With the pervasion of remote work in the past year, the new set up has brought about many advantages. A survey by Mercer reports that 94% of employers state that their company was either at the same level of productivity or more productive when teams are working remotely. It is no surprise that the results of a Gartner survey show that 80% of company leaders in the United States plan to continue remote jobs, full or part-time, after the pandemic.
However, this arrangement also brings a ton of challenges. Companies and their employees accustomed to an office environment may find it hard to transition from their norm to the new work structure. There are technology gaps to overcome, communication problems to rectify, and distractions to avoid.
Here we have listed five common challenges employees face when working remotely and the best ways to solve them.
Separation of Work and Home Life
With remote work, you get the flexibility of setting up your schedules. It enables you to take care of other non-work-related tasks and not waste time on the daily commute. However, with no fixed agenda, setting a clear boundary between work and personal life can be difficult.
It often happens because remote workers have to turn another space (e.g., bedroom or dining table) into their workstation, which dissociates those places for rest, into spaces for work. The question then becomes if the dining table is associated with work or a relaxing time to have dinner. They may also opt to do their tasks while tucked in bed or from their couch which may lead to additional problems.
How to have a healthy work-life balance
- Creating a designated work area is necessary. A clear physical boundary separating work and home can help you fragment not just the area where you work and play, but also the time and responsibilities you have when in the space. If the situation permits, you may opt to rent a co-working space or go to a public library where you can still get a good internet connection.
- Try to dress the part when you’re “clocking in”. You may opt to wear semi-casual attire or your usual office clothes. The important thing is to give yourself and others the signal that you’re in work mode. For some people, it also helps them be more productive. Once you are done working for the day, change into your home outfit and go on with your normal after-office activities.
- Disconnect and strive for some quality time. Keep in mind that work will never end. While it may be tempting to be online 24/7 and answer work emails and do more tasks, it may cause burnout. Take control of what’s happening in your professional and personal life to enjoy a balanced lifestyle.
Working remotely leaves you vulnerable to many of life’s distractions that you may not experience at work. As a result, it can kill your productivity, slow down team progress, and compromise company growth.
An office is designed to be conducive to work and collaboration. At home, you may have family members, roommates, and even pets who can cause distractions. Real-world interruptions often happen because you will be juggling work with responsibilities like taking care of the kids, cleaning, and running errands.
Meanwhile, digital distractions like quick social media channel checks can also interfere with your work. Aside from learning to keep yourself from browsing incessantly, using technology can help.
How to minimize distractions
While some interruptions, like emergencies or those concerning children, are unavoidable, you can set clear signals to lessen the frequency of interruptions.
- Put up a “do not disturb sign” at your workspace during office hours. Alternatively, you can put up a signal like wearing your headphones to signify that you are in deep work.
- If you have kids, hire help if you can or ask a relative who has free time to help you take care of them.
- Figure out the typical distractions and provide solutions. For example, your kids get hungry in the afternoon, prepare easy-to-find snacks ready for consumption. For other emergencies, you can teach the people you are living with to handle those situations.
- Install software that blocks websites or apps to help you focus. You can also switch off the notifications on your phone and set a time interval for checking messages.
Overworking and Time Management
Time management and overworking go hand-in-hand for remote workers. While working out of the office offers flexibility, most spend more time on work than what is needed. It may happen because everyone in the team may be working on different schedules. As such, late-night messages will be the norm.
Even though you have a ton of tasks to perform, you need to manage your stakeholders and time properly. Working overtime all the time may leave you sleep-deprived, exhausted, and unhappy.
How to manage time better
- Manage expectations with your team and supervisor. Discuss how tasks will be allotted, create documents to organize your responsibilities, and set fixed hours where the team can meet at the same time, even if only for a few minutes.
- Use time tracking software with a built-in task management tool. This way, you can prioritize tasks, organize your day, and ensure that you have time to get things done without overworking.
- Add your working and reachable hours as part of your status in your Microsoft Teams, Slack, or communication platform to let your colleagues know the best time to reach you.
Despite the slew of communication tools at your disposal, video calls cannot beat face-to-face interaction for meetings. The lack of face-to-face time makes communication across teams more challenging to maintain relationships with your colleagues. Aside from this, technological errors like a bad internet connection or other tech issues can make communication difficult.
How to have better communication
- One way to fix communication issues is to set regular syncs with the other stakeholders.
- Meanwhile, there should be a contingency plan for technological problems. If Skype is down, have a Zoom meeting as a back-up. If Slack messages aren’t sending due to slow internet, go on a phone call.
- Also, do not be afraid to ask questions. Even though it may seem like an imposition to ask a seemingly small question or get clarification, do so if it is crucial to get the job done more efficiently.
Working remotely, you lose the social aspect of being in an office. You miss out on after-work drinks, pizza parties, and office events. At home, you may not have someone to chat with when taking a break.
Furthermore, you may not feel visible to the team or feel like you are contributing because of the lack of a physical presence. It is a problem because someone who feels isolated or not part of the team will not be motivated to contribute or speak up. According to the Harvard Business Review, lack of closeness inhibits the formation of trust, connection, and purpose, which are crucial ingredients to a good team.
How to feel less isolated
- For companies, the first step is to talk to your employees, figure out their problems, and understand their feelings to create the right kind of event and solution to overcome loneliness.
- Game nights or virtual cocktails are good ways for you and your colleagues to get to know each other and form stronger relationships.
- Join online clubs or local organizations that cater to your interests. You can also take virtual classes, not only to learn something new but to interact with other people.
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