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The myths - and realities - of working from home

In recent years, the number and quality of networking platforms has exploded. Whereas working remotely used to mean a reliance on telephones and email, it is now easier than ever to collaborate on projects, even when not in the same physical location. You can work on a spreadsheet together on Google Drive, hold on conference call on Join Me and coordinate to-do lists on Trello, all from different ends of the country, and not miss a beat. 

Not surprisingly, this functionality has led more and more people to work from home. A survey taken at the Global Leadership Summit in London revealed that more than a third of business leaders expect that more than half of their full-time workforces will be remote by 2020. That's a lot of Skype sessions. 

Is joining the growing number of employees choosing to do their work outside of the office right for you? Here are some of the myths - and realities - of the lifestyle.

MYTH: Working from home means that you don't ever see other people. 

REALITY: Even if you aren't working from the office on a regular basis, there are a number of ways to get much-needed social interaction. One options is to pursue a part-time strategy, whereby you get tasks done remotely some of the time, while coming into a central office for the rest of the week. Alternately, heading out to a coffee shop or a local library to do your work can be a valuable change of scenery. There are also a number of designated co-working spaces, where, for a daily, weekly or monthly fee, freelancers and other remote employees can come together and get many of the benefits of an office environment without sacrificing flexibility. Check out this list of the best 100 co-working spaces around the country to find one near you!

MYTH: Working from home means surfing the internet all day. 

REALITY: Working from home should entail exactly that - working. If you want the privilege of remote employment, you need to take the responsibility seriously. In practice, this means regularly checking in with your manager, and adhering closely to the list of tasks you have been assigned to do. Remote employees are often tasked with proving that they've spent their time productively, so don't be surprised if there are concrete metrics that you are expected to meet on a regular basis. 

If you think the temptation will be there to focus on unproductive tasks at the expense of work, look into resources that help you avoid distractions during the work day. For example, Self Control is a free app that automatically blocks websites that eat into your day. If this doesn't help, it might be time to head into the office full-time. 

MYTH: Working from home means never getting out of bed. 

REALITY: One of the benefits of working from home is that you can decide exactly how and where you are best at getting things done. For some people, this is sitting in bed or on the couch, propped up with a nest of pillows and a cup of tea. For many others, however, such an environment proves a little bit too comfortable, and is less than conducive to maximum productivity. 

To avoid pillow-assisted complacency, set up a working area within your apartment, complete with a desk, good chair and direct source of light. Even if you don't have the space to dedicate a whole room as an office, having an assigned location where you do work can help your brain realize that it's time to focus and get down to business. 

MYTH: Working from home means an automatic improvement for work-life balance. 

REALITY: There are a number of work-life balance benefits that are inherent in working from home. Your commute is reduced to essentially nothing, you have more time to spend with your children and those time-sensitive errands are a little bit easier to get done during the work week. When the cable company tells you that they'll be there sometimes between 10 and 4 on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, you can actually plan to be home without tearing up your entire schedule in frustration.

However, there are also some work-life balance issues that can crop up if you're not careful. When the place you live also becomes your office, it's easy to let business creep into your everyday life. There's no such thing as "leaving it at the office," when your office is always a few feet away. The key here is to make deliberate separations between your professional endeavors and your personal ones. Take a walk every day after you finish your tasks for the day - it's a minor thing, but getting out in the fresh air can help serve as a mental signal that you can stop focusing on business. Keep the area where you relax and the area where you are productive separate, so you can truly focus on each individually. 

MYTH: Working from home is right for everybody. 

REALITY: While it might seem that every employee - especially millennials - is doing a large portion of his or her work remotely, there are still plenty of offices where coming in every day is the norm. While there are some undeniable perks to working from home, there are also some downsides, and if you're a person who has trouble focusing or craves social interaction, it might not be the right choice for you. In addition, there are a number of jobs where physical presence is still an important part of doing them well, such as receptionists, professional athletes and airline pilots.

If you do decide to work from home, it's important to know both the potential positives and negatives going in. That way, you can help maximize the former, and work to eliminate the latter. 

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