Today, more people, especially millennials, are choosing to work remotely rather than from an office environment. In fact, according to a study by ReportLinker, more than one in ten people have joined what is called the gig economy (working remotely, freelancing etc.). Research suggests that working remotely leads to higher job satisfaction, and thus also increases employee productivity. As a remote worker myself, I can attest to this – there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from being able to work from anywhere.
Working remotely gives you an unprecedented level of flexibility and freedom. If you can get your job done remotely, that means you can be working from virtually anywhere – and the world really does become your oyster. According to a survey by Earnest on how to have a more happy career, 41% of people would trade in higher salaries for benefits, like more vacation and flex time.
Working remotely essentially gives you unlimited flex time, with more freedom than ever working from an office. You will have the freedom to travel, and work from a country you’ve always wanted to visit, or maybe you’ll choose to work from home and spend quality time with your family. Whatever you choose, the flexibility in terms of location (and sometimes even your work hours) is one of the best perks of a remote career and will boost your overall happiness.
While there are a multitude of benefits, there are pitfalls to not being in a full time job in an office environment. Before you embark on your remote journey, there are things you need to consider and certain skills you must possess. Otherwise, you might end up jeopardizing your career and source of income, which obviously is something no one wants.
The “Remote-Friendliness” of Your Role
First and foremost, you need to evaluate whether your role can truly be carried out remotely. Certain jobs simply aren’t conducive to a remote working environment. These include jobs that require teamwork and interaction, or hands-on creation. If your role however, does not have these restrictions, and you’ve determined it can be executed remotely, then you’re good to go!
Having good communication skills is a requirement to perform well in any sort of job. However, when working remotely, the need for stellar communication is key. As stated in Fiscal Tiger’s article on “working from home like a boss”, “Without face-to-face interaction, your main lines of communication are phone and video calls, emails and instant messaging. You will need to communicate effectively via all of these means.” Written communication comes into play here, since remote workers don’t often have the luxury of popping into your boss’s office for a quick chat. This means being willing to write detailed emails, and being accessible to answer questions over email/Skype or any other mode of communication, sometimes even at unlikely “non-work” hours – especially if you’re working from another time zone. Sure, you might have to invest in a high speed internet connection to make sure you are able to be online at all times, or at least when required. But with today’s low priced phone plans that offer unlimited data, even internationally, the amount you spend on good connectivity is a small price to pay for the freedom it brings.
Alongside communication skills, you need a high level of patience to make you a good remote employee. The reality is that when you aren’t physically present, you might be put on the backburner and won’t always be a top priority as there won’t be a face to your name. This means that your emails may often go unanswered, lost in the black hole that is an inbox, and you might have to send in constant reminders to get answers. This can be frustrating, and that’s why patience plays important role in understanding and accepting your circumstances and maintaining your own productivity.
Organization and Time Management
Since you’ll be working on your own most of the time, you won’t have someone looking over your shoulder, monitoring your every move. You will be in charge of your own progress in terms of tasks accomplished, and so organizing your priorities and managing your time are absolutely integral.
If you’ve struggled with time management before, then it’s best to focus on honing this skill before you start a remote job. For freelancers and consultants, it’s especially important to organize and plan various jobs, so that they are finished in a timely manner. Thankfully, there are a plethora of apps out there that are made specifically for saving time and money, helping you make sure your bills and invoices are filed on time, your tasks are accomplished, and things are moving smoothly with you as your own boss.
As a remote employee, it’s easy to fall into the trap of laziness and distractions. Working from your bed in your pajamas sounds appealing, but trust me when I saw that it will affect your overall productivity. I’ve found that when working alone, it’s best to be at a table or desk and dressed professionally, even if you aren’t client-facing or don’t have any meetings. Being dressed professionally during work hours will simulate an office feeling, making you more likely to work efficiently and not slack off. Besides, a professional appearance empowers both you and your business, whether it’s your own enterprise or a larger company for which you’re working.
Personally, I struggled a lot with dealing with distractions when I first started working remotely. Distractions are everywhere – from Facebook and texting to simply getting caught up in people-watching at your local cafe. As the cliché goes, with the freedom remote working brings, comes more responsibility. It’s easy to have the attitude of procrastination, and finishing a task outside of your “regular work hours”, just so that you can do something else. But this is exactly what needs to be avoided. To be successful as a remote employee, it’s important to set and stick to a schedule. Avoid getting distracted as much as possible, and adhere to the same norms you would have followed in an office environment – the only difference being that you will be imposing these rules on yourself.
Hard Work, and Sometimes, Extra Work
While working remotely definitely has many perks, it would be a lie to say it doesn’t involve hard work. As mentioned above, it’s simple to be “forgotten”, and that’s why you have to put in the extra effort to stay relevant. Working hard, constantly and consistently, is key to retaining and succeeding at your job. In an article published on Inc.com, Jeff Haden gives an example:
“Say business is down and you’re forced to let a few employees go. Who is easier to downsize: The employee in the office next to you or the employee on the other side of the country you never see ? (Come to think of it, he seems to get a lot done, but who knows how hard he’s really working?)”
While this situation isn’t ideal, it is very real. Proving your worth becomes much harder when no one is physically around to see the work you’re putting in, with people having to rely on just your word about whether work is being completed. You will need to make sure you are delivering results, on time and often. While you might always feel slightly insecure about your job, being able to show for your hard work and dedication will help you gain respect.
While working remotely has its share of benefits, it also comes with its downsides. If you are willing to put in the effort and able to fulfill the above criteria, then remote working can be an extremely rewarding experience, allowing you to fulfill your other passions alongside making a career. As a fellow millennial, working remotely has been a wonderful learning experience for me, and if you’re ready and willing, I encourage you to try it!
Akshata has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She in very interested in entrepreneurship and sustainability in everyday life. Being a foodie, she spends a good amount of time cooking up concoctions in her kitchen, recording her recipes and travel adventures on her blog, With Love From Akshata.
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