Working from home offers a lot of advantages, but it's not for everyone.
On the positive side, not having to commute to an office adds hours to your day. It also makes it easier to keep up any obligations you have in off-work hours, something that can be very valuable to parents of school-age children.
In addition, working from home often comes with a looser dress code than even the most casual office. Unless you regularly have video conferences, dressing up, brushing your hair, and any other normally required personal grooming becomes strictly optional.
That all sounds great, but there's another side to working at home. For some people, the positives don't outweigh the drawbacks, and even if they can stay home, they choose to go into an office. Whether you telecommute or really commute depends a lot on you as a person, but it's important to know more than just the upside of working from home.
1. It can be lonely
Most offices have a level of social interaction. That may be limited to breaks and lunchtime, but at least it's possible to talk with other people.
When you work from home, you never bump into a co-worker over the coffee maker. it's possible to replace some of that interaction over messaging systems such as Slack, but for many people eager to share a story or talk about the big game, or last night's episode of Game of Thrones, it's not quite the same.
2. It takes discipline
In an office, distractions are somewhat limited. At home, all of your stuff is there. How big a problem this is depends a lot on the nature of your job. If you, for example, have defined hours doing something that requires you to be at your desk, this is less of a problem.
For those who have flexibility, however, the lure of your television, video-game console, or anything else can be strong. In addition, if you live with other people or have kids, they can also affect your ability to focus on work.
3. Your co-workers may be jealous
In some companies, people who live near the office have to go in, while those who don't get to work from home. That might allow the company to hire from a greater pool of workers or fill a job it struggled to fill locally. On paper that sounds good, but in practice, the workers not getting a perceived perk may be less than happy.
In the minds of some in the office, the person at home simply doesn't work as hard. That's a difficult perception to overcome even if you do work really hard.
4. It's hard to create boundaries
One of the advantages of going someplace to work is that at some point you leave and the workday ends. When I worked for a large technology company as the sole East Coast person on a West Coast team, that lack of separation tended to extend my workday.
I started at 7 a.m. and, in theory, got off at 3 p.m. In practice, I was always somewhat on call simply because I was home. In addition, there were often meetings held after my hours ended that I could opt to skip, but probably shouldn't. I wasn't always working, but I was never quite off either at least until about 9 p.m., when my West Coast bosses went home for the day.
5. Your family may take advantage
Before I worked from home, it was very rare that I ever got asked to drive someone to the airport or to do anything else between 9 and 5. Once I started working from home with flexible hours, I became the go-to person for daytime needs.
Some of these are reasonable. I attend more school conferences and receive more deliveries because it makes little sense for my wife to take time off from her normal job when I can just reshuffle my day.
In other cases, though, friends and family expect me to be available simply because I can be. Many pay little concern to the fact that I have flexibility but still must get a certain amount of work done each day, week, and month. That often leads to doing what I'm asked to do, and then paying for it by working nights, weekends, and other times people are normally off.
6. You may be the first to go
Even if you do a good job, sometimes simply not being in the office creates the perception that you are less permanent. That "out of sight, out of mind" thinking can make you vulnerable if layoffs are needed.
It's possible to counteract that by making an effort to forge a relationship with those in charge. In addition, as is the case with any job, if you work harder and create more value, you may be able to buy yourself some added insurance. Still, it's harder to let someone go in person, so being remote does carry an added risk.
7. You may not get promoted
Many companies allow certain types of workers to telecommute but have higher-ranking positions in the office. That could make your work-from-home position, one with no upward potential.
Again, that's less of a concern at a company where most, or all, workers put in their hours from home. At a traditional business, however, it can be an issue, and that should be something you talk about during an interview or when you make the decision to work remotely.