My first full-time job was a remote role working for a team based in Redmond, Washington, while I completed my degree on the other side of the continent in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For sixteen months I worked out of my apartment, flying out to Redmond occasionally to film videos in studio or attend training. In that time period I only saw my manager and the rest of my team in person five times.
Today’s modern office is anywhere the employee is – at home, in a coffee shop, at the library, and even on the plane. As technology advances and erases the limitations of physical distance, companies are trusting their employees to work from home offices and other remote locations more and more. But just because you can work from home, doesn’t mean you should. Here are some key things to consider before making the move to a remote role.
The best thing about working remotely is the flexibility. All you need is an internet connection to be at work, so you can work from virtually anywhere you want! If you’re the kind of person who prefers quietness and yoga pants to a bustling office and suit, this might be a good choice for you. It’s an introvert’s heaven.
But working from home doesn’t mean you can slack off. In fact, I would say that remote workers actually have to work harder than in-office employees, because they have to work harder to make a conscious effort to differentiate between work and personal time, and they have to put more effort in to form relationships with their teammates and managers. So before taking a remote role you’ll want to make sure you have a defined office space in your home that is specifically reserved for focusing on work, and brush up on your email and phone communication skills.
As an extrovert, one of the biggest struggles I had as a remote employee was fighting the feeling of isolation. I was the only remote employee on my team, so it was a lot harder for me to build relationships with my colleagues who all saw each other in person every day. In fact, the strongest relationship I built was with a woman on an adjacent team, who was also a remote employee. Before taking a remote role, make sure you can work efficiently when you’re alone.
Before committing to a remote job, it is wise to do some honest self-reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you a self-starter, or do you need others to motivate you to get your gears going?
- Are you comfortable with rarely seeing your teammates in person?
- Do you feed off of other people’s energy?
- Do you work better when you’re alone or around others?
- Do you have enough space to create a workplace that is separate from your relaxing quarters?
Know the Team
Not only do you have to know yourself, you also have to know the dynamic of the team you’ll be joining. One thing I learned through my experience is that, even if you are good at being a remote employee, the team may not be built to accommodate remote employees. Ask your hiring manager:
- Have you ever had a remote employee, and if so, how long have they worked on your team?
- How collaborative is the work between team members, and how often do these collaborations happen online?
- What tools do you use to communicate with your team?
- How many remote employees are currently on the team? (Tip: being a remote employee is convenient, but being the only remote employee can be very difficult)
Know What You Want
Though I am in a different role today, I am still a remote employee, but I live near enough to an office that I can spend a few days a week working alongside my colleagues. I find that this is a great balance, because it allows me the freedom and flexibility to work from different places and keep things fresh, but it also allows me to have face-to-face contact with my team and experience the corporate setting, which makes me feel much more tied to the company.
Ultimately, you have to weigh the pros and cons of both scenarios when making your decision, and be honest with yourself about your own abilities. The decision of whether or not to work remotely is a very personal one, and only you can know if it’s the right move for you.
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