I’ve been working remote since before it was cool. The work I do is compatible with this medium, my primary income source is programming, and the secondary sources are coaching and writing. After about 10 year of doing this, I think I can share a few of the benefits and drawbacks of doing this, as well as debunking one very popular myth about remote working.
Benefits Of Working Remote – The Good
The most important one is diversity. If you work remote, you enjoy a higher degree of location flexibility – you’re not forced to go to the same office every day. You may work from coffee shops, co-working spaces, or from home. Diversity is very important in keeping a fresh mind, maintaining your skills level and an overall inquiring attitude. In simpler words, diversity delays decay.
Diversity works not only in terms of location, but in terms of social interactions too. Because you can explore many places, you get to interact with more people. Even if these interactions are as simple as ordering a double espresso, it counts. It adds up.
On the second place comes, at least for me, geo-arbitrage. I wrote about it before, so if you want to know more, go ahead and check the article linked above. In short, geo-arbitrage allows you to enjoy economical benefits, based on the fact that your work is valued and paid in a different location than the one you’re living in.
And third, it’s about opportunity exposure. If you work remote, your potential to spot (and benefit from) opportunities, is an order of magnitude higher than if you would work from the same place, in which you interact with the same people, every day. You may not always engage in each and every opportunity you spot, but the mere fact that you are witnessing them is helpful, it trains your mind in a beneficial way.
Drawbacks Of Working Remote – The Bad
As with everything in life, each good comes with some bad.
In this case, the biggest drawback of working remote is a crippled social interaction. By “crippled”, I understand a type of social interaction which is not as constant as the “traditional” one. For instance, you make friends in a place, but then you decide to leave that country and you have to start over, most of the time from zero. You don’t get the same length and profoundness of a fixed friendship. Like I said, for some people this might be seen as a good thing, and I’m somehow guilty of that too. But I do miss the constancy of more stable relationships, back when I wasn’t working remote.
Another drawback, somehow similar with the one above, is lack of predictability. If you enjoy the thrilling side of life, then, again, this won’t be perceived as a drawback, you would enjoy the freshness and the challenges. But even in this case, sooner or later you will start to miss some of the things you used to take for granted. For instance, one year you may celebrate Easter in one place, Christmas in another, and then skip them both for a few years, because the culture in which you are located has different celebrations. In time, this takes a toll.
One Ugly Truth About This – It’s Not As “Free” As You Imagine It
The romanticized image of digital nomads, or location independent workers, is always on a remote beach, with a laptop aside and some breathtaking view. Many of my friends chasing this lifestyle are in the pursuit of this exact scenery. While this may happen, at times, it’s not even remotely the rule of working remote. This is something very important, and, to a certain extent, an overlooked ugly truth about this lifestyle. While this is not impairing in a serious way, and it doesn’t make it less than it is, it’s also an important point, and understanding it beforehand will spare you quite a lot of frustration and disappointment when you go down that route.
Remote working is not possible outside internet coverage. There, I said it. A nice beach doesn’t always has internet coverage. In my experience, it’s quite the opposite. The more densely populated an area is, the more accessible internet is. So, if your idea of remote working involves some sort of escaping, romantic hideaway, you should think twice about doing it – or prepare to go back in time at dial-up level internet, if any.
Of course, things change rapidly here, and satellite internet access, including new ventures like Elon Musk’s StarLink network, may improve coverage and connect areas where traditional wireless coverage or cable links are not feasible. But make no mistake, internet satellite is fixed, the whole technology is based on a certain sky visibility, so the assumption that you would get a StarLink access point and carry it in your backpack is wrong.
Along with this hard limitation of working remote comes another one, a bit softer, but equally important. Working remote doesn’t mean you’re cut off, doing only what you want, with who you want at any time you want. You may enjoy a little bit more flexibility, that’s true, but accountability is even more important here, where you’re devoid of physical presence.
You still have to show up, do your job and deliver.
Rewards don’t happen outside human interaction, you need clients, or buyers, and you still must create value for them, even if you’re not in their physical proximity.