Although working from home seems like a no brainer when you consider the gas savings, wearing pajamas as work attire, and avoiding rush our traffic, it's not for everyone.
I've come across those who love the flexibility of their remote work arrangements, but I've also come across those who desperately wish they could return to an office environment. Some people operate best through face to face conversations and need the ability to walk up to a team member as soon as they have a thought and hash it out. Some people enjoy having a different environment to go to that helps them shift their mind into work mode. Others love getting the latest office gossip in the coffee room. Though most trivialize these things, sometimes they can have a huge impact on the direction of your career. Below are some traits I've seen help people determine whether remote work is really for them. Check them out and see which qualities you posses.
Typical Traits of Successful Remote Workers
Motivated From Within
One of the biggest transitions to make when starting remote work is going from having an audience watching how you move around, how you dress, how "busy" you look to having no one but your pet or your kids to see your every move. It can be tempting without eyes on you to become lazy in a lot of ways. There's the obvious having the temptation to watch Netflix all day when your load is light. There's also the temptation not to run a brush through your hair or put on a decent outfit because after all, no one is there to look at you. The truth is YOU are there to look at you. When you were strutting into that office with your carefully chosen computer bag, ironed clothes and well maintained hair, it made a difference in how you saw yourself. The image you have or yourself has such a deep influence on your subconscious thoughts about who you are and what you're capable of. Yes, slacking off and watching your favorite television shows for a day or two can temporarily feel like a win, but losing sight of how your long term goals are impacted by what you do each and every day can totally derail both your current upward mobility at your company, and also your personal development path long term. Having the ability to motivate yourself to be excellent when no one is watching is crucial to being successful in remote work and in life.
Excellent Written Communicators
As mentioned above, the old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" definitely applies when it comes to work. If you're planning to make an impact from a distance, you have to be an over communicator. In an office environment you may have the opportunity to provide updates on the fly. It may be visible to others that you're busy when they want to chat because you aren't at your desk, or they see you in a conference room participating in a meeting. Unfortunately, remote workers are often suspected of slacking off because no one can see what you're doing. Constant daily updates and follow up emails is an excellent way to make sure your team knows you're still engaged. Keeping your calendar up to date with not only meetings, but chunks of time you have allocated to catch up on tasks, is another way to help your team understand how you've structured your day. Outlook allows shared calendars so that your manager and other team members can get a glimpse of what you're up to.
Constantly Connected Electronically
Another way to make your presence knows without being physically present is to formalize everything. What I mean by that is instead of having that casual coffee room discussion at the office, you should requests all discussions, no matter how short, as meeting requests. That way as your team members and members of other groups check their calendars every day, they see a visual reminder that they are connecting with you. There's no rule against sending out an electronic meeting request with a 15 minute time slot. This is also a great way to record the time you're spending engaged with other team members if you need to have this information available to share with your manager or HR team.
Obviously, staying connected electronically requires some level of proficiency with the tools your employer provides like teleconference services and virtual meeting software. This is usually just a matter of reading the literature available on each service and keeping a manual handy for when you run into issues. If you're a person that likes to have the IT team intervene every time you set up a virtual meeting, telework may not be for you. You've got to sometime operate as your own IT person or at least be able to understand the instructions provided to you and implement changes and fixes on your own when needed.
Excellent Time Management
Making everything a formal meeting including your tasks that you work on solo is the easiest way to structure your day. The key is to do what you're going to do when you say you're going to do it. This is pretty easy for most people when that time is scheduled with a colleague. The toughest thing for most of us is to keep the appointments we have scheduled with ourselves. This is the absolute key to maintaining productivity both in and out of an office environment.
Typical Traits of Successful Office Workers
Motivated by Teamwork and Synergistic Exchanges
If you're a person who likes to constantly bounce ideas off of others or process you're thoughts verbally, remote work may not be for you. There are those of us who are introverts and require a ton of introspection time for both rejuvenation and processing information and then there are those of us who absolutely need the exchange of energy with others to be at our best. If you're the latter, you might want to consider being in an office environment at least part time.
Again, this has to do with the way you process information and maintain your energy levels. If you currently work in an office environment and you have to get up at least once an hour to chat with a coworker whether it's business or personal, working from home might just drive you crazy. The key here is to really be honest with yourself about this. Sometimes we try to convince ourselves that our needs are different than they really are if we think there's a perceived benefit ahead.
Fortunately there are hundreds of online assessments that can give you a good idea of where you fall on the introversion/extroversion spectrum. Everyone has their preferred assessment type, but MBTI (Meyers Briggs Type Indicator) is a very popular one as well as the Big Five personality test. If you google "personality assessment" you can take as many tests as your heart desires to get a complete picture of your key personality traits and what needs are associated with them.
Strong Ability or Need to Influence People Outside Your Team
If you know that you have a keen ability through in-person communication to positively influence your team, you may want to consider staying in the office. This is a skill that can take you to the top and that is almost impossible to mimic from a distance. For example, if you're a manager and your team needs the assistance of several departments that don't report to you. Being available to influence the flow of information and the cooperation of others might be best achieved by being physically present. If, on the other hand, the service your team provides is straight forward, maybe very technical in nature, you can most certainly be effective from afar.
Deep Need for Externally Created Structure
If you like to flow in step with a group...knowing that everyone's going to be in the coffee room between 9 am and 10 am, everyone's going to be going to lunch around noon, and you can count on all conference rooms being booked during all the house in between, the office environment might be best for you. Some people are comforted by rhythms and expected sequences of events that are imposed by management or just company culture. If you'd rather create your own unique rhythms and don't mind marching to a different beat, remote work could be just right for you. Understanding the rhythms you prefer is also important when determine which remote work structure is right for you. For example, coming in to the office a few days a week, but having a totally different schedule the other few days might just throw you off. A half day in half day out schedule might work better for you.
Do you have any experiences with remote work you'd like to share with the community? Join us in The Work-Life Balance Network. For more details on how to create your work from home position, check out Work From Home: Convince Your Boss to Let You Work Remotely. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in one of our upcoming posts.