On March 10, the world witnessed what was possibly the greatest moment in unplanned remote interviews ever. (Yes, I’m referring to that BBC interview.)
In all their glory, the Kelly family showed us the very humorous—and very real—side of remote work, and the many ways in which a controlled situation can easily and quite unexpectedly turn into absolute chaos.
Such remote work fails are the stuff of legend. They can range from a minor mistake of the, “Oops! I didn’t mute myself” variety to a major, “Oh no, the world can’t stop talking about my viral video” event.
Here are just a few fails or challenges from remote workers, who share their remote work fails from around the globe:
Feel free to chuckle at them or use them as cautionary tales. Either way, we hope they’ll help you feel better about your own remote fails (as we all have at least one).
1. Assumptions can turn into scheduling snafus when traveling overseas.
“Some countries have different business hours than I am used to in the United States. It took me awhile to get used to this in places like Europe. In some countries, for instance, neighborhood cafes will close on Mondays or Tuesdays, or will not open until 10 a.m. In Bali, I’d find myself walking in the heat to a cafe 30 minutes away just to find it kept different hours than posted on their Facebook page. Being patient, giving myself extra time, and rolling with the punches has helped me avoid missing calls because the cafe I depended on for wifi was unexpectedly closed!”
—Jacqueline Jensen, Community Evangelist at Piktochart.com
2. The ultimate (preventable) face palm: an inability to recharge while out for a day of work outside your home office.
“I decided to check out a very cute and cool coworking space for the first time. While there, I felt super productive for a couple of hours while working. Then, of course, I realized I’d forgotten my computer charger. Oops.”
3. Saying “yes” to everything is like saying “no” to your sanity.
“I learned the lesson the hard way not to overcommit. I ended up with two contracts that expected me to work full time, and four others that had deliverable deadlines that were aggressive under these conditions. I wound up dropping the one contract that was most lucrative, but least binding or strategic. Then I worked like a mad man to satisfy the two full-time gigs; fortunately only one of those expected specific hours. I delivered the three remaining part-time deliverables, but wasn’t personally satisfied with the job I did on two of them, although they met the contract. After that, I was very careful to turn work down or defer it if possible, rather than overcommit. I came too close to damaging my reputation and hurting my health from the situation.”
—A reformed workaholic tech consultant
4. Location, location, location: it matters just as much in remote work as it does in real estate.
“I mistakenly thought I could carry on a call from just about anywhere…and on one ‘workation,’ set out to do so from the top of a mountain in a U.S. national park. (Yes, literally.) Well, the reception side worked out OK. But it was so windy and cold that I had to huddle inside the visitor’s center, which was chock full of chatty tourists and excitable children. Noisy didn’t begin to describe it; my colleague probably thought I was at a rave, or an amusement park. For those who might argue that headsets eliminate this issue, trust me: you can only mute yourself so much! Ambient noise inevitably comes through, especially on a 1:1 call. As a result, you either seem like a) you don’t know what you’re doing, or b) aren’t respectful of the other person’s time/the subject at hand. Not cool, and not something I have repeated!”
—An intrepid explorer who now knows when to to unplug
5. Remotely snagged a team selfie via video chat and had a most uncomfortable train ride.
“I work remotely quite a bit, and I’m one of those weirdos trying to test remote work from the strangest locations. That leads me to a rather messy train ride in November last year. On my way from Oslo to Trondheim (Norway), I wanted to prove that an in-train work sesh is more than doable—so I splurged on ‘comfort tickets,’ giving me free access to hot beverages, which leads me to the disaster. I went to pick up a coffee, and left the plastic lid behind. When I sat down, I decided to jump into the appear.in social chat room (we have a dedicated coffee break room for chitchat and giggles). Two colleagues joined me there, and I happily cheered them with my coffee while taking a lovely selfie of us. The second I went to place my laptop back on the table, however, I knocked my coffee over, spilling it all on my sweater-dress, leggings and seat. It was super hot and I could feel my stomach burning. As I travel light and intended to wear the same outfit the whole trip, I then found myself washing my sweater-dress and leggings in the tinzy train bathroom sink. Unable to dry my attire under the hand dryer, I slowly grasped the fact that I had to travel the five remaining hours wrapped naked under my (luckily oversized) knitted sweater. Everything for that selfie. Choo-choo!”