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What it’s really like to work remotely

The concept of working remotely, or working from home, sounds wonderful. And it can be, but it’s not always about answering emails in your pajamas (although that definitely is a perk).

People (including you) think you’re never not on call

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If you’re not clear about setting boundaries from the get-go, it can be hard to get people to understand that you can’t always be available at a moments notice. This is especially difficult to work out if you don’t have set office hours, and in my experience, leads to late-night texts and last-second “Can you do this ASAP” emails.

I always strive to show my supervisors that I’m a dedicated, ambitious employee. I want to show people that they made a good decision in hiring me. While this is not an inherent issue, it’s easy to let that takeover. I’ve been known to drop everything I’m doing in order to respond to an email that pops up on my phone, which isn’t fair to myself or my employer. Since I started working remotely, I have learned to be more intentional about when and where I respond to work stuff.

You make your own schedule

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This one is a pro and a con in itself. On the one hand, I get to fulfill my responsibilities on my own time. So if I’d rather go out for dinner on a Friday night and finish drafting social media content after my stomach is full of spaghetti, I can. On the other hand, if I’m not careful about setting aside adequate time to fulfill those responsibilities, I can get overwhelmed.

Time management is extremely important in any job, but it’s particularly difficult to keep your time when you’re not in an office with a supervisor nearby. As a result, I feel like I have great time management skills, which will certainly translate into any future roles I take on. Working from home does not mean you’re without deadlines – it simply means that sometimes you’re the one setting them. My supervisors expect me to be open and honest about when I can accomplish a task, so it’s super important that I keep track of everything I have going on.

Your ability to focus is constantly tested

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Some days, I can sit down on the couch, put on a jazz playlist and knock out a few hours of work easily. Other days, I feel powerless against distractions. Maybe the cat keeps doing something weird. Maybe there’s loud machinery operating outside. Or maybe my phone keeps magically ending up in my hands with Twitter open (how does that happen?). In any case, it can be hard to hold myself accountable and make myself do the work I set out to do when there’s a hundred possible distractions around. I have to know when an environment is not productive and also understand that if I’m working distractedly, it’s not good work.

Not everything is done from home, either. A lot of times, I’ll be asked to do something in between classes on campus or whenever I am out and about. It’s up to me to get stuff done regardless of what is happening around me.

You know that your boss and co-workers trust you

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One of the best things about working remotely is knowing that you wouldn’t have the flexibility to work from home if you weren’t good at what you do. In my case, I have originated every remote position I’ve had, so my bosses were not familiar with managing a remote employee. Because a lot of what I do is self-managed, I know that my bosses trust me and understand my capabilities.

While there are definitely some unique challenges to these types of roles, I really enjoy working from home. It has improved my time management and communication skills, and allowed me to take a greater sense of ownership in what I do.

 

 

 

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