Remote workers, what are your biggest struggles currently?

5 years ago from , Product Designer

I've just finished the book "Remote" by 37 signals and even though it was really helpful to find out about what it means to work remotely, it seems like nowadays things really changed. It's been about 5 years since the book has been published and everything evolved. More companies hire remotely, the number of working spaces increased, we have new tools, new gadgets, etc. With all these improved, I think there are some other challenges that surfaced and I'm curious about your struggles.

What are the pros and cons (mostly cons) of a remote worker now?


  • Kirsten Felbert, 5 years ago

    Hi, I have worked remotely for two companies and I can say that in terms of cons every company is different as it depends on how long they have been using remote workers.

    The biggest Pro for me is freedom to run my own schedule and manage my time. If I need to pop out to the shop, hang the washing at home or I'm just bored of my surroundings and want to work from a coffee shop or shared office I can. The lifestyle allows me to take care of myself health wise because I have more flexibility to find or cook health food and go exercise when it suits me. It's so much better than being stuck in an office for set hours every day. Also I know when I'm most productive and can prioritise working at those times and just relax when I know I'm less likely to get work done.

    A universal Con for me is you have to be your own motivator. If you are not someone who can take initiative or need a "BOSS" hanging over you to make you work then remote working isn't for you.

    My first company I worked for I originally worked in the office so I knew everyone personally, when I moved overseas they wanted to keep me on so I started working remotely for them. I didn't find too many cons with this as I already knew how the company worked, the biggest challenge in my life then was adjusting to the culture shock of moving to very different country. (South Africa to Serbia). I did not feel lonely in this or out of touch with this company because we already had very good established processes of working and communicating together.

    In the current company I work for I only know one person well, the rest of the people in the company I have not had much contact with. As I am their first remote hire, there are not good processes in place yet for communicating & working together. I'm also not working with a team of designers, I'm the only one so I don't have anyone to really bounce ideas off of. So the cons here with this company are feeling a bit left out of the loop sometimes, feeling a bit lonely working in isolation and the difficulties of setting up communication and collaborative workflows for a company not used to remote working. (Its very hard to get people in a company to change the habits they are comfortable with).

    I believe if you were to join a company that is used to working with many remote employees many of those cons would be resolved. You can also combat loneliness by working in co-working offices (This is not avaliable to me as I live in a small town).

    I hope this has helped you! I know a lot of remote workers constantly travel and that brings it's own set of challenges. I travel and work as well, but only a few times a year, I prefer it this way.

    13 points
    • Emanuel S., 5 years ago

      This helps a lot, thank you for sharing! I have a couple of follow up questions: - Do you think it's mandatory to get to know people that work in the office in person? Would it help to be there once in a while? - Will you continue to work remotely?

      0 points
      • Kirsten Felbert, 5 years ago

        Hi Emanuel, I don't think it's necessary to get to know people in person but it does help, thats why a lot of fully remote companies have retreats once or twice a year where they get everyone together. If there is no opportunity to meet who you will be working with in person, I think its just important to make sure there are good communication channels set up within the company, for work as well as just general "chat" with your fellow employees. I will 100% continue to work remotely, I enjoy the lifestyle. However I can't say I'd never go work in an office again, if the right opportunity came up I probably would do it for at least a short amount of time.

        0 points
    • Cody Brown, 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this insight! Well written

      0 points
  • Christian PerezChristian Perez, 5 years ago

    Similar to the above comment, the biggest con comes from the experience level of the team. What I've found is that if they don't have much experience with remote workers, they tend to be less organized and ultimately that falls back on you. Where in an office you can quickly go to someone's desk last minute and have something done quickly, that same leverage may not be done when working remotely. Specifically in cases where you're not in the same timezone.

    This is a manageable con though. The more organized you can be as a freelancer, the better you can equip the team you're working with. Your foresight is an asset to the team, and you can help them structure things better. Bringing more organization to the teams I've worked with has been beneficial to me, to future remote workers, and everyone in general. Although at times it may seem like an uphill battle.

    The pros definitely outweigh this, as I am able to travel to visit family, friends, and prospects all over the world.

    1 point
    • Emanuel S., 5 years ago

      Thank you Christian! Do you think a process and letting the team know up front how to work together will work? Or is a messy experience something that you can't avoid from your perspective?

      0 points
  • juhi sodanijuhi sodani, 5 years ago

    Thats a good question! I work kind of remotely too for couple of days a week. I have to say that working remotely is much more productive than working in office. Though office gives the human touch which I think is important too, like going out with colleagues for lunch, etc.

    0 points
  • JR HalchakJR Halchak, 5 years ago

    Man this post got blown up by spam but for me the #1 con is that the vast majority of companies are still not remote/distributed first... or results-only environments. Even the ones who will hire remote workers.

    I've worked fully remote and am currently ~99% remote (I drive in every few weeks) but I moved from design into software engineering a few years ago.

    2 of my last three gigs have been on-site oriented companies. This means that they're expecting specific hours. The bonus for them is, you work remotely so you're probably on and available all the time — what's the difference to you working all evening and weekend if you're already "on-location?".

    Since they're on-site they probably use Skype or something instead of one of the hundreds of other, better, tools. But that's only for group meetings, decisions will still be made at the water cooler or the boss' office.

    There's no need to track decisions in a central location because we can just "shout over our desks" to confirm what we're doing.

    Remote work is seen as a life perk in and of itself, and something odd that they allow because the person was good for the job (or something). Not as something that can help organize the work and make employees productive.

    0 points
  • Lucian .esLucian .es, 5 years ago

    Youtube and the kitchen !

    0 points