It pretty much goes without saying that working remotely is a sweet deal. You have more flexibility and more independence than a traditional employee. You don’t have to worry about commuting. You don’t even have to put on pants! And, of course, you can work from anywhere in the world with a wi-fi connection.
But while remote work looks glamorous from the outside, there are actually a lot of unseen drawbacks to consider. It definitely isn’t always as easy or fun as you might think. I want those of you who are interested in this lifestyle to know what you’re getting yourselves into! So I’m sharing a few things you need to know about working remotely.
If You’re Not a Self-Starter, You’re Gonna Have a Bad Time
Remote work is not for everyone. If you thrive on routine and structure, are easily distracted, find it difficult to prioritise tasks, or need a lot of direction to get work done — this type of role might not be for you.
It can honestly be hard to feel like working remotely is a “real” job sometimes. Working from a beach club in Bali sounds awesome, but it can be easy to forget that you’re there to, you know, work. It’s important to treat working remotely like a regular job, and to be as focused and productive as you would be in an office.
For me, this means sticking to a consistent schedule, setting up a dedicated workspace, not allowing any distractions like background Netflix, and avoiding multitasking.
You Can End Up Working Too Hard
It’s equally easy to fall into the trap of working yourself into the ground, out of fear of being (or looking) unproductive. When the lines between work life and home life are blurred, it can be hard to set your workload aside.
There is nothing wrong with taking breaks and resetting – in fact, regular breaks are actually proven to increase productivity! Managing your own schedule is all about balance, and learning to optimise your schedule for when you’re most productive.
I became so much more productive once I realised that I earn my breaks just like my colleagues back at the office, and I have every right to step back from work and let home just be home.
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It Can Be Really, Really Lonely
Working remotely sounds glamorous, but it can actually be really depressing and lonely. Going from a work environment full of people to one where you literally might not talk to another human all day can be very jarring.
You don’t realise how much of your workday consists of catching up with colleagues, banter in the kitchen, and chatting over a coffee – until it’s gone. I personally find the “work” part of remote work to be horribly isolating.
You need to work hard to combat this before you get sucked into a giant, antisocial black hole. Schedule regular coffee dates or workouts with friends. Work at a cafe a couple times a week instead of working from home. Better yet, join a co-working space.
Do whatever you can to get yourself out of the house at least a couple of times a day, doing something active that involves interacting with other people.
Vacation is Also… Not Vacation
Remote work is awesome because it allows you to travel the world. But it also severely limits your ability to fully take advantage of, and experience, the new places that you’re in.
A good chunk of your day is devoted to work — and it can be really lame spending most of your time in a new country sitting behind a computer (even if it’s at a really cool café). This is why so many digital nomads advocate for slow travel.
I travel way more than anyone else I know, but I also feel like my trips probably aren’t as fulfilling. I constantly have to reject invitations and turn down cool opportunities. When other people are out socialising, making friends, and exploring, I’m behind my computer.
A lot of the time I do feel like I’ve missed out on properly experiencing a country – I always leave wishing I’d been able to do and see more.
You Are Seriously Tied to Your Wi-Fi Connection
Wi-fi is the most limiting factor when working remotely. It is your lifeline. Without it you are utterly f*cked. This prevents you from traveling to more remote destinations, and can be a MASSIVE stressor even if you’re not.
If your hostel or hotel wi-fi goes down, it’s literally panic-inducing. You need a plan B. You have to purchase local SIM cards constantly so that you can use your phone as a hotspot if you need to. You basically have to plan your entire trips around a working, high-speed internet connection.
Working From Your Bed is Not Actually Fun
When your bed is your office, slowly morphing into a lazy slob becomes dangerously easy. Instead of waking up early, you end up setting your alarm for 5 minutes before you start work, groggily answering emails, then spending all day curled in your blankets just because you can.
The novelty wears off, and lazy bed days quickly go from a cosy luxury to a lethargic, pathetic lifestyle.
You need to fight these tendencies before they even begin. Make a dedicated workspace that isn’t your bed (even it’s just your couch or kitchen table). Join a coworking space if it’s within your budget, or just go to the library!
Just don’t get into the habit of sitting in your bed all day – it’s super depressing and super unhealthy.
You May Need to Make Some Career Sacrifices
Many companies that hire remote talent have less rigid company structures and policies. In many ways this flexibility is awesome. But when it comes to communication, and staying informed about business decisions, remote workers often get totally neglected.
I couldn’t tell you how many times some sweeping policy change has been implemented and everyone just… forgot to tell me. I have to be proactive to stay in the loop. Remote work can be very freaking remote sometimes.
Because of this disconnect, it can be hard to progress professionally. It’s more difficult to integrate with the team and to make your voice heard. I personally took a pay cut and basically scrapped my career ambitions to start working remote. I know I’ll be passed over for promotions and raises because I’m not putting in 110% anymore, and I’m okay with that because I’m doing what I love.
You Need to be Considerate When Discussing Your Job with Others
I really enjoy my new lifestyle and sometimes I forget that not everyone has the same opportunities. What for me feels like sharing my excitement about an upcoming trip or amazing experience can sometimes come off as flaunting my privilege.
Often I come out of an interaction with friends or coworkers feeling like I was completely tone-deaf. At this point in my life jetting off to Egypt or Tokyo is about as standard as going to the beach on the weekend, and sometimes I forget that my comments about travel can seem entitled and flippant to people who can’t travel the way I do.
It’s important to strike a balance between honesty and tact when discussing working remotely. Yes, it is a pretty f*cking sweet deal. But it’s also an opportunity that not everyone gets to have, and it’s important to be cognisant of that. I’m still learning how to do this, with varying degrees of success.
You Will Never, EVER Want to Go Back to a Desk Job
Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty likely that after working remotely the thought of returning to a desk job will actually make you want to die. It’s unimaginable to give up the independence and the freedom to live your life however you want.
This is both emboldening and terrifying, because you always have to look forward and try to plan out how to sustain this work situation and this lifestyle forever.
I have had the absolute best year of my life working online. I’ve visited nearly twenty (!!!) countries, experienced so many amazing things, and met so many incredible people. I’m finally living the life of my dreams and this year has cemented for me that I was born to do this. It terrifies me to think about having to give it up.
So I’ve decided that’s not an option and I’ll just have to find a way to make this lifestyle permanent. I’ll make it happen, and I’m sure you can too!
I hope this shed some light on what it’s like to work remotely. I’m starting a series on remote work now that I’m back to writing (sorry for the long hiatus — it’s been a busy couple of months, you’ll hear all about it soon!!), so keep your eyes peeled this week for another post about landing your first remote job!