is a stress relief in itself.
One of the great benefits of working from home is that you can also do everything outside the house at off-peak Times:
- Visiting the doctor at 11 am is 15 minutes of waiting – at 5 pm 90 minutes
- Go Food Shopping at 9 am no queue 20 minutes – at 6 pm long queues 1 hour.
Literally, all appointments during the week are so efficient during working hours you can save months of wasted time which you can make up earlier or later in the day.
Increased Work Presence
If you work in a team that is geographically spread across different time zones your work presence can actually increase even though you are not in the office. But how is this possible?
When you work remotely to the office, you have more flexibility to schedule your time according to business needs. For example, my team was spread from Australia to Costa Rica and everywhere in between. My teammates in the Philippines, for example, would start work much later in the day to be able to work with myself in Europe and our colleagues in the USA. If they had strictly abided by local office hours, I would have only had a few hours to work with them during my working day.
Additionally, my team in the USA would routinely start work at 6 am so they could catch a bigger time window with Europe and some time with Asia. They were more present across the globe than if they were in the office.
Improved Ability To Manage Children & School
We have all been there, you are in a meeting at work and you get the call from school, your child is sick and you need to pick them up. Easy when you work from home, because you are close to school, very difficult when you work in the city and your commute is one hour. Add to this the fact that when they are sick at home you can check in on them regularly and still deliver your working goals.
Also, it is much easier when it comes to your child’s extra-curricular activities. For example, I need to drive my daughter to gymnastics club twice per week and to her saxophone lesson once per week. I also take my son to his golf lessons weekly. It is all manageable when you have a flexible work from home regime.
More Family Time
If you have a family then one of the great benefits for teleworking is the fact you are closer to your children. I am there to make my two little ones breakfast in the morning and when they get home I have lunch ready for them. So, we eat two meals per day together at least. When my wife arrives home we have dinner together. Due to the flexibility I have, I can then work in the evenings to make up the time lost making food and fooling around with my kids.
Time Saved Preparing For Work
You know the routine, wake up, brush your teeth, shower, shave, do your hair, select your clothes, get dressed, grab a coffee, leave early to avoid main rush hour. All of these activities take time. When you are a telecommuter that time is radically reduced. You can even reduce your prep time to “wake up, brush teeth, grab coffee”. That means unshowered, unshaven and working in your pajama’s, but each to their own.
I have read on other websites advice like, “for psychological reasons, prepare yourself every day like you are going into the office”. But that is crazy, I am not going to splash on aftershave and wear a suit to work from home, at least for me getting into work mode is as simple as firing up the laptop logging in, and attending my first meeting.
When I was one of the global leaders at Hewlett Packard, I often had to present remotely at our virtual “all employee meeting” in the U.S. time zone. That meant being ready at 5am to present. Here was my routine, get up at 4:30 am, brush teeth, throw shorts and a t-shirt on, grab a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, login on by 4:45 am, present at 5:05 am. Happy days and no suit required.
Taking A Mid-Day Shower
I already discussed the time savings in preparing for work, so now try this trick. Instead of showing in the morning, shower in the afternoon. We all know that feeling, after lunch you are settling down to get some work done and your digestive system starts kicking in, you start to feel sleepy. Take a shower in the afternoon and you are bright and breezy again like you just started a new day.
Take a shower in the afternoon and you are bright and breezy again like you just started a new day.
Healthier Eating At Home
Another hidden benefit of working from home is the fact that you do not need to eat the pig swill from the work canteen. I an English but I live and work in Germany. What I do know is that if you like schnitzel, sausage, bread and potatoes you are well looked after here in the land of sauerkraut. I have eaten in work cafeterias in New York, Texas, Cupertino, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Singapore, Malaysia, India (that was an experience) and in London and they are all the same. Only one place had great food, that was the canteen in Lyon France that featured red wine and Boeuf Bourguignon…hmmm
Lower Cost Of Eating
If you add up the cost of every lunch time of eating sub-standard food at work, you will see that the costs are beneficially higher that eating light and healthy at home. My average cost of canteen food was approximately $7 per day.
If you want a decent quality coffee you are also in luck, but your wallet is out of luck, 2 coffees at $4 each. A potential daily cost of $13 or $260 per month.
At home, I can throw together a salad and have a coffee for less than $2 per day or $40 per month.
A More Flexible Approach To Exercise
If you telecommute you need to exercise. But the joy of it is that whenever you have a gap in your agenda you can jump into your shorts and go for a run for 30 minutes. Do 45 minutes jogging and you will hit 10,000 steps.
If you need to clear your head go for a walk, take your next meeting on skype on your phone with a Bluetooth headset whilst walking in the sunshine. It is all possible, technology is your friend.
If you need a lot of what I call “thinky time” in your work then working from home can be a huge win.
For example, let’s say you need to plan out the foundation for a huge project you have been tasked with. That takes a lot of thinky time to do it right. You need to get in the zone, and when you are in the deep think zone you are at your peak levels of thought and abstraction. Every time you get distracted in the office, it drags you back into the real world, you lose your train of thought and it takes time to get productive again.
Working remotely you can simply turn of instant messaging and your email and you are free to explore the depths of your mind.
The Cons Of Remote Working / Telecommuting
Temptation To Overwork
One of the great things about working from home is zero commute time. That means you can save from one to two hours per day of your life. The problem is you inevitably spend that saved time by working more. I have worked too many hours in the day, in fact, I could not even report my hours in the system because Germany has legal requirements on maximum hours of work and if I reported them, I would have been breaking the law. So, I worked around it by taking unofficial time off when I needed to.
What is my point? You should try to create a normal working regime where you start and finish at a specific time and don’t do emails on your phone in bed while ignoring your partner you loser. 🙂
Scattered Working Hours
If you want the joy of the flexibility that telecommuting offers, that means you may end up scattering your working hours across the day. You may want to take a few hours off at lunchtime to prepare food for the children or deliver your kids to their sports clubs.
That flexibility means you will need to work later in the evening or get up a lot earlier in the morning to compensate. For myself, the flexibility outweighs the scattered working hours, but it is still something you need to consider.
A Less Structured Daily Regime
As the old sayings go “humans are creatures of habit” or “people need structure to thrive”. There is some truth in these proverbs, so you need to recognize that if you are a creature of habit or if you do need a fixed work-life structure, then working virtually or remotely may not be for you.
“It sounds crazy, but to be truly flexible you actually need discipline”
This actually means that adopting a flexible approach to your working hours and your life, you need to have the deep discipline to actually achieve your working goals. If that means working late into the night because you took time out in the afternoon, then do it. Commit to delivering your goals and be flexible as to what time of the day you do that, and you will be fine.
Making Space In The House For An Office
Ideally, you should have a part of the house that is separated with a door and the door is lockable. In a large corporation and working across organizations and functions, 99% of people do not know you work from home. The fact is home workers are considered less serious than those who drive into an office. So, there is no reason to broadcast the fact that you work from home. In fact, don’t talk about it, just get the job done. A dog barking or your child screaming gives the game away and you will not be taken seriously after that.
Make sure you have a private room, we all know the phenomena, on a conference call and someone is working from home in the kitchen where you can hear a crying baby or the wail of police sirens. To maintain the air of professionalism whilst in meetings you need a quiet private room with no disruptions.
You need to dedicate a part of your house for this and that will take space away from your family.
Increased Electricity Bills
Logically, being in a state of permanent telecommuting, your electricity and heating bills will increase. The lighting, power for your laptop and screens and perhaps in summer your air conditioner.
Without a doubt your costs will increase, but it will hardly be noticed and will be completely offset by the huge savings in your commuting costs.
Less Human Time With Your Team
Now here is one of the biggest drawbacks, the human connection. There are no workarounds for this, being in the office means you will, over time, develop relationships with certain people that turn into friendships. You will even have professional relationships where you gain a mentor or simply someone to bounce your work issues off. This does not happen for telecommuters, or at least the opportunities are far fewer.
No Face To Face Chats At The Water Cooler
If you enjoy randomly talking to and making new acquaintances in the office, also known as water cooler moments, then be prepared as this does not happen for telecommuters.
You simply do not randomly call someone up and chat to them about the weather when working from home.
No Office Parties Or Work Night Outs
If you are working far away from the office, or if your head office is in another country then you are going to miss out on the Christmas party or the leaving celebration of a colleague. If this matters to you then do not telecommute.
Less Movement Impacts Health
If you wear a fitness tracker watch or use your phone to track your steps, you will know your goal is usually 10,000 steps for the day then you are successful.
That is great for normal office worker humans, most people can actually achieve that without thinking. You get up, make breakfast, walk to your car, drive to work, walk around the office walk to lunch, walk to meetings slowly but surely you can with a little effort get to 10,000 steps.
As a telecommuter, this is not the case. You take 50 steps you are at the office, you do not walk to meetings, a big expedition for you it to walk to the coffee machine in your kitchen.
This is a serious problem.
10,000 steps is not a target for fit people, it is the target for a human being not to rust up their joints.
If you telecommute you need to exercise to minimize the impact on your health.
Ability To Maintain Discipline
As a rule, I only allowed my staff to work from home if they had demonstrated to me their self-discipline. If you cannot be disciplined in your work, then it will definitely become evident when working from home. Constantly late for meetings, missing deadlines, or even a lack of preparation for projects or meetings are all telltale signs that you do not have the discipline to self-regulate your work without your manager looking over your shoulder.
Dependence On Technology
A serious downside to telecommuting full-time is a dependence on technology. If your broadband is down you cannot work effectively. If your laptop hard disk fails you may be out for a few days and need to drive to technical support hundreds of miles away to get it fixed.
Choose a high-quality internet service provider (ISP) and make sure you use the cloud to backup all of your important documents. Have email and Skype on your phone, so that even if your office hardware fails you can still attend meetings and access documents via your phone over 4G.
Loneliness Or Isolation
My mother used to say “I am just talking to myself until I get used to the people” or “the more people I meet the more I like my dog”.
In some ways working remotely means you are more isolated and encounter fewer social situations than when in the office. I cannot stress this enough if you are a super social animal that craves the contact with people face to face and in person, then teleworking is not for you. You can, however, counter this missing social aspect of your life by joining local clubs, meetups and ensuring you cultivate a close group of friends locally.
There is a widely held belief that working from home means you will get a lower salary. While it may be true that if you have a low skilled work from home job, you may receive a minimum wage but for a skilled worker the opposite is true.
For example, research at flexjobs suggests that as a freelance software developer you can earn even more than someone full-time in the office.
In my personal situation working as a corporate transformation leader I found that there was no impact in my salary, quite the opposite in fact.
Decreased Promotional Prospects
I firmly believe that if you consistently deliver your objectives on-time in the right way and collaborate and coach your team members you are automatically considered for promotion. However, the fact remains that if you are not in the office in person this may impact a part of the relationship building process that sets the groundwork for promotion.
To combat this, increase your usage of video conferencing or web conferencing for important meetings. Also, try to get to the office on a regular basis so you get that feeling of belonging and that people can put a face to a voice and a personality to your name.
Final Thoughts On The Pro’s And Cons Of Telecommuting.
Focus on your goals, even as a remote worker for 13 years I managed to get promoted 4 times to director level.
- Always deliver on your targets.
- Learn a great telephone manner and smile when you talk, it makes a difference.
Did you enjoy this post, then share it and leave a comment below?