Almost everyone at some point in their career dreams about working from home. Whether it's to escape catty co-workers, avoid open-office plans or spend more time with your family, there are plenty of compelling reasons to consider becoming a "home-worker."
But just because something sounds good doesn't mean that it's good for you. Certain people may be better suited than others to making a work-from-home arrangement really work.
FlexJobs (www.flexjobs.com) recently released a list of the top traits needed to succeed at flex work. In the release, workplace author and expert Alexandra Levit, who compiled the list, suggested that those considering ditching suits for sweats take the time to first understand their own personality and preferences.
"The bottom line is that if an employee is not a self starter or isn't comfortable working independently, it's likely not going to work out for them to telecommute," says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. "As careers advance, most people are comfortable being self-starters and taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, on projects. It's essential to have similar skills because no one is looking over your shoulder at home or holding your hand."
According to FlexJobs, the top five traits that can make or break flexible work arrangements are:
- Self-discipline. A home office is filled with distractions, from dishes in the sink to the ability to walk away from your desk on a sunny day with no boss to tell you to keep working. Can you resist the temptation to take your eye off the ball?
- Confidence. You have to know what you're doing to be a telecommuter – and you must know that you know it. Can you take the lead without needing to gain consensus for your ideas?
- Resourcefulness. When you're working off-site, you may not have immediate access to the same information and resources that your office-bound co-workers have. Are you comfortable winging it with only basic guidelines and finding answers when no one gives them to you?
- Comfort with self-imposed deadlines. Many people thrive on adrenaline-driven deadlines set by others. But home-workers often have no one watching to be sure they stay on task. Will you set your own deadlines and stick to them without being prompted?
- Ability to stay visible. If you're not physically present in the same location as everyone else, you may fall off of the office radar screen. Do you know how to reach out to the right people and keep your working relationships strong from off-site?
Interestingly, Levit categorized this fifth point as "extroversion," suggesting that extroverts may have an easier time maintaining visibility in an organization from afar. However, it could certainly be argued that many people who are naturally introverted can also make excellent flex workers, based on their ability to stay focused and satisfied with their job without constant interaction. Plus, social media and other e-tools certainly make it easy enough to stay in regular – or even constant – contact with colleagues and clients without being in their faces literally.
Sutton Fell admits that the extrovert claim is a point that her team has debated as well. "Introverts might not have as easy a time being cheerleaders for themselves as extroverts, but I do see why that point could be countered," she says. "Either way, employees are a part of a bigger whole that work together to accomplish a common goal, whether that be to drive more sales, improve product, etc. Extroverts can do their part to stay in touch with introverts, just like when working within an office."
What more do you need to pull off a successful work-from-home venture? Sutton Fell suggests a final point to add to your checklist: The ability to stop working. Without the defined office hours that traditional workers rely on to know when to log off, telecommuters can fall prey to the endless workday (and night).
"Speaking personally, I do find it tough to be 'off' work sometimes," Sutton Fell says. "There can always be just one more email or checking my smartphone when I should be focused on my kids, but that also falls into being self-disciplined. The ability to stay off work can be just as important a skill."
Robin Madell has spent two decades as a writer, journalist, and communications consultant on business, leadership, career, and diversity issues. She has interviewed over 200 thought leaders around the globe, and has won 20 awards for editorial excellence. Robin serves as a speechwriter and ghostwriter for CEOs and top executives, with a specialized focus on women in business. She is author of Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30, which is scheduled for publication in September 2013.