Remote Work:Things to Consider


It seems like everyone is looking for remote work these days. From continuing concerns over “the Big Sick”, to skyrocketing costs for pretty much everything, to seeking better work-life balance, remote work is an attractive option. But have you considered what remote work might require? As someone who has built a successful career in a remote position, here are a few things to think about as you look for that perfect remote job.

It takes intention and extra effort to leave the house.

I’ve fallen into ruts where “leaving the house” consisted of walking my dog and going to the mailbox. This can be very isolating for some people and it does take extra effort to make sure you’re getting out of the house at least a little bit. How I’ve countered this:

— Reducing the use of delivery services to “have to” situations such as I’m ill or in a serious time crunch with a high-priority need.

— Spreading out errands throughout the week.

— A planned trip to browse at the bookstore or craft store after work.

— Working out at the gym instead of at home.

2. What you save in commuting costs might be spent elsewhere.

Over the long term, you will save on clothing, eating out, and transit or automotive expenses. However, working from home changes your internet and home energy needs. These could be in the form of:

— Upgrading internet service to meet employer minimums.

— Buying and maintaining unique needs such as ethernet cables, landlines, or other equipment.

—Overage charges for exceeding internet data caps (every ISP is different, some may not have one but do check with yours to make sure you don’t have any surprises).

— Additional electricity usage simply because you’re home for more hours of the day.

— Fees for memberships or other services you might not have used as a commuter, such as a gym, delivery services, meal kit subscriptions, etc.

3. Get OK with being monitored.

This will vary greatly between companies and even positions in the same company. While you’re on the clock employers have the right to monitor your activity. Methods will vary depending on the company. These are just a few examples that I’ve seen or heard about:

— Software watching your mouse movements and clicks.

— Watching your active/away status on messaging programs such as Teams (and timing it).

— Monitoring the open/active programs on your computer and how you’re interacting with it.

— Working on camera the entire day or remotely turning on your camera at various times to ensure you’re actually at your desk (thwarts the use of devices that move your mouse to make it look like you’re working).

— Remotely access your microphone to listen to your office environment.

— A “productivity coach” monitoring any/all of the above and calling you to discuss why you stopped moving your mouse for a certain period of time.

Not all companies do this, or they may do it selectively as opposed to all the time. Consent to monitoring can be a condition of employment. Ask during the interview process how work is tracked and monitored and make sure you’re comfortable with their policies before you accept an offer.

4. You still need an office/desk space.

Out of curiosity, I occasionally peruse job postings to see what other companies are putting out there. Most of the remote job postings for remote work have a common requirement: a quiet, distraction-free, and professional space to work. Some may have also requirements on what your backdrop should look like if video conferences are part of the job. Make sure you have a space in your home that meets the employer’s requirements.

My desk is in a corner of my bedroom and I have a folding screen that I put behind me for meetings and other video calls. I can also close the bedroom door if my family is using the adjacent living room. My team is required to have a quiet place to work with a professional-looking background or plain wall behind them because our work requires video calls with customers.

5. Child care (or elder care) might still be necessary.

Whether you will still be able to care for children or elderly family members while working differs between companies. Many companies have policies in place that require child/elder care during your working hours. It might be possible to reduce the cost and still abide by company policy by hiring an in-home caregiver or enlisting the help of a family member during your working hours. Ask about child/elder care policies so you can plan appropriately.

6. Always have a backup! (Location that is)

The power goes out. The Internet is down. And you have to work.

Identify at least one or two places you can go if your primary location doesn’t have power or if your internet is down. I’m spoiled for choice with three cafes/coffee shops, and a family member’s house all within 10 minutes of me. In addition, if I have power but no internet, I can hotspot off of my phone for a few hours before I have to consider relocating. Taking a PTO day is my last resort and may be an option for you if you just don’t have anywhere to go.

Working remotely is something I personally enjoy and I sincerely hope that more employers continue to embrace it as an option. I hope that you found this information useful as you consider taking on remote work.

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