Ask Sophaya: How Do I Know Remote Work Is Right for Me?

Dear Sophaya, 

I’ve been working in a remote job for over a year, and I’m not as happy as I thought I would be! Does this mean that I don’t like remote work or could it be that maybe this particular job isn’t right for me? How can I determine whether or not to apply for different remote jobs? Is it worth it to ask for changes in my current job?

Over it, or overthinking?

Dear Over it, 

There are so many factors that can impact our satisfaction with our jobs–everything from employer-related factors like company culture, the nature of your job, coworker interactions, freedom, and work-life balance, to goings on in your day-to-day life. In work, just like in life, there can be slumps, or periods of time where you feel like things are particularly stressful or boring, and then other times where you feel like you’re unstoppable. It’s important to pay attention to those negative feelings–just like you’re doing now–because they’re giving you critical information. It sounds like you’re getting stuck where just about any of us would: Knowing how to interpret that information and move forward in a positive way. 

If the question you’re pondering is about whether you’re unhappy with remote work or you’re just unhappy with this particular remote job, there are ways you can parse this out. 

But before we get into that, it’s worth noting that it is always worth thinking critically about what would make you happier in your role and advocating for yourself at your workplace. As long as you’re in good standing with your supervisor, there’s no downside: At worst, nothing changes. At best, you’re able to stay with your employer and work toward the job of your dreams. 

Okay–now it’s time to get to know your needs. 

Start by making a list of the things that make you unhappy in your day-to-day work. Then, once you’ve done that, go line by line and ask yourself what it is about each thing that makes you unhappy.

For example, if you’ve grown to hate web management, is that because the updates take up too much of your time each day, so you’re unable to complete bigger projects? Or does that work simply feel tedious because you don’t have the camaraderie of other coworkers as you do it? Pay close attention to your answers, as they will hold some of the keys to whether your dissatisfaction lies in your remote work situation or your particular job. 

If outdated remote technology is interfering with your job and making it difficult for you to be effective, or if the nature of the work you’re doing has become mundane, it sounds like you’re in a great position to advocate for changes in your job description.

If you have a comfortable relationship with your supervisor, set aside some space during your next 1:1 to discuss your concerns. Explain that either (a) you need better technological support to produce the quality of work and build the kinds of relationships that are critical to your work, or (b) that you’ve loved working with the company thus far, and are ready for your next challenge.

This kind of feedback is critical for most employers, and your supervisor should hopefully want to support you as best they can. (If they don’t, however, that’s a crystal clear sign that it’s time to move on.)

If you find that most of your dissatisfaction stems from hard-and-fast organizational processes that you’ve tried optimizing to no avail, that’s a great sign that it might be time to spruce up your resume and start applying for other remote work. 

If most of your unhappiness seems to becoming from your current work situation (for example, if you’re feeling disconnected or lonely), don’t give up on remote work altogether quite yet. Every employer handles remote positions a bit differently, and it might just mean that you’ve got to do some digging to find a company that is aligned with your needs.

For example, some employers will support remote employees who want to come into the office a certain number of times each week or month so they can bond with their coworkers. Others might organize travel for you to come to important social events. Be sure that as you interview, you speak with potential employers to see if their remote situations do differ from your current position–otherwise, you might end up unhappy in the long run. 

Making the decision to advocate for changes for your remote job, change employers, or leave remote work altogether is incredibly heavy. The good news? You don’t have to make this decision overnight. You can start by paying closer attention to your emotions while you get better at your job, and watch while natural evolutions take place. You can maintain your list for a while while you analyze your work and life needs, while you talk to your supervisor, and while you scan remote job listings to see if anything catches your eye.

Even talking on the phone with potential employers or taking interviews is good information gathering to give you a sense of the current remote work landscape. See if there’s anything out there that sounds like a better fit, or a good way to augment the work you do now. That kind of information can only be helpful. 

Wishing you the best in your career efforts, Over it! You’re asking the right questions, and I know you’ll make some smart moves.