19 Things About Working Remotely That Will Surprise You
November 22, 2019
Why are you building an online business?
Think about it for a second…
What is it that’s truly motivating you to devote your time, energy, and effort to online entrepreneurship? Is it to earn more money? To reach more people? To have a greater impact?
While any one of these motivators might come to mind for you, we invite you to take a deeper look at what’s driving you. For many entrepreneurs and business owners, one of their highest values is freedom. The freedom to do what you want, when you want, and where you want to do it.
In fact, a higher level of personal freedom was what motivated our Founder & CEO Eric Turnnessen to build MemberMouse. You can hear more of his story here. Even though the path of online entrepreneurship can be rocky at times, the freedom it can provide is unparalleled.
One of the main benefits of building a successful online business is that you and your work aren’t tied to any one place, one physical location. For the most part, you can work anywhere with an internet connection: at home, in a coffee shop, or in a cabin in the woods. You aren’t stuck getting on the same highway every morning and battling the morning commute to the office. While the benefits of remote work are truly great, there are some things about it that no one really talks about.
Since we are a remote company, we thought it would be fun and insightful to poll our team and a few of our customers about the things they love (and some of the things that aren’t so great) about working remotely.
Your Working Environment
One of the major benefits of working remotely is your ability to literally work from anywhere. This style of work creates a great deal of environmental freedom. If stuffy offices and long commutes aren’t your thing, this can be massively appealing!
In fact, for Lonnie (one of the stellar members of our support team) this level of freedom is one of the main advantages of remote work. This is what he had to say:
“One of the major pros of remote work is environmental freedom. I can work from anywhere. If I want to work from my clean office space, I can. If I want to work from the mountains (as long as I have a decent cell signal to pass to my laptop) I can do that. If I wanted to work from a cruise ship with WIFI, I can do that as well. Plus, there’s no commute to an office. This saves a lot of time, money, and stress. Plus, the weather never affects my ability to be at work when needed.
One thing to keep in mind about working remotely is your internet connection. If and when the internet goes out, you won’t be able to connect to work-related platforms. You can easily remedy this by having a backup work spot or a hotspot on your phone.”
For Gregory & Melissa – the core of our customer relationships team – the benefits of controlling their work environment go beyond just the location:
“We love the ability to be in our own lighting, temperature control, and sounds of our home. We’ve both worked at places with gnarly fluorescent lighting, loud music, noises from fans, fridges, etc. All of these environmental factors are beyond our control. It really is something to be grateful for to not have your health negatively impacted due to factors outside of your control.”
One of our long-term customers — Britt Menard of Box Office Fox — has built numerous successful membership sites over the years. She had this to say when we asked her what she loves most about working remotely:
“Oh, definitely the freedom! If I wanted to pick up and move to Thailand or Eastern Europe, I could. If I want to work from home, I can. I can work when creativity is sparked. I don’t have to be productive from nine to five, Monday through Friday, from my office desk. I can work anywhere. Obviously, there are many jobs where you do have to be at a physical location to get the job done, I understand that. But as far as running a membership site or really doing anything with computers, you don’t have to be stuck in that mindset that you need to be working from an office.”
Sara (another rock star from our support team), sums it up this way:
“I think the best part is being able to get a change of scenery when you need one.”
But believe it or not, even with all of the flexibility that working remotely provides, you may still find that you miss certain aspects of a more traditional job as Cynthia – our Head of Customer Experience – points out here:
“You’ll miss the office, and even the commute (yes, really!), sometimes. Remote work can be lonely work. This is fine for most of us most of the time, but there will be times when you’ll miss the random chatter around the proverbial water cooler, the general socializing and inspirational sparks that can only come from a bunch of people sharing the same space. It’s important to recognize that this is something that you’ll need and find a way to scratch that itch – either by having a regular cafe you go to to work or renting a desk at a coworking space or joining a meetup group. The point is that it’s work-related socializing, not your normal hanging with friends.
As for missing the commute… For me, the commute was time to decompress, listen to a podcast, read a book, sleep. I didn’t like being forced to do that for 3 hours every day but there is something to be said for time to yourself between your work and your home. It acts as a buffer and a time to reset or just have some me-time. When your commute is a 30 second walk from one room to another, this can get lost. It’s important to take some of that time you used to spend commuting and give it to yourself.”
The Impact On Relationships
How does working remotely impact your relationships? If you think about it, the very nature of working from home changes one something almost everyone considers fundamental to work: being around other people. John chimes in with his perspective:
“It seems a bit obvious, but people who work remotely don’t interact the same amount, or in the same way, as people who work in close proximity to each other. In a normal office environment, I tend to take a pretty dim view of my employer “managing” my workplace relationships, but it’s different when the team doesn’t really interact on a purely social level without an engineered opportunity to do so. For some people, I suppose that working from home is a pretty solitary experience, and probably some people are better-suited to that type of environment than others.”
Plus, working from home can be strangely confusing for friends and family members. Like… what do you mean you can’t drive me to the grocery store in the middle of the day. It’s not like you’re working or anything…? Cynthia has definitely had this experience and shares these thoughts:
“It can be difficult for family, friends, and neighbors to remember that you are indeed working. Even though it’s easy to knock on your door, that doesn’t mean you are available to do household chores or take off for a midday yoga class. I found that a good-sized, well-placed sign ‘The doctor is in’ or ‘Genius at Work’ or ‘Yes, I am in the middle of something’ can help.”
Even with these challenges, there is a definite positive side as Matt from our marketing team shares here:
“It is really nice to just work in the same location as my wife. Even though we might not have a ton of interaction during the work day, we can take a break together for tea or lunch. This was almost never possible when I worked in an office. I was lucky to squeeze in enough time for lunch at all, let alone heading home for a home-cooked meal.”
How does remote work impact communication between co-workers and team members? This can actually prove to be a bit more challenging when working remotely. Our CTO Ben shares his perspective here:
“When doing remote work, communication becomes much more of a challenge. In an office environment, you can go heads-down on a project, and there is a general understanding among people that share your space that you are hard at work. If you go heads-down in a remote environment, what your colleagues and/or customers perceive is that you go “radio silent” for a period of time. This can lead to misunderstandings about the amount and nature of work being done. The solution to this is improving communication, which is a lesson I learned early on in my career. Fortunately, today there are many excellent tools out there like Monday.com that can help make sure that our customers and teammates are properly in the loop.”
“Managing a remote team, means LOTS of consistently scheduled, recurring meetings,” Cynthia adds. “In one sense, this may not be too different from an executive’s experience in an office setting, where so much of the day is taken up by meetings, many that seem pointless, that it can feel like you don’t get any actual work done. However, where it does differ, is that for remote teams, these meetings are essential.
These calls serve to take the place of all those pop-ins, hall passings, lunch chats, coffee breaks, in addition to standard meetings, that can happen at the office. Communication is key, as we all know, and it can become stagnant, thoughts and ideas get lost if you don’t allow for plenty of live calls. Slack definitely has its place and is a great shorthand, but live interaction, especially if you can get your remote team out of their pjs and willing to appear on video chat, is priceless.”
Productivity & Time Management
What actually happens when you escape the office? Do you all of a sudden have an abundance of time on your hands? Do you become ultra-productive and breeze through your to-do lists each day? Well… it’s not quite that simple.
If you think remote work is the antidote for an office full of distractions and productivity killers, you might be in for a rude awakening if and when you make the transition. As Lonnie points out, an office isn’t the only place where it’s easy to get distracted:
“It can be easy to get distracted if you are not in a remote-friendly work environment. For instance, working at a coffee shop can be a great place to work remotely, unless it is an extremely busy coffee shop with lots of noise and different things going on. However, this is easily avoided by learning what places you can easily work at and what places you cannot, or by setting up an in-home office for times you cannot find a place at which you can concentrate.”
What’s great about remote work is that you can run your online business while traveling. One of our customers Kyle Weiger, of Kyle Weiger Handstand Training, has become an expert at productively running his online business while traveling around the world. He chimes in here with some valuable productivity and time management tips:
“I live and die by my Gmail calendar. So, if it goes in the calendar, it gets done. And if it doesn’t go in the calendar, you can probably imagine what the end of that sentence is, right? I just rely on my own ability to take notes and if I put something in the calendar at a time I knew that it was important enough that I needed to give it my attention. So even, let’s say I put something in, and I find chunk of two hours a week from now where I want to do this thing. And then that time comes, and it’s like, ‘Oh, I’d rather be at the gym, or I’d rather be doing something more fun.’ I know based on past experience, like, ‘Hey man, you’ve done this before. If it’s in the calendar, make it a priority, and then go do your fun stuff later.’”
And if you’re a parent who works remotely, we’re sure you can relate to what Cynthia has to say here about “creative scheduling”:
“If you have young children at home, be prepared for some very creative scheduling and un-scheduling. Hold on, my son just woke up… Where was I? Oh right, creative scheduling.
Nights after bedtime or mornings before they wake up will become some of your most productive time. I found that I had to triage work based on the amount of attention needed to do it effectively. So, most emails, report gathering and reviews, research and inspiration, daily maintenance tasks could all be done in spurts of 15-30 minutes during the day. Phone call meetings were reserved for naptime. And then after bedtime or early mornings were for work that really needed my focus.
Of course, this never stays static for long so flexibility is key. I read all the tips about working from home with little ones in tow and ultimately I found that once they were walking, the only way for true work to get done was to have another set (or two!) of eyes and hands. Meaning, another caregiver to be able to give them attention either inside or outside the home and allow me to focus. For me, there really was no way around it if I didn’t want to run myself ragged.”
Our CTO Ben has been working remotely for the past 10 years. When we asked him for his best tips on staying productive while working from home, he shared this gem of an insight:
“One thing I’ve found that is important is maintaining discipline. Many people transition from office positions to remote positions, and find themselves working in the same space they previously used to unwind in… and are unable to resist the temptations that come with that.
I’ve found it is very helpful to have a space that is designated as your “working space,” which is not your bedroom or an entertainment room. Obviously, a dedicated office works best for this, but for those constrained by space, a specific table or counter works as well. This is similar to the conventional wisdom around not working in your bedroom; there is a clear differentiator between when you are working and when you are not, which helps you shift mental states.
While it’s crucial to set up remote-working discipline for yourself, I think it’s equally important to make exceptions. If the position allows for it, sometimes you should go see the matinee of that movie you’ve been wanting to see, or go shopping in the middle of the day. As long as the quality and quantity of your work product remain the same, in most places nobody really cares how you allocate your time, so occasionally something like this can be a much-needed pick-me-up in the middle of the day.”
A Look At Work / Life Balance
What about work/life balance? It probably seems like you’d all of a sudden have so much more time for yourself if you started working from home, right? Your commute goes from crossing town to crossing your hallway. Yes, working remotely can have a huge impact on your work/life balance, but as John from our support team points out, it’s a two way street:
“Working from home provides a lot of flexibility in managing the work/life balance. There are a thousand simple little pleasures that come with that. For example, I was never able to take my son to the bus stop in the morning or be part of the parent/teacher conferences when I worked in an office. However, that flexibility works both ways, and on at least one occasion I’ve found myself thinking ‘I ought to take a break for dinner,’ only to notice that the sky is starting to lighten and it’s time for breakfast.”
Sara echoes this sentiment, “For me, the hardest thing about working from home is my tendency to live at work instead of working where I live.”
Even so, the overarching sentiment of everyone we polled was that the pros of working remotely far outweigh the cons. As Lonnie puts it:
“Another major benefit of working remotely is how it impacts my work/life balance. Meaning, if a really important situation in my life or an emergency comes up, I can easily get it taken care of without it impacting my work. In some cases, I can still work while sick, as there is no fear of infecting co-workers. Plus, with this flexibility I have more energy and more time for recovery. For me, the pros of remote work totally outweigh the cons, and all the cons are easily avoidable in my personal opinion.”
If you’ve worked in an office for any length of time, we’re sure you can relate to the feeling of just wanting to leave in the middle of the day for a nice meal, a yoga class, or a relaxing walk through the park. This isn’t always possible in a traditional setting and is a definite perk of working from home as Gregory & Melissa state here:
“Being able to go on breaks as we need, cook our own food, and nourish ourselves with ease is amazing. We love that we don’t need to do so much meal-prep and spend extra money on unsatisfying take out. It’s super easy to drink tea, water, and hydrate properly throughout the day.”
However, as an entrepreneur who is building an online business, it is important to remember to take care of your health. When you’re self-employed, you really do have the choice to choose how much (or how little) you work. One of our successful customers Neely Quinn (of Training Beta) had this to say about the impact entrepreneurship has had on her health:
“When I first started my online business, I would stay up all night and never go climbing. And it wrecked me. In fact, it made me have two shoulder surgeries because I was hunched over a computer for so long. And I think that at that point I was like, I can’t make this my whole life. Honestly, I was fine climbing. I was fine. And then I had this heinous work thing, this big project, and I spent 100 hours a week hunched over my computer for three weeks to a month. And the day after it was done, I tried to go climbing and both of my shoulders were just wrecked.”
We hope you enjoyed all of these different perspectives, thoughts, and insights about working remotely. Despite any of the challenges working from home might create, the overarching sentiment amongst our team and customers is that it is totally worth it. The level of freedom working remotely can create for you is incredible.
What do you think about all this? If you’re an entrepreneur or have been working remotely, share your experience with us down in the comments below. And if you’re still working towards a more “location independent” lifestyle, tell us what you’re looking forward to most once you take the plunge.