Do You Really Have What It Takes to Succeed at Working From Home?

a woman uses a laptop computer while sitting on her couch.
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Until two years ago, I’d spent my entire career in roles where face time was required — or at least expected — during regular work hours. In truth, I never thought much about requesting to work remotely for a few reasons: No one around me was doing it; because to the nature of my work, it was easier to fulfill my responsibilities in the office; and, in general, I like having structure built into my day.

In 2016, I left my job as managing editor at a local newspaper to pursue what was then a contract role at Fairygodboss — where I now work full-time — and other freelance work. This meant that after six years of commuting and spending 10 hours in an office nearly every weekday, I suddenly began my workday by waking up and walking just a few steps to my couch.

For many, this is a dream. In fact, recent research from Fairygodboss, The Female Quotient, and Progyny reveals that 80% of women and 79% of men want the option to work remotely. Having this capability often enables us to run our lives more efficiently and makes it easier to devote time to our commitments outside work.

Six months after I began my work-from-home stint, the quickly growing Fairygodboss team — myself included — moved into an office, where I still sit Monday through Friday (though, on occasion, I take advantage of my company’s flexible policy and choose to work remotely).

I had quickly learned that the work-from-home lifestyle was, for the most part, not for me, so I welcomed the chance to return to an office, work alongside a team, and have more separation between my work and personal time. Still, I knew that having the option to work remotely on occasion — particularly after spending years at jobs where I felt like it wasn’t possible — was a game changer.

Looking at the research from Fairygodboss, The Female Quotient and Progyny, it strikes me that 20% of women and 21% of men said they don’t want the option to work remotely. Clearly, this kind of structure does not work for everyone — including me, much of the time.

If you’re considering pursuing remote work or asking your company if you can work from home — whether sometimes or all the time — I encourage you to try it. Chances are you’ll know, pretty quickly, whether it’s a routine that’s fitting for you. But if you’re skeptical about your ability to successfully work from home, here are four signs that it may not be the best choice.

1. You live in a small home.

I live with my boyfriend in a one-bedroom apartment. But a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan means we don’t have much extra space for me to comfortably work out of our apartment on a daily basis.

If your couch will end up doubling as your desk and you’ll essentially sit in the same spot as you eat breakfast (while working), lunch (while working), and dinner (while working), you may get cabin fever pretty quickly.

2. You have workaholic or perfectionist tendencies.

If you’re sometimes obsessive when it comes to work or you have a hard time dropping things and moving on, then beware that working from home will feed right into those tendencies. With zero physical separation from your work and home life, you may well end up working past dinnertime — or even until your bedtime.

3. You live with people who will be home during the day.

If you have a roommate, partner or kids who spend time at home during regular work hours, think hard about whether those people will diminish your productivity.

4. You enjoy the collaborative aspects of your work.

With email and apps like Slack, it’s easy to be in touch with coworkers who aren’t in the same room as you. But if you tend to thrive when you’re able to brainstorm with colleagues in a meeting or while on deadline, you may miss the face-to-face interactions that you get in an office. Moreover, if you’re new at a job or your team is growing, it can be more difficult to bond and connect with colleagues if you’re in touch only from behind a screen.

No matter what your job and personal life look like, there are probably times when being able to work remotely will benefit you. If you’re cognizant of the challenges that can accompany remote working, you’ll be in a good place to determine what kind of work arrangement best suits you.

Samantha Samel is VP of Editorial at Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings and career advice. Previously, Samantha served as Managing Editor at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.