What to *Actually* Expect When You Work from Home Full-Time

Have you ever been looking for a job or internship and found the perfect fit… only to realize that the hours, or the location, or the company environment just isn’t going to work?

Last summer I received an offer to write full-time for a blog, but the founder lived in the Chicago area and I had already booked plane tickets to Texas for the summer. I thought I might have to decline the position, but once my (future) employer heard my situation, she offered me the chance to work remotely full-time.

For almost four months I worked a 9-5 online only. No office. No co-workers. No commute. Just me and my dog lounging around my house five days a week!

At first, it felt like the perfect summer. I loved the work, I loved my city, and I loved having the freedom to walk around, play music, and wear leggings all day. But after a while, I began to see the flip side of my experience. I spent almost all my time alone, and after a few weeks, once the newness of the job had worn off, I wondered if it had been the right choice after all. I felt my house had become smaller since I’d started working and I began to feel a little stir-crazy with the monotony of spending all hours of the day indoors. How I could happily go to bed at night after spending all day in bed working? 

However, I didn’t want to quit my job and find another so far into the summer, so I made a different decision: to try new strategies on how to make the best of my experience. After a couple more weeks, I learned to appreciate the amazing pros of working from home and to account for their downsides. 

If you’re thinking about taking a fully remote position for the summer or longer, here’s what your experience will really be like + tips to make the best of it!

Related: Want to Work From Home This Summer? Consider These Remote Opportunities

You have no commute, no getting ready time, and no professional outfits required!

The year after I worked from home, I took a different job 45 minutes away from my apartment in Chicago. I’ll admit that every time I got stuck in big-city traffic, I remembered wishfully the times when the furthest I traveled was to the Starbucks 5 minutes away at my own convenience.  

One of the biggest positives about working remotely is the ability to roll straight out of bed and be ready for work. When I had a commute, I was forced to get up around 6:00 a.m. to make it to the office by 8:00, but when I was working remotely, I got up at 8:50 a.m. for the morning phone call at 9:00. It was huge difference!

If you’re not a morning person and prefer sweatpants to heels, remote work may be your happy place.

… but the day can feel monotonous without a change of location

Even though it was nice to roll out of bed ready for the day, it did start to drive me a little crazy. When you have a consistent schedule based on the office’s hours and location it can really break up the day in manageable chunks. When you work from home, sleeping, working, eating, and lounging can all blend together in unhelpful ways. It can feel monotonous and claustrophobic if you’re not careful about switching things up.

So, consider intentionally adding movement to your day to break it up

To make things a little more exciting, I found it was extremely helpful to make my workplace predictably unpredictable. Instead of going straight from task to task, try walking around, getting a snack/coffee, or even doing short stretches/workouts (see here and here from some great options!) to keep your body moving.

Another thing that helped me was rewarding myself by a change of location when I completed a project. I would try to work at a coffeeshop at least a couple afternoons every week to help end the monotony. If you don’t have the money to spend at Starbucks that often (especially if you’re doing an unpaid internship which should be totally illegal), try changing spots in your home or designated a specific area that is only for working hours.

Remember, if you do start to get bored, ask for new challenges and projects, or start teaching yourself a new skill that will be helpful later! You don’t have to do the same tasks everyday if there’s more the company can teach you.

People aren’t distracting you all the time

It’s actually easier to quell distractions (assuming you don’t have small children running around just yet) at home than in the workplace. When you work in an office, it’s normal to be pulled into various conversations or meetings during your day, even when you have a lot to get done. In contrast, working from home means other employees have to work pretty hard to distract you. Even if they get annoying, silencing your cellphone can do just the trick!

… but your social capital can decrease in comparison to coworkers

Even though you have less distractions, you also have less opportunities to network and collaborate in your workplace. You are likely going to miss celebrations, announcements, and even decision-making conversations.

Plus, being at home gets just plain lonely at times.

So, stay in communication with your employer and coworkers

It’s essential that you practice direct communication strategies if you plan to work remotely. People aren’t going to pick up on things if you are passive from home — you’ll end up slipping through the cracks!

Try to keep yourself updated on your co-worker’s lives and continue to request feedback from your employer. These strategies will help you stay connected to the workplace despite your physical distance and assist you in staying at the top of the list for promotions or new projects!

Related: Perks of Having A Remote Internship

You have so much more flexibility

If you are facing certain circumstances that require you to work unusual hours or have the ability to drop everything at a moment’s notice, working remotely can be a good option. It does allow you to leave your “desk” easily and come back when convenient for you. Keep in mind this is not something to be abused, but it does allow flexibility in work hours if you do have other pressing things to take care of.

… but that can backfire when more is expected of you

When you work from home, both your employer and your family/roommates/pets/etc. can expect more of you. With no distractions, your boss may see you as an on-call efficiency machine and be unaware of your need to take breaks or have boundaries. In addition, being at home with other people can mean they now expect you to do your work AND the laundry, cook dinner, take pets outside, pick up siblings from soccer practice, etc.

With more flexibility also comes more things to juggle.

So, ensure expectations are clear in the workplace and at home

Before working remotely or taking on new responsibilities after you’ve started, have a conversation with your boss and your family/friends to make sure that expectations are clear. It may help to be specific about what hours you plan to work, even with your increased flexibility. You may not have to work 9-5, but you still have tasks to complete, and may need to set yourself specific shifts around your schedule or simply work according to the office’s hours.

Ensure that you’ve also given yourself realistic working hours and project deadlines as well. It may be possible for you to work a 12-hour shift when you’re doing it at home in your PJs, but if that is not expected of your coworkers in the office, then it shouldn’t be for you either!

Learn to have healthy boundaries when it comes to your work.

Is working remotely right for me?

Great question. If, after reading this post, you are considering a remote position, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you a self-directed learner?
  • Are you intrinsically motivated?
  • Are you an extreme introvert or extrovert?
  • Are you a good communicator?
  • Do you have internet connection and a place to work?
  • Do you love the job?
  • Do you need the flexibility offered?

While there is no exact formula in deciding what you can handle, know your own personality and ability. Working remotely isn’t just another option, it’s a specific skill. Your job will be different working in an office than from home. But if you feel the position is right for you, then go for it! Enjoy the complete access to your own kitchen and crank up the music as loud as you want!  

P.S. Do you want to work online for a blog? Click here to see opportunities for writing at Her Campus!