Research Reveals The Downsides of Telecommuting

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Just under 2 million employees in the U.S worked from home at least half the time in 2005. Over three million did so by 2012. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year a quarter of U.S. workers partially worked from home. It’s clear that more and more employers are taking a liking to the idea of telecommuting and allowing employees to work from home when possible. Or they turn to individual independent contractors and freelancers to get the job done. Forbes contributor, Meghan Biro, says that up to 45 percent of companies do this and that working from home is the future.

But is it?

Jobs that allow telecommuting or virtual work are higher in demand than ever. Job seekers don’t want to make the commute to an office building where they spend all day in a cubicle. They want the comfort, freedom and benefits that come with working from where ever they choose. And lately, many businesses realize that this can save them money. They don’t have to pay through the roof on overhead costs like rent, utilities, internet access. It seems like a win-win.

But new research shows that may not be the case. Psychological Science in the Public Interest recently published the findings of an in depth review of research that’s been done on working from home. Their conclusion is that, yes, working from home just here and there can be beneficial. Those who do so have better job performance and are overall happier. But doing so too much can have the opposite effect.

Working from home for more than 15 hours per week can decrease work performance. And those who do report they aren’t as satisfied with their job, aren’t as happy. They aren’t as productive, creative or innovative either. New, out of the blue ideas aren’t going to easily hit as often when there’s no true, real time, face to face interaction with others with differing views, knowledge and opinions.

Communication and collaboration through social media and programs like Slack can help. But it’s just not the same as being with others. It will never be as quick and easy to get input on an idea. Instead of simply sliding your chair over to a colleague, asking and getting their opinion right then and there, you have send an email, message or voicemail. You have to wait for them to receive, review and reply. It’s easy to see how that can quickly decrease productivity.

So how can someone working from home ensure they stay productive and happy? Here are just a few tips for successfully working from home and enjoying it.

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James DeMers via Pixabay

Fake the commute and lunch hour – There may not be a battle with traffic to get across town. But getting in the mindset of this being a workday is still an important step. Go for a brisk morning walk around the block. Or simply go down to the nearest coffee shop for a morning cup of coffee before settling in for the work day. The same goes for lunch. Don’t just grab a sandwhich and pop back down at the desk. Grab a healthy to-go snack or smoothie and take the dog for a walk. Or head to that park just down the road.

Don’t be a social hermit – Working from home shouldn’t mean absolute solitude. That could drive anyone insane. Stay social to stay happy and productive. Whether that means joining a company Facebook chat group, getting familiar with Slack or using the chat feature in Gmail or Yahoo… Stay connected and keep communication open.

Clock out – Those who work from home often get to choose their own hours. Choosing when to get started with work on a project each day isn’t that difficult. But many people find it hard to designate the end of the work day. There should be a set time in place to “clock out” and end the work day.

Veronica Davis is a former Marine, now a mom of two boys who has found a passion for freelance writing. She loves cooking and rarely misses something in the food industry, but she also enjoys writing about business, home and anything interesting.