The Reality of Working Virtually

Reality of working virtually

An overwhelmingly remote workforce has become part of our everyday reality. As such, many people have come to understand what it truly means to work virtually or remotely. Yet, quite a few envious onlookers waiting for a chance to nab the first beach corner are still not aware of what it really means to work virtually.

Being able to work remotely is an excellent job perk. This type of work environment allows employees to stay home and care for loved ones or travel the world. But the reality is that working from home is certainly not a day at the beach (at least not for the average worker).

Instead working from home requires hard work, dedication, focus, and excellent time-management skills. These traits are not inherent in every worker. This means that everyone won’t be as effective in a virtual work environment regardless of the benefits that can be derived from working in such a setting. Therefore, if you are considering working remotely take a look at some of the pros and cons of virtual work environments below before you commit to such a work environment.

Advantages of Virtual Work Environments

Flexible hours

Many virtual working situations come with the added benefit of scheduling flexibility. While workers are still required to maintain a set amount of hours, they sometimes have the ability to work during variable hours of the day. The is an excellent benefit for individuals who have other obligations that they may have to tend to during regular business hours.

Location Independence

Oftentimes working virtually comes with location independence. This means that you aren’t tied to a specific geographical location when it comes to fulfilling your work duties. You can work from home, which can be down the street, across the country, or on the other side of the world. This gives employees the freedom to travel whenever they desire.

Increased productivity

Many employees have reported that they are more productive when they work virtually. They don’t have to deal with the constant interruptions or distractions that are inherent in many workplace environments. They can also work the way they want to work, which means that they can plug in their earphones or blast their music in the background.

Virtual employees don’t have to change locations to attend meetings and they can take breaks at times that are convenient for them. They also don’t have to spend hours driving to and from work each day. This means that they can get more work done and often the quality of their work improves because of these factors.

Financial Savings

Not having to drive back and forth to work also has other benefits which includes saving money on transportation costs. Virtual workers don’t have to spend as much money on gas, vehicle maintenance, public transportation fare, etc. for work-related purposes. Virtual employees can also save on their wardrobe budget, laundry and dry cleaning, dining out (lunch), etc.

Disadvantages of Virtual Work Environments

Work-Life Balance Challenges

Working virtually also comes with its share of challenges. When you work virtually your office is in your home, which means that there is no true separation from home and work. Even if you have a dedicated office in your home, work is literally only a few feet away from your home life.

This can be daunting for workaholics who find it hard to separate themselves from their work. Or, it can simply be unnerving for individuals who prefer a solid division between their work and home life. It’s very easy to find yourself putting the last touches on that project in the midnight hour or responding to emails three hours after you have officially completed your workday. If you find that you are overworking yourself you can easily experience burnout.

Time Management Difficulties

On the opposite end, individuals with poor time management skills can find that working from home is quite challenging. If you are a procrastinator or have challenges working independently, you may quickly find yourself in the unemployment line when you work virtually. You must have sound time management skills in order to be able to successfully work in a virtual environment, otherwise you may not be an ideal candidate to work in this type of setting.

Communication Issues

While technology is great and has many benefits, it is also subject to error. Virtual meetings are the norm in virtual work environments but they can be easily stalled or completely interrupted when technology issues ensue.

Also, miscommunication can easily occur with written communication which is also the norm in the virtual work environment. Most work environments rely on email communication to a heavy degree in today’s workforce. This reliance is doubled or tripled in some cases when it comes to working remotely. As such, email messages can be easily misinterpreted causing conflict or complications among employees.

Another challenge with email communication is that it can get overwhelming. As previously stated, email communication tends to be overused or excessive in virtual work environments. This means that many emails may go unread or half read if they consume too much of an employee’s day.

Lack of Community

The workplace presents a great opportunity to meet and interact with people throughout the day. When you work from home you usually only interact with your colleagues on an ad hoc basis. In which case the majority of your day is spent in isolation unless you have a public facing job that requires you to interact with internal and/or external customers on a regular basis.

Even then, these tend to be one-off situations that don’t satisfy an individual’s need for lasting, meaningful relationships. Thus, working from home can led to isolation and loneliness especially for introverted individuals who already find it difficult to make meaningful social connections.

Summary

So there you have it. Working virtually, similar to other work settings, has both pros and cons. Some individuals easily thrive in remote work environments while others may not be as successful. Either way is not an indication of who you are as a person. It is simply a matter of your personal preference and aptitude.

Need more help navigating your career options? Contact us and we will gladly assist you.

Tips for Working Remotely During the COVID-19 Quarantine

This COVID-19 situation has caught us all off guard. It has turned the workforce upside down on many levels. Unemployment claims have soared and many part time employees have reduced workloads while employees in high demand industries are being asked to work overtime. Additionally, a great number of us who are fortunate enough to maintain our employment status are now tasked with working remotely, which has created it’s own set of challenges.

I have had the pleasure of being a remotely-based freelance worker for a number of years now due to the nature of my work. So this situation hasn’t been a great challenge for me in this regard. However, my work load has increased significantly since I offer a number of coaching services, which are all in high demand as a result of the COVID-19 situation. Though I am truly grateful for this surge in work, it has kept me away from my blog for a few weeks.

However, it has likewise given me the inspiration for this article since many of my clients have been asking me for suggestions to help them cope with shifting their work space to the virtual environment. So, here are a few tips to help you transition your business or work operations to your home base or other remote location…

Maintain Your Normal Schedule and Routine

Keeping a regular work schedule was tremendously helpful for me when I started working from home. When you work from home, there is technically no going “home” from work. Because you effectively spend the majority of the day in your home when you work from home, it easy to blur the lines between home and work. It is common to find yourself working earlier or later than you would normally work in an office or other setting.

This often happens due to extra pressure or boredom. It is highly likely that you will feel extra pressure when you first start working from home, especially in crisis situations such as the one we are currently faced with. It is likewise normal and acceptable for you to spend more time preparing for and getting acclimated to your new work environment. Learning how to use virtual systems like video conferencing tools and industry specific web-based software can easily add an extra hour or two to your work day.

And, let’s not forget about boredom. After you have binged-watched all the Netflix series that you can digest, it is not uncommon to find yourself checking your work email during your “off hours”. This is also acceptable on occasion, especially since we are being bombarded with an overflow of communication about the COVID-19 situation during the early phases of this work space transition process.

However, overextending yourself too often for too long can easily lead to drain, fatigue, and burnout. So once you get settled and can easily navigate your way around new technology, processes, etc. set an amenable work schedule and stick to it. It is best to stick to your normal work schedule, if at all possible. However, it may be necessary to shift your work hours depending on employer or client demands. Even in these circumstances it is still important to keep standard working hours and shifts so that you can maintain your health and well-being.

Create a Dedicated Work Space

Having a dedicated work space is just as important as having a standardized work schedule. You need to work in a space or area of your home that provides you with the level of privacy, comfort, and peace and quiet that you need for optimal performance.

When setting up your space keep the requirements of your job and your personal preferences in mind. Do you deal with highly sensitive data? Will you need to make frequent phone or video calls? Do you have any needs that require specialized equipment? There are many factors that can impact the size and type of space that you may need to perform your work efficiently. Keep in mind that purchasing extra work-related equipment or resources may be tax deductible depending on your work situation.

Creating a dedicated office space may be as simple a setting up a desk and computer in a nook of your bedroom or dining area. Or, it could be as elaborate as converting a whole room into a home office. In fact, you may already have a dedicated computer room in your home that you use frequently for work-related and other purposes. Depending on your family situation, you may need to find a way to keep your spouse, children, or other household members out of the space when you do work assignments that require privacy, quietness, or solitude.

Get Dressed for Work

Yes, get up and get dressed as if you were going to your regular job. While working in your PJ’s may sound enticing, it can actually complicate your work situation. Sitting in front of a computer in your night or workout clothes can trick your brain into thinking that it’s time to mindlessly surf the internet. Instead, you want your brain to shift into work mode when you sit down at your computer desk. Putting on professional attire will easily kick your brain into work mode so that you can perform your job duties at optimal level.

Dressing professionally will also help you stay prepared for impromptu and scheduled virtual meetings. If you get dressed at the start of your day, you don’t have to scramble to find an outfit when your supervisor or a client wants to do a virtual face-to-face at the last minute.

Connect with Colleagues on a Regular Basis

Maintaining consistent verbal communication with your colleagues is also important during extended remote work situations. Not only do we need to maintain communication because we are hardwired to connect with other humans, we also need to keep a sense of normalcy. Scheduling time to chat with our peers is very important in maintaining our sanity through this situation. We need to find meaningful ways to consistently interact with our colleagues, customers, and/or clients as we venture into this brave, new workforce.

Don’t Overwork Yourself

Finally, my last bit of advise is to not overwork yourself. This goes along with maintaining a standardized work schedule. Try not to work on weekends unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. Pace yourself and do what you can. Most employers and clients are willing to extend deadlines and work with you in a variety of different ways to ensure that you have a safe, healthy, and efficient transition to your new remote work environment. While you may need to work a few hours more on certain days, this should not be the norm. Try to cancel or delay any non-essential tasks, meetings, or events. Learn to say “no” when you need to. And most importantly, take proper care of yourself and those around you as best as possible.

Need more coaching ideas? Contact us and we will be happy to assist you.