If not for COVID, I may not have thought to write on this topic. Interesting and obvious as it is, I just hadn’t given much thought about it. Remote working is highly likely for an RVer who isn’t able to live on savings or retirement income.
Of course, with COVID, many people have experienced remote working whether they wanted to or not. And most felt lucky to have that option since it’s so much better than unexpectedly not having a job. But remote working isn’t necessarily the life of ease that many associate with working at home.
There are tons of ways to remote work but this post isn’t about ways and types of remote work. Instead, it is about the actual physical act of working at home. Now, when I say, work at home I am referring to working from an RV. However, nearly all of the pros and cons are applicable to working from a sticks-and-bricks as well.
And, one more note. I cannot help myself. You’ll notice on the list of cons, I offer a solution or two that you might find useful.
Remote Work in Sticks-and-Bricks
Before I go into my lists of pros and cons, I wanted to tell you about my job before I got on the road and my experience with remote working. I was the CFO at a small-to-medium sized non-profit for 15 years before I dove into a full-time RV life.
About 10 years ago I was tasked with doing research about letting staff work from home. It’s interesting because I was so sure it was a bad idea. In the end, I reported my findings and ended up recommending we try it. Really, it was a 180 degree turnaround for me based on the studies I’d read.
In brief, workplaces that offered the remote working option to their employees reported less absenteeism, higher productivity and happier employees. Higher productivity was a shock to me. The combination of employees wanting to prove they could successfully work at home and lack of distraction accounted for this.
At my work, we decided employees could work from home up to 20% of the time. In other words, one day per week. Ironically, most employees chose not to do it. Out of curiosity, I did. I wanted to see if my experience would prove the research or, if for me, it would prove a failure. Once again, I was surprised. I loved working at home and, yes, without the normal office-life distractions I found myself quite productive. What I loved most was working on projects I never had concentrated-time for at the office—particularly reading and research. It also proved a great help when the CEO and I wrote our extensive policy manuals.
What I loved most was making my own schedule which meant starting earlier than I did on days I went into the office, taking a few hours off at midday for lunch and a dog walk, then working later than I normally would if I’d gone into the office. I loved it.
In my contract work with Harvest Hosts, I’m paid for each Host I recruit. I am not paid by the hour or on salary. As such, it means I can work as much or as little as I want. My pay, more or less, is in direct relationship to the amount of time I put in. If I’m doing a slow travel week or I’m workamping or I just don’t feel like it, I might have a week where I do little more than check email. On the other hand, when motivation is high and I’m focused, I might have a week where I work 30 hours. I’ve worked really late at night. I’ve worked weekends. In fact, I nearly always work weekends.
Then there is the other extreme. When COVID started, I talked to an accounting friend of mine. His company required the employees to work at home during shelter-in-place. To make sure people were doing what they were supposed to, they verified and tracked employees online to ensure they worked during the company’s normal work hours.
I tell you this to give you an idea of the range of remote working out there. That said, all of the pros and cons listed may not apply to every type of remote work assignment. But I hope to give you something to think about if you are considering remote working or looking to do remote work while living an RV life.
Pros of Remote Working
Making Your Own Schedule
Unless you are working for a company that monitors your time or wants you working particular hours (like the example I mentioned above), you pretty much make your own schedule (as you’ll see below this can also be a con). That means if you are naturally a night owl, you can work at night. If you want to head to the grocery store or go for a mid-day hike, you can.
Additionally, week-to-week or even day-to-day, you might choose to have a different schedule. Remote working allows for every kind of schedule under the sun. The flexibility is awesome and super convenient.
This pro is also known as “working in your pajamas.” While this may not literally be true, the sentiment is that generally you can be more comfortable working in your own environment. Yes, for some, that might mean working in pajamas. Or it might mean working with your feet up, in bed or otherwise. It might mean working outside in jeans and a t-shirt. It definitely means dropping the façade we wear to walk into the office each morning.
“Work Hours” Are Less
Even if you work the same eight hours as you do when you go into the office, the fact is the time dedicated to “work” is still less. In some cases, much less. Because when you factor in the getting ready time in the morning and the commute, you end up with a nine-, ten- or more-hour workday. Whereas, your eight work hours at home are, truly, just eight hours.
Avoiding Office Politics and Gossip
The toxicity some office environments create from gossip, backstabbing and general negativity does nothing for your productivity or your well-being. No doubt. That type of environment is especially difficult when you love the work or otherwise don’t want to look for something else. Even remote working, you can get pulled into the ugliness but at least the physical distance can help.
Be warned, however, even at home there can be in-fighting. Afterall, both the dog and the cat will want to sit on your lap. So, you might have to navigate some pet (also maybe children) battles.
Cons of Remote Working
Lack of Human Contact
While you may not get embroiled in office politics and gossip while working remotely, neither will you get the work-related social interaction. And for many people, the social interaction at work is the majority of their social interaction outside family.
Lack of social interaction can make remote working lonely business indeed. If you are an extrovert who thrives with human contact, remote working may not be your cup of tea. Or, if you do it, you may have to be very intentional about getting your social interaction from other sources.
As a traveler, this can be more of a challenge than when you remain in one community. But it certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible. One of the surprises for me when I hit the road is how often I strike up conversations with fellow RVers that then lead to a shared meal or a trip to a museum or a walk.
Making Your Own Schedule
In addition to being on the pros list, I have to say that making your own schedule also belongs on the cons list. It can be hard to choose work over fun. Motivation, focus and passion can be lacking at times without the energy that comes with from being in an office with others who have a similar goal. Even if you sit down to work, you can find your mind wandering. Or that the dusting simply must be done right now.
Remote working is an exercise in self-discipline to be sure. Even though creating your own schedule is a pro for the flexibility, it can help to have a routine to keep it off the con list. Your mind and body know that between certain hours, you’ll be sitting down at the computer to work.
For me, the first hours of every day are dedicating to writing. No matter what the rest of the day holds (errands/chores, adventures, work), I try to hold those morning hours sacred. First, I couldn’t keep up with this weekly blog if I didn’t. Second, for me, my mind is sharper in the morning making the more brain-intensive tasks easier than at other times in the day. Third, carving out more time for writing was the main impetus for going on the road in the first place so it makes me feel like I am keeping my own priorities as a priority.
Finally, as I understand, routine can help us cope with stress, change, anxiety and help us even sleep better. It helps highly sensitive people feel like they have control over their world. I don’t think of myself as highly sensitive but when I read that, it rang true. I like when my world makes sense and having a plan and a routine definitely helps with that. (Not to go too far off topic, but I have wondered if it’s one of the reasons slow travel is such a challenge for me; I just want to get to my next stop and feel settled.) For me, writing in the a.m. hours is a daily touchstone that helps keep me grounded and sane.
So, if you are a remote worker who has a flexible schedule, try applying daily consistency. It’s worth the experiment to see if your productivity increases and, who knows, maybe other areas of your life will improve as well.
Lack of Respect from Others
Those who run a business out of the home have been saying this for years. But others can perceive your remote working as a free and easy, a time they can invade. This can be from friends or members who are in the house/RV with you. It’s probably more of a challenge in the RV since quarters are already so tight.
Boundaries are important. Setting a boundary might manifest in a physical boundary such as a separate room and not answering the phone. Or setting a boundary can mean having a conversation with loved ones and friends about respecting your “work hours.”
Okay, this is one on the list that won’t apply to remote workers in a sticks-and-bricks. On the other hand, it can prove to be a big challenge for a full-time traveler. Not only is it a challenge, lack of a good internet connection can be super stressful when part of your remote work includes online meetings, deadlines, etc.
As a RVing remote worker, first and foremost you’ll have to get a decent arsenal. I’m not good at that stuff so I don’t really have any recommendations. Except one. I love my portable antennae. I wrote it in a hacks post a while back. In short, it is a booster that enhances your internet connection.
For those who don’t have flexibility in terms of when you work or if you have a lot of meetings and deadlines, I recommend redundancy. Nearly all RVers whose companies or clients aren’t going to be forgiving of internet issues, maintain two or more options (carriers) for internet. Most RVers I know have both a Verizon option as well as an AT&T option to maximize coverage. Those two are the providers with the largest coverage area in the US. That said, if you are going to spend your travel time in one area of the country, you may be better off with a different carrier. Do your research.
Despite the fact that it is easier to come up with more cons than pros, remote working is wonderful. Twenty years ago, were there any RVers except retirees? For the most part, no. But remote working has allowed families, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s to become travelers and to live the full-time RV life while still making a living.
Links to Relevant Posts:
- Road Trip, Slow Travel: Trip #1
- My First Workamping Experience
- And Still More Fast, Easy, Low-Cost RV Hacks
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- Thermacell Insect Mosquito Repeller Bundle
- KAC E2 1.25″ and 2″ Hitch Receiver Mount 2-Bike Rack Carrier
- Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder (100 Loads, 1 Pack) Fragrance Free
- PackTowl Personal Quick Dry Microfiber Towel for Camping, Yoga, and Sports
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