Freelancers in the gig economy and remote workers are fueling the biggest shake up in working structures since the end of feudalism and the birth of the industrial revolution. Okay, perhaps that is a bit too much hyperbole, but 10-20% of Americans are independent contractors, and the global economy for people working from home is growing fast. This ranges from freelance work with Uber and online writing, to Virtual Assistants, designers, artists, translators, to people earning through AirBnB, their own websites, and so on. This does not include remote workers who count as typical employees, but who work from home. Working from home is not easy though, and there are 3 main areas to think about before taking it on.
Discipline: The Work and Enjoying It
Studies into remote or teleworking have shown that employees are more engaged in their work. This comes from a lack of commute, from being in a comfortable environment, and from not having distractions in the form of other co-workers. Others might argue for a lack of fluorescent strip lights and that ugh office feel. Working from home requires immense discipline but it rewards workers with either higher volume (and more pay) or less time spent doing the work, so more time to relax. Those who struggle with this kind of work tend to have less discipline so do chores, play with the pets, watch TV, snack from the fridge, or mooch around without purpose.
Solitude: Working in Real and Virtual Teams or Alone
The office, no matter whether it is open plan, a series of closed doors, or cubicles, mixes together solo work and teamwork depending on the nature of the tasks in hand. When you are working from home you may still be working as part of a team or you may be working totally alone. One of the pros of working from home in this sense is less distractions from teammates who are not concentrating on their work and also less micromanagement from bosses.
However, there is less face-to-face contact. Communication is limited to work platforms like Slack or chat apps like Skype. There are also emails. This can make it easier for miscommunications as co-workers are not communicating effectively. Regardless of whether part of a team or working solo, working from home can be incredibly lonely; especially if you are single and live by yourself. This works for some people, introverts especially, but can be difficult for others.
Barriers: Home Life vs. Work Life
Working from home or remotely offers up a wealth of living options not normally available to people. Accommodation for remote workers is something to be carefully considered. However, working from home does not have to fundamentally change where you live, but it will change how you view your home on a practical and philosophical level.
Let’s start with the practical. If you live alone, any part of the house can be a place to work be it a desk, a couch, a dining table, or your bed. You need to work out which place lets you be at your most productive as well as most comfortable. However, most people want to zone their house, so this means having a room you can dedicate to work.
This brings us to the psychological level, in which your house is no longer a place where you are at home, where you cook, relax, socialize, watch movies, and escape the world around you. It can be difficult to merge it into your work space. This often leads to two types of imbalance – on the one hand some people treat work too much as being at home (as mentioned above) or they let work take over their lives and there is little difference between home and work. Finding the right balance is essential even if this means faking a commute by walking around the block to bookend your work hours.