The allure of working in your pajamas and having a five-step commute is luring workers away from the cubicle and into their home offices. About 30 million people work from home at least once a week, and that number is expected to rise by a whopping 63 percent in the next few years, according to a 2013 study by the Telework Research Network cited by Forbes. And according to the most recent data, 2.8 percent of the workforce works from home the majority of the time.
But while the vision of working with cats snuggled at your feet while a pot of your favorite coffee brews (unlimited refills!) may send shivers of happiness up your spine, is working from home all it’s cracked up to be? A study by Leadership IQ found that while 24 percent of people who work in a real office love their jobs, 45 percent of telecommuting workers love theirs. So yes, perhaps it is.
But before you pack up your cube, there are a few things to consider.
1. HOW QUIET IS YOUR HOME?
If you have a roommate or a spouse, you need to figure out how this will work, says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at Flexjobs, which is located in Boulder, but she works remotely from Dallas, Texas. “Some people assume that their laptop in the kitchen will work, but most need a dedicated office,” Reynolds says. “They need a place to go where they’re officially working, and it’s a separate space from the rest of their life.”
This space should be a place with doors that can be closed if other people are home, and it should be quiet so that if you have calls, the person on the other end won’t hear background noises that include pets, kids, or the sounds of domesticity.
2. DO YOU HAVE DEVICES?
Most companies will tell you to BYOD—bring your own device—when you ask if you can work remotely, Reynolds says. You would have to supply your own computer, second monitor, phone, headset, printer, scanner, and anything else you’d need to set up the office, which could be a significant expense. Other companies will provide these, so you should inquire about what would be included before making the decision to go remote.
3. ARE UTILITIES INCLUDED?
Some companies will give you a stipend each month to pay for the heating and electric (because you probably turn down the heat when you leave for the day), but other companies will tell you that you’re on your own. Most likely, you’ll also need to boost your internet speed and make other adjustments.
4. DO YOU HAVE SELF-DISCIPLINE?
You’ll be steps from your bed, and there isn’t going to be anyone to stop you from taking multiple naps a day, says Jody Michael, CEO and founder of Jody Michael Associates, an executive and career coaching company with offices in Chicago and Atlanta. And an odd thing happens once you start working from home: Friends and family assume you can walk their dogs and take two-hour lunch breaks. “One client told me that her mother never called in the middle of the day when she worked in an office, but as soon as she started working from home, her landline would ring at random times of the day,” Michael says. “It was her mom, who assumed that her home meant available. ‘Oh, are you working?’ her mom would ask.” You’ll have to set strong boundaries with yourself, and with everyone you know.
5. IS YOUR GOAL TO MOVE UP THE CORPORATE LADDER?
When you work from home, you have the potential to get overlooked by key decision-makers when it comes to promotions, raises, and bonuses, says Ray Cohen, New York-based career counselor and executive coach. “You also become far more vulnerable when decisions are made to trim headcount,” Cohen says. “Whenever possible, show up for group meetings and schedule an occasional in-person progress review with your boss.” He also suggests participating in extracurricular activities with your peers so that you have a base on which to build your professional network.