When it comes to compensation at work, salary isn't the only factor to look at. Rather, you'll want to pay close attention to the workplace benefits being offered by your company or any you're interviewing with.

Now when it comes to employee benefits, paid vacation days and subsidized health insurance are pretty big ones. The same holds true for 401(k) plans. But if you're in the market for a new job, you may want to inquire about one key benefit that's been growing increasingly popular: the option to telecommute.

Woman at laptop talking on phone


These days, a good 74% of companies allow employees to telecommute, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. However, only 60% of employers offer up the option when workers proactively approach them about it. Furthermore, a mere 30% of companies openly communicate about this benefit during the hiring or new employee orientation process.

If you're interested in telecommuting, you should be aware that there are certain benefits and drawbacks involved. Whether the pros outweigh the cons depends on your attitude and work-related personality.

Benefits of telecommuting

One key advantage to telecommuting is the option to save money on travel to and from work. Imagine you're paying $200 a month for a bus pass. Work from home full-time, and you'll pocket an extra $2,400 a year.

Telecommuting can also save you time, aggravation, and stress. If you live in a high-traffic area, for example, avoiding gridlock on a regular basis can make for a much more content existence. In fact, in this regard, telecommuting can actually be better for your health, especially if it prevents you from having to drive when you're exhausted, or helps you avoid the increase in blood pressure that typically ensues when traffic just stops moving.

Telecommuting can also lend to an increase in productivity. If you're not wasting time on the road, that's additional hours you can dedicate to tackling projects and meeting deadlines. And that, in turn, can help your career.

Drawbacks of telecommuting

On the other hand, working remotely has its challenges. For one thing, you risk falling victim to the "out of sight, out of mind" trap. If your boss doesn't see you regularly, you might wind up getting passed over for major projects or assignments. And that could hurt your career over time.

Furthermore, it's hard to maintain strong relationships with your colleagues when you see them rarely or never. It's often the case that key conversations happen on the fly, and bonds are formed over coffee breaks and between-meeting chitchat. If you're hardly around to partake, you could end up feeling like the odd person out on your team.

Telecommuting, especially when you do it full-time, can also lead to feelings of isolation. Some people need the socialization that comes with working in an office. If the idea of never needing to leave the house to work makes you uneasy, it could be that working remotely just isn't for you.

Finally, if telecommuting means working from home in your case, you should know that there are certain pitfalls involved. You might get easily distracted by your endless stream of household tasks and entertainment, but if you fall down on the job, you'll risk losing it permanently.

Is telecommuting right for you?

Telecommuting can be a terrific benefit, but it's not ideal for everyone. If you tend to crave face time and get distracted easily, then you may be better off dragging yourself into the office, at least on a part-time basis. On the other hand, if you're the disciplined type, then a telecommuting arrangement might work out just fine for you.

If your employer currently isn't offering the option to work remotely, then it pays to ask for it -- especially since so many companies seem to be embracing the trend. Review the advantages with your manager or HR representative, and see if you can get someone to agree to a trial period of telecommuting at the very least.

Remember, telecommuting isn't just good for employees; it can save companies countless dollars on office space and resources. So if your employer is willing to give it a go, there's a good chance everyone involved will benefit.