Is Remote Work a Good Fit For You? Benefits and Challenges of Remote Working
Apr 23, 2021
As the COVID-19 epidemic spreads, millions of workers around the globe are being forced to work remotely. Some people who just start working remotely suddenly find themselves enjoying it, while others are not so comfortable with the isolation it brings.
Is working at home really as good as we thought? What kind of opportunities and possibilities does remote work bring to job seekers? In this Special Feature, Meet.jobs interviewed four engineers and designers who have successfully found remote jobs through Meet.jobs, sharing their challenges and learning in remote work, hoping to provide you some helpful insights if you’re looking for full-time remote jobs.
Three major benefits of remote work
Do you want to stop living a life of commuting on the MRT and buses where it’s super crowded every day? Don’t want to be tied up in the office for 8-10 hours a day, only to come home exhausted and just want to catch up on TV series or play video games? Everyone has different reasons for choosing to work remotely, but the reasons often cited include no commute, flexible working hours and locations, and the ability to take care of both family and quality of life, etc.
Remote Work Eliminates the Fatigue That Comes with Commuting
A survey conducted by the UK government in 2014 found that commuters with long commutes are more anxious and less satisfied with their lives than those with shorter commutes, and they are less likely to feel that their daily activities are worthwhile. Other studies have found that people who commute long distances are more likely to be tired at work, less productive, and less satisfied with their work.
Mike, who is currently a remote full-time engineer, mentioned why he wanted to seek remote work opportunities actively,” Previously, my full-time job required me to spend almost three hours a day commuting, and after I entered the company, I would spend a lot of time either working mindlessly or waiting for work to be done so that I could go home. After a while, I felt really burned out. One day it occurred to me that since I can work as long as I have the Internet and a computer, why not try to look for remote work opportunities and explore different career possibilities?”
The same is true for Yih Shiou, who works as an AI software engineer. “Since I used to work in an office, I didn’t want to go to work every night when I thought of the crowded commute I would have to go through the next day. But after working remotely, I don’t feel this way anymore. Waking up every morning and commuting to work can easily bring negative energy before work, yet now I feel that I can finally have a leisurely breakfast before starting work.”
Remote Work Provides Autonomy and Flexibility
Another major benefit of remote work is the flexibility of working hours and locations. Even though it is full-time, there is still some room for self-adjustment, unlike in the office where it is almost impossible to work solely at one’s own pace, and might not feel comfortable leaving before the supervisor and other colleagues leave at the end of the day.
Mike has been working remotely for more than half a year now. His hobby is cycling, and if he doesn’t have any urgent issues to deal with in the morning, he will read or go cycling for a few hours first, then he will start working in the afternoon after a proper lunch.
As his boss cares more about results instead of working hours, if he finishes something earlier than expected, the rest of his time will be his own, which makes him feel more productive and motivated than when he was working in an office. He feels very satisfied that he can work at his own pace, and is closer to the ideal lifestyle he wants.
Tina, a product designer, also said with a smile that she did have the experience of traveling to Taitung with a laptop and working at the same time. However, since she usually works with a tight schedule, she does not have many opportunities to make such arrangements.
Accumulate international collaboration experience through remote work without actually going abroad
In fact, more and more international start-ups or global companies are willing to offer remote jobs. During the spread of the epidemic, for many people whose goal is to work overseas, remote work seems to be a good way to continue moving forward towards their goal.
Tina, as a senior designer who has been working for large companies, set her sights on working overseas from the beginning because of the relatively low salary in the Taiwan market and her desire to accumulate overseas working experience. Though the position she had been accepted to work in Xiamen was accidentally changed to a remote job due to the outbreak of the epidemic, she was still able to work for U.S. companies as she had hoped.
“At first, I was aiming to work in the U.S. because many IT headquarters are based in the U.S. Also, for designers, so many guidelines and best practices of UX design are all from the U.S., so I was looking forward to working in a U.S. company, but later I thought that working in a U.S. company in Asia would be a good springboard. Then I found my current job at meet.jobs, and I think it fits the experience I want to accumulate.”
Yih Shiou, a AI software engineer, was an exchange student in Germany and had the idea that he wanted to work anywhere he liked in the future, without being restricted by location. Furthermore, since he wanted to continue to accumulate experience in international start-ups, he intentionally looked for remote jobs when he was hunting for a job, and successfully entered DC Frontiers, an AI company in Singapore, where most of the communication and collaboration is in English.
Major challenges of remote work and how to overcome them?
Of course, remote work isn’t all that rosy. There are also many challenges to adapt to. According to Buffer’s survey [2020 State of Remote Work] of 3,500 remote workers, the top three challenges that remote workers struggle with the most are communication and collaboration, loneliness, and the inability to stop working.
Remote work requires more frequent communication
After working remotely, many people find that because they don’t know what their colleagues and supervisors are like, they need to constantly check internal messages and emails, and communicate with them more often, such as reporting progress or confirming some issues, etc.
Yih Shiou said that one of the biggest challenges is that sometimes people don’t reply to your messages even though they have read them, because they are occupied with other stuff at that moment, but you don’t really know how long it might take for them to respond, which means you just need to be more proactive in asking for help and communicating.
Tina also said that when she started working remotely, she was reminded by her supervisor that she needed to change her mentality, because in the past, she might sit in her seat and wait for others to reach out to her.
But since she is in a remote position, no one could actually see her, she needs to be more proactive in reporting and follow up to ensure progress forward, which is where she made the biggest adjustment in the process.
In addition, American communication style is very straightforward, especially in the absence of body language. So Tina also makes some adjustments with her communication style, speaking directly to the point, not in a roundabout way, making sure her colleagues really understand what she’s talking about, and respecting the exact time of each meeting that has been agreed upon.
Tina added that since she is a designer, she has to communicate with PM and engineers very often. “Since we all work remotely, a lot of things are discussed in the form of meetings, unlike the old days when we were in the office and just walked over to discuss. Now you have to ask someone to meet with you online so you have time to discuss, otherwise the information will come in in bulk and the other person will easily ignore your needs.”
In Mike’s case, he is currently the only remote team member in Taiwan, while the other members are based in Malaysia. He feels that at the beginning, it does take more time to communicate, but with time to build a tacit understanding with the team members and get to know everyone’s workflow, communication will become more and more efficient.
Lack of social interaction and loneliness
In terms of emotional communication, it’s hard to match the actual meeting and daily interaction in the office from a distance.
“It’s certainly better to have colleagues around, because after all, it’s harder to become friends with them due to the network barrier.” says Mike. Working remotely does keep colleagues less connected. So he thinks it’s ideal to meet with colleagues a few times a year, because it’s better for the team to maintain emotional ties.
Yih Shiou often goes out to buy a cup of coffee in the afternoon, “If you work in an environment where you’re completely alone all day, it’s really stressful, so many remote workers like me may change their workplace, such as going to a café, etc. I live with my family and they all come home at night, which I think is very helpful, so I don’t feel very lonely.”
Remote workers should pay special attention to their physical and mental health, maintain the habit of working out, engage in their own hobbies, and find ways to arrange social activities even if they work from home, participate in physical activities, and keep in touch with their own circle of friends.
No clear boundary between work and life
Many people think that working remotely means a better quality of life because it saves time on commuting, and they can take care of their family or hobbies. However, in fact, since they work and live in the same place, the working hours may become even longer than going to the office if they are not careful enough.
Glenn, a senior DevOps engineer, shared that at the beginning of working at home, the boundary was blurred because he didn’t have to commute after work, which made it easy for him to overdo it without realizing it, and sometimes he was still working at dinner time.
Moreover, as the company is a multinational one, there is inevitably the problem of working with colleagues from different time zones, sometimes he would need to send messages to his colleagues in the U.S. or Russia to confirm some issues or make work handover at midnight, so he felt as if his working hours were extended too long.
But as he slowly adjusted himself over time, Glenn felt that he didn’t mind the seemingly extended working hours because he had already saved time on commuting and the work schedule was more flexible, not working from morning to night, but still having time to rest in between, so after a period of time, he got used to it.
Tina also said that she tried to force herself to set clear boundaries between her life and work when she started working remotely, but not checking emails and messages from her colleagues in the U.S. before going to bed actually caused her more anxiety. So after slowly adapting to this work pace, Tina now feels that it is not a problem for her anymore. Although the rest time on weekdays becomes more fragmented, she can still have a good rest on weekends.
How to Make Remote Working More Effective?
In the process of working remotely, you will gradually find out how to organize your time and communicate with your colleagues more efficiently. Here are some suggestions for remote workers, compiled from our respondents’ answers.
In the morning, you can mainly schedule meetings, communication and organizing work; and in the afternoon, you can set up a more complete schedule so that you can enter into a focused working mode, and it is important to schedule your working hours according to your productivity.
Always pay attention to the information that comes from inside the company, and train yourself to prioritize your work quickly and respond fast, which is an important ability to work remotely.
Don’t just trust what people say they will do. Push for clear deadlines in meetings, or people may forget what they have to give you.
Schedule short and concise meetings, and reach a conclusion in a 10-30 minute meeting.
Whether you are a PM or not, treat yourself as a PM, because you have to control many parts yourself. Being proactive is a must. If you are too passive, a lot of work will be stuck on you, and the evaluation of colleagues and supervisors will not be ideal.
When discussing remotely, try not to ask questions that are too open or too vague. You can first limit the scope and provide several specific solutions, which can save a lot of time for rambling discussions.
Is Remote Work a Good Fit For You? Essential Traits for Great Remote Workers
For those who are not afraid of the challenges of remote work and are still determined to find a remote job, you may want to evaluate your suitability first.
To be sure, a certain level of experience and expertise is more appropriate, as there are often decisions to be made or actions to be taken without enough information and guidance. Freshmen who have no experience at all or need a lot of guidance and mentorship are not that suitable.
It is still recommended that freshmen accumulate some working experience first, build up sufficient professional skills and have a certain level of maturity in workplace communication before considering a remote job.
Regarding the attributes needed for a remote job, respondents mentioned that being self-starter, independence, self-management and discipline, etc. are quite important for remote jobs, but communication skills, including language skills, are the most crucial.
Glenn feels that writing skill is very important. Since there is no way to speak face-to-face with colleagues, there are often times when you need to leave a message or write an email, and it is important to be able to communicate precisely and clearly. The ability to state the problem clearly and convey the message effectively is extremely vital.
All in all, evaluate your most desired work and lifestyle, think about what you really want, and make trade-offs. If you want the flexibility that comes with remote work, you should embrace the fact that it’s hard to ensure the traditional nine-to-five office routine. And if you want to work remotely without commuting or going into the office, understand there will be less time joking and chatting around with your colleagues.
If you’re really into remote work and ready to embrace the whole new career possibilities it presents, the good news is there will be more and more companies providing full time or partial remote work options even after the pandemic ends. If you feel really excited and would like to make a career transition soon, visit Meet.jobs for more remote work job opportunities!