I have a confession. I tried to be a remote employee, and I failed. Whenever I told someone I had a work from home job I usually got a variation of two responses, “Wow, I’m so jealous” or “I could never do that”. I worked from home for a couple of years early in my career, as a freelancer. I’d taken advantage of the flexible WFH (work from home) policy at previous jobs. I thought it would be no big deal. I was excited about the flexibility it allowed. I thought I had set myself up for success pretty well. I had a great office setup with lots of bright natural light, including a stocked snack drawer. I even sought out desk space at a friend’s office so I had somewhere to go occasionally. I was going to be so good at this WFH thing.
Working from home can definitely have the illusion of being a pretty glamorous thing. Not having to put on real clothes, or at least from the midsection down is a definite perk. There is more flexibility with starting and stopping work. Need to run a quick errand? A lot easier to do working from home, than in an office. There isn’t the distraction of random conversations with co-workers or other office distractions.
There are also some downsides to the work from home life, I learned a few months into my 6-month attempt. Personally, I had a hard time getting into a good routine. I’m not the best at establishing routines to start with, so I did have that going against me. I would start the morning off strong; dog outside, breakfast…work? That’s where I would get stuck. I felt like I HAD to start working as soon as those things were done, but it was usually only 7am. But 7am was already 9am for my east coast co-workers so I was already two hours behind, usually forgetting it was only 6am for my west coast co-workers. I would have a similar problem in the evening, checking e-mail or thinking of things I needed to do the next day for work…because I was at home, where I worked. I also found it really easy to hop up and do laundry or sit outside with the dog for longer than I planned.
I knew I would miss being around people during the day, which is why I had arranged early on for some desk space at a friend’s office. I thought knowing that I was paying a small amount for a space would motivate me to go there a few days a week. It was a great idea…in theory. I was definitely more consistently productive when I was there. But it was the getting there that was the problem. My office buddy was great, so that was not the problem. It was just the getting out part, once I was so used to being at home.
Once I finally came to the realization that working from home full-time was not the best fit for me, I knew I needed to find something else. It would be the best thing for my sanity and I knew my company deserved an employee who was 100% checked in. I’m sure my partner was also grateful that I will soon have people other than her to talk to. The dog was also ready to get back to being an office dog again.
For those of you that are considering working a remote job, please don’t let this scare you from trying. Just because it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. There are few things I would recommend as you are making that decision though.
The company. What is the remote situation at the company you are considering being a remote employee for? I was lucky. The company I was with had implemented a remote program the previous year, so it was top of mind for them. They had great internal supports like a watercooler chat for remote employees, a monthly virtual hangout, a remote stipend that we could use for internet or other remote expenses and we had budget to visit one or both of the physical offices a few times our first year with the company. The executive leadership team was even taking a few weeks each to work remote themselves, to get a better understanding of what it was like for us that did it full-time. Talk to any other current remote employees to get a sense for what their experience is like before making your decision.
Your personality. Are you someone that thrives with being around other people? Work from home might still work for you, but you will need to be more intentional about getting that in-person time in other ways. I think I’m an introverted extrovert. I like a balance of people time and quiet time. Working from home gave me way too much of the quiet time.
Your setup. This is one thing I did mostly right. Having a space that is conducive to work is important. My space was shared with my partner, which wasn’t an issue most of the time. But seeing it was at home, it did make it more of a challenge to not feel like I should be working all the time. Having the work space in a room that you can close to the door to when you’re not working or is out of sight is helpful for some people.
I don’t regret trying the work from home thing. It’s good to know what works for us and what doesn’t. I had some really great remote co-workers to commiserate with when needed and share tips and tricks. But I’m definitely excited to get back into an office, with the flexibility to work from home a day week if I want it. I think the dog is pretty excited too.