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The Telecommuting Tightrope

 

By Sharon Davis

For many of us, telecommuting seems like the ideal situation. You wake up, shuffle over to your home office, work at your own pace. You take a break when it suits you, you end your day when you're ready to. You can rearrange your work schedule to fit around your personal life.

Or can you?

What motivates most people to seek telecommuting is the need for a balance between work and play. Ironically, it's often this desire for balance that leads people to the realization that telecommuting is not for them.

Take Meg Rottman. Now the President of her own Public Relations company, StylePR, Meg once thought that telecommuting was the perfect solution.

At the time, she was working as a Fashion Editor for a company located in New York. Since she was on the West Coast, and her job didn't require her presence in an office, she felt it was a natural fit to work from home.

"At first, it seemed like a great opportunity," says Meg. "Ultimately, I found that I didn't have 'work time' and 'play time'. It morphed into just 'time'".

"I found that there was no beginning or ending to my day. And there was no time off. I would jump out of bed in the morning with an idea and go directly to the computer. And then, often I would still be typing at 11:00 at night. It was almost like being on call. I wanted my time to be more compartmentalized".

This is a common side effect of working from home. It takes no small amount of discipline to structure your day- and stick to it. The funny thing is, having the ability to take a break and do other things in the middle of the workday is the reason many people want to telecommute in the first place.

Meg realized this. "If you really schedule your day, then how can you justify taking a walk, or putting a roast in? You can't," she says. "Maybe you're giving up what made working at home so great to begin with."

It wasn't all bad though. Meg did discover some things about herself. "I really did not need supervision, I was completely self-motivated. The surprising thing was that I worked more".

Not surprising is the fact that Meg now owns her own company. "[Telecommuting] definitely gave me the feeling that I was already working for myself, so why not do that?" she says. "Yes I have to drive to my office now, but it is easier for me to separate work and home and create a more balanced life."

Sometimes, things just aren't what you thought they'd be- and sometimes that's a good thing.


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