By Rachel Pelta

Until the pandemic hit, many people had no idea what working from home was really like. The idea seems simple enough: you work, and you do it at home. And while that is true, there’s a lot more to it!

Working from home during the pandemic is very different from working from home under normal circumstances. Here are eight realities of working from home all the time.

Realities of Remote Work and Working From Home

1. You’re Not Alone
Some people think that working from home is more than isolating—it means you work alone! While you may be a solo employee if you’re a freelancer, when you’re a remote employee, you’re part of a team.

You may not be in the same physical space as your coworkers, but technology can still make you feel like you’re part of the team. For example, Slack channels can help you hang out online with fellow book lovers, gardeners, or just randomly talk about whatever’s on your mind. It may not be the same as hanging out in the break room, but it’s a close second.

Outside of online interactions, there are other ways to connect. Working in a coworking space or a coffee shop gives you a chance to network and interact with people at and outside of your company, helping you feel less isolated and allowing you to recreate the office experience on your terms.

2. You Might Miss the Office
You might not miss your coworkers’ loud phone conversations or stinky lunch, but one of the realities of working from home is that you might miss some aspects of office life.

There’s no occasional cake because remote coworkers don’t gather together in the break room for birthdays. And there are no surprise donuts first thing in the morning, unless you buy them yourself. This lack of casual, spontaneous interaction can make it hard to connect with coworkers on a personal level.

That said, many remote companies offer ways for employees to connect informally. Some set up virtual lunch or coffee chats with people outside your department. There might be a weekly virtual get-together or a more organized game night.

3. It Takes Discipline
Most remote jobs have regular work hours, which means you have a regular work schedule. It could be 9-to-5, 7-to-3, or 10-to-6, but the point is, during those hours, you’re working.

But the reality of working from home is that you’re home, and with that comes distractions and temptations. That mountain of laundry? It isn’t going to wash itself. Need a break after a client call? Fire up Netflix.

It’s doubtful you’d watch Netflix in the office, and your laundry isn’t piled in a heap in your cubicle. But when you work at home, it’s easy to think you’ll fire up one quick episode of your current favorite during your lunch break. If you aren’t disciplined about keeping it to one episode or motivated enough to get back to work when you should, you may find that working from home doesn’t work for you.

4. It’s a Real Job
People that haven’t worked from home may think that working from home isn’t a real job—that it’s more like a hobby or something you dabble in.

This, of course, just isn’t the case. Working from home is as real of a job as it gets! If nothing else, remote workers have to work because they have deadlines to meet and goals to accomplish. If you don’t do those things, you’ll be out of a job, just like an in-person job.

5. They Aren’t Dead Ends
In addition to being a real job, remote work has many opportunities across various career fields that aren’t dead-end or entry-level jobs.

There are plenty of management, executive, and leadership roles that can be done from home and have upward career pathsC

6. You Need Strong Boundaries With Family and Friends
One of the other common realities of working from home is that not everyone understands the nuances of remote work. Without strong boundaries with family and friends, you may find yourself wishing for an in-person job.

For example, working from home often comes with some flexibility. On certain days, you have the time to run errands or have an extra-long lunch with friends. But not every day is automatically flexible, and there may be times that you just aren’t free.

Your partner may ask you to pick up the dry cleaning, a gallon of milk, and mail some stuff at the post office when you don’t have the time that particular day. The same goes for friends who may want you to golf a few holes or go shopping because “you’ve got a flexible schedule.”

Not everyone will understand that while you have flexibility, not every day is flexible. You need to set and keep firm boundaries in place, so people don’t assume you’re always available. Make it clear that during work hours, work is the priority and everything else comes second.

7. You Need Strong Boundaries With Yourself
Along those same lines, you need to establish and maintain boundaries with yourself. If you don’t, you may not know where work ends and life begins!

Just like you have to ignore the laundry during the workday, you have to ignore the office during your personal time. If you don’t, you may find yourself working far more hours than you should, which could lead to frustration and burnout.

One easy way to establish your boundaries is to set a start and end time for your workday. Before you “clock in,” attend to any personal tasks. When you “clock out” at the end of the day, stop working, and don’t worry about work until the next day.

8. You Are Tech Support
One often overlooked reality of working from home is that you are tech support.

While you might have access to a technical support team that can help walk you through some issues, they aren’t at your house. And sometimes, the issue is a little too technical or even physical. When that’s the case, you need to be self-reliant and independent enough to solve the problem yourself or know where to go for additional help.

Working From Home Is Work
Remote work has some very real advantages. But it also has some very real realities. As long as you’re prepared for what working from home is really like, you’ll find remote work success in no time.

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