Is Working Remotely For You? 5 Questions To Help You Decide

By: Caroline Dowd-Higgins

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Image Source; Thinkstock

Have you ever considered trading in your daily commute, traveling several miles from home, for a commute where you're traveling several feet to the closest computer in your home?

More and more of my coaching clients are interested in exploring the option of working remotely, and according to an American Community Survey, there are 3.3 million workers who are already doing it at least half the time.

Type "remote jobs" into your search bar and you'll find an abundance of sites dedicated to telecommuting. Sites like Skip the Drive, Flex Jobs, Working Nomads, Staff.com, Stack Overflow and oDesk pop up, to name a few - not to mention the remote job section on sites like Career Builder, Monster and Indeed.

But is working remotely for you?

Upside

According to an infographic from Highfive, the number of remote workers in the U.S. jumped nearly 80% between 2005 and 2012; 77% of remote workers experienced greater productivity; 53% were less stressed; and remote workers were more likely to work longer hours and report better health.

Jennifer Harris, a Chicago publicist who works remotely 50% of the time, says she likes the fact that she has a choice when it comes to settling in with her laptop. "I can work from a coffee shop, my backyard, or in my house with classical music playing in the background," Harris explains. "I like the variety of environments."

Many remote workers appreciate the work/ home life balance that telecommuting affords them, however, the arrangement is not for everyone.

Drawbacks

Anthony Curlo, CEO of the IT Recruiting and Staff Augmentation firm, DaVinciTek, explains that, while remote work has become a key consideration for job-seeking within the IT profession, and many others as well, it's important for candidates to know how they work best before making it the primary factor in their search. "Remote workers need to be self-directed and self-motivated to be successful," Curlo says. "Employers expect the same productivity, if not more, when employees work remotely. It can bring with it greater responsibility."

Harris says that, while she appreciates working from home, there are tradeoffs. "It can be isolating," she explains. "Even if you're in steady communication with your team, you can still feel out of the loop without that face time. It takes extra effort to stay connected when you work from home."

Another downside associated with working remotely is that "out of sight" can be "out of mind," especially when it comes to moving ahead. Studies cited in a Flex Jobs article on the topic suggest that full-time telecommuters tend to lose out on promotions, raises, and other advancement opportunities more often than their onsite colleagues.

Take the Assessment

If you're wondering if working remotely is a fit, ask yourself these five questions, courtesy of Flex Jobs:

1) Are you self-disciplined/self-motivated - ultimately maintaining a high level of productivity?

2) Does the idea of working in your home all day, without human contact, appeal to you?

3) Are you an effective communicator via phone/IM/email?

4) If you have children, will you have the quiet and uninterrupted time necessary to work?

5) Are you confident you can stay on your boss's radar so you don't miss out on promotions, raises and opportunities to move ahead in the organization?

If you've answered in the affirmative to the all of the above, the telecommuting life may be the ideal match for you!

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, CNN Money, the British online magazine - The Rouse, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show called Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.