Have you ever dreamed of working remotely? I know, the exotic locations look awesome on Instagram. Imagine yourself, your laptop, sunny weather and a clear blue ocean. Epic! But is that what it's really like to work remotely?
In this article, you'll realize that the reality of things is quite a bit different. Though, don't get us wrong: We definitely do work from the beach every now and then!
At MailerLite, everyone gets to choose their favorite work location. People can come to our office in Vilnius or work remotely. Half of our team is always working somewhere around the world—whether that's from a coworking space in Las Palmas, Spain, an ocean-view room in Oaxaca, Mexico or a sunbed by the pool in Canggu, Indonesia.
Luckily, we get to see everyone's face twice a year during our workations (here's what a workation is).
Since all of us have different personalities and routines, I asked our remote colleagues to share their experiences in working remotely. What do they enjoy and what challenges do they face?
I hope that these stories will help you decide if remote work is right for you, or—if you're hiring—to get a better understanding of what life looks like from a remote worker's perspective.
“Use the liberty granted to you, experiment and find what feels good.”
As an extrovert, the biggest challenge for me is definitely socializing and not feeling lonely. Working remotely, you have the liberty of choosing where to work, but you need to be responsible and realize it's probably difficult to work sitting at a table with all your friends. Co-working spaces are lacking in the area I stay at. I need to drive quite a bit to reach one, which isn’t ideal. When it comes to socializing, MailerLite does an awesome job with their different Slack channels that motivate people to strike up a conversation with each other (random, movies, birthdays, travel advice, etc). However, there's nothing like being able to see someone’s facial reaction while they look at what you sent.
The work-life balance is a huge plus for me! I love being able to stay at home to look after my pets and have everything where I need it to be. I also love that my work is measured by my actual performance. I have had in-office experiences where employees were given more recognition and opportunities because of who they knew, or what they look like. Since everyone is spread around the world behind a screen in a remote team, the playing field is pretty evened out.
Work it to the best of your advantage! I don’t believe there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ for remote work. Use the liberty granted to you, experiment and find what feels good. Some are more productive in the morning with something to look forward to in the evening. Some are night owls and prefer work to be the last thing on their plate. Everyone has their own groove!
“My office is always one mile from an adventure!”
I’d say daily routine is the biggest challenge for me so far. You have more free time working remotely, so you want to spend it wisely. Sometimes I fail by staying in bed and watching movies for hours. Food is another challenge. I have to prepare lunch for myself, which is not the most exciting part of my day. And of course, being remote means you don’t see your teammates often, which I do miss a lot!
I love the idea that I can work from wherever I want. I can visit my parents or grandma more often and escape from the city in the summer. I'm more of a nature guy, so any place near a lake, the sea or mountains is an ideal working space for me. My office is always a mile from an adventure! So far, my favorite work location was the French Alps, where I snowboarded during the day and worked in the evenings.
Since I work at night, I can spend the day hiking, riding my bicycle, swimming or snowboarding. It’s an amazing feeling of freedom. It really motivates and inspires me. This lifestyle makes me so happy and I share these positive vibes with our customers every day.
With all the great benefits that come with remote work and the freedom to travel, you have to be very disciplined. Ask yourself: “Can I focus 100% on my work when there are so many temptations outside?” If the answer is yes, then go for it! The most important thing is to love what you do and to be passionate about it. Remote work just brings more colors to it.
“A regular change of scenery is important for me to stay in a good mood, work productively on tasks and be creative.”
Working remotely is wonderful. However, time management is a major challenge for remote workers. It requires a great deal of self-discipline to schedule your day, prioritize tasks and separate the important from the unimportant. Also, the temptation to put-off the unpleasant until the last minute is huge.
The fact that I can change my workplace whenever I want is the greatest luxury, besides the free allocation of time. A regular change of scenery is important for me to stay in a good mood, work productively on tasks and be creative. It doesn't always have to be far away. Sometimes it's enough to move from coworking space or my home office to the coffee shop around the corner. The flexibility helps me achieve a better work-life balance. Whether a night bird or sun worshipper—I can determine my ideal working time solely on the basis of my own preferences. Some may love to slave away for 8 hours straight, but I prefer to focus for some hours in the morning, do sports or relax afterward and continue working in the afternoon.
First of all, it's essential to plan your own day, as a remote job often requires a lot of independence and self-discipline. A clearly planned day gives you a solid basis to work productively. However, don't forget your social life and add breaks to your schedule—do sports, meet friends for lunch, enjoy leisure activities or work from a coworking space from time to time. It's very easy to end up staying at home for several days without leaving your place once.
“Do your job first. Don’t mix fun with work.”
The biggest challenge is the lack of eye-to-eye communication with colleagues and keeping focused. Most of the time I work from the small office at my parent’s place, where I’m alone the whole day. The downside is that I don’t get to communicate with people outside of work during the day. This can get annoying at times. That’s why from time to time I work at a local coffee shop. It's fun because I don’t even need to order my coffee, they already know what I drink and start making it directly when they see me!
The thing that I like the most is that my family and I can live wherever we want. We are not attached to a specific location. We have a little girl and boy now, so we took the opportunity to move from the capital city to a small resort town. It's the perfect place to raise children, which is our top priority at the moment. Maybe, later on, we will use the freedom to do more traveling.
If you are working remotely, it means you want to live in a different location from your company’s office, or you like to travel and explore new places. This means you will get distracted a lot. So my advice would be to use the opportunity wisely. Do your job first. Don’t mix fun with work. Finish your tasks and then go explore. Perhaps make a schedule, set goals and find a place where you can achieve success. Try to concentrate on your daily tasks. This is the most difficult part for me, but I know my weaknesses and do my best to overcome them. Also, if no one is watching you, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your work.
“I like the freedom to decide where my office will be next.”
The biggest challenge depends on the place I decide to work that day. I can concentrate basically anywhere, but loads of noise is definitely an issue. So if I decide to work from a cafe, sometimes it just gets too busy and even calm music does not help. I always try to use cafes that are not too crowded and also have some healthy snacks. It's pretty hard to resist buying too many sweets during an 8-hour shift.
If I work at home, the biggest issue is the other people living with me. It's sometimes hard for people to understand that I'm working and that I'm not available during those hours. Of course, there is also an added distraction of doing chores at home. You need to make sure you know when it’s time to do personal work and when it's time to do company work.
Let me start by saying that I really, really like remote work. I like the freedom to decide where my office will be next. It can be a different city or even a different country if you're chasing better weather for your favorite activities or just trying to kick-start your foreign language skills. I'm a person that enjoys really living in different countries rather than just visiting them for a short period of time. Remote work allows me to fully discover different cultures.
It's hard to suggest one thing as every person uses different tactics and has different preferences. I would recommend trying co-working spaces, cafes, the library and a home desk to see what works best for you.
“The trust and freedom provided by remote work is just an added motivation to work harder and more productively.”
Sometimes it’s hard to feel 100% connected with the team, but that's alleviated by the fact that everyone is on board with remote work. We all use great communication tools to keep in touch.
Personally, I love adjusting my workflow to whatever mood I’m in. The trust and freedom provided by remote work is just an added motivation to work harder and more productively.
First off, make sure that remote work is something for you. It’s easy to get side-tracked without the proper self-discipline. Keep in touch with your team both professionally and personally. Communication is key!
Planning to hire for a remote job? Here's what's good to keep in mind:
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated with fresh insights from new team members.
I’m Ilma, COO at MailerLite. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win (like being named one of the top 5 fastest growing SaaS companies). Email is my passion, although I took a rather unusual path. Before MailerLite, I worked in finance and art, which turned out to be the perfect mix for marketing.