Whenever I meet someone new and we get to talking about work and I say that I work remotely (I try to avoid saying “work from home”), I’m immediately greeted with “Oh, you’re so lucky. Working from home must be so nice, never having to get dressed, going out whenever you feel like it, spending more time with your family. Oh, I envy you!”
But see, while some elements of this might be true, that picture perfect fantasy couldn’t be much further from reality for professionals who work remotely. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, and I wouldn’t have been able to work with all the amazing clients I’ve encountered across the globe if I couldn’t work remotely. But it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Although it has so many benefits, working remotely is a real challenge. I put together this post so you’ve got an insider’s view on what it’s really like for professionals who work from home.
You know all those distractions in the office? The ones that you say are a major reason you want to work from home? Well, times those by 50 and you’ll come close to how many distractions you’ll encounter from home. When we’re in our home, even if we closet ourselves away in an office space or a corner of the spare room, there are endless distractions. Kids. Pets. That Walking Dead box set with only a couple of episodes left – work will still be there after the zombie-fest, right? Then there’s that load of laundry that really needs to go in the machine. Did you check your voice messages? And you better check the refrigerator in case you need to make a run to the store. And oh look, you’re low on milk and eggs – better go and get some before the rest of the family get home. See? When you’re at home, you’re in serious danger of losing your productivity. Whether it’s mundane chores like putting the laundry in or preparing dinner, or something more exciting like a quick episode of your favorite show or 30 minutes of hard-core, button-mashing gaming to unwind, there are so many things around you that can easily snatch you away from work mode. And this is one of the key things that makes working remotely such a challenge.
With the right amount of discipline and focus, though, these distractions become easier to ignore over time, and are considerably less disruptive than all that office drama and politicking. Can you believe Sophie’s boyfriend dumped her for that skinny girl in I.T.?!?
And then there’s the friends and relatives. Oh, boy! You’d be amazed at how many of the people close to you just don’t get that having your office at home is a real job. I’ve been location-independent for close to fifteen years, and my in-laws still don’t get it. They’ve even said right out loud “Well, it’s not like you have a real job, you work from home”. Ha! As a remote worker, you’ll meet this ‘tude again and again. If your office is at home, you’re clearly just bumming around, right? You’ve always got time to pop over to see relatives, do a little DIY for them, run a few errands and the like. And hey, you’re at home, so they can drop in on you whenever they feel like it, and you’ll happily abandon your so-called work and entertain them like the perfect host. And, because you’re at home and therefore obviously at the beck and call of everyone you know, if someone needs a babysitter? You better run and hide, because you’ll be their first port of call. So get ready for some pretty tough conversations with your friends and family. You’ll also have to repeat these conversations periodically because they’ll forget and slip back into their old habits.
You’re fighting the stigma attached to remote working which is compounded by the millions of memes and stock photos that are plastered all over the internet, showing people relaxing in a sun lounger on a tropical beach with a tablet in one hand and a cocktail in another. Or the images of an ecstatically smiling mom bouncing a baby or two on her knee while at the computer. Or the lazy millennial guy in his PJs grinning like a loon while he’s browsing his smartphone while laying on the sofa. Like this:
Having said all that, I wouldn’t swap my remote work for anything. I’m a professional who happens to work remotely. I’m location-independent or location-agnostic, and I wouldn’t change it. I know I painted a pretty grim and mildly amusing portrait of working from home, but the key takeaway is that you need discipline. If you can discipline yourself and have the necessary focus and drive to ignore all those tantalizing home-related distractions, you’ll thrive working from home. It can just be a bit of an uphill battle when you first start.
I’m a valued senior professional in my field, my work speaks for itself, and there’s never any complaints about work quality or productivity. Do I go to work in comfy pants? Yes, absolutely. Does wearing comfortable pants mean I’m less productive? Unsurprisingly, no. Do I get to spend more time with my family? Yes. It’s great. Do I sometimes have to work at my kid’s soccer practice? Yes – I sit in the bleachers and catch up on emails, reports, blogging, or whatever else I can get through in that hour.
Next Up… Work-Life Balance
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