What it’s like to work remotely

Sure, staying productive all day while still in your favorite jammies can be alluring, but there are downsides. A veteran of working remotely offers insights into its pluses and minuses.

It’s 5 p.m. on a Monday, and I’m still wearing pajamas, surrounded by a laptop, a dog and a bag of Chex Mix.

Three hours ago, I watched an episode of “Chicago Fire” while eating leftover pizza for lunch on the couch. I haven’t showered in a few days, and my neighbors probably wonder if I’m unemployed.

Sound appealing? You might enjoy being a remote worker.

Working from home might seem like a dream opportunity for people who have long commutes or young children or who hate early mornings. I thought I had hit the jackpot with a job at IBM that allowed me to work from home five days a week.

As of today, I’ve survived about 774 business days working remotely. As an extrovert, the past three years have been isolating and frustrating, though illuminating about my self-motivation. Remote workers are a special breed of employee, but it’s not the best situation for everyone.

Here’s how to know whether you can handle working from home-or things to which you can relate if you’re a remote worker:

1. You’ll have 10 pairs of the same comfortable pants. I have an entire drawer of yoga pants and another drawer of funny T-shirts like this one. That’s my work wardrobe. Yoga pants, T-shirt, laundry, repeat. When you sit all day and no one sees you, why not optimize your comfort level? I don’t know of many remote co-workers who get fully dressed every morning. It may be different for parents, but this single millennial woman is quite content with stretch pants and rolling out of bed five minutes before work starts.

2. Business travel requires a new wardrobe. Obviously, yoga pants aren’t appropriate for conferences and business meetings, but that’s what remote workers like me wear 90 percent of the time. How often do we wear the suits and dress pants in our closets anyway? All the snacking and sitting you’ll do at home may mean your old clothes don’t fit. I travel about three times a year, usually to Las Vegas for conferences, and I buy a couple of new outfits for each trip. Think of how much money I’ve saved by buying new business clothing only a few times a year.

3. You probably wouldn’t recognize your co-workers. You could pass your own manager in a crowd and not recognize her. People carefully select the headshots for their employee profiles and social media, and they might not look the same in person. At IBM conferences with over 20,000 attendees, I’ve probably walked past hundreds of co-workers without knowing it. We can’t spend all day looking at name badges, right? You can certainly build meaningful relationships with colleagues over the phone, email and instant message, but it still feels weird to struggle associating faces with names.

4. Speakerphone and mute on your cell phone are your best friends. You’re bound to have to use the bathroom or have barking dogs, crying children or trash pickup occur during a conference call. In an office, such interruptions are rare; at home, they happen often. You’ll spend an insane amount of time on conference calls and on your mobile phone. Be prepared to cook breakfast while people jabber away on speakerphone, and to hear strange bodily noises from others who aren’t as quick to press mute. Here’s an accurate, hilarious representation of conference calls.

5. Your couch will have serious butt imprints. I’d guess that the average person sits on the couch for two to three hours a day after work. I spend eight to 12 hours a day on my couch, because it’s more comfortable than sitting at my desk. Shutting off work mode in your brain isn’t easy, because your environment stays the same. I work through the night more often than I’d like to admit, because it’s quiet and, being a night owl, I’m productive then. This means even more hours on the couch. I hope you have comfortable seating around the house, because your rear end is going to become well acquainted with the cushions if you work remotely.

In a few months, I’ll be done with remote working due to IBM’s co-location efforts. I’m excited about the prospect of in-person brainstorms, celebrating birthdays with cakes instead of memes, and happy hours with co-workers. My delivery friends will miss me, but my couch, waistline and brain will be happier with a more stimulating, active environment.

Remote workers, tell us: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about working from home?

A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn. Amanda Tenedini is content marketing strategist for IBM.


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