unhappy dog
Some people think working from home means an all day nap. Others realize the discipline it takes PHOTO: Linda Dannhoff

There are many people who would love to work remotely but when the rubber hits the road, they either hate it or they’re just not good at it. 

How so? Well, some personalities are better suited to it than others — and it’s not who you think. 

Take Off Your Rose-Tinted Telecommuting Glasses

Who wouldn’t want to work from home? So many great things to consider if you view it through rose-tinted glasses:

  • No commute
  • Flexible hours (depending on how you structure it)
  • No need to buy office clothes
  • More sleep
  • More time with family
  • More free time in general
  • No office politics

So why is it digital giants like Twitter and Facebook (that make their money from online interactions) discourage remote work — and are run largely from office-based positions? Instead, both offer visually stimulating, interactive group workspaces that foster the development of in-person relationships. 

They know working from home has many downsides — and unless you’re uniquely suited to the lifestyle, working from home genuinely sucks. Studies show that job satisfaction can suffer and in some cases, even psychological and health issues develop. But that’s not the whole story. 

Looking Remote Working in the Eye

As with most things, the truth of it is somewhere in the middle. Working from home is a lot like this:

  • No commute
  • Flexible hours, which can lead to excessive overwork some days or the opposite extreme where the only “work” is your personal life
  • No office clothes, but new clothes needed for inevitable weight loss/gain depending on how you work it (usually weight gain, unless you’re careful)
  • More sleep if you want it, but if you do, you’re probably depressed and hate working from home.
  • More time with family is true, as long as you shut off everything at a set time every day and stick with it
  • More free time in general is true, but other life things fill the hole, like you’ll be distracted by laundry and other household chores You may find yourself starting too many projects that may litter your house, hoarder-style
  • Office politics will still exist and you’ll have to work harder to maintain relationships, eating away a good bit of that free time for phone calls, polite messaging or in-person “hellos”

Working from home is hard. And fantastic, if you like these things. Many do not, particularly millennials. For the most part, this group craves experiences and interactions — and not those of the virtual variety. Hence the fantastic in-office environments tech giants nurture.

Qualities Virtual Workers Must Master

So where do you find these uniquely suited virtual workers? Although it’s largely anecdotal, studies have shown millennials are only slightly less interested in the work-from-home option, while Gen X seems to flock to it pretty admirably, and it looks as if Gen Z, those born after 2005, will do well with it also

“They’ve grown up in a world where their options are limitless, but their time is not. As such, Gen Z have adapted to quickly sorting through and assessing enormous amounts of information.” 

And this experience arms them with skills that Gen X folks (who are largely Gen Z parents) still fight to master, including:

Multitasking masters: They hop between platforms faster than a parent can ask, “what are you typing, dear child?” and are well versed on text speak, emojis and memes as a way to communicate a lot of information with a little bit of effort. Visual communication is second nature to them, and that is the way the web is trending. 

Older generations often struggle with text-speak and have been to slow to accept memes and emojis as communications to take seriously and incorporate in their own activities. 

Ability to disengage from social media: Gen Z are keen observers, preferring to watch interactions and take in information rather than directly participate. And when they do, it’s often anonymously and they do not (for the most part) self-identify based on their online personas. It’s a more light-hearted approach, primarily.

Older generations use social media sites, notoriously Facebook, to stay connected with friends and family that may not live close by. And as a place to waste hours screaming at each other about nonsense. The inability to disconnect from social media can destroy a day, and a professional reputation!

Get outside in ways you enjoy: This one isn’t exclusive to Gen Z and may be the only way they’re actually at a loss for the time being, due to age. 

Probably the fastest way to burn out on working from home is to stay inside every day. If you do, even if you’re the most introverted person on the planet, the isolation will eventually ruin you. Bring your laptop to Panera and work around others (you don’t need to talk to them), or just take a walk around your block as a break every other hour — whatever works for you, just do something. 

Make being home really matter by scheduling something outside of the home that you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, like volunteering somewhere, or taking a class. Go on adventures. Whatever you do, leave the house.

And Remember: Don't Work in Your PJs

Of course, possessing solid "soft" skills makes all the difference. If one is personable, creative, collaborative and able to hold themselves accountable for their own work, then half the battle is won. 

But that other half — all the stuff detailed above? That’s the rub. And it’s a mean monkey on your back if the fit isn’t right. So help employees (and yourself) to self-assess before deciding that the Webex in pjs life is all it’s cracked up to be.