Do you have trouble navigating office culture? Are you most productive when you can establish your own working hours? Perhaps you simply loathe the morning commute.
Historically, having a corporate job meant abiding to a 9-5 lifestyle—business attire, corporate meetings, cubicles, and phones with multiple lines and your own special extension number—but there are alternative means of earning a living.
Not sure if remote work is right for you? Check yourself against the the five points below.
You’re self-motivated to an extreme
If you need someone to push you to get your work done or require frequent check-ins with a superior to stay on track, then the remote life probably isn’t a great fit. For telecommuters, the name of the game is focus. Just because you don’t work in an office doesn’t mean you can give into temptation and take four or five hours off to have an adventure during the business week—remember, you’re still a professional even if you’re working in your PJs, so you have to act like it.
In fact, remote workers arguably need to hone their communication prowess even more than their in-office colleagues. Keeping your colleagues informed and your boss educated around the impact you’re making is a huge part of staying “relevant” when you’re not physically in the office. More on that below, but first …
You’re a planner
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer an old fashioned paper notebook and Post-It notes or are addicted to Google Calendar and Trello, as long as you’ve got a handle on your responsibilities and appointments, you’re part way there. However, planning isn’t just about knowing your commitments a week or so in advance—it also means being able to set and meet budgets, know when you have too much or too little on your plate, and prioritize against achievable milestones.
You know how to communicate
Being a reliable remote worker is all about remaining reachable throughout the day. Your clients, employers or colleagues need to be confident that when they have a question, comment or concern, you’ll be there. Skilled communicators are also flexible and accommodating when it comes to switching between various platforms. Some clients prefer email, some prefer Slack, some even prefer ones you’ve never heard of before. Even if you aren’t a fan of the user interface for that particular app or website, you roll with it.
Technical acumen aside, you also know what makes for an effective email or phone call. You know how to compose a message that’ll ensure a response, have the note-taking skills of a stenographer so you can jot down everything covered over a conference call, and are well practiced at taking deep breaths before responding to an aggravating client’s request with a fiery passion bound to get you fired.
You have a solid grasp on reality
It’s okay to be a dreamer—having lofty goals can be exactly what you need to keep on truckin’—but at the same time, you should be able to acknowledge what’s realistic and what’s out of reach. You set attainable milestones and actively work towards what you truly believe you can achieve rather than sit around and pine for something allusive. In other words, you get things done.
Knowing what’s realistic also applies to recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re aware of your tendency to flake on commitments, take mid-afternoon naps when you’re supposed to be finishing up an assignment, or splurge on a vacation when you can barely pay rent, then you have the choice whether you want to change your ways to fit the remote lifestyle or stick with a more structured work/life balance.
Taking it a step further: can you be a digital nomad?
Digital nomadism certainly sounds appealing for some. Eschewing a home base for a different Airbnb each month, living out of a suitcase for years at a time and constantly having the opportunity to learn from strangers and experience new cultures could be the dream. But being a digital nomad involves more than just packing light and being able to travel overseas without panicking.
To be a true digital nomad, you need to humble enough to educate yourself before heading into a new environment and not assume that your smarts are enough to get you by. You also need to be respectful and ready to listen to the locals; you may have been the leader of the pack in your home-town, but you’re a newbie everywhere else.
If you just read through that last and finally feel like you’ve found your calling, then by all means, try remote working! It takes getting used to, but for many, it’s the ultimate (and only) way to live.