Telecommuting, also known as teleworking, is the act of working from a remote location, usually one's home. This is made simple with the use of various telecommunications technologies such as a telephone, fax machine and the internet. Many telecommuters are also set up with web conferencing capabilities, allowing them to sit in on office meetings via modem and webcam, or at the very least, a conference call.
In most cases, telecommuting equipment is provided by the company, though it's up to the teleworker to provide an office space free of distraction. For the worker, the benefits are many. Most enjoy the flexibility of working their own hours, at their own pace, as long as all deadlines are met. There's also the ability to work in one's pajamas or take breaks as needed at attend to personal family matters. Money is saved on expenses such as commuting, lunch or snacks, clothing, and daycare.
The flip side to this is the lack of camaraderie; telecommuting can be rather lonely. By missing out on the office gossip and small company meetings, the worker can also miss out on vital pieces of information. Even though most people enjoy working without a micromanaging supervisor looking over their shoulders, they also admit it's difficult for them to get a proper review when their employers can't see them on a day-to-day basis. It's difficult to stand out in an organization or be a team player when you're not there everyday.
Telecommuting not only enables an employee the convenience of working at home, it also allows the employer to save money on certain overhead expenses such as utilities. In addition, since telecommuters are happier, they're often more productive; they may spend more time working than their office working counterparts who tend to spend more time on lunch breaks or chit-chatting around the coffee maker. Absenteeism is less common because sick workers still work at home, and they put in longer hours because they never leave their office.
If you're easily distracted or like to procrastinate, telecommuting may not be a good choice for you. If you're self-motivated and don't need constant supervision, it can provide an excellent opportunity. If you have a proven record with your organization, you're a good candidate for this type of job. If you have a reputation for slacking off, however, it would probably be unwise to approach your employer about working from home.
There's usually no harm in approaching your employer about working from home. Research the pros and cons and be prepared to sell yourself. Just leave out the part about working in your pajamas.