We can’t lie. We all use Wikipedia… sometimes even when we shouldn’t. It can be an interesting read (even if it can more than occasionally be less than accurate). It can provide links to reputable sources (that were probably quoted out of context). It can give you a (partial) view of the subject that you are researching.
On Wikipedia, remote working is listed as telecommuting. When you go there, you’ll notice that at least they are upfront in stating that the information on the page doesn’t necessarily represent a worldwide perspective. It even tells you where you can go to add your opinion on remote working.
The information presented covers a wide variety of information such as the definition of the word, characteristics of remote workers (or, in this case, telecommuters), work theories, the potential benefits, the potential drawbacks, current trends among remote working, and related terms. So, as you can see – you’ll certainly learn quite a bit of basic information about remote working.
However, there is a lot that Wikipedia can’t tell you about remote working so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you the complete picture. Why? We are doing this because we want you to be successful as a remote worker.
It Doesn’t Take Complicated Technology
The Wikipedia article states that since the rise of technology (and the ease at which many of us are able to attain any technological wonder), that more people are able to work remotely instead of working from a traditional office. This is certainly true. However, the article also mentions several more complicated options for technology such as using a LAN or a VPN. Sure, those are certainly options, but it doesn’t take complicated technology to work from a remote location.
Although the technological necessities will vary from employer to employer, there are only a few basics that you truly need to at least embrace the possibly of remote working:
- You need a reliable Internet connection. Get the best connection that you can afford. If you are going to work on a remote basis, you need your own Internet. Going to the library or always working from a café won’t cut it. How fast of a connection you will need primarily depends on two factors: what you will do and the speeds available in your area.
- You need a computer of some type. It doesn’t really matter if you use a laptop or a desktop. It just needs to be fast enough to facilitate your work.
- You need the right technology to work with others at a distance. The great news here is that many are available for download and are either free or cost very little for you to use. If you will be a full time employee for a corporation, discuss whether they are willing to reimburse you for any money you must invest in obtaining the programs they need you to use. Programs like Mikogo are easy to install and use, and even come with a free account with all the basics included. It makes communicating with a team fast and easy.
Characteristics of a Remote Worker
The Wikipedia article also discusses the characteristics of a remote worker. Regardless of how well you match the characteristics of the ideal remote worker, you should know that working from an alternate location is not for everyone. We would all like to think that we can self-manage, but that’s much harder than you think. There’s absolutely no shame involved in admitting that you need to physically be inside of an office in order to be productive.
That’s the other drawback: production. This is particularly important if you have a traditional employer. You will have to work at least twice as hard as your office-bound coworkers in order to show that you are truly being productive. Of course, for many people that is a price that they are certainly willing to pay for the chance to work outside of the office.
Remote Working Isn’t Always Glamorous
It doesn’t really matter if you start off loving the idea and implementation of remote working. It doesn’t really matter if you match every characteristic of the ideal remote worker. Here’s the truth: there will be days where you no longer enjoy it. You’ll get distracted. You’ll wish you still worked in an office. You’ll wonder what adult interaction is and why so many workers seem to enjoy it. You may find yourself feeling envious of partners or friends who complain about some small bit of office drama.
It’s important that you do not work yourself into a rut. You must learn how to properly balance your work with your life. Yes, you do have to work a little bit more to leave the impression that you want. However, you also need to make sure that you get out of the house and do something that is not related to finding a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.
Online Communication Can Be Hard
Making sure that you’re on the same page with your colleagues or supervisor isn’t the same as sending a quick email to your mother. Your mother loves you and she will most likely not read into what you’ve said or add a tone to your email that is less than flattering. Colleagues, clients, and employers are all human. They don’t necessarily care that you were up all night due to a never-ending cough . They have a project that was entrusted to you – and they want results. Since they are human, they also have bad days. A fight with a spouse or other beloved person can have someone reading into comments and thinking, “What’s that supposed to mean?!” when you really didn’t mean anything negative. So, it’s important that you write emails that are highly professional, clear, and concise.
Also, when in doubt you should do one of two things: pick up the phone and call the other person (or people). Clarifying something through a quick phone conversation can save you (and the other side) a lot of potential issues. Your other option is to schedule a quick online meeting. Getting together online where you can all discuss and plan the project can also eliminate potential misunderstandings that can happen through email.
Wikipedia is great. However, it simply can’t account for anything more than the basics that many remote workers experience to some degree. So, keep in mind that being a remote worker is more than a broad list found on the Internet. Take that information to hear, but also talk to those with experience as a remote worker.