Working remotely might seem like a pipe dream for many millennials – but is it all that it’s cracked up to be? One man shares his take on the trend.
Editor’s Note: Our guest contributor covers a more personal angle on what it’s like to work remotely. As always, your mileage may vary.
Today I share the 4 things that no one tells you about working remotely.
Before kicking off…
My name is Artem and I have been running a remote digital agency and a blog about posture and ergonomics for about three years already.
From the moment that I launched, I only worked remotely from home and different local cafes (in fact, quite a few staff members in Berlin’s Mitte know me quite well because of that).
I also hired (and fired) quite a number of remote VAs (virtual assistants) from countries like South Africa, Philippines, Serbia, Ukraine, USA, and a few others.
I’m writing this post from Bali where I’ve spent the last eight months (which is supposed to serve as a sign that working remotely is pretty awesome), but let’s instead talk about what I originally came here for – the bits and pieces that no one really tells you about.
Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Remote Work Will Be Lonely
This is a FACT and you need to be aware of this…when (and not IF) the feeling of loneliness will kick in.
Humans are social creatures and many of us need some sort of regular social interaction with other representatives of Homo Sapiens.
I didn’t fully realise that for a good while and that created all sorts of issues for me.
Examples are obvious…a sort of sadness (I am not calling it depression but you get the point), lack of motivation or a desire to do anything.
The worst part is that I couldn’t even figure out where that was coming from!
Only by an accident I would bump into my buddies on occasion, spend time with them and suddenly…feel so much better!
I knew there was something about this social thing and then…I came across interesting research which essentially states that if you are looking for fulfilment, you had better take care of your relationships (at work). You can find the original article here.
After I fully understood how crucial this thing is for me (and I am an ESFP on MBTI), I started to regularly tick this ‘social interaction’ box and – surprise, surprise – I started feeling a lot better mentally.
To me, the best way of building relationships is what Tim Ferriss calls “shared suffering”, where you and your buddies-to-be would come together for a sort of experience that provides, at least, a mild degree of suffering. It can be a Russian sauna (Tim actually made that example in his book) or something like hiking a semi-active volcano (stuff we do here, in Bali).
2. It Can Be Very Uncomfortable…Literally
Working from the office doesn’t seem to be that bad when it comes to office ergonomics.
These days you’d expect an office to have a proper table that’s wide enough for your work needs, a somewhat OK ergonomic chair, and a monitor that you can adjust to your eye level so to avoid that nagging strain in your neck.
However…things can be very different when you are working remotely.
I work from my laptop and I can’t say I love the experience – the screen is quite small (13”), the keyboard is not that big, and the touchpad…if you need to click around, you will certainly feel it in your finger after around 10-15 minutes!
Things don’t get better when you start going to cafés where you’ll either share a big table with others or have a little table (with a tiny flower on it!) all to yourself.
You will have all those musculoskeletal issues piling up pretty fast so here is what I recommend you do.
Try to set up a workplace that is, at least, somewhat ergonomic – get an L-shaped desk, a proper office chair, a separate keyboard, and a mouse.
You might even want to consider buying one of those desktop computers.
However, if you are not in a mood for that, I still recommend you get a separate monitor because your eyes and your neck will thank you for it!
How important is this?
Consider this…I have an American friend (he owns a digital agency too) who I met in Budapest through some other mutual friends. Last year he came to Moscow for a bit and I came by to check his place out. I was surprised to see a separate monitor AND a laptop holder which, as he told me, he always brings with him no matter where he goes. This guy has been working remotely for a while now and he certainly wants to be comfortable (so he can do a better job…working remotely).
3. Organising Yourself To Do The Work Is Not Easy
Getting up and going to an office is easy…After all, you don’t have a choice and just have to do it until it becomes a dynamic stereotype (a fancy word for ‘habit’) and then you don’t even think about it anymore.
Now enters remote work…
Depending on your status (whether you are an employee, a freelancer, or an owner of a limited company), you will have quite a few important business tasks to deal with.
First things first – getting out of bed would be a challenge. You might find yourself going through a compilation of the best Joey moments on Youtube, despite a truly overwhelming set of tasks you have yet to accomplish!
In order to succeed, you must have a routine. Some of you might not like that word but that’s the reality of it – you must have a winning routine, if you want to achieve your goals. I’m an early bird so I wake up between 6-7 am. I then fool myself to do some exercises (I tell myself that I will do only one single push-up…and then I end up having a proper 20-minute morning training session that gets my blood flowing).
Then – breakfast time. I use it to write down 3-5 main tasks for the day and make sure to pick one. This is the cornerstone task that makes all the other tasks fall through…in case I have no time for them (most of us are slackers – let’s be honest). After that, it’s time for work.
I try to work for 3-4 hours, only taking breaks every 30-40 minutes (Pomodoro technique style).
This is my way of doing things and you probably will need to find ways to hack your system, but if you want to enjoy the benefits of working remotely, you have to do it.
4. Get Ready to Repeat The Same Thing a Good Few Times
Communication…that’s a big one!
When I first hired remote VAs to help with some of the tasks I needed to be done, I quickly realised how hard it was to explain certain things.
Why did the tasks that were so basic (at least, in my mind) require so much time and effort to explain? Why do I need so many separate Skype calls with those people to explain one simple concept within a basic spreadsheet? (We use spreadsheets for data mining)
With time, I soon realised that a remote form of communication harms the way we interact with each other. Research shows that 93% of interaction between humans is non-verbal (e.g. body language).
Now think about remote communication.
Once I realised that my VAs were not, in fact, narrow-minded and that it was my responsibility to explain the ‘content of my class’ in different ways so as to make sure that they understand it, things took off. I recommend this one book called Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet which helped me to change the perspective in that regard. That guy was a commander of a nuclear-powered submarine and knows a thing or two about leadership – check it out.
So there you have it. The four things that no one tells you about working remotely. By no means is it an exhaustive list, but it’s one that’s certainly true to my own experiences.
Curious about remote working? Find out more about the future of remote working here.