The Remote Worker Guilt Trip

Guilt features a lot in my working life. I’m thinking maybe guilt features a lot in remote worker’s lives generally. So there’s guilt that you don’t have to get in a car and drive somewhere everyday, guilt that your day is more flexible, guilt if you take a few minutes off to load the washing machine, guilt if you spend time paying a bill online during work hours, guilt if you eat lunch at the computer, guilt if you eat lunch…

guilt

Guilt if you are not working and you should be, guilt if you are working and you shouldn’t be.

Guilt, guilt, GUILT, GUILT!!!!

Add to the mix parental guilt, 3 frisky children, end of term activities and the summer holidays looming – you can see that I am becoming a guilty wreck. The Summer is going to be a guilt-fest!

In his article Being a Remote Worker Sucks – Long Live the Remote Worker Scott Hanselman argues that remote workers:

work at least as hard, if not more so, than their local counterparts. This is fueled in no small part by guilt and fear. We DO feel guilty working at home. We assume you all think we’re just hanging out without pants on. We assume you think we’re just at the mall tweeting. We fear that you think we aren’t putting in a solid 40 hours (or 50, or 60).”

Because of this, we tend to work late, we work after the kids are down, and we work weekends. We may take an afternoon off to see a kid’s play, but then the guilt will send us right back in to make up the time. In my anecdotal experience, remote workers are more likely to feel they are “taking time from the company” and pay it back more than others.”

Mobile technology doesn’t help either. A recent survey of 3,500 professionals conducted in the U.S. and five other countries found at least 58% said they have feelings of guilt in this hyper-connected world.

So how do we deal with these feelings of guilt?

I don’t have an easy answer but here are a few thoughts I have.

  • One of the top tips psychology gives for dealing with guilt is that you need to recognise the kind of guilt you have and its purpose. You feel guilty because you want to be an effective and dedicated member of staff. Just feeling the guilt means that you are already on the right track. Joe Bloggs next door doesn’t feel guilt because he lounges on the sofa all day picking his feet, he doesn’t care, you do.
  • When my children were very found I remember a health visitor telling me that I need to think about the food they eat in terms of a week, rather than a day. I try to apply the same approach to remote working. There are busy days and there are not so busy days, it’s give and take, but overall my organisation gets more than enough out of me.The old remote worker adage about clear boundaries really applies here. Don’t be answering emails while putting your kids in the bath, and don’t be watching YouTube when you are working. Set up time boundaries and things will be easier.
  • Keep brief notes on what you do all day. You needn’t share these with anyone but they will help you see how productive you’ve been.
  • Reward yourself for completing tasks – when I’ve finished working on that spreadsheet I’m going to have a cup of tea and a 10 minute read of a book. It’s a well deserved treat – so no guilt there.

I’d like to end with some wise words from Natali Vlatko on recognising your true value.

Don’t let the guilt of working from home eat away at your deserved free time, unless you’re just watching animated gifs all day. Make yourself heard and your presence felt, then the proverbial wall between you and your team will come down. Your value shouldn’t be undermined just because you’re not sharing a cubicle with someone.”

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