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Life at Work, Organizational Culture

7 Ways Working Remotely Is Just Like Being in the Office

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Taylor Sade

Taylor Sade is a reporter, humorist, and digital-media guru. Since graduating college, he's worked as a freelancer for Distractify, CollegeHumor, Uproxx, and ThoughtCatalog — giving him a unique perspective on the culture of remote employment.

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There are certain clichés of working in a real-life, prototypical office space. We see these situations get picked at and broken down in pop culture routinely because it’s something that nearly everybody can relate to on some level. From the mundane to the fun, our places of employment are what make us who we are.

That being said, things are changing in this landscape. People are no longer required to go into a (real-life, prototypical) office anymore. The virtual office is what’s currently defining many employees’ career paths, so what are the typical situations these employees find themselves in?

Imagine a scenario that happens in an actual office, and this is how that would play itself out in the virtual office.

1) The watercooler chitchat = instant messaging system

In an actual office, employees may gather round the proverbial watercooler for some quick chitchatting or office gossip. This is where it seems standard to shoot the breeze and let some steam off, whether in between tasks or just giving yourself a much-needed break from all the humdrum. 

SOURCE: giphy.com

In a virtual office, the same phenomena exists, and it’s called the instant messaging system. Whatever specific system the virtual office uses, the same thing holds true: in between tasks, employees will shoot the breeze or joke around with one another through instant messaging. Sure, this is where the work gets done also, but since there is no watercooler to scamper away to, this is the place to (stay) gather(ed) and have mindless small talk when the time permits. Breaking off into individual chats could even lead to that hot gossip mentioned above.

2) Telling an unfunny joke in the break room = hitting “reply all” on accident

In an actual office, you have to live in the uncomfortable moment of telling an unfunny joke because you can’t take back that embarrassingly bad punchline. This moment is happening IRL (in real life), so you’re going to have to play it out. You may start to hear the metaphorical crickets after what you thought was a quip that would bring the house down, so it’s best to just wait until somebody else speaks before you say anything else.

SOURCE: giphy.com

In a virtual office, that scenario equates to the accidental “reply all” email. Once it’s sent, it’s sent; you can’t take it back. And now you have to live with the fact everybody just saw what you said, even if they weren’t meant to. Much like in the actual office, you’re going to have to play this one out. Wait and see if anybody says anything immediately and if the embarrassment needs to set in. Wipe the sweat beads away from your forehead because it may all work itself out … it may not even be as bad as you thought.

3) Stuffy cubicle = working from a busy coffee shop for the day

In an actual office, you may find yourself feeling cramped, hot, and like you can’t get anything done. That’s what working in a cubicle can do to people. It’s the nature of many office settings, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best environment for productivity.

SOURCE: giphy.com

It’s no different in a virtual office because some days you’ll find yourself working from a public place such as a coffee shop. There you’ll feel as if everyone is looking over your shoulder — it’s loud and there’s nowhere to spread yourself out. You’re shoulder to shoulder, but in this scenario, it’s with strangers that are patrons of the coffee shop rather than your coworkers, so things may even feel a little more cramped.

4) The fear of being called into the boss’s office = seeing somebody typing a response in the IM system, then it goes away

In an actual office, those terrifying moments between walking from your desk to your boss’s office are excruciating because you don’t know what’s next. Are you in trouble? Are you being praised? Are you losing your job? Are you being promoted? The possibilities are endless and at opposite ends of the spectrum.

SOURCE: giphy.com

In a virtual office, this plays out when there’s evidence of typing in the IM system that disappears. This can be terrifying, because you start to wonder, “Why is this person editing themselves? Are they about to unload on me? What’s coming next?! Just hit send already!”

5) Feeling tempted to give in to various Internet distractions = the entire workday

In an actual office, when things are slow or you just don’t want to do what you’re doing, it’s easy to want to peruse the Internet. It’s a natural distraction that’s at everyone’s fingertips at any given moment. 

SOURCE: giphy.com

In the virtual office, this temptation is available literally every second of every day as a chance to accidentally (or consciously) fall into an Internet wormhole. That’s just the nature of the office these employees work in. Unlike feeling like you need to sneak in a few minutes on Facebook before the boss sees you, you can find yourself doing this for extended periods because, well, nobody is ever watching you. But that doesn’t make it okay. 

6) Feeling like there are cliques within the office = the very nature of virtual workplaces

In an actual office, you may feel like certain people always work together or always approve each other’s ideas. It’s natural for people to team up and try to push each other to the top, but it can be frustrating when you’re on the outside looking in and feeling awkward.

SOURCE: giphy.com

However, in a virtual office, that’s just the way things work; you’re in teams to get certain things done. And it’s for the better. Rather than cliques forming out of natural selection, groups are put in place for higher productivity and everybody wins.

7) Going out for drinks after work = liking one another’s social media posts during off hours

In an actual office, this is a best and easiest way to be social and come down after a long day at work. It builds camaraderie. A few drinks and some debriefing, then catching up on one another’s personal lives.

SOURCE: giphy.com

In a virtual office, you may be doing the same thing but are technically at home drinking alone. However, you can socialize with fellow workmates by validating their presence on social media. Retweeting their jokes. Commenting on their Facebook or Instagram posts. You work virtually, so it’s only natural that you connect outside the office virtually as well.


Taylor Sade

Taylor Sade is a reporter, humorist, and digital-media guru. Since graduating college, he's worked as a freelancer for Distractify, CollegeHumor, Uproxx, and ThoughtCatalog — giving him a unique perspective on the culture of remote employment.

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