Why Remote Work Can Give You Too Much Autonomy

man working alone

Without a doubt, the year 2020 has brought a dramatic change in our lives. Multiple factors, including safety concerns, the effects of a recession, and the gradual acceptance of remote work, are making many people spend more time at home.

This is an excellent opportunity to spend more time with our families. We get to be more flexible in terms of how we work, while also getting more mileage out of the various conveniences and improvements we make to our homes.

But these changes aren’t all beneficial. For remote workers, shifting away from the office environment can prove to be detrimental. When you lose the office structure, you risk becoming inefficient, disengaged, and demotivated.

As the balance of our lives continues to shift, making it work will require us to become better at taking charge of our time and productivity. What can you do to improve in this regard?

Dealing with shadow work

If you stop and consider the typical day in the life of an average American employee, you’ll find that most of us step into many roles. Over 24 hours, we are likely to function as our own baristas, cooks, housekeepers, secretaries, drivers, and accountants, on top of our jobs and relationships.

Look back across the decades, and you’ll find that many of these roles were once commonly fulfilled by other individuals dedicated to those functions. However, our modern lifestyles are now jam-packed with these various activities that constitute “shadow work.”

Being able to work from home is merely the latest development along those lines. When your home becomes your office, you take on the responsibility of making it a space that’s conducive to concentration and productivity. You’re responsible for securing the internet connection, updating apps, and maintaining devices necessary to collaborate with others.

Above all, you take on aspects of the management role. No boss can supervise their remote workers as closely as they’d be able to in an office setting. It’s up to you to devise a schedule that lets you get work done efficiently.

woman looking at a calendar

Striking a balance

Shadow work isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many cases, it’s the price we pay for greater control. When you prepare your meals, you get to make them more nutritious than whatever you could have for takeout or delivery. Working from home involves similar trade-offs.

Problems arise when people aren’t aware of these exchanges. When you assume responsibility for a function, what are the pros and cons? Are you bringing more to the table than someone who’s specialized to do that task? Would it be worthwhile to delegate the job or pay someone else to handle it?

You need to find the right balance. For instance, learning to troubleshoot an issue on their devices is often possible with the information available on the internet. But it’s also time-consuming and hardly enjoyable; you’re better off contacting tech support to fix it.

Also, you have to be aware of how much extra work you’re taking on in total. We don’t have infinite reserves of energy and willpower; everyone gets the same 24 hours each day. There’s only so much you can squeeze into that period and still be effective all around.

Maximizing your productivity

To be as productive as possible and optimize your control and flexibility, you need measurable progress. That means establishing specific objectives and determining exactly how much resources you’ve got. Crucially, it also entails knowing exactly how valuable your time is.

Even as you enjoy the flexibility of working from home, you need to keep track of how many hours you’re working, spread across the day. Time tracking apps can tell you how much of your screen time is going to work versus leisure or distractions.

This sort of data gathering will alert you to any areas of inefficiency. It can be applied not just to work but to other regular activities. Then you can make the necessary adjustments in those areas.

For instance, if it takes you more than an hour to tidy up your home, keeping your workspace orderly and comfortable, you might need to change your setup. Work in a smaller, less cluttered room while you make steady progress on clearing out the old one over several days. Alternatively, you could consider allotting some of your budget towards professional housekeeping services and take that chore off your responsibilities.

Remote work gives you greater autonomy, but increasingly shifts the burden of management onto your shoulders. Recognize this increase in your overall shadow work, and you can tackle the challenge so that this change works out in your favor.