There is a general perception that technology has made the 21st century something of a golden age. It is a time when many of the dreams of past generations are coming true. 3D printers, voice activated personal assistants and virtual reality headsets bring a sense of Star Trek to our homes, but fun though they are, the gadgets are nothing compared to the way technology has changed the way we approach the concept of work.
Who really needs to go into the office these days? The answer is fewer and fewer of us. Remote working is slowly but surely becoming the norm. On the face of it, it seems like the ideal lifestyle, and presents a chance to harness that Holy Grail of the 21st century, the work/life balance.
No more sitting in traffic burning fuel for hours every day, no worrying about what to wear, and best of all, no office politics. And you can fit things like the school run and popping a washload into the machine around your work routine. What could go wrong?
An unbalanced balance?
For one thing, dovetailing home and domestic commitments really can be a balancing act. With no demarcation between the two, they can end up competing for your time rather than fitting snugly together. When you work remotely, your colleagues and business associates are liable to assume that normal office hours no longer apply, and you can feel that you are on call 24/7. The fact that work email is right there on your phone can also make it hard to ignore.
Meanwhile, family can end up doing exactly the same thing – if you’re visible, you’re deemed available, and saying you are busy is unlikely to go down well.
If you do not have family members clamouring for your attention and the house is all yours, you might think there’s nothing to go wrong. But the other problem experienced by remote workers is that it can get really, really lonely. Loneliness is a growing problem, which seems strange in this age of communication and social media. We will look at it in more detail another day, but suffice it to say for now that remote workers can end up feeling isolated from their colleagues and from the “real world” of work.
Making it work
So what to do? Give up and go back to the 9-5 commute? The thing is, remote working is here to stay, and with a few basic rules, you can make it work:
- Balancing work and life means having a demarcation, so a separate working area where you are “at work” whether it is an office or just a corner of the room is important.
- Take care of yourself. Remote workers can sometimes go for days without getting properly dressed or leaving the house. Take time to get fresh air each day and eat at regular intervals. A natural booster to keep your energy and serotonin levels up in the afternoon is never a bad idea.
- Stay social – online platforms like Slack provide the 21st century equivalent of the water cooler or smoking area where colleagues get to chat and wind down a little. Make use of these tools to stay in proper contact with your colleagues.