Remote Working: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last week brought us yet another piece of research on the personality traits needed to be a home worker.

The article in question was published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior and written by Thomas O’Neill from the University of Calgary. The conclusions (here reported in inc. by Laura Montini) offer nothing “earth shattering” however…

One unexpected finding, the researchers said, was that people who indicated that they have neurotic tendencies actually work well remotely. O’Neill had predicted this group of people would have trouble concentrating, but that wasn’t the case.

This got me thinking about the ‘bad’ idiosyncrasies that I now demonstrate after 7 years of remote working. Some are an intrinsic part of my nature, but others I’m sure have developed over time.

A quiet cat

My cat being quiet

The Good

Before I go in to these I wanted to group the characteristics mentioned time and time again when it comes to remote working.

There are all those characteristics that you need to get the job done without someone looking over your shoulder: Focused, not easily distracted, self-disciplined, motivated, committed, an independent worker who requires minimal supervision, hard working, self-starter, management skills, organised, responsible, comfortable with self-imposed deadlines, decisive, a quick learner, prepared, productive, trustworthy.

Then there are those characteristics that stop you from feeling isolated: Sociable, extrovert, networked, positive attitude, communicative, articulate, collaborative worker, team player, forthcoming, frank, unreserved.

Then finally there are those characteristics that help you cope with a different way of working from most people: Adaptive, flexible, open-minded, innovative, creative, original thinking, cutting edge, tech savvy.

So I think I have a fair number of those, however I also have a few that don’t seem so great.

The Bad

I definitely do have neurotic tendancies, I worry too much and my husband sometimes says he thinks I have mild OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I am very driven to get stuff done, maybe too driven, and I find it hard to relax. I always have to have a project on the go, I always have to be busy. This article on 4 Winning Personality Traits of the Successful Telecommuter sums it up nicely:

To be a successful telecommuter, you have the type of personality that feels compelled to finish what you start, no matter how much it may inconvenience you to do so. When you begin a project, you will never rest until that project is finished. You may be sick as a dog but will keep working until the job is finished, knowing that the deadline is too critical to miss. You simply refuse to fail. You are someone who will stay up all night if that’s what it takes to complete a project.

Related to this I tend to block out the world and get so focused on work that I wonder if I am letting my family relationships slip. I tend to take on too much and tend to say yes because I know I’ll fit stuff in – at the expense of all else!

I also wonder if I’ve become less of listener, maybe because I don’t have to listen quite so often. That seems strange as I spend most of my day with my headphones on in calls, but quite a lot of the time I work independently with no-one to bounce ideas off. Maybe I could do with spending a little more time letting ideas mull around, waiting for feedback. One of my biggest issues has always been that I act too quickly. That might sound like the answer to an interview question (“so what’s your biggest flaw?” “well, I’m just a little too perfect!“) but it can be a problem, Over the years I’ve learnt to let things rest for a little longer – don’t publish that report yet – you’ll get some more feedback in the middle of the night that it might make sense to include. Remote working doesn’t help here. You spend a lot of time waiting for people and you can’t pop your head round their door to ask them to hurry up. It can leave you frustrated and impatient.

One other strange thing – since working at home I now find that I work best in silence, in fact any noise drives me mad (this article on Radio silence and the remote worker picks up on this). I just can’t stand my cats miaowing or next door’s builder drilling. I wear noise reduction headphones most of the time to stop the non-silence getting in. I do wonder if I’d ever be able to return to an open plan office. As well as a silent room I also need a tidy room and find it hard incredibly off-putting if there is a mess around me – back to the OCD there.

My final concern is that I’ve become a bit of a ‘settler’. This article entitled Remote workers need more than just the right personality – they need ground rules talks about the possible negative effect on career advancement.

The old adage out of sight, out of mind can be especially true for those who are working offsite. Telecommuters run the risk of being passed over for promotions and job opportunities. This can happen because of an unsupportive attitude on management’s part, who may perceive the choice to work from home as lack of career commitment. But it is also true that not all jobs, especially the higher up the corporate ladder, can be successfully managed from a remote location.

Have I given up the ghost when it comes to career moves or are things just on hold for now?

The Ugly

And the worst thing of all…I’m now a serial snacker. Maybe it isn’t a personality trait or characteristic but it is an issue!

So what about you? What’s your good, bad and ugly?



7 thoughts on “Remote Working: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. Having changed from remote working recently, I am really enjoying working with other people every day. I can work alone, but my creativity and enjoyment have really increased now I don’t have to. A very positive change for me. 🙂

  2. Great to hear that your enjoying the new challenge Steph! While remote working is right for me now I can’t (don’t want to) see myself doing it for ever. I just hope that I haven’t remoteworkedised (something like institutionalised) myself in the meantime!

  3. I think that could happen, but not to you. You’re friendly and sociable and I think you’d adapt if you make a change to not do remote working at some point in the future!

  4. Interesting need you have for silence. I actually just got a Sonos speaker system for use in my home office because I like music and radio broadcasts to keep me company. The important point here is noting what works for you and going with it. And, I am remoteworkedised (and loving it) having done it for close to 20 years now!

  5. For me, one of the great things about working remotely is I have flexibility to live wherever I want. This is especially important when in a committed relationship where it is important to be flexible and compromise. Because I work remotely, I have given my fiance the freedom to chose where she wants to get a job/live since I have the flexibility to work from anywhere. It is a nice gift to give your significant other without having to sacrifice career goals.

  6. Hello,

    it’s interesting to see, I’m not the only one.
    Although a student I have to work a lot from home these days, too. So I can observe the very same behaviour on myself.

    Concerning the “serial snacker” behaviour … I’m trying to force myself to have some fingerfood (fruits, vegetables) lying around in the new of my computer to snack “good” stuff. One has to take care not to pollute the keyboard, though 😉

    This way, you could supply yourself with enough vitamines and nutrients 😉
    It works well with water (and tea! :)).

    What about taking rests? 90 minutes shall be the treshold as of the concentrations declines. Do you take steps to take a break then? My Desktop Environment (Mate on GNU/Linux) used to have an egg-timer widget, which was useful for it. It’s a bummer that it wasn’t ported to recent versions :-/

    Have you considered so called “Coworking Spaces”? You could look for it and, say 3 days a week, work from there? This way, you’re in touch with some other humans 🙂

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