I started working with Traklight in December of 2013. My initial introduction was by email, and my interview by Skype. I had never worked remotely before and was apprehensive regarding how it would work. How would they know I was really working? How would I know if they thought I was getting the job done? Could I really do a great job from over a thousand miles away?
Regardless of my hesitations, I (somewhat) blindly jumped on board! Although not exactly sure how this remote thing was going to work out, I was happy to try a new adventure–an adventure that has had great advantages but not without its challenges. I hope that the following list of pros and cons is a useful bit of startup advice for others out there. Establishing a healthy work routine is part of building a successful startup.
The cons of working remotely
- Missing the team atmosphere - There is a creative energy that I miss from being in an office on a daily basis, and you can miss out on valuable impromptu conversations between co-workers, which sometimes can make or break a project. These side conversations, non-verbal cues, and other body language from your teammates can really let you know if your ideas are on the right track. When you are not immersed in a company atmosphere, it takes a greater effort to feel like part of the team.
- Email becomes more time consuming - Since email becomes the primary form of team communication, it takes on a much more significant role in my day. Not only are there more emails to read, but they take longer to craft as there is an elevated concern about clarity, implied tone of voice, etc.
- Distractions, distractions, distractions - "...I have this project, but I'l just throw a load of laundry in first and maybe finish the dishes. Did anyone walk the dog this morning? Oh! A new episode of Scandal recorded last night!" It is incredibly easy to push off the work that is waiting for you, especially when you are the only one around. This is why it is imperative to create a dedicated work space and schedule work times to put you in the right frame of mind to be productive.
- Hard to know when to clock out - Working remotely can give you the added pressure of feeling you need to prove that you are working equally as hard as your in-office coworkers. Your desire to be especially responsive and prompt, coupled with the advantages of today's technology, can make it hard to know when to clock in and out for the day. Tack on to that working with team members in various time zones and that line becomes increasingly blurred. You must avoid setting expectations of your time that will be tough to maintain long term. It's very important to have open-line communication with your co-workers regarding your expected work schedule, as well as the discipline to personally follow that schedule.
- You don't have to get ready in the morning - :( There is the occasional guilt that you haven't bothered combing your hair or had a shower until closer to 4PM...every day...for the last week.
The pros of working remotely
- You don't have to get ready in the morning - :) Roll out of bed straight into a desk chair or, on a particularly lazy day, just prop yourself up on a pillow and start typing way on that laptop. It can be a great feeling!
- No need for a career wardrobe budget - I've been known to only "get ready" the top half of my body for Skype calls: business casual on top; yoga pants and flip flops on the bottom.
- Guilt-free break time - Doctor appointment or a school function in the middle of the day? No problem! It is much easier to take time off when your schedule is (somewhat) your own. A break is fine since you can make it up by working into the evening if you choose. No need to ask for time away from the office.
- No commute - My current commute only includes a flight of stairs from my master bedroom to the home office. Can't beat that!
- My job is portable - Home office one day, coffee house in the middle of Yellowstone National Park the next. My office location is only limited by the access of Wi-Fi and an electrical outlet.
Telecommuting is not for everyone, but with the right structure and open communication with your employer, it can be a very rewarding experience. I may miss an office environment but I, for one, would have a tough time giving up my flexible schedule and yoga pants!
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