Whether it's a few days a month or a few days a week, the ability to work from home is becoming an increasingly common workplace perk.
According to a recent survey by WorldatWork and FlexJobs, 80 percent of today's companies offer flexible work arrangements for their employees, including the option to occasionally telework. FlexJobs also found that 76 percent of people said their home, not the office, is their preferred place to work when they need to get important things done.
Although many of these programs are discretionary and on an ad-hoc basis, nearly half of employers who allow remote work said telecommuters are just as productive as in-office employees. But is a remote work arrangement the right one for you?
Questions to ask yourself
Employees thinking about working from home need to consider all of the factors that come with working remotely. Jane Sunley, CEO of employee-engagement company Purple Cubed and author of "It's Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer" (LID Publishing, 2014), advised potential telecommuters to ask themselves the following questions before changing their work structures:
- Am I happy spending long periods of time on my own?
- Am I self-disciplined and self-motivated?
- Am I confident working without supervision?
- Am I comfortable communicating with my colleagues via email, chat, videoconference, etc. instead of face to face?
- Do I have a quiet, distraction-free area at home in which to focus on my work?
- Will telecommuting help me achieve the work-life balance I want?
If the answer is "yes" to all of these, telecommuting could be the right choice for you.
Consider your personality
Scott Boyar, an associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said that whether an employee is successful working from home depends on the person, the job and the training the organization provides for the individual to do that role remotely. [See Related Story: Is Your Personality Making It Hard to Work from Home?]
"An organization has a lot of responsibility when letting workers go virtual, but the employee carries a lot of it too," Boyar said.
Some professionals may not have the personality suited for remotely working a few times a week. The best way to determine if you're ready is to do a real audit of your abilities and skills, said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.
"I recommend talking with other people who work from home regularly, to find out their perspective on what it's really like and what you can expect," said Sutton Fell. "Whether you know people in real life, search online for people's stories, or ask questions on sites like LinkedIn or Quora to gather people's opinions, try to get a good sense of what it's really like to work from home, and whether you're ready for it."
Asking your boss
If you've decided you're well-suited for remote work, how do you bring it up to your boss?
"The best time to [discuss working from home] is after you've thought your options through," Sutton Fell said. "You should be ready to discuss how often you want to work from home [and] how you think it will benefit your job, team and company."
Sunley noted that it's easy for telecommuters to forget about taking breaks, which can decrease productivity over time. Remote employees need to be willing and able to structure their days to include those breaks, but also set boundaries with friends and families to maintain good work habits.
"You may now appear more available to [your friends, who may] not realize the demands that working from home requires," Sunley told Business News Daily.
If your employer isn't on board with full-time remote work, Boyar noted that an ideal situation for most employees may involve a combination of working in the office and at home throughout the week.
"There are many benefits to working from both the home and the office," Sutton Fell added. "In some ways, it gives you the best of both worlds, because at home, you get a quiet space that you can control to help you focus and dig deeply into projects and important work."
Additional reporting by Nicole Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.