We talk a lot here on WWD about the benefits of being a web worker. But not everyone is suited to it, and not everyone likes it, despite the fact that the freedom and comfort of working from home can sound like nirvana. In “7 Signs That You’re Not (Yet) Cut Out For Teleworking,” Celine outlines seven traits that mean that web working could be hard for you. Maybe you see yourself in Celine’s seven signs, or you hesitate to describe yourself as outgoing and organized. Yet you still aspire to a web working career. What do you do?
After spending a few years as a self-employed web worker, I’ve assembled a list of a few traits that should be part of the optimal web worker personality. And there is good news, because they are traits that can be acquired through discipline and practice.
- Flexibility. It is extremely difficult to maintain the extremely structured ways of the corporate world when working out of a home office. Web workers have to be able to roll with interruptions, and learn how to get things done without the backup and resources of a whole office. Sometimes this takes creativity and the willingness to do things a little differently.
- Self-motivation. Successful web workers are the workers who are motivated from within to excel in their work, not by the fear of a boss who could be staring over their shoulder at any moment. This trait is especially important for self-employed web workers who don’t have to answer to even a distant boss in an office somewhere.
- Focus. Being a web worker typically means being faced with lots of distractions: uncompleted personal tasks that are visible during work hours, social media, and email. The ability to focus on the task at hand despite distractions is critical to web worker success.
- Organization. Web work means being entirely responsible for keeping track of large quantities of information, and for planning your own schedule. Being self-employed, in particular, requires detailed record keeping for financial purposes even if an accountant is doing the actual calculations.
- Independence. Remote workers can’t ask the boss for direction on everything they do. Web workers have to be willing to take initiative on things themselves without asking explicit permission from a superior every step of the way.
- Confidence. Co-workers aren’t easily available for web workers to ask for backup or a second opinion on their decisions. Along with the independence to make their own decisions, web workers then need the confidence to believe in the correctness of those decisions. Otherwise they will quickly be paralyzed by uncertainty and indecision.
All of these traits can be learned by a person who is self-aware and cares enough about their goals to make a serious attempt at change. Depending on the desired trait, helpful resources might include productivity sites like this one, self-help books or even a career coach. And you don’t need to set out to overhaul your personality completely. If you have a problem focusing, the goal should be to acquire just enough focus to function in your web work setting, not to be able to stare at the head of a pin while the ceiling crashes down on you.
Web workers who love what they do and who are naturally productive might find it hard to imagine that there are people who would actually prefer the more structured life of a traditional office. Yet there really are downsides to web work, especially for certain personalities. Pamela addressed one of these when she encouraged web workers to join groups to fight isolation.
The perceived freedom of being a web worker appeals to almost everyone from the outside. But the reality is that not everyone is suited to it or will actually be happy doing it. It is wise to take a hard look at your strengths and weaknesses, and what you really need to be a happy and productive worker, before jumping into something that is rewarding but challenging.
What traits have you found valuable as a web worker? What traits do you wish you had?