The coronavirus has changed the operation of offices around the globe, forcing thousands of workers into remote work situations they’ve never had to deal with before. Even though many consider remote work a dream scenario, it can actually be extremely challenging.
With more employees working remotely for the first time than ever in the wake of the pandemic, many are wondering how to deal with the new challenges that remote work presents. Here are three of the most common challenges that remote workers have to face and some tips on how to deal with them effectively.
Problem #1: Burnout
Despite most managers’ concerns that remote work will result in employees working less and not getting as much done, one of the most common challenges for remote workers is burnout. The truth is that without the physical boundary in place between home and the office, many workers actually end up working too much.
With workers concerned about getting enough work done at home, many overcompensate and work well into the night and throughout the day with very few breaks. The problem with this is that many employees quickly get burned out. To deal with this problem, it is very important for remote workers to set a schedule that works for them and stick with it.
Solution: Stick to a Schedule
Though it can take some flexibility and experimentation to find what will be the best schedule for you, it’s worth it in the end. Find time during the day to take breaks; try a short walk around the block or having lunch outside on your porch once in a while. You might even try a productivity schedule like the pomodoro technique (blocks of working combined with short breaks) to improve your working schedule.
At the end of the day, make sure you make it clear to your team that you are no longer working. Announce it through your virtual chat platforms or other technology you might be using to collaborate, and stick to your schedule. Set up a physical barrier for yourself between you and your home office if possible; if there’s a door, leave the room and close it at the end of the day. The physical barrier can help you leave those work problems for tomorrow.
Problem #2: Distractions
Though burnout is common, the opposite is also true. Working from home comes with a ton of distractions. It can be very easy for remote workers to get distracted by chores like dishes and laundry while at home. Limiting distractions can be a challenge.
Solution: Set Priorities
Try setting your most difficult task for first thing in the morning. If you can get that done early, there’s always something you can show for the day even if you do get distracted later on. Set a certain number of tasks for you to do during the day, like the 1-3-5 rule (one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks) to help you get things done.
Setting up a dedicated workspace can also help you prioritize your work. If you’re in your home office, you’re there to work. Even if it’s simply a dedicated area of your home without a door, you can still make a space for yourself that is just for work.
Keep your energy level in mind as well. Don’t schedule difficult tasks for yourself during your afternoon slump! Prioritize your work around your waxing and waning energy levels during the day for maximum productivity.
Problem #3: Communication Difficulties
Remote workers often face difficulties with communication. It can be hard to feel connected to your team and your coworkers when you’re not in the office together. Additionally, with so many people traveling to shelter in place with their families, remote workers aren’t always in the same geographical area. As a result, it can be difficult to feel like a true team that’s working together. This can be particularly challenging if workers are spread across different time zones.
Solution: Be Flexible
You may have to be flexible with your working style. For example, you may have to learn to make use of collaborative web tools with which you are unfamiliar. Make sure you set up your technology in advance to avoid any difficulties with the tools you use for work. Additionally, remember that it is very hard to convey tone over online, particularly when it comes to written communication. Give your colleagues and clients the benefit of the doubt.
For many remote work teams, flexibility is also key when it comes to work hours. For a remote team to work effectively, there really needs to be at least four hours of overlap during the workday. This helps ensure that communication and response times are quick enough for collaboration to occur. You might have to adjust your work hours to stay in sync with remote team members in other locations.
If you’re an introvert working from your home office, you’ll need to take special care to communicate and keep others in the loop. It’s easy to feel isolated from your team when you can’t walk by your coworkers’ desks during the day. Combatting this simply relies on you being proactive with your communication. Communicate thoroughly and often; this way you can get ahead of miscommunications and confusion with responsibilities and work duties.
Although remote work has its challenges, with time, effort, and flexibility, you can overcome them.