What It’s Really Like to Be a Full-Time Remote Worker

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Remote work is on the rise. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 4.7 million employees — 3.4% of the workforce — worked from home at least half the time in 2017. That’s an increase of 159% from 2005.

Significantly, these stats don’t include folks who work for themselves. More full-time employees enjoy work flexibility these days, with 40% more employers offering flexible work options than five years ago. In fact, full-time workers are four times more likely to be allowed to work remotely than part-time workers.

Many workers can’t wait to take advantage of the option to telecommute. A recent FlexJobs survey of more 7,300 workers found that 69% of respondents said having flexible work options was one of the “most important factors” they considered when evaluating a job prospect. Thirty percent even confessed they’d left a job because of its lack of flexible options.

But being a full-time remote worker isn’t all pajama pants and sleeping in. There are downsides, as well as upsides, to working from home on a regular basis.

Here’s what it’s really like to be a full-time remote worker:

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A recent study of 200 full-time remote workers from Remote.co sheds light on the what it’s really like to be a full-time remote worker in 2019. Let’s take a closer look at just a few of the key takeaways from the report.

1. The day-to-day specifics May Surprise You

What does a typical day look like for a remote worker? You may be surprised to learn that telecommuters aren’t always tucked away in a home office.

Remote employees “work from home” primarily, but many also need to travel as a part of their arrangement. Among those surveyed, 32% said they travel once or twice a year. Thirteen percent travel more than that, three or four times a year. And, 9% said they travel five times or more per year for work.

The vast majority (94%) of those surveyed said that they work primarily from their home offices. That leaves just 6% who work mainly from other locations, like co-working spaces, coffee shops or libraries. That doesn’t mean that those workers never work from one of these spots. But, their “home base” is generally their home office.

Just like other U.S. workers, the telecommuting population could benefit from taking more time away. Only 13% of the full-time remote workers surveyed said they planned on taking more than four weeks of vacation time this year. It can be difficult to take time off, even when you’re a full-time remote worker.

2. The arrangement comes with its challenges

The single greatest “pain point” remote employees said they encounter when working from home is struggling to unplug after hours (40%). It’s easy to imagine why this is a common problem. When you work from home, it can be tough to change between professional and personal modes. It’s harder to determine where and when the workday starts and stops.

Additionally, working remotely impacts the way folks interact with coworkers, and that can be another challenge associated with this arrangement. However, 59% of respondents to this survey said that working from home is still very or somewhat conducive to developing meaningful relationships with coworkers.

Thirty-two percent of respondents identified having to deal with non-work distractions as a challenge associated with their arrangement. This seems to come with the territory when you work from home. Other challenges included developing strong relationships with coworkers (25%), loneliness (23%) troubleshooting technology problems (21%) and working across different time zones (19%).

3. Most Remote workers love it

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At the end of the day, the good seems to outweigh the bad for most remote workers. Eighty-three percent of respondents to this survey said that they couldn’t imagine returning to an on-site office. Only 1% said that it wouldn’t be a big deal to make the switch.

These workers aren’t worried about how the arrangement will impact their professional trajectory, either. Only 5% said that they worry that working remotely could negatively impact their career progression.

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Other Benefits (and Drawbacks) of remote work:

  • Telecommuters save money. There are some serious costs associated with going into work every day. Full-time remote workers save on expenses like gas, bus fare and train tickets. They also save on the cost of clothing and dry cleaning, lunch and coffee expenses, and car maintenance, just to name a few other costs.
  • Remote workers say they eat healthier. According to researchers, 73% of telecommuters say that they eat healthier when they work from home. Having greater flexibility, and easier access to the home kitchen, apparently helps workers to make better choices. (Plus, when you work remotely, you can sometimes take your lunch at your desk and exercise during your lunch hour if you like. Having the option to exercise during the workday, and maybe even get outside a little, helps remote workers to feel healthier, too.)
  • Friends and family don’t always understand. It’s true that more people are working from home these days. But, if you’re making the switch, you should know that friends and family members might not always get it. They may expect you to be more flexible than is realistic. Just because you work from home, that doesn’t mean you have time to run errands or do housework during the workday, for example. It’s also possible that they’ll underestimate how difficult your work is or the stress that’s involved.
  • Remote workers are more productive. There are a lot of potential distractions and obstacles to overcome when you work from home. But, most people find that they’re more productive when the work remotely. Researchers have found that 77% of workers say that their productivity improves when they work from home.
  • Motivation is essential. Working remotely, especially on a full-time basis, isn’t for everyone. You have to be self-motivated in order to be successful working from home. You may be able to control your work hours more than you could working in an office. If so, you’ll have to able to make yourself sit down and get to work. And, while you won’t have to deal with the noise of a busy open-plan office, you also won’t have your teammates looking over your shoulder. That means that you might find yourself wasting more time than you would if you were working where someone else could see you. So, don’t even consider the arrangement if you aren’t disciplined, consistent and diligent about performing the duties of your job.

Is full-time remote work for you?

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If you’re considering taking on a full-time remote work opportunity, do some soul-searching before make the leap. Do the advantages and disadvantages that come with this type of work appeal to you? Will it work for your lifestyle and other priorities? Are you self-disciplined and intrinsically motivated enough to get your job done just as well, or better, from home? Or will the quality of your contribution suffer if you leave the office? There are a lot of factors to consider before committing.

Finally, remember that you may not have to go all in at once. You may be able to convince your current employer to let you work from home a day or two a week, as a trial run. Or, you might propose trying a remote work schedule for a month or two, to see how things go. The truth is that you won’t really know whether telecommuting works for you until you give it a try.

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