The Way We Work
October 11, 2011 by Guest Blogger

By: Karel Nadela

The advent of the Internet has brought on the information age, where anything and everything can be found and transacted online. We can access information, enroll in schools, purchase airline tickets, connect with people, pay our bills, and do just about anything in this virtual world.

Business transactions can be done anywhere in the world, with just two requirements: a laptop and a strong Internet connection. Millions of people are now shifting their career directions towards online employment, and I've made that shift too.

If you have had previous work experience in the traditional offline working world, you will encounter more than a few changes as you slide into virtual reality. So, to help you navigate them, here's compilation of the challenges of transitioning to an online job, as well as real solutions:

Challenge #1. Solitude

In the offline environment, I used to talk to clients, my boss, my colleagues, the janitor, the messenger, the security guards, and every other breathing being in the office. I now found myself alone with my laptop. It was just me, my laptop, and my dog. I needed human interaction. We mortals are social beings. Ever wonder why social networks are so popular?

How to overcome this challenge:

  • Show up at team gatherings, parties, and get-togethers if possible. This promotes team building and camaraderie. It’s actually nice to be able to meet one’s colleagues face to face. It makes you realize that you are working with real, living human beings.
  • Participate in official email threads and work-related group discussions. Gmail and Gchat are great communication tools, so take the time to acknowledge emails and chat messages. Let your teammates know you’re alive!
  • Keep your work environment happy. Brighten up your room with furniture and color. Hang a constellation of our solar system on your ceiling. Decorate your wall with a million colored thumbtacks. Put a mirror in front of your work area, so you can see what you look like whenever you get acknowledged for a good job. Do whatever works for you. Bottom line: Be happy!
  • During offline hours, go out and socialize. Take time to connect with your family and friends. Go up to a stranger and make a new friend. Your schedule is more than flexible, so you will be able to accommodate anyone and everyone.

Challenge #2. The Need for Self-Discipline and Time Management

In an online environment, we are responsible for managing our own time. There is no boss to yell at us if we arrive for work late in the morning. Along with this flexibility of time, I needed to discipline myself and manage my activities, so that I’d get my 40 hours in for the week.

How to overcome this challenge:

  • Focus on your priorities. This is work. For many, this is their bread and butter. If you take care of your work, your work will take care of you.
  • Make a daily work schedule along with break periods. This should give you more structure, and keep you from the pull of your bed’s gravity.
  • Plan your work week ahead of time. Anticipate what is bound to happen. Experiment in order to come up with the perfect schedule. You will see that 40 hours per week is more than doable.

Challenge #3. ISP Problems and Interruptions

There are two things one needs in order to operate in an online job: a PC and a strong Internet connection. When my Internet connection would go crazy, I would go crazy as well. Our work is synonymous with our ISP, and we are responsible for our connections.

How to overcome this challenge:

  • Back yourself up with a prepaid USB. This will be an important investment. Aside from being a backup, a prepaid USB will allow you to take your work with you as you choose.
  • Run to the nearest wifi zone or coffee shop. This may be expensive; however, losing work hours will be a more expensive option.
  • Consider switching internet service providers. If intermittent Internet connection is a chronic problem, you may want to seriously consider this.
  • Pair up with an online work buddy. If you know a fellow freelancer in your area, call on him or her, and agree to help each other out when the other’s Internet connection bogs down.

Challenge #4. Is This a Real Job?

What is our basic definition of a job? According to Wikipedia, a job is a regular activity performed in exchange for payment. We report to work, and we get paid to do our work. So why didn’t an online job feel real to me? I reported to work, and I got paid to do my work. The fact is, an online job streamlines all of the overhead that comes with offline jobs. There is no office. We don’t have uniforms. There is no paperwork. However, if we go back to the definition of a job, an online job is as real as it gets.

How to overcome this challenge:

  • Stick to the definition of a job. You do your work; you get paid. People will understand.
  • Set up a proper work environment. Get yourself a work desk. Withdraw your earnings every two weeks. Dress up in proper work clothes. (Pajamas don’t exactly give one the feeling of being in a job.)

Challenge #5. Boredom

One of the difficulties I’ve had was to slow down my pace of activities. I became quite restless. I was used to the hustle and bustle of office work: filing, submitting papers to my boss, walking to the next floor to endorse a client to the proper department, and simply getting up and hovering over an officemate’s computer to get information I needed. I now found myself sitting in front of my laptop 24/7.

How to overcome this challenge:

  • Vary your work schedule. The flexibility of our work hours allows you to arrange your work schedule according to what works best for you.
  • Ask your team leader to give you other tasks to do. Chances are, they'll be more than willing to have colleagues help burn down the backlog -- ask your employer for more work.
  • Pamper yourself at a salon or spa. Exercise. Grab a fruit shake. The instant boost will do wonders for you.
  • Keep in mind that there are a lot of people out there who are looking for an opportunity to work online. Consider yourself lucky to be working at a job that allows you to work at home and be with your family, a job that gives you the flexibility of time so that you don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. to get to the office on time, a job that spares you from traffic and all other stresses. Count your blessings; boredom is one of them.

In conclusion, this transition is actually a very rewarding one. If you wish to discuss further the transition from offline to online work or the challenges you're having, please let us know how you're doing in the comments below.