Had enough of long commutes, prickly office politics and unannounced visitors dropping by your desk just when you’re digging into a project? You’re not alone. In fact, seventy percent of people globally work remotely at least once a week, and that number is on the rise, recent reports reveal. But is working offsite for you?
“Working remotely is like a long-distance relationship,” says Joshua Miller, a California-based master certified executive career coach whose clients include MTV, Google and Asics. It requires extra effort, he explains, because you’re not face to face with your employer or team. It also calls for serious self-motivation and accountability.
Of course, remote work can offer fabulous perks, such as being able to cuddle with your cat during conference calls, and a flexible schedule. But before you wave goodbye to the traditional workplace, consider these comments from experts and successful long-term remote workers to help you decide if it’s for you.
1. Be brutally honest (with yourself)
“Start by having a heart to heart with yourself about what kind of worker you are,” says Sara Bliss, author of “Take the Leap: Change Your Career; Change Your Life”. Are you a self-starter who’s disciplined about getting work done without supervision? Or, are you someone who thinks they can work from a Starbucks or a balcony overlooking the beach, but actually gets too distracted to stay motivated? Only you can answer these questions, but you must if you’re considering a pivot from in-house to offsite.
“Remote work is not an easy way out,” says Bliss. “It can require significant additional effort, but can also result in a lot of satisfaction.” (Bonus tip: Read “What Kind of Co-Worker Are You?” to get a better idea of your own work style and preferences.)
2. Get organized
Remember when you were a kid and the summer seemed to stretch on forever? That’s exactly what your average remote workday can be like. Open-ended. Unrestricted. Limitless. Which is to say that when you don’t have an office to report to, deadlines can feel vague, and the lines between work time and free time can get blurry.
One remedy: Create a framework for your day by deciding on work hours and divvying them up into blocks. The chunk of time between sitting down at your desk and your lunch break? That’s a block. Between a mid-afternoon coffee and signing off for the day? Another block. Dedicate one — or a portion of one — each day for catching up on your team’s news, another for responding to emails and then others for your actual assignments.
3. Know your peak hours
You might not always be able to create your own schedule due to requests from HQ or team-wide commitments, which is why it’s helpful to know when you’re most productive so you can tackle your toughest tasks then. If you’re a morning person, maybe head straight to your desk — pj’s and all — before sunrise. But if you crank out your best work in the dead of night, then shift your sleep time to accommodate jobs that require your full attention.
“What makes me a better worker doesn’t necessarily make you a better worker,” says Ross von Metzke, director of special projects/communications at the It Gets Better Project, who worked remotely four days a week for about four years. Some people thrive in noisy cafés, or outside of normal business hours. “But if the quality of work an employee is turning in is brilliant, why would you fight that?” asks von Metzke.
4. Stay connected
Working outside the office can make it harder to stay in the loop when it comes to office news, and easier to have your contributions overlooked by managers and colleagues, which makes regular check-ins with colleagues critical.
“I’ve always made it my mission to stay connected and not just disappear,” says Jennifer Lamm of Los Angeles, who’s worked remotely for 25 years and who currently works for a European company that’s nine time zones ahead of the West Coast. Some of her strategies for staying in the loop: frequent conference calls and asking a lot of questions of her colleagues and managers so that she has a clear understanding of their expectations.
“If you’re a remote worker and you have the chance to show your face — whether by video or in person — do it,” says Josh Miller. “It makes you three dimensional to others, and it gives you the chance to absorb more by talking to people and hearing about things in real time.” (For additional tips on what to wear for onscreen meetings, check out What Interview Dress is Appropriate for a Skype Interview? Also useful: These tips for making a good first impression!)
“This is the way the work world is going,” says Bliss. “More and more people are dissatisfied with corporate life, and office culture is becoming less appealing to many — especially millennials and younger generations.”
Bliss believes that professional success is increasingly going to depend on skills such as self-motivation and autonomy — the same skills that are honed by working remotely. So, this year, maybe say yes to that offer for a remote position because it might just be the first step on your path straight to the top.