Have you ever dreamed of working remotely? Sure, the exotic locations look awesome on Instagram. It’s just you, your Macbook, the sun, palm trees and the beach. But what is it really like to work remotely?
At MailerLite, everyone gets to choose their work location. They can come to our office in Vilnius or work remotely from wherever they want. Half of the team is always remote. We meet them in person only twice a year on our workations (what is a workation?).
I asked our remote colleagues to share their experience — both what they like about remote work and the challenges they face. I hope their answers will help you decide if remote work is right for you. If you are thinking about hiring for a remote job, you will learn what life is like from a remote worker’s perspective.
“You should know what you actually want first and why”
People usually say discipline is the biggest challenge. I would say it is not just the discipline to get your work done, but more of a mental discipline, which I call “being here and now” or “anxiousness.” When you are not with people all day, you are left with your own thoughts, which is sometimes overwhelming. It can distract you from the task at hand.
Instead of taking a break in an office, I can vacuum my room, wash the dishes or do the laundry. It’s pretty amazing. Also, I am not forced to start work at certain hours, which gives me a feeling of freedom. At the same time, I feel more responsible and don’t slack off because of the trust that MailerLite has in me. I am encouraged by the responsibility and freedom.
In ancient Greece on the entrance of the Delphi sanctuary, home of the oracles, there was an inscription “gnothi seauton”, which means “know thyself”. In order to seek help from the oracles, you needed to know what you wanted first and why. This is also important when working by yourself. You need to know what triggers your productivity, what distracts you, and what makes you feel anxious or focused. It’s also important to maintain social interactions, so warn your friends that they may receive some additional attention or that sometimes you will need their attention. Remote work is not only a job you do for your company, but also a job for your own personal growth.
“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 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 am more of a nature guy, so any place near a lake, the sea or mountains is an ideal working space. My office is always a mile from an adventure! So far, my favorite work location was in 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. I am so happy and I share my 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.
“It can be demotivating if your remote team is not in constant communication”
I love working remotely in the comfort of my own home. But I have to admit that it can be challenging at times when the fridge is just a few steps away, an unexpected visitor arrives, or your kids start to be “extra needy”. Summoning the forces of nature to give you the power to focus on your work is the key.
The best thing about working remotely, apart from not battling city traffic, is working with a highly collaborative, friendly and helpful group of people like the team at MailerLite.
Having worked remotely since 2009, I know that it can be demotivating if your remote team is not in constant communication or they don’t encourage you to pitch an idea. This is definitely not the culture at MailerLite. I love my job.
Make sure you are self-motivated, pro-active in asking questions and offer suggestions for improvements. A successful remote worker needs to be a good team player and is able to manage time effectively between personal and work responsibilities.
“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. Mostly, I work from my mini office at my parent’s place where I’m alone the whole day. This way, I don’t get to communicate with people outside of work during the day. Sometimes this just gets annoying. That’s why from time to time I work at a local coffee shop. I don’t even need to order my coffee. They already know what I drink and start making it right 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 now so we took the opportunity to move from the capital city to a small resort town. It is the perfect place to raise a child, which is our top priority at the moment. Maybe, later on, we will use it for 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 is 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 is sometimes hard for people to understand that I am working and that I am 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 is 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 are chasing better weather for your favorite activities or just trying to kick-start your foreign language skills. I am 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 is 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 is 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!
“Evaluate whether you are able to motivate yourself while working remotely”
Sitting on the right chairs and working at the right desks are the biggest challenges. Anyone who works behind a laptop knows how important your posture is when you’re working, so you don’t strain your back or your arms too much. However, as a remote worker, you tend to work in cafes or from home, where the seats are not made for 8-hour workdays. I often need to remind myself to get up and walk around for a bit, or to work standing up, or to improve my posture. If I don’t do this, my body will hurt by the end of the workweek. Offices generally have much better chairs and desks for proper posture.
I love being able to work from wherever I want. I notice that this freedom has increased my productivity. If I want to go to a cafe, I can. If I want to spend an afternoon working with my friends/family by my side, I can. If I want to travel to a different country, I can. I can choose any place without interrupting my work. It allows me to work in the environment that will motivate me the most on that particular day.
That depends on where I am. When I am in Holland (where I’m from), I love to work from cafes in Amsterdam. Preferably one with a long wooden table, nice music and good coffee. For example, I recommend Coffee & Coconuts. Whenever I am abroad, I always try to find spacious cafes with comfortable chairs (for example, GATS in Barcelona). However, I currently live in Costa Rica and I prefer to work from home. I live with an amazing Costa Rican family that is always cooking, eating, chatting and drinking coffee in the kitchen. I love working in that environment because it means I’m not alone behind my laptop. I can focus on my work, but also have them around for company. Plus, the internet is fastest at home.
I have been an advocate of remote work ever since I found out about it. I believe that everyone should be able to work where they feel most comfortable or inspired. However, before you jump in, I recommend that you evaluate whether you are able to motivate yourself while working remotely. Remote workers have a lot of autonomy and can often decide their own working hours. Do you have the discipline to keep working even when no one is looking over your shoulder? Can you work by yourself all day without having colleagues around you? Can you maintain clear communication with your managers in different time zones? If you need the “buzz” of an office to get your work done or to feel happy, I don’t recommend remote work. But if you love to work by yourself and are able to motivate yourself to get up in the morning, then it will be the best step you’ll ever take!