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The Downside of Telecommuting: More Work, Same Pay

Topics: Career Advice

Who wouldn’t want to work from home? In addition to giving you the freedom to work in your pajamas, telecommuting saves money and frustration, cutting out both the commute and dry-cleaning costs (to say nothing of the savings to your fancy coffee budget). But working from home isn’t without its pitfalls.

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As a recent study points out, telecommuters may put in more time than their colleagues who brave traffic or transit and go into the office. In fact, the research showed that those who work from home put in an average of three hours more per week. Pay growth was similar for telecommuters and workers who went in to the office, despite the difference in hours.

Sociologists at the University of Iowa and the University of Texas performed the study, which was published in the journal Social Forces. The study was based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The survey included Americans with a standard 40-hour workweek, and ran from 1989 to 2008.

“To think that telecommuting eases the burden may be a little simplistic,” says study co-author Mary Noonan, associate professor in sociology at the UI, according to ScienceDaily. “It cuts down on commuting time, and it appears to add more flexibility to the work day. But it can extend the day, and it doesn’t get you much more in terms of wage growth.”

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Why Telecommuting Might Be Worth It Anyway

Depending on your preferences — and the length of your commute — this study might actually be good news. Similar pay for three more hours of work per week could be a pretty good deal, if working at home cuts out more than three hours per day of commuting time.

Then, there’s the fact that working from home didn’t negatively affect pay. Workers who transition from the office to home often worry that opting to telecommute will take them off the promotion track, or otherwise compromise their ability to earn. This study could allay those fears.

Of course, corporate culture varies from employer to employer. If you want to work from home, and keep getting raises, you should:

  1. Target employers who support working from home, when you’re looking for new jobs. Specifically, it’s a good idea to look for companies with a formal telecommuting policy in place. That way, you won’t have to guess what’s allowed.
  2. If you’re considering asking the boss to let you telecommute, pay attention to how other telecommuters are perceived around the office. Do you hear a lot of complaining about how they’re never available, etc.? Even if your coworkers are being unfair, you might think twice. Perception is everything — especially when you’re not around to correct it in person.
  3. After you’ve secured the right to telecommute, don’t give them reason to regret it. The onus will be on you to communicate with your team. Make sure you’re available, responsive, and responsible.

Tell Us What You Think

Telecommuting, yea or nay? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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