It’s the ultimate dream for most Millennials: working from home. But is it for you?
When I tell people that I’ve spent the last year and a half working remotely, most get jealous. They imagine me calling into conference calls in my pajamas and pulling out my laptop in beachside internet cafes.
While both of those things can definitely be a part of the remote work experience, it’s probably not as glamorous as you imagine it to be. Before you accept a remote job or internship, definitely keep in mind a few of these important considerations:
1. You will have to provide your own office space
For most of us, this means the IKEA desk in the corner of the room. Or the bed on those lazy Monday mornings. It also means your own office supplies, chairs, and (perhaps most importantly) snacks. So if you’re the type that enjoys fully-stocked kitchens, ping pong tables, ergonomic chairs and adjustable-height desks, get ready to be disappointed by your own financial limitations.
2. You may have to provide your own technology
Depending on the financial limitations of the company you work for, you may be expected to provide your own technology. And keep in mind this can go beyond a personal laptop to include anything else you use to do your work, including high-speed internet, a cell phone, and a printer or scanner.
3. Working from home can get real old, real fast
When you live and work in the same place, it’s really easy to hate being home. Everything you dislike about the place you live (your noisy neighbors, the creaky floors, that weird smell you haven’t been able to track…) follows you to work, and everything you dislike about your job follows you home. Unless you have a sprawling house or absolutely love your room, you will probably get tired of working from home pretty quick.
4. The alternatives to working from home are limited and expensive
With more and more companies allowing their employees to work remotely, there are more options than ever for getting work done outside the traditional office. Coworking spaces like WeWork are a great alternative to working from home, but memberships can be expensive for intern and entry-level employees. Coffee shops can also be a nice change of scenery for remote workers, but buying a $6 latte every two hours isn’t much better for your wallet (or your waistline).
5. Conference calls are even more unbearable when you have to call in
Meetings are bad enough as it is, but have you ever tried calling into one? “Hello? Can you hear me? Wait I just missed everything you guys said, can you repeat the last 10 minutes?” You will miss important details, feel left out of funny moments, and likely misunderstand your colleagues due to a lack of full context.
6. Staying motivated and productive can be a challenge
Without the buzz of an active office or the over-the-shoulder glances from your manager, you might find it difficult to stay on task all day. It certainly doesn’t help that your bed is right there, and it just looks so warm! Maybe a 10 minute nap wouldn’t hurt… Also doesn’t help that no one will know when you’ve got Facebook or Netflix open on another tab. It’s a slippery slope to say the least.
7. Maintaining work-life balance can also be a challenge
What happens when your dog starts begging for a walk or you get a call from Grandma? You can tell them you’re working, but they know you’re at home. They know you can pick up the phone or run around the block a few times. What happens when you don’t have plans Tuesday night and have an important project to finish by Wednesday? Working remotely is great for people who need a flexible schedule to accommodate pets and kids and other “adulting” things, but where do you draw the line between work and life? What do you write on your timesheet when you worked all day but took like 15 breaks?
8. You will miss out on opportunities for learning, mentorship, and bonding
Working with other people in a shared space comes with a whole host of benefits. You can learn from your peers and your superiors, share ideas and opinions, gain feedback on your work, express grievances and ask for help, and make lifelong friends. Companies with remote teams often host retreats and team bonding activities, but it can be hard to feel like part of a shared culture when you only see your coworkers a few times a year.
9. Traveling while working remotely is not as easy as it sounds
There’s a lot of buzz right now about working remotely while traveling the world, but try to keep in mind the many challenges that accompany this route. First you need to find a job that allows you to work remotely, possibly in different time zones as you travel. You also need to find places to stay everywhere you travel, which can be very expensive. You will also likely need access to high-speed internet wherever you go. And if working 40 hours at home leaves you exhausted by the weekend, think how tired you’ll feel doing a full week of work in a different country. Working remotely can be a great way to see the world without spending your life savings, but it might not be as glamorous or as easy as you imagine.
10. It’s not for everyone
Don’t get me wrong, working remotely can be a really great option. It has allowed me to spend more time with my friends and family, save time and money by not having to commute everyday, and work in pajamas on the days I don’t want to get out of bed. But it’s not for everyone. If you’re someone who needs structure and routine, who appreciates perks and office freebies, and who needs to be around others to stay motivated and feel like part of the team, a remote job might not be a good fit for you. The important thing is to choose a job that makes you happy, challenges you professionally, and leaves you fulfilled at the end of the day.