The Hard Facts: The Telecommuter’s LIfe

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“According to a new survey of people who currently telecommute, 40% of employees would be willing to take a pay cut in order to [continue] to work out of their home. Of this 40%, 74% would be willing to give up between 2 and 5% of their salary and 20% would take a 10% cut.” (“Study: Employees Are Willing to Take Pay Cuts and Give Up Their Favorite TV Show to Work From Home,”  TheGrindstone.com, 7/19/2011)

Other things people will give up to maintain their telecommute status: a beloved TV show (54%), an extra hour of sleep (48%), a favorite food (40%). While I currently adore my work-from-home status I don’t think there’s a single thing worth sacrificing these luxuries for. TV, food and sleep? Might as well be air, water, and my firstborn.

I’m intrigued by this study because I started working out of my home about a month ago. There is absolutely no question that I am happier (according to this article, “when asked to draw comparisons, telecommuters say their stress levels have dropped 25% on average and their overall happiness increased 28% since working from home. Seventy-three percent even say they eat healthier “). But it took me a little while to figure out how to make the new setup work for me.

As I’ve written here before, my biggest concern about being self-employed (I don’t think you can call what I do telecommuting, since there’s no main office of Rachel Bertsche, Inc. Just me, my computer, and my favorite coffee shop) was the lack of social interaction. My living room is nice and all, but I start talking to inanimate objects after only a few hours of silence. And given the persuasive studies about how significant work BFFs are to happiness, I thought I might be in bad shape. Especially after talking to so many previously self-employed folks who warned me about getting the stir-crazies.

I’ve figured out the whole “be a productive member of society and also change out of your pajamas thing” by setting a schedule. Workout at 8:30. Shower at 9:45. In front of the computer, in public, by 10:30. (Yes, it’s a bit late, but that’s the beauty of reporting to yourself.)

For me, the “in public” part is key. Working in public, specifically in a nearby coffee shop, means I must get dressed like an employed person, rather than donning my alternative homeless person uniform. It also means I get to know the other regulars. They’re like co-workers. Some I talk to, others I smile at. It’s like an office, minus the cubicles.

The above study mentions nothing about how the absence of coworkers affects telecommuters. That potential loneliness (remember the lady who told me that to survive working from home you need “a good anti-depressant”?) seems to me the obvious downside, especially if current research–which predicts 43% of the U.S. workforce will work from home by 2016–is right.

I guess the question is friends vs. freedom. Is it worth the tradeoff?

Thoughts? Would you make the above sacrifices to work from home? And if you’ve worked from home before, did you love it or hate it? What’s more important–the social aspect of the office of the personal freedom of home?

6 Comments

Filed under The Search

6 responses to “The Hard Facts: The Telecommuter’s LIfe

  1. my kids mom

    This is my 3rd reply to your blog. I feel like you’re becoming my cyber BFF!
    I too telecommute and its hard to be by yourself all day. But I wouldn’t give it up for all the tea in china. I am married with 2 kids and I searched long and hard for a job that would let me stay home with them and earn money in my profession. The best thing? Being able to get the laundry done while I work! Its the little things in life that mean the most. I play tennis almost every morning so I get my social and physical activity all rolled into one. And, I get to wear a cute tennis skirt!

  2. I work from home 2 days a week, so I’ve got a nice balance between that and the office. I’m considering working from home 100% of the time, though I could still come in to the office anytime I feel the need for social interaction. But the thing is, a lot of days that I’m in my office, I don’t actually interact with any of my co-workers. I’m not anti-social by any means. But they’re used to me not being here, I guess.

    Having a routine definitely helps, and so does going places where there are other people. I go to the gym and I walk my dogs, both of which allow for some social interaction. And maybe you’ll find other telecommuters that you can have lunch or a coffee break with.

    I’d agree with the article you’ve cited though – my stress levels are definitely down when I work from home. My office is in the suburbs, and that 25 mile commute is usually about an hour and a half each way. So avoiding that 3 hours of commuting and sleeping in past 5:30am are totally worth it for me. If my company made me take a pay cut to work remotely 100% of the time, I’d take it because it’d probably balance out the cost of gas, car maintenance, Metra passes and the dog walker we pay on days that I’m in the office (all of this totals roughly $350/month, or an extra $4,200/year!).

  3. sarahaloe

    Coffee shop culture was always key for me. Especially when I had other people to sit at my table doing their own (albeit related) work (i was a phD student.) Even when my “co-workers” weren’t there, the regular faces made me feel part of something bigger than myself. And when your job is writing, I think that is one of the most important feelings. Imaginary BFFs have their place in all this too.

  4. Nat

    I definitely prefer working at home. I’ve been doing it for 12 years – since just before having my first child. It’s much less stressful. I do earn less than I did when I worked full-time in an office, but that has more to do with motherhood and having less time to work. I’d rather have it this way than deal with the hustle and bustle and aggravation of working somewhere full-time and having to cart the kids (I have 3 now) to and from childcare (and pay for it) when they’re not in school. I did the math. I would actually not end up with more money after all is said and done with paying for childcare if I did that than if I do what I’m doing now by working part-time at home. I don’t miss the social interaction of the office. I should preface this by saying I’m shy, introverted and socially phobic, so when working with other people, I not only had the stress of being around the boss but also being around my coworkers. I suppose it would have been different if I’d had positive work experiences in the past, but they were mostly negative. Most of the females I’ve worked with were pretty mean for whatever reason. Who needs that? In my last full-time job, I was the only female, working the president and vice-president of an extremely small office, so there was almost no social interaction there. All that being said, I enjoy reading about your quest to find friends. I, too, find it hard to find and make friends, partly because I’ve moved around a lot and am presently living somewhere where I knew no one before moving, but also because of my extreme shyness. Solitude is right up my alley, but I still yearn for loving, kind friends in my life, which I have virtually none of. I am trying to break out of my comfort zone to make friends, but it is hard. I usually go for weeks or months without speaking to anyone else besides my husband and kids (and my mother on the phone – long distance). I can also relate to what you wrote the other day about when friendships break up and being left with the hurt that takes a long time to get over. I’m torn between not wanting to try again because I risk getting hurt and wanting to try again because it might turn out differently next time.

  5. Laurie Lee

    Working from home is not the commodity it once was now that my kids are older. At my current place of employment my boss lets me work form home when the need arises but it’s a face time culture. The thing about the office that annoys me is people being in my business. I could do without that. I also hate having to stay up on the “grape vine” but it’s necessary survival.

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