The Disadvantages of Remote, Asynchronous Work Part 2

Morgan Province
February 8, 2023
The Disadvantages of Remote, Asynchronous Work Part 2

Are you a “trailing spouse”? We hate that term at LVL-UP, and if you feel offended, then your answer is probably “yes.” 

A “trailing spouse” relocates because of their partner’s job, and often refers to families in the Foreign Service or military. So if we relocate for family, how do we maintain a continuous, fulfilling career? 

I have worked remotely and (almost always) asynchronously for more than five years. I have logged hours and managed projects from four different countries and there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to this type of career. Last month, I shared my top five advantages to working remotely and asynchronously. This month, I’m dishing on the top five pitfalls many remote workers face. Both blog posts give you perspective as you decide if this career is right for you.

Despite the obvious advantages, working remotely and asynchronously has its disadvantages. It’s important to consider them as you look to switch jobs or create your own remote career. 

Fewer Benefits

If you work as a 1099 contractor instead of as a W-2 employee, you’ll most likely have fewer benefits. (Learn more about the differences between the two statuses and your rights here.) Obvious benefits such as consistent income throughout the year, retirement contributions, and paid time off are unlikely to be offered in a freelance or contractor role.

Time spent socializing with coworkers and breaking between tasks is likely not billed as a 1099 contractor, and it can feel like you are working more than you are tracking. While you may have the same essential workload, W-2 employees are usually paid for all of their time whether working or socializing. This lost coffee/watercooler community time also leads me to the next disadvantage of working from home.

More Work to Build Community

Morgan Province logging in from Central Europe during the December 2022 LVL-Up Holiday Party

No matter if you work as a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor, one of the biggest disadvantages of working remotely and autonomously is that you don’t have the same support and community as you would in a traditional office. Leaders must develop and reinforce a positive culture in a different way, and individuals on the teams must make more of an effort to be engaged, collaborative, and “seen.”

This lack of in-person time can result in feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the inability to physically interact, collaborate, and form relationships with colleagues. In fact, Buffer reported that 24% of participants stated “loneliness” as their biggest struggle with remote work.

LVL-Up has weekly Huddle meetings to keep everyone informed and engaged, and it is universally appreciated by the team. At the end of 2022, our team used a Huddle as a virtual holiday party, complete with trivia about our own folks and a secret santa segment with compliments as gifts.

Less Oversight

Working remotely and asynchronously requires a lot of self-discipline. Although micromanagement is a key complaint from employees in a traditional office, having less oversight leaves more room for error and misinterpretation. You are expected to work with integrity (tracking hours truthfully, taking ownership of your successes and failures, etc.), but there is more to consider when driving yourself. You must also have clear and consistent communication, diligent follow-up, and trust with your teammates and/or clients.

Managing a project, coordinating tasks, and meeting deadlines can also be tougher without a manager nearby. If you work better when others are holding you accountable, make it a point to set hard deadlines for yourself so you stay on track in terms of content and quality and deliver on time.

And, if you are one of those people who thrive in collaborative, iterative environments, you will need to make the effort to create those virtual spaces within the constraints of your project’s budget and your team’s available time.

Larger Feedback Loops & Fewer Boundaries

When you and your colleagues are working asynchronously in different time zones and countries, you often have to wait for feedback and responses. It is fun to work “in the future,” but if you are working six hours ahead of your manager, you may not get the approvals you need until the next day when they come online. Build this buffer time into your deadlines. 

You will also need to clearly identify who is responsible for each part of the project and which channels of communication are used for which purposes (i.e. WhatsApp with urgent questions vs comment in your project management platform if the item is not urgent).

An additional consideration for these delayed feedback loops is that you may be working outside normal business hours to get things done. It’s easy to justify working an hour after the kids go to bed since you spent an hour earlier in the day making lunch, but quickly those blurred boundaries can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Be flexible as needed, but stick to your schedule and avoid procrastination to maintain a healthy pace.

More Distractions

Last but not least, it’s easier to get distracted with remote work. Because work hours are more flexible, it is easy to lose track of time and priority throughout the day because it seems convenient to take care of family members, pets, or household chores while you are home. Discipline and schedules are incredibly important for working remotely and asynchronously. Time blocking in your calendar and creating recurring meetings/tasks help you establish the routines needed to work effectively at home.

Remote work has its perks, but it is important to weigh both advantages and disadvantages when examining each opportunity. From my experience, remote and asynchronous work gives you the ability to build a continuous career despite constant life interruptions. At the end of the day, you should evaluate your remote options against the pros and cons on your list to see if a remote and asynchronous career is right for you.

Morgan Province
LVL-Up Strategies