Remote Work: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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A question we’ve seen with increasing frequency in recent years is “Does this company offer the opportunity to work remotely?” Remote work is quite the hot topic these days, and for good reason: working from home or telecommuting offers employees a certain flexibility that allows them to thrive in the chaotic, fast-paced world we live in today. Here at the Treehouse, we’ve offered remote work from day one, and it’s worked wonders for our small business! That said, remote work comes with a unique set of challenges that run the gamut from time management to the potential for isolation. Here are some things to bear in mind if your company is thinking about making the switch.

To be an effective remote worker, you have to be a time management pro. It’s much less tempting to spend an hour scrolling through Instagram when your boss is sitting at the desk across from yours. When you’re working from home or telecommuting, no one will stop you from hopping on Tumblr, sneaking an extra-long lunch break, or calling your mom to gab about last night’s episode of The Bachelor. A good manager will notice if you’re not keeping up or if things start to slip, so it’s crucial to stay on task. Create a daily schedule and make sure you’re dedicating your work time to work, especially if most of your tasks aren’t necessarily time sensitive–it’s easier to stay focused if you have a report due at 3:00 every day, but if your job doesn’t revolve around due dates, allocating a set time to work on specific projects each day will help you manage your time efficiently. You don’t need a home office, but designate a clutter-free workspace in your home (or wherever you work from) to avoid distractions.

Working from home can be lonely. When you work in an office setting, you’re surrounded by people. Even if you’re not close friends with any of your coworkers, there’s a certain comfort in knowing that the guy in the next cubicle is experiencing the same struggles and triumphs as you, and will probably at least half-listen to you vent. Working remotely means spending a large portion of your time alone, and even introverts tend to experience loneliness from time to time. It’s important to maintain a support system when you telecommute, and getting out of the house for a few hours each day–even if it’s just to go work in a coffee shop–is a great way to combat feelings of isolation. The good news is that today’s digital world allows us to stay more connected than ever–here at the Treehouse, we’re constantly calling, texting, emailing, or messaging each other on Slack. Working from home doesn’t necessarily prevent you from forming friendships with your colleagues, but it can certainly make it more difficult to do so. 

Remote work (usually) means a more flexible schedule. Most people who work traditional 9 to 5 jobs have to jump through a few hoops to rearrange their schedule to accommodate things like dentist appointments, doctor visits, or attending the school play. If you work from home, chances are you can start a little late if you need to drop your second grader off at school at 8:30 every day or want to volunteer as the soccer team chauffeur on Tuesdays at five. You might need to squeeze in an extra hour of emails before bed, but the ability to work around your outside life is well worth the tradeoff. Remote work situations generally involve a certain amount of trust, and if you’ve been approved for telecommuting, it’s probably safe to say your manager is confident you’ll get your work done in a timely manner, even if you’re not in the office under constant supervision. The downside here is that you may need to be “on call” at strange hours, but any good boss knows that work/life balance is critical to employee success, and won’t call on you to check in on a client or spend an hour cold calling unless it’s an absolute emergency. 

The ability to work remotely is in high demand today, and if current trends persist, we’ll be seeing more and more employees working from home at least on a part time basis. It’s important to learn how to manage your time wisely, combat loneliness, and understand that remote work comes with its own challenges, no matter how convenient it may be for your lifestyle. When managed appropriately, working from home is an excellent solution for many people whose outside lives demand more flexibility than an office job–and even for people who could make a 9 to 5 work but feel stifled in a traditional environment. We at the Treehouse look forward to observing the way the world adapts to the phenomenon of remote work–as our lives increase in complexity, the way we work should evolve as well.