The Remote Worker: Part 1
In the past, remote roles in the workforce were reserved for customer phone support, travel agents, and field salespeople. As key work functionalities shift to the cloud and companies seek creative ways to appeal to millennials while balancing overhead, an increased number of roles are shifting remote.
If you’re anything like me, your initial reaction to hearing about remote work is excitement. Who wouldn’t want to set her own schedule, work in the comfort of her home, and forget about rush hour commuting? While there are many perks to working remotely, there are also some drawbacks.
During my two years of working remotely for Will Reed, I have collected a pros and cons list of working from home. I hope you find it useful as you weigh remote opportunities, whether now or in the future.
The flexibility of remote roles actually varies quite a bit, but in general, most offer more flexibility than working in an office. I get to work from any location my husband’s job takes us, but I still work normal office hours. Others may set their own working hours but have to live in a specific region.
In addition, the schedule of your day is often a little more flexible than in an office. I get to take my dog for a walk or knock out dinner prep during my mental breaks, replacing, for example, coworker break room chats or team lunches.
Most likely, you’ll save a little money working remotely. You won’t have to spend your hard-earned wages on gas money for a long commute. You will also probably save money on meals, as you won’t be frequently dining out with coworkers.
The one caveat to this pro is that you do have make a conscious effort to achieve it. If you decide to work from a coffee shop, for example, you’ll spend gas money getting there and probably a few too many dollars on an overpriced latte (or two). If you decide to stock up on your own snacks to mimic an office break room, that cost quickly adds up.
More time back in your day
Chances are, by working remotely you’ll gain an hour or two back in your day. First, you will cut out your commute (unless you work from a coffee shop or coworking space). Even if you lived within a few miles of an office, the time to get to your car, drive, park, ride up the elevator, etc. adds up. Taking a few steps to your home office, on the other hand, is nearly instantaneous.
Second, you might not spend as much time getting ready before work. While I recommend changing out of pajamas and applying a little makeup before the work day (more on this in Part 2 of this series), your prep time will likely be significantly cut when working from home.
Finally, you can use your short, healthy mental breaks to knock out chores. If I worked in an office setting, I would take short mental breaks every two hours or so--perhaps a chat with a coworker, a lap around the office building, or a team lunch. At home, it is important to schedule similar breaks into your day to prevent mental burnout. If you’re intentional with them, you can knock out a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, etc., giving you a little time back after your work day.
The flip side to gaining more flexibility when working remotely is that it also requires more self-discipline. You won’t have a boss looking over your shoulder, so it is easy to let a day slip by with little accomplished. You often have to add extra structure to your work schedule and create your own milestones to remain an effective worker.
Outside of an office setting, you have much less outside accountability for remaining professional. You have to remain hyper-aware of your productivity and have the self-discipline to enforce it when you start slipping. While I actually consider this a “pro” for personal development, it can be a difficult adjustment to make.
If you work from home, it is quite easy to let a day, or even a week, slip by without any human interaction. Both extroverts and introverts scientifically have a need for human interaction, and remote workers have to be extra intentional to get it.
Videoconferences can be a “bandaid” fix but will never take the place of live interaction. When working remotely, you have to go out of your way to seek out contact--whether that’s occasionally working from a coffee shop or coworking space, having several dinners with friends throughout the week, or taking early morning classes at the gym. No matter how much time you spend with others, though, it will never be as much as 8+ hours in an office every day.
I explore the credibility problem more in Part 2 of this series, but I find it important to touch on here as well. Because remote jobs are still a relative novelty in the business world, many people assume they are less serious or professional than office jobs. Friends, family, clients, vendors, and acquaintances all will likely take your work less seriously than they would if you worked in an office.
It is important to recognize that the lack of respect is not intentional, or even rude, on the part of your network; it is merely due to a lack of familiarity with the new nature of remote work. While I will leave my recommendations for how to deal with this for Part 2, know that you most likely will run across skepticism if you decide to accept a remote role.
In conclusion, there are several pros and cons to weigh when considering taking the leap to remote work. While working remotely has been a good fit for me, it also has drawbacks and is not a fit for everyone. I encourage you to weigh your personal circumstances, working style, and personality when deciding whether or not to work remotely. Check back next week for Part 2 of The Remote Worker series, my 4 keys to being an effective remote worker!