Here’s the deal. Telecommuting is great and all…as an ideal. But how does it stack up to the real world? Can you really make a living and create a sustainable lifestyle while working from home or while finding remote employment – especially in your 20s and 30s? The answer is yes – you can absolutely carve out the career of your dreams while still maintaining flexibility, autonomy, and a sense of freedom.
Granted, there will always be deadlines to hit or money to be made…the goal of working is, after all, to make a living that will provide not just for your basic needs but also for the little extras that make life fun and exciting. But telecommuting offers a freedom to work as you want in the location you want, and that is absolutely worth exploring if you are at all interested in such a lifestyle.
Risk The Ocean – It Is Worth It
No employment scenario is guaranteed to meet your needs forever, and no great reward comes without at least a little risk.
There is a fantastic blog called Kate From The States – a must-read for anyone looking to dip their toes into the nomadic or telecommute lifestyle; it chronicles the experiences that Kate, a young woman in her 20s, has while living and working abroad. Now, technically this is work and travel, not a true work-from-home situation, but her love for adventure and her passion for working on her own terms is what really hits home.
In one of her articles, Kate reflects back on her time as a gainfully employed gal in the heart of the city…and although she admits she loved the experience and the work, her heart longed for the chance to be her own boss and to set her own pace and schedule. She says,
“I’m working seven days a week and I can’t even afford my own place yet. Five days at the PR firm and Saturdays and Sundays bar tending. For what? So I can slave away my 20s. Work 7 days a week to buy clothes for work and a $400 monthly train pass to get to work. I was literally working to afford working. And don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved my job. I loved my clients, I loved my boss and I loved my interns. I was proud of where I was and where I was going, yet I still had something inside of me telling me that if I wanted to go all out for my career, I needed to give up that living around the world dream… and if I wanted to live somewhere else, I was going to need to give up my career.”
Wow…this is a woman not afraid to call it like it is. She also says,
“Working while you travel is literally the smartest thing a person can do…But you can’t do it forever. It’s only for the young. Sorry people. Not my rule. There are countries who will give you a year working visa but you have to be under 30…Good luck and be smart. (but not too smart – leave some space for risks!)”
Her excitement for finding work where she is instead of clocking in at someone else’s beck and call is fascinating, and it mirrors a wanderlust and thirst for spontaneity that countless others in their 20s and 30s feel as well. When she says that people should leave space for risks, she is absolutely right. After all – nothing is guaranteed, not even a job where you sit at a desk in a corner office six or seven days a week year after year. Why not take the leap to working differently if it is something that interests you?
But Don’t Dive In Without Counting The Costs
Sure, taking a leap of faith to work remotely amid talks of romanticized work-from-abroad experiences and hypothesized outcomes seems like a good idea at the time. And – in all fairness – it likely is an option that would serve many people well. But to take that leap without first weighing the pros and cons of working remotely and working in a traditional setting would be creating the potential for regret and disillusionment down the road – something you should avoid at all costs. The last thing you want is to step into a telecommuting role without first thinking through all the ramifications, only to wind up unhappy and unproductive.
According to Richard Hillier of D&A Magazine,
“As you consider ways to find work-life balance in the first decade of your career, consider your strengths and weaknesses, your current projects, and what you would like to be doing in the future. Ask yourself if telecommuting, though an attractive option, is in fact the right move for your career at this time in your life, and if its benefits outweigh the possibilities and opportunities that could arise from rubbing elbows with the office crowd.”
As D&A Magazine works directly with business professionals from various industries, they are an extremely qualified source for valid information…even if that information takes a little of the wind out of your sails. Getting excited about working from home is easy, but getting serious about what that work adjustment would truly mean takes a lot of soul searching and brutal honesty that is not for the faint of heart.
Coming to grips with the fact that you may not be well suited for so much personal responsibility might be hard. The same can be said of realizing that your employer may not be willing to extend the same salary or benefits if you opt to work from home. No matter what your research and evaluation may bring to the surface, you will be able to make a decision confidently, knowing that you have taken in all of the facts needed to make a choice that you can feel good about – no regrets in sight.
In The End, The Numbers Don’t Lie
Several years ago a report came out that examined the rising trend of telecommuting. Thanks to a staggering display of data and analytics, this report is one of the best informational pieces on telecommuting that we have seen – no small surprise, seeing as how it was backed by such industry giants as Citrix (the company that powers GoToMeeting.com and WebEx.com) and New Ways Of Working (a research group that is heavily involved in everything having to do with the changing ways the world works).
Although this report is dated – it was written circa 2011 – the information it presents is nonetheless intriguing. The report posits that telecommuters (the authors consider a telecommuter to be a non-self-employed person that primarily works from home) make up a rapidly growing workforce that will only continue to evolve. Some of the report’s more staggering findings include:
- 45% of the USA workforce is in a job or industry that is compatible with at least a part-time telework situation.
- Upwards of 50 million employees that want to work from home are in compatible job situations; 2.9 million (that is a scant 2+ percent of the entire workforce) currently consider home to be their primary place of business.
- If those 50 million people or approximately half of the workforce in the USA actually worked at home for even just 2-3 days out of the week we could save upwards of 390 million gallons of gas per year; that would equal a national savings of more than $900 BILLION in one year alone. That might just help with our financial issues a wee bit…can I get an “Amen,” anyone?
- The average telecommuter is in their late 40s and makes almost $60,000 per year. The report does not get into what the numbers are for those in their 20s or 30s, but it is fair to assume that they are equally as impressive.
Wow. Just….wow. Some of those numbers are so unfathomable that they almost start to lose meaning. 500 people I can imagine easily. 50,000 I can wrap my mind around. But 50 million? That is amazing! And it begs the question: if these were the numbers from 4 years ago, what are the numbers for 2015? What are the projected numbers for 2020 and beyond?
These numbers and the countless others referenced throughout the report don’t lie: telecommuting isn’t just a fad or trend – it is a viable work option that is available to people across countless industries, career paths, age ranges, and locations.