The way I see it, there are two types of work from home jobs. The first is where you freelance for yourself. You make your own hours, work on whatever projects you like, and you’re basically a mercenary. You go where the money goes: Have laptop, will travel. The second is when you work from home for a specific company. In this type of job, you’re expected to keep normal business hours and spend at least some time at the office, and you’re doubly accountable for whatever you do at home. While the footloose and fancy-free, cable knit sweater-wearing life is how most people imagine freelancing, many at-home jobs fall into the second category. If you work for a company and you’ve “strayed off the reservation” so to speak, here are the signs that you’re failing at your remote gig:
Suppose you’re working on a big project. It’s your baby. You coordinate the resources and make sure everything flows smoothly. There are other people involved, but you’re more or less the leader. Now, imagine one day, after a few weeks of getting sidetracked and neglecting your project, you notice a project alert in your email. You open it and see that not only are people working on the project without you, this is the first you’ve heard of it.
Collaborative projects are a fluid business. Roles change. People step forward or fall into the background. While this is all normal, the key warning sign is this: You haven’t been notified. No one took you aside and said, “Hey, you seem busy with other stuff, can I take over for a while?” or even “Dude, you’re screwing up and this needs to get done. I’m taking over”. If you’re persona non grata on your own project, find out how you can make things right.
Meetings are the lifeblood of any company, and are sometimes more about social interaction and affirmation than anything else. Hence, as the person who is in the office the least, you can mostly expect to be in at least one meeting when you visit the mothership. What if you arrive, get settled in, and no one approaches you or everyone is too busy to meet with you?
Is this always a bad sign? No. If you’re doing a fantastic job and communicating with the office regularly, a get-together just isn’t necessary. However, if you’ve been away for a while and your infrequent visits to the office feel a bit aimless, it’s time to take stock and change your work and communication strategy.
Technology has a limited life. Cell phones die. Computers die. Your headset, tablet and monitor? Eventually all of that will need to be replaced. If you’re doing a bang-up job, barring financial problems at your company, you can probably expect to see your tech replaced quite soon after it stops working. However, if you’re not doing well, face it: You might be waiting a long, long time.
Always remember this: When your company gives you tech so you can work at home, that’s an investment in you. Your employer is taking a financial risk by buying or loaning you technology, and expecting that you’re going to do outstanding work, answer your chat messages and not post those items on craigslist. So, if you’re not getting the tech you need, or you’re getting fuzzy answers on when you’ll get it, it’s sometimes a sign that your company is not convinced that you’re still a good investment.
All things considered, being a remote worker is often much harder than working at an office. No one can see you working, so you’re expected to do more, communicate more, and show that you’re responsible when you’re surrounded by distractions. If you’re facing any of the four issues above, be proactive, reassess your work, and do whatever you need to do to prove you’re the person originally hired for job.
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