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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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