Numerous studies show that remote workers are happier, healthier and have a better work-life balance. There are also so many invaluable life lessons you learn from remote working.
Remote working improves many hard and soft skills. It helps you develop faster than in a traditional office-based environment, both personally and professionally. It’s not just a better way of life, it’s a better you. Here are 14 invaluable life lessons from remote working.
Professional and Personal Lessons To Learn From Remote Working
For every challenge of remote working there are new skills you will master. Remote working is not a picnic. It’s not sitting at home doing nothing and still getting paid. Among the regularly reported drawbacks are overworking and struggling to unplug after work. Communication is also more challenging, or at least it seems this way at first.
Of course these issues will be greater if you’ve never worked remotely before. Just remember, working in an office also has its many challenges and lessons to learn. You learn new skills over time and these skills then crossover from your professional to personal life.
1. Self Reliance
In every work environment you hit challenges. There is always something you don’t know how to do, or something you’re not sure about. There will be a task you don’t quite understand and an idea you want to clarify. In an office there are people around you to help. So you swing by a colleague’s desk and ask a question.
But often it only takes 10 minutes on Google to solve the challenge on your own. Or a little more self confidence to implement the solution you already have in your mind. In a good team, tele-commuting should not discourage you from asking for help. However, when colleagues are further away you quickly learn to do more for yourself before requesting help. Developing this self reliance is also great for your self confidence.
2. Time Management
In a traditional office, time is managed in terms of when you arrive and when you leave. Everything you do in between is work, even when you’re checking Facebook or killing time before the earliest acceptable hour to leave. In an office you don’t always need to manage your time, because your very presence indicates it is working time.
Time management skills are a great lesson from remote working. Stereotypes suggest you have more opportunity to not work, because nobody is looking over you. However, studies show that you are likely to work more, despite having more distractions. How is that possible? Well, remote working is an opportunity to better manage your time.
Suddenly, instead of wasting an hour you’re thinking how can you finish an hour earlier, so you can enjoy an hour doing something far more enjoyable than work. And slowly you learn how to better manage your time, so all the work gets done and you have the extra hour or two for yourself.
Let’s be honest – we all have better things to do than work. So finish your work and go do those better things. As you actively seek to work faster you become more efficient. You discover that you have much more free time than before. It’s not just improved time management, it’s a heightened sense of what is important and how you can benefit personally from this new productivity.
4. Self Motivation
Many remote workers initially struggle to switch off. Similarly, many also struggle for motivation. With an office there is a clear distinction – when you lack motivation you can show up, be there in person, and then go home. That is a day’s work even if productivity was zero. So don’t feel too bad if you are not always super productive at home.
Many remote workers worry how they can stay motivated with all the distractions of home? Or they somehow feel it is cheating to roll out of bed and work in pyjamas? Remember, you weren’t super productive every day in the office either.
Self motivation doesn’t come overnight, especially if you don’t like your job. But spend 6 – 12 months remote working and you soon learn how to motivate yourself to get things done. This skill develops naturally because you want to maximise the opportunity for a better work-life balance. Life await when you find the motivation to finish the workt. And life is a better motivation than anything available in an office.
5. Task Management
Work remotely and there are countless tasks to complete in the same place. Like feeding the dog, writing an email, watering the plants, completing the latest work campaign, making lunch, a call with your boss, doing the laundry, and another ten things to do home and at work. As home life and work life merge into one you will find strategies to separate and complete tasks.
Many remote workers complain about the distractions of home. For example, they’re watering the plants instead of writing an email. But in the course of a day both tasks need to be completed. And while at first it’s hard to differentiate, experienced remote workers are brilliant at completing tasks, not just switching between them, so they can take more time off.
6. Taking Time Off
Sleep, commute, work, commute, live. That’s the schedule five days a week and after 40 years you will be very grateful for every single day off. But just think about all the time that is wasted when you are working (and commuting). While many studies show how new remote workers are struggling to take time off, this is a challenge that can swing to your advantage, as proven by more experienced remote workers.
Add up all the time you can save by working more productively and you end up with a lot more time off. Take advantage of this time off and you go further from the typical nine to five. For example, it’s not a bad thing to be working at home at 9pm, provided you enjoyed enough time off throughout the day and week.
Hundreds of millions of people switched to remote working during the coronavirus pandemic. And perhaps the biggest complaint was missing out on impromptu conversations around the coffee machine, or in the office corridor. This can be interpreted as missing out on killing time while getting paid.
Efficient communication is a skill you learn from remote working. In an office you can talk waffle around the coffee machine. You cat chat and chat and chat until it’s time to get back to work. Remote working teaches you to communicate precisely – that means being selective about who, what, why and when.
Without face-to-face conversations you need to write more down to relay information – thoughts, questions, ideas, solutions, status, roadblocks, everything. For many remote teams communication is done asynchronously, via chat (e.g. Slack) rather than on a call or in person. These practices helps further sharpen your communication to what is important – ultimately this saves you time and brainpower.
8. Tech Skills
Almost every job requires some tech skills. We live in a tech-savvy world and if you can’t perform basic computer tasks there is a younger generation ready to take your job. When tele-commuting you’ll have to use more tech, with less supervision and more self reliance. What you learn from remote working are the skills needed to quickly adapt to new technology.
Your team will implement new programs as everything goes online. It’s not just specific programs you master, but the fundamental ability to pick up a new piece of software and to make it work for you and your team.
9. Organisational Skills
In an environment of micro-management there’s usually somebody organising for you, whether you like it or not. In any office there is a structure you fit into. It’s different when tele-commuting. You need to manage and organise with less supervision, including all your tasks and time.
Perhaps at first you don’t start each work day with a clear objective of what you want and need to get done. But you soon will. And after six months of remote working you will have more advanced organisational skills, leading to a greater measure of control over your time and a greater ability to prioritise what is most important. This is a lesson from remote working that positively impacts more than just the work day.
10. Trust and Tolerance
Trust and tolerance are not always in high supply in an office environment. That’s a problem of always being able see your colleagues’ reactions – you know when colleagues are happy, annoyed, tired, impressed and unimpressed with your work. People show their stresses and frustrations. These build upon each other and the general office atmosphere is rarely open and tolerant.
When tele-commuting you don’t get chance to share your worries and concerns as often. Conversely, most remote workers are more tolerant of their colleagues because they appreciate how everybody is battling their own set of remote working challenges. You are forced to trust your colleagues to do their job, just as you do yours. And as you begin to enjoy a better work-life balance you are more tolerant of your colleagues who are doing the same.
11. A More Productive Balance Between Work and Life
One of the most celebrated benefits of tele-commuting is a better work to life balance. Improving the balance between work and life is something you can learn and there is a hidden lesson from remote working.
Many people around the world have struggled to switch off after switching to remote working. Your kitchen table is your desk and where you eat dinner, so there is a complete blur between your work and personal time, as you cannot associate the place with your identity and time. It’s completely different to turning up at the office, switching into work mode, then switching off when you leave.
But is the best work life balance simply sleep – commute – work – commute – live. Or is working one part of living? Experienced remote workers use this to their advantage. They detach their role from their physical location, so they can live more and work less. Separating home life from work life initially seems to be a big challenge, but it becomes the greatest benefit to tele-commuting.
12. Professional Independence
Most office environments are blighted by micro management. There is somebody over your shoulder, making sure the small tasks are done, impeding your independence and creativity. One of the main reasons remote workers are proven to be more productive is that they don’t need to battle micro managers and a constant obsession with micro tasks.
Instead you operate on a more macro level and develop an independence that both complements and contributes to your self reliance. As you become more independent you also become more confident, both at work and in your personal life.
13. Staying Connected and Making Yourself Important
In an office it is easy for extroverts to be front and centre. Extroverts may not be best at their job, but they are the most visible. This idea of physical presence is an important part of office life. Without a physical presence it can seem difficult to remind your bosses that you’re still a very valuable employee. That’s especially true if you were used to regular face-to-face communication with your bosses.
When tele-commuting you need to demonstrate your importance through the work you do, not just a presence in the office. Think of this as a good thing. If you work well you will stay in people’s minds without needing a strong physical presence. You will make yourself important through your output and the outcomes that result from your work, not because you have the loudest mouth.
14. Reaching Your Potential
Office environments are restrictive. It’s not only the physical restrictions, but also the mental fatigue and limitations of micro-management. It is a highly stressful environment. Work remotely and you get to set your own boundaries. You have more control. And with this comes a freedom that helps to unleash your potential.
Not only does tele-commuting allow you to set a schedule that suits your strengths, it gives you the individual skills to develop faster and achieve your goals. When you are more self reliant, more independent and more productive, you can only go further in work and life. If you want to benefit from tele-commuting and all the lessons that you can learn you will first need a remote job. And if you don’t have a remote job search for one on the world’s leading platform for remote jobs.