There are certainly pros and cons to telecommuting, but do the disadvantages of telecommuting outweigh the advantages?
After all, remote working certainly has its fair share of pluses.
In one study, for instance, 98% of remote workers say they would like to continue working remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career. And 97% of those respondents said they would recommend remote working for others.
However, it is important to remember that telecommuting is not ideal for everyone – and even those who do recommend it face struggles.
Below, we’ll explore some of the most common disadvantages of telecommuting and remote working.
The Biggest Disadvantages to Telecommuting
The most common disadvantages and struggles faced by remote workers include:
Perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages to telecommuting is the lack of social contact.
Remote workers often work from home, but that social isolation can easily create feelings of loneliness.
If workers don’t prepare for and counter these feelings early enough, those feelings can easily become demotivating and distressing.
Some have pointed out that there is a transition point between solitude and feeling alone or lonely. Understanding that boundary line is vital, so that workers know when to engage in social activities before solitude transforms into loneliness.
Gallup, however, makes a distinction between loneliness and isolation.
Loneliness, Gallup says, is an emotional response to a lack of connection. They point out that people can feel just as lonely inside an office as outside it.
Isolation, on the other hand, refers to a lack of access to resources or materials. Since the two can contribute to one another, it is important to understand their dynamic.
The right conversations, the consultancy advises, can help managers better understand their employees’ needs, then help to bridge gaps when and where possible.
Difficulty Collaborating with Teams
Collaboration is essential for any workplace to function smoothly.
However, unlike when working at a physical office, workers cannot simply walk down the hall to have a chat or ask a question. And since workers may have different schedules or operate in different time zones, receiving a rapid reply is not always a possibility.
If virtual workplaces are not set up properly, collaboration can be a real problem that results in…
- Increased worker stress
- Friction and disagreements among team members
- Lost productivity
Among other things.
To prevent and even avoid this problem completely, it is important to develop a documented and clear telecommuting policy.
That policy should establish clear guidelines around:
- Communication expectations
- Rules and procedures regarding collaboration
- Employee training requirements
- Expectations around digital skills
- Apps and technologies to be used by telecommuters
Applying techniques such as these can certainly be one way to minimize difficulties associated with collaboration.
Not Being Able to Unplug
Today, we perform so many activities through the internet – working, shopping, socializing, messaging, to name just a few.
Unfortunately, though, remote working can make it more difficult to unplug than ever.
As mentioned, offices have the added benefit of socialization. Team members can easily take breaks to chat or socialize and simply step away from the internet for a few minutes.
When working from home, however, this can be more difficult.
Not only do remote workers work online, they also turn to online channels for socialization. Social media, for instance, offers a good way to chat and stay connected with friends. But at the same time, it also increases the amount of time spent online.
“Unplugging” can certainly be a challenge, but if remote workers take concrete steps, then it is possible.
To maintain self-discipline while remote working, for instance, employees can:
- Create rules – and follow them accordingly
- Follow strict daily schedules
- Take mandatory breaks from work and the internet
Since emotional and mental health should be everyone’s priority, it is important to implement and follow measures such as those just listed.
Offices and physical workplaces are certainly full of distractions.
For that reason, it is easier for many workers to concentrate when working remotely. The isolation, as mentioned, helps to minimize distractions and interruptions in the office.
However, there are also plenty of distractions when working from home, such as:
- Family members
- Social media
Of course, some of these distractions are easier to deal with than others.
Turning off the TV, for instance, merely requires self-discipline and the click of a button.
Distancing oneself from family members, however, requires a combination of self-discipline and rules.
As with the other disadvantages mentioned here, it is possible to minimize or even eliminate distractions when working remotely.
However, to minimize these issues, it is sometimes necessary to develop a mechanism or a systematic approach, such as rules and reward systems.
Should these disadvantages deter one from telecommuting?
No, certainly not.
Telecommuting – like working on-site at an office – has both pros and cons. And, like on-site office work, it is more suitable for some than for others.
Regardless of the circumstances, telecommuting can be very rewarding and productive, especially if steps are taken to minimize its downsides.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.