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What It Really Means to Work Remotely

January 24, 2019 - Posted to Job Interview

Content what it really means to work remotely

In your job search, you’ve probably come across remote and “working from home” roles. It’s an intriguing concept: trade rush hour traffic and office politics for a leisurely stroll downstairs and chilling with your pet. It’s commonplace for startups to hire remote workers, and even bigger companies are catching on.

But the truth of the matter is that working remotely presents its own unique set of challenges, and it’s not the right fit for everyone.

Today, we’re going to break down the pros and cons of working remotely, so you can decide if it’s the right fit for you. Remember, when finding your next role, it’s important to identify a company and team you can grow with, and your work environment is a significant factor in that.

Let’s get into the pros first.

Convenience and Control

This is the first thing that comes to mind when most people talk about the benefits of working remotely. There’s no need to stress about commuting in bad weather, or which taco truck can cater to your specific dietary needs.
No one is going to use your cache of staples behind your back. A gridlocked highway has no power over your day and no one is going to grab your lunch out of the employee fridge. If the printer’s out of ink, that’s on you. Because you aren’t sharing physical space with other coworkers, there is less room for human error that can directly impact your day.
But it’s more than that. Instead of following the rules and norms of office space, you’re free to create your own sanctuary of productivity and creativity. Decorate your home office or workspace that inspires you. Blast your music at top volume. Wear pajama pants. Decide that you need a change of scenery and skip down the block to a cafe without the risk of offending your coworkers.

Time

Chances are that you’re saving at least an hour a day by skipping your commute and that can really add up. If you’re managing your time well, you can use those extra minutes to enrich your day and your life. Use that time to start a morning exercise routine, or take the dog for a long walk around the neighborhood after work. You could resolve to cook your dinners from scratch, start a meditation practice, or set aside some time to curl up with a good book.

Commuting is not fun. No one wants to sit in traffic, and even cities with stellar public transit have crowded trains and buses. Add in severe weather, and the workday can be stressful before you even get to the office.

Saving Money

After a decade of working in New York City, I can tell you that the cost of working in an office add up. Morning commuter coffee: $5.50; subway toll: $2.75; lunch: $10; afternoon pick me up: $3; happy hour with coworkers: $15+. Of course, you can plan ahead and bring your own lunch or politely decline hanging out with your coworkers to curb expenses. Also, many businesses offer well-stocked snack and drink options to help keep their employees’ bellies and wallets a little more full. But at the end of the day, there’s no denying that the work day can be expensive, especially if you work in a city where the cost of living has skyrocketed, like New York, LA, or San Francisco.

When freelancing, the only investment you have to make is into creation of a trustworthy website (though in many cases even this isn't necessary).

After reading about the benefits of working from home, you’re probably ready and eager to apply to just about every company that’s hiring remote workers, but hold off for just a minute. We also have to discuss the downside of working remotely, because there are definitely challenges that come with this type of work.

Time for the cons.

Isolation and Cabin Fever

Remote work may seem peaceful at first, but after a few days, you may find yourself wondering, “When was the last time I had an in-person conversation?”
If you’re an extrovert, this can be an incredibly unpleasant adjustment. If you’re an introvert, and work used to help push you out of your comfort zone, it can be all too easy to fall into antisocial complacency. What’s more, it can be hard to put down work at the end of the day when your personal life and professional life occupy the same space. Luckily, there are a few things that can help:

  • Schedule time with others

I know this sounds awkward, but hey, structuring your time is part of growing up. Pick a couple days a week that you go to the gym with a friend. If you know other people who work remotely in your area, meet up and get some work done together at a local spot.

  • Make friends with your teammates

It can be hard to get to know someone through emails, but thanks to video conferencing and messaging tools like Slack, your personality can shine. Go ahead and bring positive, friendly energy to your team. Tag coworkers to work on fun projects with you, like creating an Ebook or new buyer personas. Like any new job, the faster you can connect with your teammates, the better.

  • Hit up the coffee shop

Remember how we said earlier that you wouldn’t have to pay for retail coffee anymore? That was a lie. Sometimes, you need a change of scenery, and the neighborhood cafe can be just the place to clear your head and crush your to-do list. Bonus: human contact.

  • Get outside

I know that this option isn’t always feasible. Still, if the weather is nice enough, set up shop in the backyard or on the balcony. If you have a few tasks that don’t require Wifi, take yourself to the park and enjoy the sunshine. Even breaking up your day with a walk around the neighborhood can do a world of good.

Boundary Issues

When you’re working and living in the same space, the lines can start to blur between the two. If you have a hard time putting your work down at the end of the day and relaxing, remote work like content writers, app developers, or customer service representatives might not be the right fit for you. This is especially true if your teammates are in different time zones and you receive emails 24/7, or if your supervisor regularly reaches out to you outside normal business hours. Here a few tips to draw a clear dividing line:

  • Keep your living and workspaces separate

Whether you have a dedicated office or a desk in a corner at a digital marketing agency, try to focus most of your at-home work to one confined space, and don’t revisit it once you’re done for the day. If your laptop is calling out with endless tasks, leave it with the rest of your work stuff, and try to give your mind a break for the night.

  • Find a ritual to end the day

It used to be your evening commute, or maybe even a beer with your coworkers. However, turning off a computer screen just doesn’t have the same finality. Try to create a ritual to divide your workday from your personal life, and aim to make it a healthy one. Whether you hit the gym for an hour with your favorite podcast, or make a pot of herbal tea and curl up with a good book, this routine can help you clear your mind.

  • Be upfront with your team

Let people know when you’re signing off for the day, and that you’ll respond to any incoming messages tomorrow. If things are hectic at the end of the day, offer to stay on for a specific amount of time that works for you.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of actually getting stuff done outside a traditional work environment. Some people find it easier to focus on work at home, but it can be a real challenge for others. If you’re easily distracted, working remotely might not be the best fit for you. On the other hand, if you’re confident that you can be productive and create a solid routine, give it a shot.

Remote work opportunities are growing because they have the potential to benefit employers and employees alike. When Henry Ford implemented the 40- hour workweek, it caught on, and it seems that remote employment may be just as enduring and transformational for our society. If you think you can handle the shift from a traditional office environment, try it out and apply for a remote role. If you decide you hate it, at least you don’t have to sit in traffic on the way home.