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Job Doc: Will working from home jeopardize career?

Q. I have the option to work from home. My friends are telling me not to do it because they think I don’t have the discipline, but how can I give up the chance to try not commuting, working in my pajamas, and working out when the gym is empty? Am I putting my job at risk?

A. It can be the best of times; it can be the worst of times. According to Forrester Research, 34 million Americans work at home at least occasionally and that number is expected to grow to 63 million by 2016, or 43 percent of the workforce.

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Before you commit, consider the benefits and risks of working from home. You mentioned the gym and your pajamas, so you have some idea of the benefits, but will those also be your downfall? If you are at the gym, are you accessible to your colleagues? What are the expectations your bosses will have about your hours and where they can find you?

Employees who work at home successfully have dedicated office space, the technology they need, and the ability to troubleshoot technical problems. They have a disciplined routine that involves getting dressed and transitioning to “work mode.” These employees also make sure managers and colleagues know what they are working on and the status of those projects.

They also make sure they are not forgotten. They develop relationships and, when in the office, they take the time to connect personally. Is this a good description of how you envision working from home?

Should you try working remotely (a different perception than working from “home”), make sure you and your manager agree on what that means, including how much and how often you will check in, the visibility of your calendar, and documentation of results. Don’t talk about hanging out in pajamas or other behavior that paints you in an unprofessional way. If you aren’t as productive as you expected , acknowledge it before someone else does and move back into the office.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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