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Why It’s a Terrible Idea to Work From Home

While telecommuting might be a great cost savings for companies who want to save on real estate and utilities by making you effectively pay for them at your house, it's not perfect. As much as it pains me to say it, here are some downsides to the working-from-home scenario.

While telecommuting might be a great cost savings for companies who want to save on real estate and utilities by making you effectively pay for them at your house, it’s not perfect. As much as it pains me to say it, here are some downsides to the working-from-home scenario.

working from home is terrible

(Photo Credit: liquene/Flickr)

1. You never stop working.

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When you work from home, you don’t have the opportunity to “turn off the lights and go home” at the end of the day. Maybe you don’t intend it, but your workday could creep into your personal evenings, bit by bit. Maybe you take an extra long break in the afternoon, so you feel compelled to “make up the time” after dinner. Then you find yourself working weekends or on vacations to “seem productive” when you think people might expect you to be online. The compulsion to appear busy and present (when you’re not in front of your boss) could lead to a dangerous 24/7 work life that’s no good for you, or your work.

2. Email is less efficient than a good old conversation in person.

In the old days, before anyone carried around filtered water in Nalgenes to meetings, there was a thing known as the “water cooler” where thirsty co-workers would tend to congregate and often gossip or catch up on life. Sometimes, these water cooler conversations could actually spark ideas and collaborations that wouldn’t otherwise have happened in the formality of a boardroom meeting or an isolated cube farm. Many who openly disapprove of telecommuting, like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer (who famously banned the practice when she took over as CEO in 2013), think you need to hover over a beverage together to enact the “serendipity” of the workplace. Face-to-face conversations are what they think breed the best or most unusual ideas.

3. It’s hard to collaborate on things.

Even with apps like Basecamp, Asana, or Slack, which provide a forum for group projects and tasks, it’s hard to sit down and compare line edits on a document against a design, or to stare over your co-worker’s shoulder while she changes the verbiage on some headlines as you chat about readability. Edits can take longer, or can be confusing for very complex documents. Where are the productivity gains when you have to spend extra time trying to get on the same page? Can you see the problem I’m pointing at? It’s telecommuting. Plain as the nose on my face.

4. You’ll never really know your co-workers.

Even on a conference call, it’s easy to stay quiet and think of puppies until the hour is up. Without the opportunity to chit-chat in between trips to the bathrooms, do you really get a chance to break the ice with co-workers you’ve never seen in the flesh? It’s harder for adults to make friends, so without the gentle nudging of awkward silences that comes between beeps of the office microwave, how else are you going to find out “how those kids are doing” or “what’s the latest from the suburbs”?

So, as much as we’d all love to be home in our jammies instead of in a cube farm, truths must be told, and realities must be faced. Unless you can overcome these hurdles, working from home might not be for you.

Disagree, or want another perspective? This post is for you.

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8 Comments on "Why It’s a Terrible Idea to Work From Home"

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Your comments assume that your co-workers are all at a central close location. In today’s tech world, your manager, team, and customers may be spread across many locations and time zones. Even if you are at the closest office, you are on conference calls anyway with your group. The hour plus commuting each way means you are not available for meetings in other time zones. Add in the $3,000+ and time wasted during the commute, and telecommuting seems much more rewarding. if you have children, the added flexibility makes it easier for those school, doctor and dental appointments that don’t… Read more »
I agree with the theme in this article. I did telecommute for 4 years in a software developer role. It impacted my family life dramatically because I was expected to stay later and work weekends when needed. The focus they made was on ‘cost savings’ for me by not driving. Be aware that a cube space with the costs that go around it for one person, is about 6K a year. Dillon Beresford had great comments. I knew all of my peers very well and they were across time zones. It was also very easy to colloborate via e-mail, screen… Read more »

Hello I am actually quite interested in working from home for a change. Are there any good Home Based jobs any of you can recommend to me? Please and thank you in advance.

Yes, I agree with the article…I worked a combo of both for years, on the road then finishing computer work at home, nights, weekends, etc, etc. …and now, my wife does this…very thankful she has the work ,OT, etc… …but, we have lost ourselves in many ways…we are older now and it is burning us out with no slow down or end in site….especially for her…she used to get laid off or the temp jobs ended, now she has solid, steady…11-13 hr days and is most often expected to work at least some, or a lot on weekends regularly…now my… Read more »
Dillon Beresford
I work 100% remote and I completely disagree with the author of this article on almost every point. I leave at 5 o’clock every day and so does my manager and the rest of my team. There are occasions where I might work a little late, but this is very rare. Also, nobody on my team or in our company expects anyone to work past 5pm. I’ve never been asked to made to feel like I needed to work over the holiday and I’ve had 4 weeks of PTO and was never made to feel guilty about taking it. Now,… Read more »
Steve Linn
I agree with the article. After telcommuting for the past 2 years, I didn’t know where work ended and home life began. I am a social person and missed the interaction with co-workers, although I was able to form some type of relationship with them over IM and email, but still not the same. Helping team members to troubleshoot technical issues over IM, while it worked most of the time, wasn’t the most efficient way either. I just started a new job that puts me back in the office setting, so other than not rolling out of bed and into… Read more »

After a lifetime of commuting in all types of weather, and some times feeling “under the weather”, I’m enjoying working part time from home. I have to make sure I have adequate social time as well, but I no longer rely on the office (and its politics) for my social encounters. Since my work is call center/chat line related, I am still communicating with people, and when my shifts are done, I can totally switch off work and concentrate on other things. What’s not to like!

Mike Raia
While you make some valid points about the negatives of telecommuting I think what you describe is only relevant when it’s 100% telecommuting. For instance if the company is several states away or it’s a truly “virtual” company where there is no office space at all. In many cases, telecommuting is available along with visiting the office regularly or when needed. While I agree that for some people, the need to have a place to go and work outside of the home is too strong a pattern to break, I think for most people a mix of working in the… Read more »
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