What to expect from remote jobs

a woman sitting on a windowsill while using typing on her laptop
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 6% of workers were fully remote and never went into an office.

The number doesn’t include people who worked remotely from time to time, including about three-quarters of office workers. But situations changed when many businesses closed their offices for months, allowing more employees to work entirely remotely. Since many thrived in this setup, companies have expanded their remote work opportunities. 

Before you update a resume and apply to take a job where you’ll work from home, you’ll want to learn what to expect in a remote position.

You might be able to set your working hours 

Depending on the role, you might be able to establish a work schedule that isn’t the typical 9-5 on Monday through Friday. Besides offering more flexible working location options, companies have started offering flexible scheduling as an employee perk. When you’re thinking about what to expect in a remote position, ask the hiring manager about the schedule expectations.

If your company wants you online during business hours, you’ll need to accommodate that request as part of the term of employment. If you have more flexibility, you might be able to start later in the morning and work into the evening or start earlier and get off in time to pick up your kids from school.

It’s important to establish expectations

When you work remotely, it’s crucial to establish expectations on both sides. You want to know what the company expects from you, including your availability, regularity of check-ins and status updates, and the planned work schedule. Establishing what you expect from the company, such as who you’ll be reporting to and how you can communicate with your team, is also essential. By setting expectations early on, you can avoid miscommunication or confusion about how you’re supposed to collaborate and work with the team.

You may not interact with others much

If you’ve never worked remotely, you may not realize how much you interact with other people in an office setting. Even the busiest employees step away from their desks at least a few times a day, and during those instances, they might run into a friendly colleague or say hello to a team member on their way to the break room. But when you go remote, you’ll soon find those interactions no longer exist. Unless someone else lives with you (and is home while you’re working), you’ll spend most of your time alone.

Introverts might prefer this setup, but it’s often a tough adjustment for extroverts and people who fall between these extremes. Working remotely might be challenging for you if you’re prone to loneliness, especially living alone. For some people, interactions with co-workers are some of the only social experiences they have during the day, and losing these interactions can be more challenging than they expected.

You don’t have to go without social interactions, but you will have to put in more effort. Heading to happy hour after the workday ends won’t be as easy as chatting with your team members during lunch anymore, but you can still make an effort. You might also engage more with friends and family after work to fulfill your social needs.

You’ll need a functional office space

When millions of employees unexpectedly started to work remotely early in 2020 due to business closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, many didn’t have a functional place to work from home. Some worked from their kitchen tables, while others set up temporary workspaces in their bedrooms and living rooms. But while these setups may have worked in the short term, employees who plan to work remotely on a long-term basis need a functional place to work.

Most remote employees must purchase their desks, desk chairs, and other furnishings for home offices. Since you’ll likely be sitting at your desk for many hours each week, it’s worth investing in comfortable and supportive furniture. 

  • If you like to stand when you work, consider a height-adjustable desk. Make sure to select an ergonomic chair with plenty of support for your back and legs. Your body will thank you for it, especially if you’re used to working while perched on a couch or the edge of your bed.
  • It might be tempting to work from a coffee shop or co-working space instead of your home, especially if you don’t have a dedicated workspace, but these alternatives can get expensive quickly. Entry-level employees might find that a co-working space costs more than they can reasonably afford. Even spending $5 on a drink at a coffee shop every few hours can add up.

“If you decide to take a remote position, establish expectations and balance the job’s demands with your needs for personal time and professional time.”

Achieving work-life balance can be tricky

When you work in an office, there’s a clear-cut definition between work and personal hours. You leave the office, and your workday ends. But when you work from home, your workspace is always just a few steps away. You might respond to an email or check on the status of a project outside of the hours you usually work. While this might not seem like a big deal if you do it from time to time, getting in the habit of working outside your scheduled hours can affect your work-life balance.

Balancing work with your personal needs is essential in maintaining your overall well-being. A poor work-life balance often leads to burnout, a drop in productivity, and chronic stress. If you experience chronic stress, you might have physical symptoms, such as heart problems, high blood pressure, digestive troubles, and constant aches and pains. Failing to meet your personal needs can also wreak havoc on your mental health. If you decide to take a remote position, establish expectations and balance the job’s demands with your needs for personal time and professional time.

Make sure to ask who provides the equipment

Before taking a remote job, ensure you know who is responsible for providing the equipment. If you’re working in a contract or gig job, you might have to bring your computer or mobile device to the role. When you’re working for a company, they’ll likely supply the technology needed to do your job, even if you’re not working in an office.

If you must supply your equipment, think about what you’ll need. Some of the technology that a remote employee could need includes the following: 

  • A desktop or laptop computer
  • A printer, scanner, or fax machine 
  • A mobile device

Buying all of these items could add up quickly for you. Ensure you’re clear about what items the company will provide to you.

It can be hard to stay productive

When you’re used to working with a supervisor or manager nearby, you might find that working remotely makes it harder to be productive. A busy and buzzing office can be more conducive to productivity, especially if your supervisor regularly checks in on the team during the workday. By contrast, working only a few feet away from your bed or TV can cause distractions. 

If you’re committed to working remotely, try to separate yourself from anything that could pull you away from your work. Make a list of why you’re choosing this type of work and pull it up when the temptation arises to watch YouTube videos in another tab of your web browser or take a quick nap.

Although remote work can bring some unique challenges, it’s an appealing option for self-motivated individuals who want to say goodbye to a time-consuming commute or an office environment they don’t enjoy. Knowing what to expect in a remote position and how to communicate with your team members can improve your chances of success as you start your new role.