You know remote workers. Those are the people sitting in cabana chairs on the beach with their laptops. They are multitasking while their kids are at soccer practice and traveling the world while holding down a nine-to-five. Remote workers have time to take 10 AM spin classes and cook actual meals because they get to skip rush hour traffic.
And, you are hoping to be able to land a remote gig so that you too can be tanned and trim on the beach without worrying about losing your paycheck. Right? Wrong.
There are a lot of things about remote work that you should consider before taking the plunge, including the fact that NOBODY works while lying in a hammock on the beach. The sand would ruin your laptop. Also, that 10 AM spin class can easily turn into a nap if you’re not careful. And you while working in your pajamas sounds awesome, it’s one of the least productive habits that people who work from home can adopt.
So how do you know if remote work is right for you?
Let's begin with the logistics. According to the law, anybody who has at least 26 weeks of work with a single employer can request flexible work arrangements. This is usually some combination of remote and in-office work. This is ideal if you have young children or an aging parent who needs your care. You will need a stable and reliable internet connection, a computer with the right specifications to get your work done, and office supplies like a printer, scanner, or copier. Additionally, some jobs require you to have a landline. Do you have the logistical capabilities to work remotely?
You will also need a quiet space that you can dedicate to your work. For those who remote work full-time, the lack of human interaction can be stifling. A spot in a co-working space or pop-up office is a great way to offset this, but it will require you to incur an additional expense. For others, a few hours a day at the local library or coffee shop does the trick. Regardless of your location, make sure that it’s conducive to work. If you’re interrupted every twenty minutes, you will get precious little done and end up frustrated and unproductive. If you can’t knuckle down and find a productive work environment, then you might fair better working in-office.
Another thing to consider is your temperament. Remote workers have to be self-motivated and focused. Some people are simply more driven than others and can easily avoid distractions. For others, this requires some effort. It's important that you can set some “house rules” right from the beginning and have the self-discipline to stick to them. Let your family, friends, and coworkers know that you are “at work” during these set hours. Make sure co-workers know that you are not on-call twenty-four hours a day simply because you work remotely. Also, let your loved ones know that you are not available to chat during work hours. If you have a hard time setting and maintaining boundaries then perhaps remote work isn’t for you.
It’s also important that you can overcome the desire to procrastinate. For many people, this begins with sticking to your morning schedule. Wake up, eat breakfast, and get dressed. These acts send a message to your brain that your day has started and it’s time to get into work mode. You may also want to invest in software designed to restrict your internet access during work hours. If you tend to waste time on social media or phubbing, remote work might not be the best option for you.
Finally, consider your communication skills. Unlike regular office workers, you are going to have to create and maintain business relationships without the benefit of meeting face to face. You will need to be able to work with your team and solve problems. In many ways, you will have to be a better communicator than most employees. Can you handle that? If so then remote work might be viable for you.
And finally, you need to be good at your job. You need to have a certain level of mastery over the skills necessary to complete your work. Remember, remote work means that your access to coworkers or supervisors is limited, and you may not be able to get the help you need promptly. This kind of breakdown can cause issues for your whole team. Be sure that you know your job very well before embarking on a remote working scheme.
It is tempting to simply say “screw the cubicle” and set out for a life of adventure. Too many people find out too late that they simply don’t have the discipline or the work ethic necessary to make remote work a viable option for them. Others, digital nomads, in particular, have turned it into a lifestyle.The difference between the two groups is a commitment to gaining the skills they need to succeed and remaining adaptable at all times. Being a remote worker requires a specific set of soft skills, like time management and self-leadership. Be sure to hone these skills before setting off on your remote work adventure.