Is Working from Home for You?
“It’s gotta be amazing to sit in your p.j.s, on the couch, watching TV while you work,” a colleague said to me during a phone conference.
My teammate/supervisor corrected our colleague, “She never does that.”
Yeah. No. He’s right — he knows: I never do that.
Not even when I could do that.
Not even when I really, really, really want to do that.
Most of us know ourselves well-enough to know what is feasible for us and what is just an impending disaster. But, sometimes, the idea — that little glee-filled bird tweeting on your shoulder, is louder than what we know about ourselves and, well, hell, we just have to try it.
Some friends and colleagues who’ve tried working from home found it just wasn’t something they could do — they even ask me how on earth I do it? Others, like me, find it liberating, like I thought it would be, and would rather get daily root canals than switch back to working in an actual office — especially the torture of an open workspace.
So, is working from home right for you?
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know if you’re a brain surgeon you likely can’t work from home; you know if the work you do can be done from home. So, if your current job offers the flexibility of working from home OR if you find a new remote job, there are some other questions you might want to ask yourself before you make the switch.
Before You Work from Home, Check Yourself
How much human interaction do you need?
Not just talking on the phone. The in-person, coffee-break, Kai-brought-in-that-kick-ass-rum-cake, let’s-cover-Jay’s-cube-in-plastic-wrap, shooting-the-shit interactions. This will diminish tremendously when you’re not in an actual on-site workspace. Maybe you can find a neighbor, or maybe you live in a building with a cool maintenance crew, who can fill in for these workplace highlights, but it will be different.
If you’re a by-the-book extrovert: working from home may cause you misery and you may end up on the couch, in your p.j.’s streaming The Office and writing Office fan-fic to manage your lack of interaction. Or at least the alone-time may drive you to work from a coffee shop or bar.
As a-mostly-by-the-book introvert , (do not confuse me with ‘shy’; I just lose a LOT of energy when with groups of people) the abundance of human interaction that exists in most workplaces actually is counterproductive for me; I still get a lot done, but it’s exhausting and I burn out quickly. In the office, I struggled to find quiet spaces, often I hid in the bathroom just to get my bearings, looked forward to my colleagues calling out or having vacation days (not because I didn’t like them but because I loved the space to think), and, at times, had to bite my tongue in fear that I’d yell, ‘for the LOVE of god, would everyone shut up!?,’.
Do you prefer in-person meetings?
If you need the face-to-face interaction in business dealings — where you are able to read the quiet moments, see a person’s direct facial reaction, feel the ‘room’, depending on where you’re remotely located versus where your office is located, this may not be feasible. Getting used to relying on phone calls, Facetime, IMing, texting, and other electronic forms of conversation can be tough to adjust to, if you aren’t already.
Are most of your friends your co-workers?
If your private life is significantly connected to your work life, the shift from the business space to working from home will likely impact both arenas. The distance of not being in the shared workspace can impact how you interact — creating more intellectual distance and less shared experiences. This all depends on your relationships, of course. The distance could help strengthen the relationship — build it beyond the workday rigamarole.
Or the space could strain your relationship — if work and the daily monotony of workplace banter and gossip are the crux of your ties to these friends, the friendships could fizzle (which is probably not a bad thing).
Do you have strong working relationships with your colleagues/team? Are you able to build relationships without the benefit of in-person connection?
Work relationships are fairly fundamental to our ability to succeed at our jobs. They can help to strengthen our abilities and, on the other hand, they can bring out the worst in us.
If you’re already in a job and considering taking an option to work from home, be aware that any uncertainties you may have within your work relationships may become magnified. Communication dysfunctions are the most apparent in the work from home scenario. You’ll may begin to feel out of the loop, unsuccessful, and alone. And, yes, if you have a nemesis at work who stays office-based, they could try to undermine you. Or not.
If you’re considering a new, remote job, you will be building relationships, from the ground up, with very little in-person interaction. The initial meetings, occasionally conferences, and other in-person events have to be bolstered by solid tele/electronic communication.
What’s your working style?
There is a lot of freedom when no one is around to check in on what exactly you’re doing on your computer. If you are an independent worker, a good communicator, well-skilled at problem solving, and a self-starter who actually wants to do the work you do, you can do this.
If, on the other hand, you need micro-management, solve problems better with a group, don’t really care too much about your work, or are more motivated best by the collegial energy of the team, you will likely plummet — hard and fast — working remotely.
If you need constant reassurance that you are a valuable and necessary team member, working from home will really challenge your sense of worth (which may spawn personal growth, so…kudos!).
What is your personality type?
Autonomous and emotionally-stable workers are more likely to be successful in a work from home scenario. We all doubt our abilities at times, but you have to be more consistently confident in your abilities and more capable to do the work on your own — you can’t run to anyone’s office for assistance.
If you’re made of steel or just simply don’t give a crap, this may not apply to you: but, working remotely, you’ll need to adjust to the fact that you’re not in the office reaping any immediate ‘rewards’; the kudos and way to gos have to come from yourself (insert Anthony Michael Hall punching himself in the arm in The Breakfast Club here). If you need constant reassurance that you are a valuable and necessary team member, working from home will really challenge your sense of worth (which may spawn personal growth, so…kudos — give yourself that well-deserved punch in the arm!).
Think this is right for you? Maybe check out a few ideas on how to make working from home work for real.