A remote-based position is often a coveted opportunity. Visions of commute-free mornings, more family time, and relaxed work attire are enough to get most of us drooling. In my case, however, expectations failed to match reality.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
With the classic breakup line ringing in my ears, I ended my relationship with remote work. Often when that line is spoken, it actually is the other entity at some fault; but of course it was not working from home that was at fault, it was me.
My intention was never to thumb my nose at the gracious opportunity I’d been presented with, but it seems I simply could not fit myself into the successful remote worker mold.
Scores of people have graduated from the (fictional, of course) Work from Home Academy of Awesome Workers, but for the first time, this A+ student is a dropout.
Where Did It Go Wrong?
You could say reality hit when I was scrambling to find anything decent to put on so I could answer my front door … at 1 p.m. It truly sunk in when it was the umpteenth time this sad scenario played through. “I’ll be right there!” I’d yell.
Or you could say it was when I realized at 4 p.m. I hadn’t spoken out loud to a living soul. When I went to speak (to the dog), my voice caught in my throat.
Maybe you could even say it was when I convinced myself that Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler of NBC’s Law & Order: SVU were my true and personal friends.
Of course everyone’s situation is different. Work arrangements, team schedules, requirements, norms, and time zones will all play a part in the remote worker’s life. Personal attributes, learning styles, and capacities for alone time also play a large role.
What I simply failed to acknowledge and respect about remote work, was just how much (for myself, at least) the personal aspects of yourself affect the job.
A Misguided Belief
An introvert at heart, it seemed that remote work would be a perfect fit for me. After social situations I often find myself needing complete alone time in order to regroup and process the interactions.
While previously I had worked successfully in the office, and happily engaged in many interactions with my coworkers; given my natural disposition I assumed that I’d perform even better on my own.
In a classic “live and learn” situation, this turned out not to be the case. It was with the best of intentions and thorough preparation that I entered this position. It was with a slight feeling of defeat, and a wave of relief at the office-life awaiting me, that I left the work-from-home life behind me.
Don’t Be Like Me
Success is most certainly a viable option for most who seek out and obtain remote work. But I have to imagine that there’s at least another person out there who just might struggle as I did.
With experience as the best teacher, I’d like to look back on some things I’d do differently.
I’ll try to not reiterate all of the same tips and tricks you could take from any number of resources, like this classic post from Forbes, this article from Inc., or this one from Business Insider. All of which are incredibly valuable, applicable, and helpful.
But let’s get real. Let’s have a look at the ugly and honest do’s and don’ts … from a dropout.
Real Life Do’s And Don’ts
- Don’t #1
Those of you out there with kids or other obligations that guarantee an “up and out” schedule that forces you out of the house for drop offs, etc., don’t take this for granted.
As a person without any true familial obligations apart from letting the dog out by 7 a.m., there was never any real drive to become presentable until it was too late.
Getting caught in my pajamas, with my laptop on my lap, surrounded by papers on the couch at 6 p.m., where I was left at 7 a.m., did not feel great.
- Do #1
For the first few weeks of your work from home gig, you will get up and at ‘em with the rest of the workforce. Do keep this up.
After the first few weeks, you settle into the fact that probably no one will lay eyes on you and give this up. Keep it up, I never could, and I’d like to believe that most of you are better than me.
- Don’t #2
Try not to isolate yourself from the world. While usually not intentional, it becomes all too easy to create a routine that rarely includes much human interaction.
Sure, you might dial-in to conference calls, video chat, or run errands around town. This does not make up for real face-to-face interactions and conversations.
(And no, your dog doesn’t count for a real interaction, no matter what they say to convince you.)
- Do #2
Do take anyone up on their offer to grab lunch, go for a walk, or meet up; anytime that your actual work schedule allows. Fitting in as much human interaction as possible will really help with the feelings of isolation (and force you to get dressed!).
Set up at some local coffee shops, libraries, or other acceptable public work spaces and become a regular. This is as close to imitating office life as you’ll get, take advantage of this opportunity. You won’t regret it.
- Don’t #3
Don’t become a human vacuum cleaner and and “hoover” all of the food in your house. There’s not much else to say about this one. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, or anything.
- Do #3
Take advantage of the extra time you’ve got in your work-from-home schedule and prepare breakfasts and lunches that you usually wouldn’t have time for when heading into the office. You can amp up the health-factor and scale down the fast food runs (particularly effective if you heed Don’t #3).
- Don’t #4
Speaking of lunch, don’t use your lunch break as an opportunity to nap. You wouldn’t usually nap in the middle of the day if you were heading into the office, don’t fall into that trap at home.
- Do #4
Do advantage of your freedom and head out for a walk or some form of exercise. You’ll return home feeling refreshed and energized.
Is That All It Takes?
Looking at the do’s and don’ts above, I can see how it makes working from home seem like a walk in the park. Get dressed, don’t eat all the junk, talk to some people, you’ve got this. I do believe for a lot of people it is just about that simple. Get your work done, communicate with your office, update your managers, and enjoy your free time not chained to a desk.
But for those of us where the simple aspects turn into a real-life challenge, I think it’s vital to acknowledge how the “little things” pile up to become big stuff that you have to deal with.
I hope this point of view could be an honest take on how the more obvious work-from-home challenges can affect a worker, and ways to stay ahead of those obstacles.
With work-from-home life behind me, I save my “don’t get dressed until noon” and “speak only to the dog” days for the weekends … like a normal person.
Have you worked from home before? Let us know in the comments if you have any embarrassing tales (It can’t be just me!) or tips for those about to begin a work-from-home journey. We’re all ears!