Working from home has a seemingly endless array of perks (hello flexible schedule, goodbye dress code!) but no matter how much you know you’d enjoy attending virtual meetings in your PJs or having more control over your schedule, working remotely does pose some challenges, too.
There may be times when you feel isolated from the rest of your co-workers or when you won’t be able to find the motivation to be productive. The truth is, as great as working from home sounds, it’s not for everyone.
Determining whether a remote job is right for you will depend on your unique work style and preferences. To start, ask yourself these five questions.
Are You Self-Disciplined?
One of the great things about working from home is that no one is looking over your shoulder. While that may sound absolutely wonderful, some people find having their boss or colleagues nearby to be very motivating. Think about it this way: will you be able to resist the urge to catch up on your grocery shopping, reorganize the kids’ closets, or watch that extra hour of the Today Show (Kathy Lee and Hoda are a good time, I get it) when you’re in the middle of your workday?
The flexibility that comes with working remotely is a great perk – and if you’re self-disciplined, you’ll probably be able to find a way to get all your work done *and* find time to pick up the house or catch up on that huge pile of laundry. But, if you know that you have a tendency to procrastinate or are easily distracted, working remotely may prove to be a serious challenge to your performance and productivity.
Can You Be Your Own Advocate?
When you aren’t constantly in your manager’s line of vision, you may not always be at the top of her mind when she’s deciding who she should assign that awesome new project. To counter the out of sight, out of mind effect, you’ll need to be proactive about communicating your progress and availability or soliciting feedback proactively. In other words, are you able to be a strong advocate for yourself?
Being less visible also makes it harder for your boss to evaluate your performance. If she’s not seeing you in action each and every day, how will she know the full extent of your contributions? Feeling empowered to proactively highlight your achievements, volunteer for new opportunities and share your ideas will help to provide your manager with a more well-rounded understanding of your total value.
Are You Comfortable Being Alone All Day?
Working from home can get a little lonely. When you’re at the office, it’s easy to stop by your co-worker’s desk for a quick chat or to schedule an impromptu strategy meeting with your team. Working virtually makes these interactions, well, virtually impossible. You won’t always be able to bounce an idea off your manager, vent about a rude client to a colleague, or grab a quick bite to eat at your favorite café with your work bestie anymore.
Do You Have a Proper Workspace?
Your couch doesn’t count (trust me, I’ve tried).
A productive workspace will probably look a little different for everyone, but yours should at least meet a few basic criteria. First, do you have a quiet place to work where you’ll be able to avoid distractions? Noisy kids, a barking dog, or a direct line of sight to the pile of unwashed dishes in your kitchen could prove to be a real hindrance to your productivity.
Next, are you able to designate an area in your home that will be dedicated exclusively to work? Having a spot that you’ll use solely for actual work will help you to stay focused and to keep your desk (or kitchen table or TV tray) organized.
Lastly, do you have all the equipment you need? Your employer may provide you with a laptop, phone, etc., but if they don’t, you’ll want to make sure you have a dependable computer, internet connection and phone line. An unreliable laptop or a shaky WiFi signal can seriously torpedo your efficiency.
Are You a Strong Digital Communicator?
You’re not going to be bumping into your boss at the cappuccino machine or eating lunch with your co-workers every day, which means you’re going to have to rely much more heavily on e-mail and chat to stay connected. If the thought of being consistently available on your company’s chat platform, exchanging regular texts with your boss or consistently monitoring and responding to e-mail makes you cringe, working from home may not be your most ideal set up. Like it or not, maintaining a regular digital presence will likely be an essential component of most virtual jobs.
If you know you’re the type of person who is easily distracted, thrives on regular interaction with co-workers, or craves consistent, real-time feedback from your boss, a remote job may not be the best fit for you. But, if you’re an independent operator who is comfortable going without human contact for hours on end, loves e-mail and lives by a detailed to-do list, you may be an ideal virtual employee.
Working in an office or out of your home will each come with its own unique set of perks and challenges, so deciding whether or not to pursue a virtual role will ultimately depend on your individual work style.
Jaclyn Westlake is a career advice columnist, creator of the Job Hopper's Job Search Strategy Guide and founder of The Job Hop. With more than ten years of experience in the recruiting and human resources space, she is passionate about empowering job seekers to achieve their career goals. She's also particularly fond of coffee, every dog in the world, and the city of San Francisco.
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