Working remotely is a goal for many, but it comes with challenges that can be tricky to navigate – especially if you’re new to the game. Luckily, here at Remotise we’ve been there and done that, and now we’re here to help.
While every job has its perks and its pitfalls, the bottom line is that remote working provides a sense of freedom and flexibility that most people can only dream of. Here are five of the scariest challenges remote workers face, and our advice for how to handle them.
It’s true that working remotely can be isolating, and if you’re new to remote work it’s normal to worry about being lonely. But it doesn’t have to be this way – and in fact, ensuring it isn’t is now easier than ever. The rise of remote working has led to an increase in online communities, coworking spaces, digital nomad groups, and all manner of communities where you can link up, either face-to-face or online.
A positive way of looking at this is to recognize how your independence will flourish and thrive, instead of focusing on fleeting feelings of solitude. You’ll learn to rely on yourself in a way many people never get a chance to: you set the rules, you work when you want and where you want.
Just because you’re flying solo, it doesn’t mean you’re not still a team player. If you want to feel more connected to your team members, take matters into your own hands and suggest more communication, even if it’s purely social. Remember that you make your own rules – and this is a positive, not a negative, so feel empowered by it!
Image by Selene Nelson
Another aspect of remote work that can be hard to navigate is that you’re always connected. Whereas onsite workers can saunter out the office and physically leave work behind for the night, the same isn’t true for remote workers.
Switching off is even harder when you have clients all around the world, which many remote workers do; you might be just settling down to Netflix and a glass of wine when a flurry of urgent emails arrive from the other side of the world. So how do you get around this?
Once again, as a remote worker, remember that you set your own rules (within reason!), so you need to set your own boundaries. Maybe start by switching your phone on airplane mode after 8pm, or turn your email onto ‘Do not disturb’. It’s a good idea to give your teammates a way of reaching you if there really is an urgent matter, but these should be for emergencies.
Never forget the importance of switching off and recharging. When your office also happens to be your home, it’s more vital than ever to find balance. It may take time to figure out what works, but keep your health and well-being a top priority.
Not having enough work
Not having enough work isn’t a concern that affects all remote workers – but it does affect a lot. This basically comes down to whether you’re freelance or not. If you work remotely but have a full-time, permanent job, you won’t have this worry, but because such a large proportion of remote workers are freelance, it’s a legitimate concern for many.
But don’t forget that it takes time to build up regular work. Even the best freelancers have dry spells, and while it can be scary, try to enjoy your downtime while you have it; next month you could be flat out!
The nature of freelancing is unpredictable and that’s something you should try to embrace… but if you feel strongly that you won’t be able to handle the ‘feast or famine’ nature of the job, listen to your gut. Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean remote work isn’t for you.
There are countless full-time remote positions available all around the world, so if you need that security, just tailor your search for full-time jobs, and boom – problem solved!
Not being able to advance
Just as many budding remote workers worry about not sourcing enough work, they also worry that their opportunities for advancement will be stifled. Many studies do suggest that the more visible you are at work, the more chances you have of a promotion, a raise, or even basic recognition.
But there’s absolutely no reason why remote work should hold you back – and the very fact that you’re not tethered to a single organisation means you’re better able to explore other opportunities. If you’re bouncing from client to client with no stability and no repeat referrals, then this fear might be warranted, but again this only applies if you’re freelance.
Further, the idea that career advancement doesn’t exist for freelance remote workers is totally unfounded. The more successful you are, the higher you can raise your rates, and the more picky you can be with the projects you take on. You’ll have the ability to take on a full-time remote position, if you so wish, or continue to climb the ladder of a variety of remote positions.
When you work remotely, the world really is your oyster.
Not communicating enough
In a way this last challenge is linked to the first – isolation – but it affects your actual work rather than your state of mind. Working remotely, particularly when your colleagues are dispersed around the world, can mean you just don’t enjoy the same regular contact and communication as office-based workers.
If you want to ask a question or get important feedback, you can’t just pop across the office and ask someone to have a look. Then there’s the panic of doing something wrong and not being able to find anyone to help immediately. But there’s still no need to worry.
Bear in mind that these are normal issues that come with working remotely. It’s par for the course that sometimes communication will be delayed – and most people who work remotely know this and understand it.
Nowadays, as long as you have a wifi connection and a work collaboration tool, it really isn’t hard to stay on the same page as your teammates, no matter where you are. If you’re starting out and feel you need a little more guidance to begin with, don’t be afraid to communicate that to your colleagues.