Is working remotely all it’s cracked up to be?

If one of your top desires is to work remotely from your home, there are some key things that you should consider before you set up a home office.

Like everything in life, there are pros and cons, but this article focuses more on the downside.

According to many studies, a large percentage of employees would like the opportunity to work remotely.

The 2019 State of Remote Work report published by Buffer, found that 99% of people polled wanted to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their careers.

Another survey by Staples (Feb 2019) cited that 64% of employees work remotely at least part of the time and that 67% would quit their job if their work arrangement became less flexible.

While it seems to be gaining more popularity, working remotely is NOT the perfect choice. Now, that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that there are some not-so-ideal realities you need to consider.

Top 7 challenges of working from home

People who work remotely do suffer challenges that can affect their emotional and physical health, satisfaction, and even their productivity.

I’ve worked both in the office and on my own and can say with confidence that there are challenges working remotely that one doesn’t experience when they work in the office.

I collaborate with many professionals who work from home and know for a fact that they do struggle with it from time to time (some more than others) for a number of reasons that are addressed below.

#1: Feeling isolated and lonely

If you decide to work remotely, you would most likely miss out on the communication and connection that you would get if you worked in an office environment, so it can get a bit lonely.

If you’re an introvert, you might be okay working by yourself at least most of the time, but if you are energized by being around people and need that kind of direct connection, the work-at-home thing is probably not ideal.

#2: Being “on” 24/7

If your remote work arrangement requires you to work out of your home (as opposed to a public co-share space), there is no real separation between your work and private life.

Because you don’t actually “leave the office”, you don’t have that psychological cue of shutting down. This could lead to reduced productivity and burnout because you could end up working much longer hours than if you worked in the office.

Not being able to create that distinction between your private home life and your professional work life, you would always “feel” like you’re working and it would hard to “turn off”.

#3:  Feeling less than equal

The problem with not being in the office on a regular basis could result in you not being treated equally by colleagues because you are not there all the time to demonstrate your worth.

#4:  Being the brunt of gossip

Some remote workers I know fear that their coworkers might be saying negative things behind their back which makes it’s hard to defend themselves and can also contribute to the rumour mill.

#5: Lack of connection

It’s tough to build connections with your co-workers when you are physically not present which could negatively impact how you develop rapport, trust, and respect within the team.

#6: Being out of the loop

Since you’re not in the office all the time, you would likely miss out on impromptu meetings and conversations where important information is exchanged.

Sometimes remote workers are excluded entirely on purpose because it’s “easier” to have the meeting without them. The intention might be to “fill them in later” but that might not actually happen. A scenario like this can affect productivity and effectiveness.

#7: Reduced career advancement

A key concern for many remote workers is that by not being in the office all the time it might hinder their career advancement.

How to make it work

If you are the kind of person who needs regular contact with your team-mates, working remotely might not be an ideal option unless it was maybe one or two days a week but even that might be outside your comfort zone.

Even if you can function well on your own, the other issue is the level of discipline you need to maintain to get things done in a timely fashion when you’re working out of your home.

Let’s face it – there can be many distractions like kids, pets, laundry, errands, Netflix, etc.  The list is endless.

You would have to be very organized and manage your time very wisely in order to be productive and stay on task.

Questions to ask yourself before you tackle a remote work scenario

Before you decide to take on a remote work situation, you should first establish how the company will support your ability to stay connected with the office.

Does the employer have a structure and plan in place to ensure that you would be communicating regularly with the office?  

A well-connected company will leverage a variety of tools like Slack, Zoom, Vox, and others that would allow you to get to know your team-mates and stay “top of mind” which can help to overcome the many challenges of working from home.

Would the manager make the concerted effort to ensure that you wouldn’t be missing anything important?   

To overcome the information gap, the company should hold brief daily meetings and longer weekly sessions with team members so that everyone can get up to speed and review what was accomplished that week and what’s coming down the pipeline.

But not everything that happens in a company is scheduled. There is a lot of “organic” conversation and information exchange that happens in the office that you would miss unless the manager makes a point of keeping you in the loop.

To be honest, it is probably unreasonable to expect that a manager would be able to keep track of all the conversations and pass them along, so you would likely miss out on some important information.

Would the company enable you to put in regular “face time” at the office?

Attending remote work meetings is good, but not enough. You would need to make a point of showing up at the office for meetings (and other team activities) at least once or twice a month in order to maintain that critical connection.

If you live within a short drive to the office, regular office visits shouldn’t be a problem.

But what if you live a plane ride away from the office? Will the company let you schedule the time off and will they cover travel and accommodation expenses? If that’s a “no”, that would not be an ideal situation. 

Like every relationship, it’s all about communication

For a remote work situation to function well, both parties must keep the lines of communication open so that the information is being shared quickly and efficiently.

If you’re a remote worker and your employer is uncommunicative, you could quickly become disengaged from the entire work culture and feel like you’re being left behind. This could negatively impact how you feel about your job and ultimately how you progress within the company.

Communication is probably the most important thing to consider if you are thinking about working remotely. But it’s not just how communicative the company is – it’s also about how communicative you are. It must be a two-way street to be effective.

Like I said from the get-go, working remotely can sound very enticing but there are some harsh realities you must consider before going down that road.

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