Being a digital nomad, working from a co-working space, taking your laptop with you onto the beach. The remote working life promises so much.
But does it deliver? And how can you be sure you are up to it?
Here are a few key areas that you might want to consider before taking the plunge.
Work Remotely from any Timezone
So, where in the world are you working from this week? Or more importantly, what timezone are you in? GMT? UTC? ET? PT?
Want to organise a video call for your remote team? Which timezone are you going to base that on? Which one of you is going to stay up late/get up early/set their alarm for 3am to make it? See, the glamorous lifestyle is there for the taking, late nights waiting for a team meeting with other people who are sitting in sunny daylight waiting to speak to you.
Or are they? If you are like me then maybe you also have a habit of reading calendar invites/messages and seeing what you want to see rather than what is written there. This can result in you waiting online for a call at the wrong time, or even (as I have done more than once) the wrong day.
So it’s not just about clock watching, like it may have been when you worked in an office. Can you watch the clock, the calendar and then translate that into 4 different timezones and still make your meeting on time?
I’m pretty sure this is the most glamorous that it gets for me when it comes to remote working. Yes, you too could be sipping cocktails and working from the beach in digital nomad epicentre, Chiang Mai.
But let’s face it, you’re not. I’m sure, like me, the reality of working remotely is a little less glam.
My main co-working space is our dining room table. I can usually carve out about enough space for my laptop and notebook. My surroundings are not a minimalist dream. They are leftovers from this morning’s breakfast and whatever Lego creation the kids are currently working on. And if I’m really lucky, there’s probably a cat, either sat perched on top of a Lego creation, or trying to wedge itself onto my lap, tail in the air, waving around in the foreground of my video call.
There are other options. Coffee shops make a good ‘office away from home.’ Well, they can be, but if the few choices in the town where I live are anything to go by, they might not fit the bill. One has Wifi that kicks you off after an hour and a half, the one with unlimited Wifi is usually busy and the rest have no idea that offering Wifi might be a good business choice.
I’m a Brit so there is another option — the local pub that has free Wifi and an app that brings your food and drink order to your table! What could possibly go wrong there?!
And finally, the best Wifi in town is at the local library. A space where I’ve discovered the truth about the generation gap. It seems to be perfectly acceptable for older people to come into the library and chat to each other. I get that it’s a place for community after all. However, if anyone under the age of retirement speaks or has an electronic device that they haven’t put on silent then it’s glares all round from the older generation — how dare they?!
Be a digital nomad they said. Dress in your PJs all day they said.
This one quickly goes from win/win to win/no win. Yes, you could dress in your PJs all day. Score. But see the above note about video calls. Are they PJs that will look acceptable on your next Zoom call?
And it isn’t just your PJ top that needs to be up to scratch. You will definitely get someone – parcel delivery, concerned neighbour, random stranger – turn up on your doorstep after midday and, when you open the door, look at you like you grew a second head because you are still in your PJs.
And if you do get dressed? Well, the advice blogs would have you believe that’s a great thing. Dress for the job you want they say, and don’t let anything like remote working get in the way of that. Get up and get dressed just like you would for the office.
Except most of the things that you do during the day as a remote worker don’t really need the same level of smart casual/smasual (I can’t believe I actually just typed that word into a blog, I don’t know who I am any more) that is required in an office. Full office outfitting for a quick pop to the shops for some biscuits, which along with any other snack are the remote worker’s nemesis, just isn’t required.
And finally, dressing to be outdoors just leads to a far greater temptation to leave your desk and the house. Which can only lead to bad things and brings us on to…
Living the remote working dream. Schedule work around your life. Take that morning yoga class, go to the cinema of an afternoon.
But what about the flipside of this? Yes, we’d all love to go to the cinema in the afternoon but then you’re stuck working of an evening when everyone else is out doing something fun. Without you. Outside of ‘normal’ working hours you find that everyone else is not working and is out enjoying themselves and posting it all gleefully on social media. That’s not the time anyone really wants to work. Is that afternoon cinema trip seeming like such a good idea now?
The real pitfall here is that we’ve constructed a situation where we want to do less work during working hours and not make it up at any other time. That’s just a part-time job. Or, taken to extremes, retirement.
Plus, if it’s not your inner voice talking you out of doing work and into daytime leisure activities, it’s everyone else you know who knows that you ‘work remotely.’ To them that just means ‘is around during the day.’ The invites to lunch, and other day time activities start to stack up. I’ve been asked to babysit because ‘you’re around during the day.’ I’m not sure that turning up to someone’s place of work to hand over a baby for a couple of hours during the day because ‘well, you’re nearby’ is quite acceptable, but with this remote working, you’ve got all these extra hours that have magically appeared when you decided to stop going in to an office every day.
So, what do you think? Have you got what it takes to be a remote worker?