5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Remote
While a record number of American workers went virtual at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the truth is that remote work has been on a steady rise for more than a decade. A Gartner survey found that, in the future, 80% of companies plan to allow employees to continue working remotely and nearly half are considering allowing full-time remote status post-pandemic.
With millions of Americans making the move, remote work seems like a no-brainer. But is a full-time remote schedule really the right fit for you?
Here are five questions to ask yourself before deciding if working remotely is right for you.
1. Am I intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?
When you report to an office, your comings and goings are visible to your coworkers. They know if you’re late, if you’re spending the day chatting on the phone with your mom, and if you take two-hour lunch breaks. When you’re remote, though, no one is watching. Sure, you have meetings sprinkled throughout the day, but what you do before and after those meetings is mainly independent.
To be successful in remote work, you must hold yourself accountable to the same productivity and scheduling standards you would if there were witnesses. For many people, the trust and autonomy that comes with remote work encourages them to push themselves to a new level and find greater success and fulfillment in their careers.
2. How well can I compartmentalize?
Imagine this: you’re in deep work mode, wholly absorbed in manipulating a spreadsheet for a report that’s been looming over you for days. You’re focused on the minute details when the washing machine buzzes. Do you break your concentration or save the laundry for later?
Your response in this scenario is a pretty good indicator of how well you can compartmentalize your work life and home life. A perk of being remote is that you can let the dog out and grab a snack from the kitchen whenever you want, but you must be able to resist the siren call of neglected chores during the workday.
Similarly, you also need to be able to shift gears at the end of the workday. When your work life and home life occupy the same physical space, it’s easy for work to bleed over into your evenings. To successfully balance remote work and a healthy work / life balance, you’ll need to find out what hours your company expects you to put in and stick to those. Many remote workers manage this need to separate work and home by taking a walk at the beginning and end of their day to mark the transition.
3. Do I have the confidence to advocate for myself?
As a remote worker, you are often your best – and often only – advocate. If you don’t reach out to your coworkers proactively, you’ll miss opportunities for professional advice and mentorship. When you have a quick question in an office, it’s easy to grab someone on their way back from the bathroom. As a remote employee, those casual encounters don’t happen.
Asking yourself whether you have the confidence to book time on a colleague’s calendar or request regular meetings with your boss can help you decide if remote work is right for you.
The necessity of scheduling meetings often has the hidden benefit of increasing your interactions with your boss(es), who may be unavailable for casual encounters at the office. You need these meetings because you’re remote, but they’re also a golden opportunity to share what you’re working on and get advice.
4. How important are my work friendships?
Some people chat with workers between meetings in an office while others leave their headphones on all day to avoid interruptions. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
One risk you run as a remote employee is spending the entire day (or days!) alone in your house talking to your cat. Work friendships are an essential part of many people’s social lives. These friendships can be hard to maintain when you’re not regularly interacting in the office and can’t easily get together after hours. Of course, if you don’t rely on your job for socialization, you may find that you’re more effective and efficient working alone at home.
5. Where am I at in my career?
Young employees entering the workforce for the first time have lots to learn in an office environment. From picking up on nuances like etiquette and expectations to learning the ropes on core job functions, extra exposure to more experienced colleagues goes a long way. These things are harder to get when you’re working remotely (though not impossible, with intentional meeting scheduling and open lines of communication).
On the other hand, if you’ve been working in the same field for a while now and are comfortable with your tasks and company expectations, the transition to remote work can be pretty seamless. You’ll still want to make sure you’re in regular communication with colleagues, but you can likely keep rolling along on your own from afar.
There is no magic ball for knowing if you’ll be happy and successful working remotely, but we hope these questions give you a starting point for considering your options.
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