When I tell people I work from home, they’re often jealous. Having worked in an office for years, I get it. But there are some things about working remotely that do actually suck.
Of course there are some sweet, sweet perks to working remotely that I will summarize Here: no commute, flexible eating schedule, pajamas acceptable, fewer eyes staring at you, personal toilet (roommates excepted).
Much to my surprise and my roommates’ consternation, I have somehow managed to work from home for an entire year. There are a lot of upsides to leading a laissez-faire life of couch-writing. I never have to commute, which is a true blessing, considering how often all the New York City subways experience system wide meltdowns during rush hour. I rarely put on real pants. I can make doctor’s appointments in the middle of the day, or at least I could if I had health insurance that covered a doctor’s appointment.
But I haven’t necessarily chosen this life for myself; for many jobs that involve a computer, especially in freelance, going into the office isn’t even an option. And there are positive things about working in an office that simply aren’t available to remote workers. In a Twitter thread on the pros and cons of both set ups, editorial director Sean Blanda outlined pretty succinctly what can suck about working from home that you wouldn’t get if you’ve never done it full-time.
Find opportunities to chit-chat
Blanda comments that in real life, small talk is often discouraged when people are working. But if you’re in an office, small talk still happens: There are lunch breaks and other opportunities to chat with each other. That’s why the phrase “water cooler talk” exists — people want to know who they are working with! That’s hard when you’re nowhere near the actual water cooler.
To deal with the feeling that I’m being excluded from key getting-to-know-you time, I’ve often found myself chatting a lot in Slack. This can be frustrating for your boss, but other people working remotely are usually happy to respond. Relying on the communication system you use for work is a good solution to that sense of disconnect. Set up private smaller chat rooms so you don’t clog the main feed. I’ve been in company Slacks with rooms for people to talk about everything from beauty products to Riverdale.
Feel free to be nosy
When you work remotely and aren’t in a managerial position, it can be hard to stay in touch with what other people are working on. You don’t have the clues and context you pick up from being in the office with your co-workers. You’re often not included in casual meetings or brainstorms, as Blanda says. So what should you do? Be nosy as hell!
6 - ????Speaking of vibes, if you don’t ask, you’ll have no idea what other people are working on. NO. IDEA.
There’s no walking by and seeing someone’s screen. Or seeing that a particular department looks stressed out today.
✋ASK! And lurk in Slack channels.
— ❡❡❡ Sean Blanda ❡❡❡ (@SeanBlanda) January 30, 2019
Ask what’s going on—either a trusted co-worker, or your superior. It’s not crazy to ask for updates or private conversations so you can stay abreast of any news. And as Blanda says, lurking in channels where everyone is chatting may help you glean more info on what exactly you should be asking about.
Be your own cheerleader
I’ve worked many places where I don’t hear from anyone except when I’ve messed up. We’re not children, and should be able to operate without getting constantly gassed up by our superiors. It’s just that when you work remotely, you’re not also having friendly encounters with your boss, you’re not getting the offhand “good job” every once in a while, and when you receive a complaint, it’s in text form. That can make it hard to read tone and it gets easy to believe your boss hates you. This is bad for morale.
4 - ✊You’ll need a lot of quiet self confidence. You won’t get the positive reenforcement you'd normally rely on from body language and the “vibe” from being in an office.
— ❡❡❡ Sean Blanda ❡❡❡ (@SeanBlanda) January 30, 2019
It can also hurt your chances when it comes time for promotions and raises, because of the out of sight/out of mind dynamic. One way to help is to actively keep track of your accomplishments, whatever those metrics are. That way, you know why you deserve to be considered as seriously as your peers in the office, and can advocate for yourself.
It’s also not unreasonable to ask your supervisors for feedback every once in a while. You don’t want to be a nuisance, but checking in at regular intervals is a good way to be sure you’re on track — and remembered.
Know when your work day ends
When you work from home, the line between work and home life gets fuzzy. This is especially true if you work in different time zones; Blanda says it becomes “easy to feel a low level of stress” when you’re not looking at your email or Slack, because it creates the sensation you’re “missing something.” I‘ve also often found myself working outside of my normal hours on things, which makes it seem like the work day doesn’t end.
Make sure to set boundaries for yourself, and have a clear cut moment that marks the “end of the day.” I like to go for a walk around the block and then make myself a cup of coffee, with my computer closed. If you have a boss that tends to message you like you’re on call, start to respond by thanking them, and saying you will look at it “tomorrow” or whenever normal business hours commence.
Reach out to other people
Working remotely can be lonely as hell. Some people are not really into socialising, so it’s perfect for them. For me, working from home all day can really get me down if I don’t force myself to go out and talk to another human. Make sure you set up time with friends, take group exercise classes, explore hobbies with a social component, or join a co-working space so you have someplace to go to work away from your bedroom. There’s no reason to become a hermit just because you work where you sleep.
Of course, after an hour on the train during rush hour, never seeing another human again probably sounds pretty good.