The remote work speech has shifted gears. Years ago, it was the ‘’remote work is the future’’ catchy phrase all over the internet. Nowadays, the pandemic has accelerated the growth of remote workers, and companies who weren’t used to this working structure had no other option than to implement it. The remote work expectation vs. reality has knocked the doors for many, who are now realizing that being a remote worker isn’t about working in pj’s or about showering at 2 pm.
How is working remotely really like?
Let’s check out the top remote work gaps on expectations that telecommuters experience when starting this virtual journey:
Top 5 Remote Work Misconceptions
Expectation #1: Netflix and Pajamas
Working remotely is amazing. You have no schedule, no annoying coworkers to deal with, and the best part is that your boss is not around! Feel like catching up with your fav show on Netflix? Why not! And to level things up, why not wearing your pajamas if no one is watching? Especially during those days where you sleep till late, and taking a shower and changing seems like it will take you too much time.
The ugly truth is that working remotely requires a lot of discipline. As in the office, you need to organize yourself to get things done. So although you have the possibility of watching Netflix and laying on the couch 24/7 if you want to succeed, you’ll know doing this is impossible.
As for the pj’s part, when the pandemic started, many remote newbies were excited to work on pajamas. Many memes around Twitter and Instagram involved people working on PJs and suddenly changing for Zoom meetings quickly, pretty much as fast as Peter Parker transforms into Spiderman. However, psychologically speaking, getting dressed for work impacts our productivity.
Psychologists suggest that getting dressed in work clothes helps ensure that you will do your job as if you were at the office because it changes your mindset, psychological pace, and focus.
Expectation #2: Loneliness
Working from home means that you’ll not be seeing your coworkers anymore. No more coffee breaks or beer pong Fridays! This means that you’ll not be talking to anybody, and eventually, you might feel lonely and unmotivated.
One of the most common beliefs is that remote work increase loneliness. If you analyze this superficially, it’s not crazy to assume it. At the end of the day, remote work either from home or a different space implies that your coworkers do not surround you. And unfortunately, the pandemic literally isolated most of us proving that in some cases, loneliness is a real deal from remote workers.
According to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work, 20% of the survey’s respondents named loneliness as their biggest struggle when working remotely.
Despite many remote workers feeling loneliness as their main issue, many others have experienced the opposite. Loneliness and isolation mostly depend on the company you’re working for and its culture. If you work at a remote company that prioritizes employees’ well-being and fosters collaboration, likely, you won’t experience loneliness.
Sunny Ziemer, remote work expert and COO of Distribute Consulting shares how company culture impacts directly how employees feel when it comes to isolation and loneliness:
I was incredibly lucky to have my first remote work experience with a company that held building and fostering company culture to the highest standards. I have since experienced the opposite and see why there are the misconceptions of loneliness and building culture remotely being impossible. A company must be intentional about building the infrastructure and policies to foster great remote working.Sunny Ziemer
Expectation 3: Building Culture Remotely is Impossible
Company culture is all about ping pong tables, nap pods, Friday’s happy hours and birthday parties. How is all that going to happen while working remotely? How are teams going to collaborate if they can’t see each other’s faces? Is building a company culture possible when your team members seem so far away?
The definition of company culture has many different shades. For some people, culture means teamwork. For others, it means being 24/7 with coworkers. Overall, one common aspect that all different definitions have is people. Company culture is all about people and making unified teams.
Without company culture, there are many things at stake. And remote work can be a challenge for those leaders who think that culture requires people being together constantly.
Sharon Koifman, DistantJob’s Founder and President, highlights that culture is not about being surrounded by your coworkers all the time, but it’s about connecting with them.
Culture is all about connection, and remote employees are the most disconnected people. That’s why culture has to become even more important for you if you’re moving to a remote work environment.Sharon Koifman
Remote work doesn’t make culture impossible. It makes culture take a different definition, where leaders need to prioritize how they connect with their employees. It requires an extra effort from all team members as well. With regular meet-ups, virtual coffee meetings, and different ways of getting to know each other, building culture in your remote team will be easier than it seems.
Expectation 4: You Own Your Schedule
One of the best things about working remotely is that you’re the master of your time. You get to do whatever you want and work at the time you want. If you overslept and woke up at 11 am, it doesn’t matter because you don’t need to get ready for the office. You can just make a cup of coffee and start working later than usual; no biggie!
If you think that working remotely means that you own your schedule and can do whatever you want, you’re wrong. You still need to report, give results and get your work done. While you might shower on your morning breaks and take naps after lunch, you have goals to accomplish and meetings to attend as if you were in a regular office. If not, you’ll end with a write-up.
Many companies require remote employees to be connected during certain hours of the day, either for meetings or for specific tasks, but if it isn’t your case, it’s still highly recommended that you have a routine. This will help you increase your productivity, be more focused, and know when to stop working.
One of the biggest issues that remote workers face is overworking. According to a survey of 2,800 remote workers conducted by Robert Half, nearly 70% of employees who started working remotely because of the pandemic say they now work on weekends, and 45% say they work more hours than when they were at the office.
Having a strict schedule helps you avoid overworking and have a better work-life balance that doesn’t revolve around your computer.
Expectation 5: Working at The Beach
Working remotely gives you freedom. You get to chose whether from working from home, the coffee shop nearby, a coworking space, or at a beach in Maui. You get to travel and look exactly like those digital nomads working in the sand with their computer and a piña colada. The perfect life, right?
Working remotely does give you freedom. You no longer are tied to working from the office. For some people, it’s the best thing ever because they get to create their own working environment that helps them perform at their best. This is why most remote workers work either in a co-working space or at home, where they get to focus more.
You can go to work at the beach, but in reality, there are many factors you have in mind when choosing that digital nomad lifestyle. You need to be sure you’ll be able to get work done in those exotic places, besides keeping in mind aspects such as WI-FI.
However, it all comes down to your personality and identifying where you work at best.
Michael Gutman, an affiliate consultant at the Remote Work Institute, commented why remote work is all about having the flexibility of working in your best environment, whether that’s at the beach or home:
I think the biggest misconception is that you can’t be productive working in places that are distracting… like the beach. But let’s be honest. Offices can be distracting too. It comes down to your personality type. Humans are dynamic creatures and I think as long as we offer choices, within some guidelines, people should be treated like adults and have the ability to choose where they work best, or where it makes them happy. If it means they are working from the beach a few days a year, so be it. Michael Gutman
Remote Working Reality: What’s the Post-pandemic Scenario?
Years ago, companies were analyzing if remote working was possible or not. For many, considering their employees to work remotely meant they wouldn’t work at all. Nowadays, after a pandemic that made most businesses go remote, most people no longer want to return to the office. And as a result, companies have started implementing hybrid work models.
Although nothing is a certainty, the post-pandemic scenario seems strongly embrace remote work. Corporate giants all over the world have announced how some of their employees could work from home forever. Other’s are allowing employees to work remotely certain days a week.
Most employees now have lived the remote work experience that made them realized that many of their expectations were false. The future is uncertain, but one thing is for sure remote work has come to stay.