The Remote Work Differences No One Talks About

Hey there, quick note, thank you to everyone who registered to join the Work Forward Society, a community for people who want to end bad meetings and explore working async-first. Doors have closed to the founding membership. I was aiming to have 10 people join, but instead, we have 28 amazing founding members 🤯

If you want to be notified when the membership reopens, you can sign up for the waitlist here.

When I ask people about the differences between remote and office work, they typically bring up location and lack of commute. However, there's a lot more to it. Understanding these differences can change your entire remote work experience.

Companies that understand these differences transform everything from their hiring practices to how they manage teams. Individuals who understand these differences burn out less and know how to advance their careers without going into an office. Let's break the differences down so you can reap the same rewards.

TLDR below 👇 | Read this on the web | Subscribe

On a high level, the three main differences between remote and in-person work come down to:

  1. Accountability
  2. Judgment
  3. Autonomy


Accountability is all about how you get yourself to do the work. For the most part, accountability in the office heavily relies on peer pressure. In the office, you wouldn't come in at noon because you know your coworkers would judge you and believe you're a slacker. You would also do work (or at least attempt to look busy) because of the other people around you.

When you work remotely, this default peer pressure level of accountability disappears. Instead, your accountability relies primarily on your internal drive. No eyes are on you if you're in a healthy remote work environment. So how do you get yourself to start work? How do you get yourself to do the things you need to do? Knowing the answers to these questions is critical to your success as a remote worker.

Companies that don't recognize this change end up trying to force peer pressure back in through surveillance methods or micromanagement. However, these are unhealthy tactics that are easily gamed and don't measure the correct values.

Companies that recognize the change update their hiring practices to test for internal drive. They also encourage leadership styles that help team members build their accountability skills.

Individuals who don't recognize this change frequently burn themselves out by trying to force themselves to do work through sheer power of will. They only stop this cycle when they take the time to learn their motivating factors and how they work best, then apply this information to design their personalized commute and workday.

Before, accountability was easy because peer pressure doesn't require active effort from your end. Internal drive does. It requires learning about your work style, then implementing systems that work for you. With peer pressure, it's easier to fall into the extremes of either gaming the system or putting yourself into an unhealthy overwork mode. Internal drive accountability focuses on making work work for you: more effort but greater reward.


When it comes to judgment, the difference is between external measures vs. quality of work. In the office, you probably heard advice like "dress for the job you want" or "be the first in the office and the last to leave". These are external measures. Even though they really have no relevance to how well you did the work, they were the metrics used in the office to judge.

When working from home, colleagues can't see what you're wearing most (if not all) of the time. This, plus the difference in presence, means that you can no longer use external measures to judge the work. Instead, it becomes all about the quality of work. Are you meeting expectations? Are you communicating progress? These are the things that now matter in how your work is being judged.

This change can have huge benefits for those that are historically overlooked, whether due to age, gender, race, etc. It's easier to climb the ladder when it's less about how you look or who you're buddies with and more about the impact you make. I have personal experience with this from landing director-level roles in my mid-20s after going remote.

Companies that don't recognize this change keep their same old hiring practices, like resumes and interviews. They're looking at how you present yourself, the past schools/companies you've been part of, and how you answer on-the-spot questions. But these external factors provide zero information on whether the applicant can actually do the job.

Companies that recognize this change update their hiring practices to focus on proof of work and replicate the job they're hiring for through written interviews, paid hiring tests, trial hiring, and more.

Individuals who don't recognize this change waste time and energy on the wrong thing. Too often, I see people going into a new remote role attempting to use the same approach to work that they did in person. They'll go into their new job and be the first one online and the last to leave, but no one will notice. Then, they wonder, why isn't this working anymore? Why am I not getting that promotion?

This leads them to write off remote work as something that doesn't work. When really, it's just not working for them because they're not targeting the things remote work is judged based on. Individuals who notice this difference create a portfolio of work for hiring, then document and communicate work progress on the job.

Remote work creates an environment where meritocracy can thrive. Instead of the promotion going towards whoever went out with the bosses for drinks the most, it goes to the person who did the best work. Another change that makes it harder to game the system but gives you far more control in the future of your career.


The office is all about limiting options. You work 9-5, Monday-Friday, and from this specific office. You must learn how to do your work well while fitting in a box that wasn't made for you. You end up feeling stifled and waste energy working against yourself (like when a night owl works morning person hours).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have remote work, which provides lots of freedom. To the point that if you don't plan for it or you're not used to it, this freedom can feel overwhelming or even paralyzing.

Companies that don't recognize this change try to keep the same box for their remote roles. They end up losing productivity from their workers due to not taking advantage of the autonomy benefits of remote work.

Companies that recognize the change focus on creating policies that encourage this autonomy. Managers work with their team members to define reasonable work output expectations rather than relying on clocked time and show them how to use the overwhelming freedom to their advantage. This approach also opens the door for the company to create an effective async-first global workforce.

Individuals that don't recognize this change keep their old schedule and miss out on seeing what they're capable of when their workday is explicitly designed for them. They continue burning out due to wasting energy from working from one work zone, not integrating rest into work, and having to deal with the annoyance of revolving their life around work.

When individuals recognize the change, they do small experiments to figure out their best working style. Eventually, they learn more about themselves, increase their productivity, and improve their quality of life. If we let it, this change in autonomy can be the key to sparking a much-needed revolution in how we work and live.

In recent years, many people went into remote work after spending decades at in-person office jobs. Unfortunately, this professional history comes with deeply ingrained habits that may hinder your experience working remotely. By becoming aware of the three big differences between the types of work, you can pinpoint where you've been going wrong. Stop holding yourself back and start unlocking the full benefits of working remotely.


Understand the 3 big differences between remote and office work to unlock the full benefits of working remotely:

  1. Accountability (Internal drive vs Peer pressure)
  2. Judgment (Quality of work vs External measures)
  3. Autonomy (Freedom vs Limiting options)

(Share this on Twitter)

Quote of the Week

twitter profile avatar
James Clear
Twitter Logo
Twitter Logo
January 31st 2023

In Other News

Change fatigue: When our brain’s adaptive capacity is depleted
"Fortunately, change fatigue doesn’t inevitably lead to burnout. As often when it comes to mental health, being aware of the reason why we may be struggling is an important first step. When constant adaptation starts to feel like it’s becoming too much to deal with, some simple strategies can help to cope with change fatigue."

Planning a 30 hour work week
"Really embracing a 30 hour work week requires unlearning a narrative that has been battered into our heads since we were little kids." (Also, check out the workday profile we shared on Khe Hy last year)

The Age of Anti-Ambition
"And it didn’t help that, early in the pandemic, all jobs were pointedly rebranded: essential or nonessential. Neither label feels good. There is still plenty of purpose to be found in a job that isn’t in one of the helper professions, of course. But “nonessential” is a word that invites creeping nihilism. This thing we filled at least eight to 10 hours of the day with, five days a week, for years and decades, missed family dinners for... was it just busy work? Perhaps that’s what it was all along."

In Case You Missed It

twitter profile avatar
Marissa Goldberg
Twitter Logo
January 26th 2023

How To Make 2023 Your Year of No Burnout
Last year was my first year experiencing no burnout. If you're interested in making 2023 your year of no burnout, check out the last issue for actionable advice on how to break the cycle

What did you think of this issue? What do you hope you'll see in the next one? Feel free to reply to this message or DM me on Twitter @mar15sa.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. Hope you have a lovely day!

Founder, Remote Work Prep


Remotely Interesting

9-5, Monday-Friday, in-person office work are all relics of the past. This thoughtful newsletter helps you reflect on your current way of life and create actionable steps for a more intentional future. Let's revolutionize how you live by changing how you work.

Read more from Remotely Interesting

Hey there, We're back after a 3-month hiatus. Hope you are well and apologies for my absence! While the media has been busy proclaiming "remote work is dead", my business has been growing like crazy. Haven't had a single free moment to write over these last couple of months 😅 Today, I'm back with the much-requested topic of why standups are outdated. This is a two-part issue. First, we'll discuss why standups suck and what you can do instead. Then, in the next issue, I'll dive into one of the...

Happy 2nd Birthday

Welcome back to another issue of Remotely Interesting! We recently celebrated the 2nd birthday of this newsletter 2 years 35 issues 0 to 2,399 subscribers Just want to take a moment to say thank you for all your support! I will forever appreciate the time you take to read, reply, and share my work. Every time I considered stopping, a kind comment came my way and kept me going. You all are the best! Here's to continuing the journey of revolutionizing how we live by changing how we work. Where...

Person thinking about resting, reading, working out, and taking care of themselves

Welcome back to another issue of Remotely Interesting! This week, we have something different. I'm kicking off a new series this year on uncommon but innovative benefits. In case you missed it, we did a series of Work Style interviews last year, profiling people with untraditional workdays. This latest series will be similar in that it will be occasional features over the next year with the goal of helping you see what unique benefits are out there and spark new ideas. This first benefit...