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Working Remotely

Not long ago, a surprisingly awkward topic. Some argue it still is, but I’d say less so.

It’s not hard to imagine the awkwardness comes from how humans have traditionally gone about their work. From the early ages, almost all kinds of professions, be it building, forging, trading, etc., required the worker to be present at a certain place to be able to carry out their job.

Even with today’s technology there are tasks that cannot be accomplished from distance – certain medical procedures come to mind. But it is inexcusable to only consider working remotely as an option when it becomes the only one. We had to go through the COVID-19 pandemic to make remote work a viable option. That makes you think hard about the real reasons why companies didn’t allow that before.

I’m lucky to have been working remotely full-time for more than 3 years now. And although I’m not the expert on the topic, I’m going to list some common doubts people have about working remotely, and my opinion on each.

Remote work is not for everyone.

Yeah, and 9 to 5 jobs are not for everyone. This isn’t really a valid argument; it’s a bit like saying the beach is not for everyone. If you don’t like it, that doesn’t mean nobody should have the option to work remotely even if they want to. But I implore you to read on…

It’s too hard to stop working

At first, it’s understandable to have some difficulty disconnecting from work when working remotely. After all, it’s a whole new way of doing your job. In an office, you see your colleagues getting off their chairs, heading towards the exit as soon as the clock hits 5. The same might happen remotely, e.g. you might see your colleagues going offline on Slack, but it’s much less obvious.

My advice is to set a rigid schedule for yourself in the first few weeks, especially if you’re suffering from the impostor syndrome. Once you get the hang of it, you can start experimenting with different schedules, depending on what your day looks like. It’s also totally okay to keep the rigid schedule. I know a lot of people that treat their remote job as a 9 to 5, and it works flawlessly for them.

Remote work requires too much discipline

This is the opposite of the issue above, but is raised just as often. Just goes to show you that there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to humans. Now, doesn’t working from an office require discipline as well? I’d argue working from an office requires even more discipline: what’s stopping you from lurking on Reddit for a good 8 hours, and then calling it a day? Heck, perhaps you are slacking off at the office as we speak.

Don’t get me wrong, procrastination is a real problem, but it’s usually a condition that hides deeper issues than just “I need to work from an office”, or “I need to work from wherever I want”.

It gets too lonely sometimes

That is true. We humans are social beings, and we crave social interaction. Many companies have found creative ways of creating “water cooler” moments, such as a #watercooler channel on Slack, or informal channels such as #cat, where people can pay their cat tax (here’s mine).

Needless to say, the above is not enough. But limiting your friendships to just your colleagues is not healthy, no matter how much time you spend at the office. That’s why I encourage you to meet new friends, perhaps by getting into new hobbies, or joining a group or class that interests you, etc.

I can’t work where I eat and sleep

I actually had a friend say this to me, when I asked him about his experience working remotely during the second week of the coronavirus lockdown. The feeling comes from what is perhaps the biggest misconception about remote work. Working remotely does not mean you should work from your couch, your bed, or your carpet – though it can be fun sometimes.

You need to have a special place somewhere in your home that you call “your office”. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown office. Even if it’s a tiny corner somewhere in your bedroom, having a special place where work happens might help you get in the headspace you need to be in.

What may come as even more of a surprise is that your office doesn’t even have to be in your home. You could get a membership at a co-working space near you, if that’s more your style.

Personally, my usual work day is split between working from my home office, and working from my favorite coffee shop. You see, remote work is not about “working from home”. It’s about having the freedom to work from wherever you feel like. Whether that’s the couch, your local coffee shop, or your own desk at a co-working space, that’s up to you.

The time is long overdue for remote work to become the new normal. With governments working remotely, and amazingly remote surgery being a thing, what’s stopping your company from adopting remote work?