Reality vs. Ideal – How will “you” actually be?
Instagram shows us these ideal pictures of beautiful remote working setups, people “living the dream” as digital nomads, working only a few hours as they explore the world, working in blissful home garden scenes and baking on their coffee breaks and more. The reality is that many people working remotely are actually in tucked away corners of their homes and are usually working more hours. Yes, they may have amazing flexibility and a different balance in their lives, but they also have to consider all the boring things like good Wi-Fi signals, noise, distractions and making their own lunch. If you were to make that choice, what would your honest reality be?
How well, honestly now, do you work when alone?
Are you a social person, someone who needs to have noise or the “buzz” of an office to be motivated? Are you easily distracted at home by your DIY list, the dirty dishes or that Netflix series you want to finish? Remote working can really appeal to some but for those who are social or need the “pressure” of an office, the commute to change your headspace and the socialised structure of cubicles, remote working can be a big adjustment. Consider how you will meet your own needs to be social etc. How you will keep motivated on your own? If you are more introverted, it may seem like a dream but you also need to ensure you don’t get stuck into the quiet, stuck into being “in” your own head. Consider speaking with people who have similar personalities to you who work remote? What is working for them?
How do you need to be led and/or how do you lead?
Many people think they want to be led by a hands-off leader, that they hate micromanaging but, in reality, not everyone actually works well this way. Some need much more guidance. You will need to strike the balance of getting clear direction with being self-directed. Be sure to make a plan on how you will work with your direct reports and colleagues if you have them and understand their own working style as well. Take the time to plan how you will manage with your leader or your team, your check-ins, task assignments and more.
How do you need to communicate?
Do you need to chat all day to get your ideas out, to process things, to “ideate”? Can you handle the wait time on an email or even be patient watching the dots move while someone is replying to your text? Are you ok with “text speak”, understanding that you may or may not be reading tones in written or virtual communication and that without the normal visual clues, you may miss things in communication? Remote working means you have to think before you hit send, maybe read things twice before reacting and always seek clarity of intention and message. Even if you think you are a great communicator, working virtually adds new barriers that you need to be aware of and being aware of these barriers is a great first step.
You’ll need a proper set-up.
It may seem like a dream to work from the comfort of your couch or but that isn’t sustainable or healthy for long term. You will need a proper setup. What gear will you need to work properly? Think of your desk (sitting, standing or even a treadmill), a good chair, a proper monitor to help your eyes, a separate keyboard, maybe a headset and microphone (for all those zoom calls), appropriate lighting and more. Unless your employer will be outfitting your home office, be prepared for some costs and plan accordingly.
What’s your physical space like where you will work?
You see so many great photos of light, airy home offices that look like they come out of a magazine but what is the reality in your own your space? Do you have a spare room or will you be working from the kitchen table? Will you have a window for natural light, is there heat or a cold draft, what about the others in or around your house? Noisy neighbours, housemates, family, pets, children and more. Will you be able to work without distractions? All things to consider. Make sure you have a space that you can focus, be comfortable and can sit, type or talk for many hours at a time.
The Pros and Cons of flexible working hours.
The flexibility is why many people choose remote work but you also have to understand the downsides of it. Will you become the designated “available” person because you are home during the day? The person all the neighbours call to let in the plumber or sign for the packages? Do you plan on taking doggo for extra walks or even going to the gym in the middle of the day? It all sounds good but be aware that with flexibility, you also need priorities and boundaries. Being able to care for a child at home when they have a sick day or meet a friend for lunch is such a massive benefit and can add to a more balanced life but you will still have work to do and it’s easy to add in a few hours here and there to feel like you are catching up and those can add up quickly. You will need to comfortable speaking up about your workload, to push back on rushed deadlines and even say no to some things to avoid the trap of more hours in this new work life. To truly have a flexible, remote mindset, you will have to ditch the idea of “hours worked” and embrace the outcomes you can provide.
There is so much to consider but the benefits of remote working can far outweigh the inconveniences for some. It is obviously not suited for all roles or for all people but it can be amazing and a whole new world.