I've been working from home for years, and I've built my company as a completely virtual one. So when I hear the pervasive myths (lies, really) that continue to exist about working from home, it gets me a little grumpy. Things like, "working from home is only for moms," "if you're serious about your career you have to be in the office," "all telecommuting jobs are scams," or "is working from home actually real work?" Grrr.
Recently, career expert Alexandra Levit wrote a great article, 5 Lies About Telecommuting, and the Truth, which exposed some of the most common assumptions people make about telecommuting that are simply wrong. If they're all combined, you might think the average telecommuting was an introverted computer programmer who slacks off all day, being far less productive than his in-office counterparts. But the truth is far different.
Here are some of interesting truths of telecommuting:
Money: For people worried about making less if they take an at-home job, telecommuting salaries are actually pretty much in-line with office salaries. Over 75 percent of employees who work from home earn more than $65,000 per year.
Hours: For employers worried that telecommuters slack off, in fact, telecommuters typically work longer hours than in-office workers. 53 percent of telecommuters work more than 40 hours/week, while only 28 percent of non-telecommuters do.Some explanations for this are that workers with remote work options are more engaged with their job and voluntarily dedicate some of the time they would have spent commuting to work.
People: Telecommuters are not all moms with kids, which seems to be a common falsehood. According to the New York Times, "the typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old college graduate--man or woman--and belongs to a company with more than 100 employees." Whether or not telecommuters have kids is evenly divided, 50/50, which might come as a big surprise.
Trend: Telecommuting is very much on the rise. "There are already 34 million workers who telecommute at least occasionally in the U.S. According to Forrester research, this figure is expected to swell to 63 million by 2016, fueled by worldwide broadband adoption, better collaboration tools, and growing management experience."
The #1 Most Important Truth About Telecommuting:
Guess what? Even if you're not "a telecommuter," you're probably already telecommuting. 80 percent of Americans work remotely after-hours at home, on nights, and on the weekends. Yes, that time you spend on your home computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone doing work activities such as checking emails, taking phone calls, and completing projects during our "off hours," that is still work. And it can add up to an extra day of work EVERY WEEK, which I think should count for something and be acknowledged by employers.
Essentially, the vast majority of American office workers are already telecommuting one day each week, but they don't have any say over when, where, and how this happens. And the vast majority of employers in the U.S. are gaining the benefits of a telecommuting workforce without even realizing it (or perhaps they do realize it, and just don't want to rock the boat by actually acknowledging it).
Moreover, when asked where they go to "really get something done for work," 52 percent of people would go home. Only 19 percent prefer going to the office when they really need to get work done. That shows just how important the option to work from home can be.
A more engaged workforce, increased productivity, better use of and control over our time, and better work-life balance--those are the truths about telecommuting that I've experienced personally. My hope is that, as regular telecommuting becomes the norm, the myths about working from home will fade away, replaced by truths like those.