The image of remote work in the traditional work world is one of luxury - they picture remote workers sitting on an island paradise, beaches stretched out as far as the eye can see, sipping on fruity cocktails, and leisurely posting to Instagram. Maybe they'll send an email or two before signing off for the day.
The reality is that remote work isn't always as easy-going as Instagram likes to tell us.
There are many hidden realities to remote work that people around the globe are now experiencing for the very first time. These realities are a reflection of the fact that remote work, while preferable to the old 9-5 job, can still be difficult, frustrating, and stressful. It is still work after all! Just like there are significant advantages, there can be significant disadvantages that need to be contended with too.
To find out more about the biggest challenges remote workers are facing right now, we asked people who work remotely across various industries their thoughts. These were their responses:
1. Uncertainty of income
Many remote workers work as freelancers or as independent contractors. With no assured monthly salary, these workers need to diversify their income for security, but achieving this diversification is a challenge in and of itself. Maintaining multiple streams of income is possible, but it adds a lot of pressure.
The additional reality of COVID-19, lockdowns, and a global economic downturn doesn't help the situation much either.
Several remote industries are becoming over-saturated as a result of the growing influx of new remote workers - this is a particularly big problem in the freelancing industry where undercutting and competitive price lowering are leading to the devaluing of entire industries.
When an industry becomes over-saturated, it can feel impossible to get noticed by clients or potential employers.
3. Lack of benefits
Remote jobs don't often come with benefits unless you are living and working in the US or a small handful of select other countries. Even then, benefits may not be guaranteed.
This means that your salary or the rate you ask for will need to be high enough to offset the cost of acquiring these benefits of your own accord.
4. Cabin fever
Working from home over the long-term can have an isolating effect and many of our remote work respondents mentioned missing social connections like after-work drinks and other gatherings with colleagues.
Many remote-based companies try to counteract this by offering daily calls or dedicated company getaways where teams can meet in person.
5. Switching off
With your office being at home and always just a few steps away it can be hard to disconnect at the end of the workday. The problem is that other people will know you are too, and this could eat into your life-outside-of-work quickly.
Working at all hours often leads to burnout and other serious issues that will affect both your happiness with your job and your overall productivity.
6. Plenty of distractions
This is one we've heard from plenty of remote workers over the years - the minute you're allowed to work from home, you realize how many unfinished chores and projects are just calling for your attention.
Finding the balance between doing these things and getting in your work hours can be a challenge, and you may easily find yourself neglecting one for the other.
7. Family dynamic
Working from home poses a unique set of challenges, but those challenges increase exponentially if you have small humans that are staying home full-time now too!
While remote work is more flexible and enables you to spend more time with your children, working with them in what is effectively your office can require a lot of extra patience and planning.
The most incredible thing about remote work by far is that we are all willing to put up with these hidden realities just to be able to get to the very tangible benefits of working from home. Many of the challenges listed here can be overcome if you are willing to think outside of the box, enforce boundaries, and create a schedule.
It may not exactly be a walk on the beach, but there's a reason so many people from traditional fields are looking to make the change. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.