17 Telecommuting Disadvantages

Telecommuting's Unspoken Disadvantages

Most of the items above are irritating, but other issues are more serious and have lasting effects on a team's ability to collaborate and on an employee's belief that he is a valued member.

9. Travel Budget? What Travel Budget? When you signed on as a full time telecommuter, everyone (from management on down) agreed how often you would spend a week in the office (say, once every three or four months). But when the budget gets tight, the very first thing to be cut is the travel budget for your on-site trips. Doesn't that make you feel special and valued?

10. It's hard to read emotions from afar. This might sound like a "little" thing, but it has big ramifications: you miss body language, intonation and serendipitous hallway encounters that help build an organization's integument. Despite e-mail, instant messaging and social networks, it's not the same. (Which is why those quarterly visits are so important.)

11. The lack of immediate, nonverbal feedback.When you attend a meeting in person, you can see when people look uncomfortable at an idea you propose, or when their body language indicates they are offended by a joke you tell. It's hard to fix social or team problems that you can't see.

12. You have to work harder to form interpersonal relationships. There's no small talk while getting coffee from a vending machine during a break in the meeting. That limits group effectiveness, but more importantly, it sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of the work experience.

13. You don't get the office gossip. This might sound like an advantage to those who are weary of never-ending tattletales, but it's yet another way for telecommuters to fall out of the loop. On a personal level, it means you don't know about a coworker's family bereavement so you can sent a card; you don't learn that someone got engaged, became a grandparent or took a leave of absence. Professionally, it means you don't hear about decisions that affect your work, and you miss general news from other departments, such as staff promotions and transfers.

14. Your family and friends don't understand that you're working at home. You aren't hanging around, ready to take on any "honey-do" task and infinitely interruptible. Too many people assume that you have all day every day to take care of logistics, with no work responsibilities. Training children that "Daddy's working" is hard. Training spouses is worse. (Pets, however, believe that your keyboard is the best place to sleep. That's not necessarily a disadvantage, though.)

15. Out of site (pun intended), out of mind.Telecommuters can sometimes feel as though they wear an invisibility cloak. You have to make an extra effort to connect with coworkers and clients. You can't just stop by somebody's office to get a quick question answered; you need to wait for him to respond to an e-mail message or phone call. Few people treat those communications media with the same urgency as someone standing at their office door.

16. Some employers make telecommuting difficult.Some companies still frown on telecommuting because they are sure that anyone working at home cannot be trusted to actually, gasp, work at home. Thus they put ridiculous and arbitrary barriers in place. For example: requiring staff to create a work plan with management approval on what you would work on, then file a report a day later indicating how much you got done. (Yes, that's a true story.)

17. Employees who prove the distrustful management view to be accurate. Some people are not self-starters and treat their own work-at-home days the way their managers fear: I'll dial in for the meeting, I'll poke at some of my work, and I'll spend the rest of the day playing on Facebook or doing personal errands. Those "telecommuters" imagine that everyone has as poor a work ethic as they do. Such workers give the rest of us a bad name, and enrage telecommuters whose major problem-the much more common one-is that they can't stop working. (Your computer calls to you. Constantly. Nights and weekends.)

That's just the start, however. I'm sure you could add your own telecommuting pet peeves to the list-minor and major. Contribute your own in the article comments.

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