While remote work is becoming more and more common these days, explaining what those of us in the industry do for a living hasn’t exactly gotten easier. Many people still have a visual image of you slacking around the house in your pajamas all day when you say that you work from home, it seems.
For those who don't know what remote work is, check out this video out for your reference.
So, here’s a PSA for anyone who doesn’t work from home, but happens to have friends or family members who do. It’s okay to ask questions about the entire set-up. We get it, telecommuting is relatively new, and you might be curious as to how it really works.
What’s not okay is to make careless and uninformed statements that may or may not be insulting to the remote workers in your midst. These include the following:
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“Oh, so you’re unemployed?”
For the last time, working from home doesn’t equate to joblessness.
Being employed means getting paid for doing something productive or producing something of value for a company or business, right? Nothing in that description says you have to leave the house and/or do that in an office for you to be considered gainfully employed.
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“Working from home must be soooo relaxing.”
This is another misconception. When we say “work from home,” we mean real, honest-to-goodness work, as in spreadsheets, Google docs files, design mock-ups, etc.
Now, while we do have more control over our surroundings and can probably put up some scented candles or ambient lighting to make things more relaxing, that doesn’t exactly eliminate all the deadlines we still have to contend with. Also, I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing remotely soothing about being hunched over your laptop or desktop and frantically trying to get things done before everyone on your remote team has to log out for the day.
“Since you work from home, can I ask you to take care of my kid for the day? I have to go to the office.”
While remote work offers us a lot of flexibility, we still have to schedule certain tasks such as group meetings, training sessions, or even in-person client consultations.
And no, we can’t exactly cancel those just to watch your kid/pick up your groceries/give you a ride to the airport “while everyone else is at work.” Guess what? So are we.
“Having no benefits must suck.”
Yes, it does, thank you. Not that we need any reminding, unless you happen to be a member of the Philippine Congress or Senate and you plan to do something about it.
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“You make that much off one job alone? You must be loaded!”
Uhm, sure, except that some of us contribute to the expenses in our households, so we only get to keep a percentage of our earnings.
There’s also the fact that some remote employers can take FOREVER to pay us, and we end up spending a lot of time chasing them down rather than using that opportunity to make money. Why do you think a lot of us have so many gigs on the side?
“Do you still like hanging out with people?”
Okay, many of us remote workers also happen to be introverted hermits. (See my author profile on here for reference.)
Sure, some of us can spend inordinately long stretches of time without meeting people face to face, but although we sometimes prefer that, we’re not opposed to hanging out with our nearest and dearest every now and then, so don’t hesitate to invite us to your wedding/birthday party/”I’m-officially-over-my-ex” powwow. Rest assured, we’ll make time to attend our loved ones’ milestones despite how much we might seem to love our work-from-home cocoons.
“Why don’t you work out more often? You’re just at home after all.”
Getting off work feels rather draining, regardless of whether you’re in the office or at the house. Summoning the willpower to get off the couch is challenging enough, let alone doing a full set of burpees and running a few laps around the neighborhood.
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“I can’t imagine how you get stuff done in your pajamas at home.”
First of all, we don’t exactly lounge around in our pajamas all day. We do still make an effort to shower and dress properly in the mornings since this tells our brains that it’s time to go into work mode.
Secondly, when motivation hits, you can find yourself on a roll FOR HOURS.
Motivation comes in many forms, by the way, be it a special attachment to an ongoing project, getting in sync with your distributed group’s work rhythm, or simply remembering that your utility bills are due soon.
“You’re so lucky you don’t have to be on the phone all the time.”
Well, us remote workers haven’t figured out how to communicate with our colleagues, bosses, and clients via mental telepathy just yet, so I’m afraid that while our phones might be relatively quiet, our Skype chats and email inboxes are anything but.
“It must be so nice to have no co-workers.”
Physically, we might work alone, but we’re actually in contact with a handful of people throughout the process.
Rarely is a remote team composed entirely of just one person. Ours has a team leader, a social media manager, two writers, and two graphic designers, and we all try to coexist peacefully as we carry out our respective marching orders for the day, just as any office-based team would.
Telecommuting is here to stay, and it’s highly likely that most of us will interact with a remote worker or two over the course of our careers, if we don’t end up in the industry ourselves, that is.
Proper, effective communication always boils down to respect, both for ourselves and for our colleagues and superiors, and that can only be had if we choose our words carefully.
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