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Is Teleworking Right for You?

Not everyone is cut out to work from home. Here are 6 questions to ask yourself before you think of making the switch

En español | The appeal of working from home, be it full time or part time, is easy to understand. Telecommuting employees are happier and more loyal, and they have fewer unscheduled absences, according to a recent survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Woman working on laptop at home. (Helena Wahlman/Alamy)

Working remotely full time may cause you to miss out on rich workplace relationships, brainstorming, maybe a promotion. — Helena Wahlman / Alamy

Employers have noticed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about a quarter of employed Americans work from home some hours each week. In a 2012 study by the Families and Work Institute, 63 percent of employers said they allowed employees to work remotely in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2005.

But there's no one-size-fits-all approach to teleworking. Successful teleworking depends on such factors as your personality, your work habits, your career goals, the type of job you do, and the corporate culture of your employer.

If you're thinking of asking your employer to change your working arrangement, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is my job right for working from home?

The best telecommuting jobs are often ones that require a quiet space to research, read and process information without distraction. Virtual work, for example, is a natural fit, if your job is Web-based. There are also remote jobs in accounting, sales, public relations, medical transcription and customer service.

Many of these jobs, of course, are performed by freelance and contract workers who work from a home office. By their very nature, these positions generally don't require the face time associated with hobnobbing around the office, supervising employees or sitting in meetings.

If you have to be on-site to perform your job, chances are slim you'll be able to transition to teleworking full time. The best you might be able to negotiate with your boss is an occasional work-from-home day.

2. Am I hardwired for telework?

To work from home on a regular basis, you'll need to be organized, disciplined, have first-rate time management skills and be a self-starter. You may find that you're working harder because it may be hard to ignore your bosses' or coworkers' phone calls and emails even when you should technically be off work, say late at night or on weekends. It can be really hard to push back from the computer and call it a day. You'll need to be able to set firm boundaries between work and home.

3. Can I technically make it work?

Your communication skills will need to be top-drawer. That means you'll need to be comfortable communicating via phone, email and videoconferencing. If you need to give presentations or do any training, you should get familiar with Web-based meeting programs like GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx, Join.me, TeamViewer or Google+ Hangouts. Some are free, some aren't. See what platform your company or IT department prefers.

But it goes a little deeper than that. While you don't need to be an IT whiz, Luddites need not apply. Teleworkers need to navigate the inevitable technology snafus and troubleshoot. For the fritzes you can't solve, you will need to have a good relationship with someone in your employer's IT department who can lend a hand quickly. A boss isn't going to put up with recurring "technical difficulties." For freelancers, line up a tech buddy on speed dial.

Next page: Is teleworking really as good as being there? »

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DEAD-END JOB: If you can work from home, should you? Consider these pros and cons; for instance, you might be happier and more productive but you also might put that promotion at risk.

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