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Summary:

Not everyone who teleworks does it for life. An online writer I know just went back to his old job as an on-site project manager. A quick surf to articles or blogs on telecommuting shows that not all people are happy with their experiences. Some analysts […]

Not everyone who teleworks does it for life. An online writer I know just went back to his old job as an on-site project manager. A quick surf to articles or blogs on telecommuting shows that not all people are happy with their experiences.

Some analysts are also making observations that teleworking is a temporary setup, especially among corporate employees:

In fact, there is a higher degree of churn among teleworkers today than in the past, according to Sean Ryan, an analyst at IDC. Statistics indicate that, for whatever reason, telework is not a permanent arrangement, he says. “They telecommute for a while, but then go back into the corporate world.”
Source: ComputerWorld.com

If telework is as great as promised, why do some people return to the office?

Lost opportunities. According to a survey done by Steelcase Inc., 64% of surveyed participants fear that telecommuting prevents them from advancing in their careers . However, researchers from Pennsylvania State University found no evidence that this actually happens in practice. Still, it’s entirely possible that it does.

When you spend less time in the office, this also reduces the chance you have for getting impromptu opportunities and projects. Also, some of your colleagues might unintentionally downplay your role in the company since they don’t see you often. This will really stunt your career growth, especially if your supervisor thinks that way too.

Fear. There are those who are afraid to even try teleworking, and there are those who are afraid to keep going at it because of seemingly insurmountable obstacles they encounter. If you’re a freelancer, it’s especially scary since you might have some dry spells.  The fear alone could be enough reason for some to go back to the security of an office job.

Keeping work and life separate. I love that my work and my life are so closely integrated. My work is such an important part of my identity, that I can’t talk about my life without talking about my work. Not all web workers feel this way. Some people prefer to keep their work in the office and their life at home.

Of course, there are ways to strike a good work/life balance as a teleworker, but if you find that actively looking for a good system is outside your personality, then you’re really going to have a hard time adjusting.

Just missing office life. I have a friend whose working style thrives on the office environment, on dressing up for work, interacting with others, and being on her feet for 8 hours a day. If you’re not satisfied with the teleworking alternatives to such things, then maybe you do belong in the traditional office.

Sometimes, the decision is beyond your control. Your company might decide to cull the number of teleworkers and call you back into the office. If this is so, you’re left with little choice – either go with your company’s rules or resign and work as a freelancer. But that’s a longer, more complex decision than I can write about here.

It’s true that teleworking isn’t for everyone. You have to go with the path that will allow you to work in the best manner possible, which, of course, is up to you to define.

As for me, I’ll do everything in my power to telework for life.

Are you content with teleworking? What would make you go back to full-time office work?

By Celine Roque

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  1. I tried going back to full-time office work last year, and it was a disaster. I’m just too used to thinking “burst” instead of “busy”, and it clashed horribly with my 9-to-5 bosses. Time spent sitting in a chair with nothing to do–and getting paid for it–might be some people’s ideal, but now it just makes me feel guilty and wasteful.

    Being a web worker has definitely shifted how I view my time on a fundamental level, and that just can’t assimilate into the office work environment.

    The cruel irony is that, had I had bosses who were open enough to hear me out and accommodate my preferred way to work, they would have gotten a lot more out of me.

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  2. I would wrap thick titanium chains around every inch of my body, chain myself to an unmoveable mountain, add 1000 locks, and eat every one of the keys, before I would let anyone drag me back to an “office”. Does that answer the question? :)

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  3. Hello,

    I feel very much the same way as Alana and Donna.

    Even though it feels good to be around with co-workers for some time in an open space environment. It needs sometimes external input and flowing thoughts to generate new ideas and action you alone couldn’t possibly imagine.

    Presently on job search there seem no jobs available over here in Germany where one can live as knowledge worker 2.0.

    Do you have any ideas? How to overcome that “small” constraint?

    Best regards and very thankful for further insights, ideas or questions

    Ralf

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  4. I’ve been a teleworker for over 10 years and I don’t think I could go back to being constrained in an office. My job as a consultant lets me travel to client sites where I often occupy a cube for 4 days a week (I travel home on weekends). However, I also often work on client projects ‘remotely’ – from my home office. So I have a good mix of both environments. And it is evident that I can get more done when I work from home. Clients who are ok with not having my butt in a seat on site, realize they get more for their money. And they don’t have to pay my travel and hotel expenses when I’m at home. Even when in an office, most meetings are being held these days via bridge calls and web conferences – the same way we do them from home. And I personally am spoiled by not having that 20 mile daily commute. My normal commute is about 20 feet – from bedroom to home office. And my dress code is ‘clothing optional’.

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  5. After 25 years in a large organisation, why would I want to go back to
    – office politics,
    – endless, pointless meetings,
    – inability to be allowed to make decisions?

    Now I can make decisions, decide who I want to talk to, work my own hours and be beholden to me for a change!
    Go back full time to the Office? You must be joking!

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  6. We just downsized our office space in a move to a new building (from 4600 sq ft to 1600) and shifted all but two of our office’s 17 employees (the controller and the bookkeeper) to a work-from-home setup. We have a VPN into the company’s server, and all office phone extensions automatically forward to each respective person’s cell phone. The company consequently picks up part of that cost. We all get together in a conference room for a couple of hours one morning a week; otherwise we’re pretty much on our own. It’s working out great, and I can’t believe we’d ever go back to the “old” way, especially since the money the company spent on home-officing everyone (including ongoing costs) works out to less that half the rent we’re paying every month.

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  7. great post, Celine. Love the comments too. 1000 titanium locks is about right….

    I personally would not go back to a office bound job ( conventional 40 hours a week in an office) for a number of reasons.

    1) I think it is a disservice to the company. If I’m spending my time running a business or working for somebody that is paying me, I think maximizing my value/input is critical in that value exchange. That is a baseline. Limiting my (or my fellow workers) to 8 hour days, confused by commutes, politics, silos and the rest, I’m not going to be competitive.

    2) It is a huge benefit to myself and my employees to be able to work from anywhere!. In fact, it is the # 2 benefit behind pay and the initial stats show Gen Y (Milleniuls) are putting Alternate Work Arrangements/ Flexibility above pay. Time / Standard of living is being looked at differently from the employee perspective. If I want the best and brightest at the best price, I NEED to do this.

    #3) OUR FUTURE

    I care about our community and the future of my wife, boys, friends and family a great deal and I want us (USA) to be competitive as a nation. The odds are stacking up against us and we need to buckle down and get smart. It might seem that telework/telecommuting is counter intuitive to “GETTING IT DONE” but I fiercly defend that working smart trumps putting the suit on and shmoozing. Right now, through managed programs on this front, companies are going to cut office space by 35% and garner all the benefits noted while productivity goes up 15+ Percent. This will help us (the USA) work smart and remain competitive globally.

    Ecologically speaking:
    All the signs point to Telecommuting/ Telework as the lowest hanging fruit (metaphorically speaking) in the short term to help with our transition to creating a clean energy based economy and reducing our consumption along the way.

    So, no, I wouldn’t go back to a 40 hour work week in an office, with commutes, silos, politics, etc…..

    Thanks for reading if you made it this far.
    Sincerely,
    Richard

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  8. [...] a big increase in the number of people who work from home or satellite offices near their homes. WebWorkerDaily just posted an article about how some teleworkers are choosing to return to the office. Reasons [...]

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  9. I also agree with the “chain and locks” comment! I am so much more productive when I am able to work at home. Not only do I save on fuel, but I can cook my lunch, which not only saves money, but allows me to eat more healthy foods.

    As far as the work, my team is spread throughout the country, so we make the effort to get together 3 times a year in one place. That is a lot of fun and we get more done in that short amount of time, knowing that we can’t waste time on politics or wasteful meetings.

    It’s my way of life now and I will not change it.

    Paul

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  10. I tried to go back to work full-time in ’03. I made it almost 3 months. My daughter was 2 and I missed being the one she spent her day with.

    And the ‘sitting around time’ drove me nuts. I like how Alana put it – ‘“burst” instead of “busy”’ – this is how I work now and an office setting just doesn’t work well for me.

    I pray I never have to make that choice again.

    Jill

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