No tiring commute. No managers or co-workers hanging over your head. No one steals your lunch during intervals. Remote work is paradise. But it’s not without its challenges.
Ask anyone who works remotely running their own business or job: It’s not all shimmers and shines. A report from the United Nations International Labour Organization found that while teams are more productive when they work outside of the traditional office, they’re also more vulnerable to working longer hours, a more packed work pace, work-home interference, and inefficiency, and, in some cases, greater stress.
During this time when you’re probably working from home, you’ll be happier and more productive when you meet these challenges head-on.
Working too much
One of the reasons many companies don’t approve of remote work is they fear employees will slack off without that physical, in-person supervision. But, in fact, the opposite tends to be true: remote workers are more likely to overwork. When your personal life and your work are both under the same roof, it’s difficult to switch either of them.
When does the office hours start? End? Creating a hard line between work/home is tough. And if you work for yourself (freelancer or self-owned business) then you might be in never-ending work mode, which can be exhausting.
Several virtual workers confess they have a hard time remembering to take breaks, pausing the task at a reasonable time, and even knowing when is a reasonable time to stop. Someone who has been working from home for a couple of years, one still often feels pulled to go back to the laptop after the day has ended to check up on just one email or finish one small thing—which ends up rolling into an unintended all-night session.
Work is infinite. There is always something to be solved—and when you have a physical office, it’s easier to leave what you do at the workplace. When you are a virtual worker, your office is where you live. So you constantly keep winding small pending tasks late at night before you go to bed or early in the morning when you really wanted to be spending time with family or watching the news.
How to avoid overworking
You might need to convince yourself to take breaks and set a specific start and end times. Otherwise, you tend to burnout. A few things that can help:
- Set tasks on your calendar for the end of the day to get yourself out of your home office. Maybe it’s an “outing” to go to the grocery shopping or just take a walk around the block. Maybe it’s a google reminder to read the next chapter of the book you’re currently into.
- Similarly, set up reminders to take breaks and power exercises. You could also have a recurring daily to-do list item to take a walk (we forget that amidst heavy workload). You can use the clock settings in macOS to announce the time every hour, which helps remind you to stretch and refill your water glass. In Windows, you can try using the Task Scheduler to set up an hourly reminder. Be specific to your team on when you’re leaving—for example, by making a quick announcement in Slack or any team management application and then actually shut down your computer.
- Create physical boundaries between you and your workspace. Don’t work at the place where you have to sleep or in the busiest area of your house. The best thing is if you have a dedicated and separate office space so you can shut the office door. If you don’t have a specific office space, even something as simple as putting your laptop and your work phone out of sight when work has ended can help you avoid the temptation to approach back.
- Turn off notifications on your devices so you’re not pulled back into work or official communication after hours.
More than others remote workers need to be self-motivated people who can pull their socks up through their own hands and be experts in managing the time because they don’t have others constantly overlooking the work or supervising each step. While every remote worker might find it difficult to stick to a schedule and manage their tasks, it’s especially challenging for remote workers who have a more flexible workflow, ongoing projects as well as managers in a different part of the world.
Managing your own work is tough and tricky. Then there’s the constant temptation to watch movies or one episode of your favorite show during your work break, tidy up the kitchen, or your room when you’re procrastinating on a project. All of a sudden, the sun sets and you have nothing to show for the day.
How to ensure that you get the most important work done
- Eat the frog. Mark Twain once said in relation to prioritizing work that if the first thing you do in the morning each day is to eat a live frog, you can go through the entire day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse thing that was going to happen to you all day long. Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most tedious task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.” First thing when you start-up work, eat that frog.
- Limit the number of tasks you intend to do each day. It is not important to do all levels of tasks in a single day. If you are picking a major task today that requires all your energy, avoid other tasks and keep it scheduled it for the next day.
- Uninstall distraction causing apps. This practice will help you stay focused at work and avoid time wastage.
- Manage your energy, not your time. you improve by pushing your practice, not yourself during low energy.” Your energy increases and decreases during the day, so tackle tasks according to your frequencies and how much you’ll be able to focus at different times during the day.
How to deal with interruptions at home
- Set up a kind of signal for your housemates or family that lets them know when you’re in focus mode. Maybe it’s a closed-door or when you put on your headphones.
- Explain why it’s important for you to avoid these unnecessary interruptions, it’s because they break your concentration and make your work ten times harder and longer to finish.
- For parents of young kids, getting childcare is a must, unless you plan on working only when they’re asleep.
- Train your kids/siblings to be self-sufficient and occupy themselves. It’s frustrating to be interrupted because you’re the only person who knows where the remote is.
- Keep scheduled work hours. Simply don’t answer personal calls during work and perhaps even invent meetings if you have to. Proper balance is the key.
- Escape. If the house is getting too informal to work, try working out of a co-working space, the library, or a coffee shop.
How to not feel isolated when working from home
This one’s going to take effort, especially if you’re an introvert and one of the reasons you enjoy working remotely is to get away from being around too many people and struggle to converse. It’s about striking a healthy balance.
- Include social breaks in your daily schedule, if you can, by working a few hours then spending an hour or two doing something social outside of your home, such as lunch with friends, then going back to work. But don’t go out for a social break if you’re reading this during the corona crisis lockdown. To remain social during the lockdown, ping an old friend or run through social media and make meaningful connections.
- Try working outside your houses such as some co-working spaces or coffee shops so you’ll at least feel like you’re still a part of society. If you can’t go out then try working from an open area in your house, balcony or terrace maybe.
Time zone differences
When you can’t figure when to log in and when to logout from work. To handle time differences because your client or your teammate is residing elsewhere. You might be waking up just when your workmate is going to bed. That means you can’t always rely on your fellow team members or your client to be available to answer a query or solve any other immediate need.
Nothing frightens a remote worker as much as an internet outage. Or, perhaps, when your system breaks. Both can cause you disgust.
And even after having a decent internet connection, video conferencing apps aren’t always reliable, so virtual meetups can be an exercise in frustration and wastage of time.
For mental peace and to avoid work delays, have a backup plan. A mobile hotspot that allows tethering can save you when your internet goes out. A backup system or maybe even a tablet or mobile phone can get you through the day until you can get your computer fixed.
Disregarding the challenges above, remote work is fulfilling, as long as you accept and appreciate what you’re getting into and can deal with these normal issues.
During the pandemic, it’s the only choice we have right now, but I am sure once everyone switches back to the old life you’ll miss this time of working from home where your 2-year-old was almost on your laptop or your pet had almost torn your sticky note.
On the off chance that you continue on, you’ll appreciate adaptability, self-sufficiency, the opportunity to work in your best condition, higher profitability, and maybe likewise more opportunity for a life outside work.
Where you are physically distant but not socially distant.