The merits and perils of working remotely while remote working

Among the biggest buzzwords of the bizosphere over the last few years is the highly sought-after concept of remote working. Not quite as far out there as the digital nomad, the lone ranger who wanders the earth in search of hammocks, beaches and usable wifi, but still up there in the daydreams of cubicle workers the world over.

There is of course just such a breed of worker in the whole economic ecosystem who comes out to feed around the bustling city office blocks, retreating to their home studies or garden offices to carry out their tasks in relative peace and quiet. They are permanently remote, working autonomously with their headquarters being wherever that day's client is based. The freelancer. The independent entrepreneur, living the idyllic work/life balance they were promised when they started. Except something's wrong.

To be fair, something is always wrong. We have, as a species, a great propensity to think that greatness is always around the corner, rendering the present an ever second best. But freelancers find issues with working from a converted area of their home just as highrise workers do in their offices. Issues like being too close to family life. Too much time spent in the same 4 walls. No chance for a change of office or colleagues. Years spent in one chair at one desk. You get the picture.

Common suggestions to alleviate this involve coffee shops, coworking spaces and office makeovers. When all the local coffee shops have been explored, and their inherent problems sounded out, and every possible permutation of sitting, standing and perching at your desk have been exhausted, the only sensible option is to go pro. No, not strap an action-cam to your forehead, but rent a desk at your local co-working space. Not that you'll actually work with anyone, as the name suggests, you'll just be in a working environment. You know, with relative silence and decent internet connections. Much like a library, only you're allowed to make phonecalls, have to endure those of others, and don't have SSH ports blocked (thanks Leicester Libraries!).

You're a remote worker, going remote. Like, whoa, man. Deep remote. You enter this parallel universe with fresh enthusiasm. Your expectations are soon managed. By yourself. You want to work with unbroken silence, you know, like you get to at home, so on go the headphones. You want a comfy seat for the day, like at home, so you shift off the bench seats into a molded-ply number. You feel sheepish about being as annoying as that loudmouth on the phone two desks over, so you leave the room, all discreet like. A £10-15 bill for your hand-crafted, delivered coffees and lunches arrives, then your travel and parking expenses clink down on top. And this every time you venture in. A few dozen sessions of this and the restrictions soon start to crystallise.

Maybe I would be more comfortable at home after all?

Back to square one. All of this is to say that this restlessness is itself something to watch out for. But not just among the flighty, twitchy remote workers, but also by the 'static workers'. Those who have much provided for, and the freedom to modify their working environments as well as the opportunity to change them on a semi-frequent basis. This propensity we all have to want the other thing should be tempered in the cooling waters of reality. Not to be a killjoy, stuck in the mud, luddite, contrarian etc., but the lesson for me, after having gone through this cycle over the last dozen years, is that really the focus should be on the work. It should be a red flag about an aspect of your job if you start spending more time on your setup, workspace or office than you do on your work. The only question then is what are you not doing?

If you don't agree, please say away. I'd appreciate the perspective. Discussion options also available over at HN.

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