The good, the bad and the ugly of going remote
Ever been stuck in a prolonged, pointless meeting at the office wondering
“what the hell am I doing here”?
Have you daydreamt about working in your PJs from the comfort of your home?
Maybe you’ve had some wilder dreams of lying on a hammock with a laptop on your stomach working horizontally. Well, that’s not very comfy, but you get the picture. Anywhere outside the office works for this particular fantasy. Just humor me.
Once you go remote…
Remote work is a global trend on the rise. Millions of people do it around the world. Most of those simply work from home. Well, it still counts. Some work from public spaces, like cafes and libraries.
Meanwhile, some others, my favorite ones, travel frequently and work from different locations. The whole world is their office. They are fully and truly remote workers.
I fantasized about going remote for a very long time, before actually doing it. And once I did it, I never looked back.
There are a lot of perks that come hand-in-hand with remote work, as well as pitfalls. You gain something, you may lose something. It’s certainly not for everyone, but since you’re here reading this post, I can only assume that it is (at least an option) for you.
Improved work-life balance
This translates to freedom and flexibility. When you go remote, you don’t have to stick to the 9-to-5 schedule. To the contrary, you can adapt your job schedule around your personal life. This means your job won’t prevent you from dropping your kids off to school, hitting the gym or taking a longer lunch break.
It doesn’t matter where you are and who’s around you. All that matters is that you are able to do your job without being affected by your location. If your job required your physical presence at a particular location, then that location would probably be the office. But in your case, it doesn’t. Lucky you!
On some occasions, you may need to stick to the business hours of a specific time zone. That could restrict your location to a particular region. Especially for digital nomads, this is a very common issue. But more often than not, it is a temporary problem with lots of workarounds, to keep location-independence and maintain a healthy and successful work-life balance.
Working remotely means wasting minimal to zero time in the car/bus/train/you-name-it to go from home to work and vice versa.
It really depends on where you choose to work, so you may actually not eliminate the commute entirely. In any case, commuting to and from work is definitely more bearable, since you are free to choose the frequency, office location, time of day and means of transport. You can take your time and make this journey more enjoyable.
For some lucky ones, the daily commute can be as long as getting from the bed to the couch or the home office. It can be lonely, but think of all the time and money you save on those boring journeys at peak time, stuck uncomfortably in a confined space with strangers who smell funny.
When you work remotely, chances are you’re able to somewhat arrange your schedule the way it suits your personal needs. That also allows you to adapt it to the times of the day when you feel most productive and focused.
Are you a super-early bird? Great. Nobody prevents you from starting work at 6am. Do you feel most productive late at night? That’s cool, too. Shift your work schedule to cover those hours when you hit your productivity peak and dedicate your mornings to your personal life.
Numerous employment opportunities
Like I said before, remote work allows you to have location-independence, among other things. This practically means you don’t have to be located at the same place as your employer or client.
There are lots of openings for remote jobs across the world. Most, if not all, of these have only a couple of requirements (besides the relevant skills and experience): a laptop and a good wi-fi service.
The remote job market is constantly expanding. Every day, more and more new businesses consider offering remote work opportunities. Talent can be located anywhere, and the corporate players of the world realize that.
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, once said:
One day offices will be a thing of the past.
Losing track of time
When you don’t have a set schedule, believe me, it’s extremely easy to get carried away and continue to work for more hours than you should.
I get it. Your job is your passion and you love it. You may not realize it while you do it, but essentially, you’re doing more damage than good. Working more than 8 hours every day can have detrimental impact on your health and energy and some long-term side-effects, that you may need to deal with.
Imagine you sit on a chair for hours, totally obsessed about finishing your awesome project. Your back doesn’t like it, but you’re too busy to listen to its screams for some rest.
Take. It. Easy.
Take breaks. Put some personal time in the mix. Live your life.
Gaps in communication
It’s not always easy to open effective channels of communication with your co-workers. Not being in the same room, when you just approach them and talk, makes it a little challenging to communicate.
Remote work relies heavily on asynchronous communication. Questions are asked and the conversation is open, but that doesn’t mean the other end of the convo will engage instantly.
Moreover, since most of this communication is written, it is prone to lack of clarity and misunderstandings. That oftentimes creates subtle gaps that are not easy to close.
Time zone annoyance
It’s a common digital nomad pain. When you work with someone located in an opposite time zone, it’s challenging to collaborate and communicate.
It’s not impossible, but it sure is inconvenient and sometimes interferes with your work-life balance.
It has happened to me in the past. I had clients located in completely opposite time zones, which meant I was required to shift my work schedule to suit their business hours.
Luckily, uncomfortable situations like this are usually temporary. When there’s good will to overcome such hurdles, there’s always a way.
Whether you’re in an office or you work remotely from home (or any place you call home), distractions are unfortunately part and parcel of the job. There’s always some external factor that can interrupt you, while you’re in the zone.
Especially if you work remotely, chances are you’ll have your personal life interrupt your work schedule at some point during the day.
For example, a family member can barge in, if you work from home. Or the mailman will knock on your door.
Even if you’re somewhere else, like let’s say at the beach, completely synced with the waves and focused on your job, you may have to deal with a stupid seagull, that decided to attack your snack, or a loud dude who’s on vacation.
Lack of discipline
You’re alone, away from the office, away from the client and/or other co-workers. When you don’t have someone to hold you accountable for the work you do, it’s dead-easy to lose your focus. You’re on your own, buried under tons of work in front of a laptop.
Remote work is primarily done over the Internet. This means you have to be connected and have a browser open. See where I’m getting at?
I can see the Facebook tab open next to your Google Doc! Don’t deny it, it’s happened to you. Yes, you ended up wasting hours on Facebook and Twitter, let alone your smartphone, which barely stays away from your hand. Don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us!
It’s inevitable to waste some time on social media or anything that keeps our brains aimlessly occupied. However, in some extreme cases, lack of discipline to get back in the productivity zone can lead to laziness and a lot of late/unfinished work. Awkward!
TAKE ACTION: download a productivity app that can help you maintain your focus. There’s a ton of them online.
Another extreme consequence of bad time management is the fact that your energy levels can hit rock bottom and your body will be physically damages. Sometimes, this damage can torture you for a really long time, making your daily life a little bit of a nightmare.
TAKE ACTION: focus on your health! I cannot stress that enough; you won’t be earning money if your health is not in a good state.
Okay, let me repeat what I said just a few lines before: remote work is primarily done over the Internet. The Internet doesn’t drop from the sky, nor is it free and abundant around you like the air you breathe.
Shit happens, and you may end up being in the dark for hours. That translates to hours of lost work, that may not be compensated. Be warned and be prepared.
TAKE ACTION: have a backup mobile Internet plan handy. You may never have to use it (which I highly doubt), but it’s worth the investment.
Compare the good to the bad and the ugly
Regardless of the difficulties, remote work offers tremendous opportunities and countless benefits. Like in any job, it takes time and effort to find your balance and mechanisms that will help you work smart and deliver some truly kick-ass stuff.