The Pressures Of Being A Remote Worker

photo credit: kelly.sikkema - cc

photo credit: kelly.sikkemacc

After being a remote worker for over a year, I have a couple of things I’d like to talk about. The first is that it’s a lot tougher than I thought it would be. As a remote worker, all of the responsibility of getting the job done is on my shoulders. It’s actually an enormous amount of pressure since the measure of work is output.

The Self Guilt Trip

When I walk the dog during the evening with my wife, I’m checking the phone to see if I’m missing anything. At night in bed, I stare at the ceiling wondering what I’m going to write about the next day. When I wake up in the morning, I check Facebook, Twitter, and my email, not necessarily in that order. By the time I get out of bed, one or two hours have passed without typing a word.

Work surrounds me. Everywhere I go, work follows. Moderating comments, reading RSS feeds, chatting on Twitter, is work and can be done on the phone. When I’m not in front of the Macbook Pro or the desktop PC, I’m thinking about my job. In many aspects, I’m the boss of me and at times, my own worst enemy. I’m sure that’s a musical lyric in a song somewhere.

I’ve often read that bosses don’t want to allow their employees to work from home for fear of them not getting anything done. In my experience thus far, I think the boss has nothing to worry about because productivity rests on the shoulders of the employee. If the output isn’t there, there is no one for the employee to blame but themself.

The Reality Check Of Being A Remote Worker

Being a remote worker has been an enormous reality check. It’s hard to complain about my job because I have the freedom and ability to make it suit my life, not the other way around. If work doesn’t get done, it’s my fault. If I sleep in too late to get a full day in, it’s my fault. If I spend most of the day enjoying life instead of working, it’s my fault. If I work for 10-12 hours during the day, it’s my fault. At the end of the day, if my output is not noticeable, it’s my fault. Thus the pressures I’m constantly exerting on myself to get something done.

Lessons I’m In The Middle Of Learning

Sara Rosso, who has worked at Automattic for four years, published her list of lessons learned from working remotely. I’m in the process of learning some of those lessons myself. One of the most difficult lessons I’m learning is putting my health first before anything else. If I’m out riding a bike, the only thing I can think about is what I’m missing or could be writing at home, sitting in a chair, in front of the PC, generating output. Spacing out an hour or two a day for bike riding, exercise, etc makes me feel guilty. I know there are ways to be fit and work remotely, I’m just personally in the middle of trying to figure it out.

This post serves as a documented effort of trying to overcome the struggles I’ve encountered being a remote worker. If there is one thing I could tell people thinking about becoming one, it would be that it’s not as glamorous and kick ass as you might think. There are benefits for sure, but there is also a lot of self-reflection. Depending on how you react, so much self-reflection can either make you a better person, or constantly eat away at you. Right now, I’m in the middle.