The pros and cons of working remotely

Understanding the lifestyle of a remote worker

What is remote work, and why do we do it?

Defining remote work is easy. Remote workers are full-time or contracted talent that work from outside of the office, generally from home.

They’re on a remote island, alone…so alone.

Remote work can involve just about anything. In fact, 3.4% of the U.S. workforce work remotely. A company may hire freelance writers or graphic designers, who already have their own tools, to complete work they can’t afford to do in-house. Therefore, these workers are able to work without coming into the office.

Why would anyone hire a remote worker or freelancer?

Contractors have valuable skill sets that they recognize and sell. Plus, they save business owners from having to pay employee costs like benefits, vacation and holiday pay, payroll taxes, and others.

Outsourcing saves businesses a seat for employees that require some office space. Business owners can save on unnecessary overhead (i.e. electrical, gas bills, and desks).

Technology makes it easier to communicate with a team that isn’t necessarily in the same location. Some talent is hard to reach, perhaps located in another city and unable to travel to the office each day. According to a study by Upwork, 53% of younger generation hiring managers recognize talent scarcity and access to skills to be their biggest hiring challenges. It’s an obvious solution to the war for talent.

Why work as a remote employee?

We now have the tools to work from anywhere. This is reflected in the rising percentage of remote workers among the US workforce. According to a study conducted by Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of regular remote workers (at home more than 50% of the time) “grew 115% in the past decade, nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce.”

That said, it’s clear that the number of jobs for remote workers are growing.

Remote work can be pretty comfortable. That is, if it’s managed well. You probably imagine certain benefits of remote work and freelance jobs based on things about the workplace you’d like to avoid. A boss in your space, breathing down your neck, loud or rude coworkers, bathroom lines, and the commute.

Also, it might not even be a choice. Remote workers may be restricted to their homes or else too far away but very valuable to a team. This could be for many reasons including maternity or paternity leave, disability, and more. And today’s resources, like video conferencing software and coworking software, help to bridge that distance.

The lifestyle of a remote worker

woman sitting beside table using laptop

Unfortunately, remote work usually carries two stigmas. Some will say “Wow, lucky! You work for yourself!” (Even though you don’t). And others will mistake working at home for not working at all. Being at home might imply you’re available and not busy. Friends might hound you, Mom might drop by repeatedly, your significant other might want attention. All of these are challenges, but the biggest one? Yourself.

The temptation to fall off task is strong. If you don’t set parameters for yourself, you’re likely to develop bad habits. After all, this is your home, filled with all the things you do in your free time.

You start sleeping in, pushing back deadlines, taking undeserved breaks, snacking constantly, and even weird things like cleaning? Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to pick up that hobby or practice your passions?

These are just some of the factors influencing the lifestyle of a remote worker. Let’s explore some bigger challenges and the ways that successful remote employees get stuff done.

The challenges of working remotely

A study by Buffer highlights the biggest challenges faced by remote and freelance workers in 2018. The findings include loneliness and communication/collaboration as the top challenges for workers at home, followed by distractions, lack of motivation, timezone challenges, and unreliable technology. While these are common issues, 90% of the same respondents aim to work remotely for their entire careers.

Time-management / balancing work

It’s hard to stay on task at home. After all, that’s where people know how to find you. At one end, you have to find a balance between your work responsibilities and your life responsibilities. And at the other, you have to manage your workload specifically, bearing deadlines in mind, prioritizing tasks, and keeping track of and justifying your own hours.

A calendar is a remote worker’s best friend, especially when it’s connected to their in-house team. Use notes to categorize and prioritize tasks, and Google apps to get reminders.

It can be frustrating trying to find and maintain a workspace while combating distractions. Imagine leaving your apartment because your neighbors or roommates are too loud and settling in at a coffee shop, only to be pestered by some creep.

Solution: choose a space to work and own it. Establish an area of your home for work where you can organize and house all of your materials and resources. Remote workers can even deduct their rent as office space as long as that space is solely used for work.

Finding the drive

Although establishing a workspace is necessary, always working from home can be very isolating. Once the initial excitement of the new position settles, you may find that you’re lacking a certain number of personal connections each day. Cabin fever can have a profound effect. Without travelling to work, you may find you have no excuse to leave the house. No grocery stops on the way home. No mailing that letter on the way in. No lunch dates with coworkers. You’re in quarantine now.

Solution: wake up at a designated time every day. Don’t snooze that alarm. Hop in the shower, brush your teeth, and dress like you’re heading to the office. Then get to work. Consider a coffee run for some fresh air, and drop by the office for a visit regularly just to get out of the house.

If you feel you’re finding the drive to get tasks done (let alone, started), fill in your invoice at the beginning of the week and follow it religiously. If in-house workers are getting paid for their time and energy while in the office, that shouldn’t make you any different. Be accountable, or else you’re likely to overwork yourself to make up for hours out of guilt.

Communicating tasks with employer or coworkers

Office Work, Studying, Office, Working, Computer
Sometimes tasks get confused, whether it’s the vocabulary or urgency that causes miscommunication. And while doing a great job of the wrong thing and wanting to blame your superiors for their lack of social skills, the error was most likely avoidable altogether.

Solution: many businesses that hire remote workers are very prepared to communicate with them. Whether setting up Slack accounts, sending Asana reminders, assigning CoSchedule tasks, and meeting via Zoom weekly, there’s plenty of software available.

Next, vocabulary. Managers need to take the time to explain things thoroughly with the use of examples (of both right and wrong). Also, remote workers need to ask questions when it’s convenient or comfortable.

Funding your own resources

Remote workers don’t have access to an office’s materials or appliances. Although the event of their hire implies their ability to perform on their own, collecting resources and materials are both costly and time consuming.

The prefatory tasks for a job can be as menial as making and reheating coffee or restocking printer paper and ink (maybe your printer does what printers do best: malfunction). That said, you’re also likely to be delayed by tasks as critical as purchasing and upkeeping your own limited technology that doesn’t compare with the office’s set up.

Solution: some of this goes back to balancing everyday tasks with work tasks. Get that coffee maker on a timer, wake up on time for breakfast.

And most importantly, remote workers need to prioritize spending. Anyone that’s passionate about the job they’re hired for can consider any expenses to be temporary. Eventually it will all pay off. Buy software and technology as an investment towards your career. And don’t be afraid to contact your supervisor for any additional resources, whether it’s a gated account login or subscription to an online resource.

Conclusion

Remote workers sometimes have to double their workloads and exercise some intense concentration skills in order to be successful. Despite this, many workers perform better this way, and many companies rely on their distanced employees.

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