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Remote Working: Challenges and Ways to Address Them

As most people around the globe work from home in response to the Corona outbreak, the philosophy of remote working is being highly scrutinized to know its potential impacts on employee well being. Without a hectic transportation schedule and without a manager interrupting your work activity at every step, the work-from-home model may seem to be […]

Happy young female student in smart casual sitting by table in cafe, looking at laptop display and having cup of cappuccino while working remotely
Happy young female student in smart casual sitting by table in cafe, looking at laptop display and having cup of cappuccino while working remotely

As most people around the globe work from home in response to the Corona outbreak, the philosophy of remote working is being highly scrutinized to know its potential impacts on employee well being. Without a hectic transportation schedule and without a manager interrupting your work activity at every step, the work-from-home model may seem to be a very smooth work arrangement for today’s internet worked employees. However, in reality, telecommuters need to combat several challenges that may interfere with their normal lifestyles and may have a negative impact on their general well being. In a study that was published in the United Nations International Labour Organization , researchers found that employees demonstrated higher levels of productivity when they worked from their homes, but faced issues that they wouldn’t normally face if they work in traditional office setups. Employees working from home often end up committing longer hours for office work and often, they have to deal with distractions that may reduce their work pace. Balancing of home and work-related matters may lead to greater stress, thereby making employees more vulnerable to physical and emotional distress. This holds particularly true for employees working in creative fields where accomplishments are subjective in nature and there’s no way to define “right” or “wrong”. This is what puts employees in creative domains at a major risk of re-work, which ultimately results in longer work hours, stress, fatigue, and frustration.

In this article, we have listed the common remote working issues faced by employees in creative domains and have provided work-life balance guidelines that would help them create a rewarding work-from-home experience.

Working Excessively

Most managers feel that real, in-person monitoring is needed to prevent employees from becoming lethargic and to extract the maximum possible outcome from them. However, the reality is exactly the opposite. Remote employees tend to overwork as they find it hard to switch off while balancing their responsibilities at home and at work. It is observed that people who work from home often don’t bother to take breaks or they do not have any idea about when they should log off for the day. Creative designers, for example, may continue to work on repeated revision requests and this way, they may fall a prey to overwork-scenarios and get stressed in the process.

Tips for remote employees to prevent burnout:

  • Define the start and end times of your shift.
  • Set appointments. You may schedule an evening walk or plan to go for grocery shopping after your work shift.
  • Set up reminders for short breaks. Use these breaks to refill your glass, to go for a short stroll inside your home, or to make yourself a cup of coffee.
  • Inform your team when you are signing off for the day. After saying ‘Bye’ to your team, shut down your system immediately.
  • Dedicate a section of your home as your office space. This would allow you to keep your laptop away from your sight when your shift ends so that you do not feel tempted again to go into the work mode.
  • Deactivate work-related notifications, which may provoke you to sign in again.

Prioritizing Work

Remote employees need to be experts at time management because they are the ones who have sole control over their work. Remote employees who have flexible work shifts and managers who stay in another part of the globe are more likely to face challenges to manage their schedules or to-do lists.

While every worker might find it difficult to stick to a schedule and manage their to-dos, it’s especially challenging for remote workers who have more flexible, free-form days as well as managers in a different part of the world. Distractions such as taking your dog out for a break or cleaning your kitchen during your usual work shift or watching your favorite show may break your schedule, leaving you with an incomplete outcome at the end of the day. People in creative fields have to work on diverse assignments that demand different levels of creative inputs, because of which they find it difficult to set the order of priority.

Tips for you to prioritize your work:

  • Start with the most difficult task that you are most likely to procrastinate. Your day becomes smooth when you know that you have already completed the ugliest of all tasks.
  • Set a limit to the number of tasks that you would be doing every day. For example, you can target to do one big task, 2 medium tasks, and 6 small tasks every day.
  • Stay focused at your work so that you can complete your day’s work on time. Keep your cell phone away and don’t include personal activities in your work schedule.
  • Manage your tasks as per your energy levels. Your focus typically depends on your energy levels and so you should find out what tasks would demand a greater part of your energy bandwidth.

Minimizing Disruptions

When you work from home, your schedule may get affected due to a lot of distractions. For example, there may be an unexpected arrival of guests or a critical system in your home breaks down or your kids or pets continually plead you to play with them. You may want to choose a place as your office in your home, which would separate you from distractions as well as prevent you from being a distraction to others. You would definitely not want a call to wake up your baby from nap. Right?

Here are a few tips that would help you keep distractions away from you:

  • Use a signal that lets others understand that you are not available to attend to them. Either use a don-not-disturb sign in your home office or you keep your door locked to make others believe that you are not at home.
  • If you have young kids at home, it is a good idea to send them to a daycare facility or to get a babysitter to look after them during your work hours. Else, you should set up a work schedule during their sleep hours.
  • Train your kids to handle things by themselves. You would obviously not want them to interrupt you for household help during your work hours.
  • Maintain consistent work hours. Don’t do other tasks during these hours.

Getting affected by a feeling of loneliness

Lack of a social circle may generate a feeling of isolation in you. In a way, your coworkers form your social circle in your workplace and help you beat stress. You enjoy moments of interaction with your coworkers during lunch or coffee breaks or during birthday celebrations at office. But when you work remotely, you might feel isolated from the rest of the world. This holds particularly true for remote workers who do not have families staying with them. After working from your home for a few days, you may feel that you are locked up at one place all by yourself days after days. By staying at your home for longer hours and without any social communications, you might soon start lacking the confidence to go out into the big, cruel world and meet people who may turn out to be not-so-good. Creative people do need a social circle to get their energy refilled.

Tips to protect yourself from feelings of isolation:

  • Make your breaks ‘social’. You may enjoy a lunch break with your friends and then come back to your home to complete your day’s task.
  • If you are a self-employed individual, you may consider creating a ‘second office’ that would keep you in close contact with other people. You may work from coffee shops or co-working spaces , which would make you stay at the company of a lot of people.
  • You may join local groups so that you can attend social events organized by these groups. You may participate in get-togethers or networking conferences.

Facing Communication Issues

Remote workers mainly communicate through email and lack of in-person communication may create a lot of misunderstandings. If you are an introvert, you may need to put extra effort to maintain a smooth line of communication with your colleagues. You may find it to be a bigger issue if some members of your team work from the office. They would be attending meetings and making important decisions without consulting you. You might feel left out.

Tips to strengthen communication with your team:

  • Communicate with your team to the maximum possible extent and get your doubts clarified.
  • Maintain regular communication to remain aware of the latest developments in your team.
  • Be proactive and initiate conversations.

Struggling with time zone differences

Things may become a little complicated if you and your teammates work from different time zones. There may be times when you need to approach your teammates to get a query answered, but by then, they may have gone to their beds. So you cannot rely on your teammates from different time zones to help you out.

Tips to address time zone issues:

  • Be flexible in your work approach. Make sure that you are contacting other team members at the right time to get prompt response from them.
  • Don’t check notifications if you don’t receive them within your work shift.
  • At the end of your shift, you should hand over the pending tasks to the other team members who can complete the work during their own shifts.

Battling technology constraints

You, as a remote worker, have the sole responsibility to handle technological issues on your own. An internet outage or a hardware crash incident may disturb your schedule and you have to solve these issues by yourself. At times, you may find video conferencing apps to be highly unreliable and being a part of virtual meetings may seem to be a real struggle for you. People involved in graphic designing, 3D designing, video editing, illustration, animation, photo editing etc. may not have access to an updated version of creative software which their office-based teammates might be using regularly.

Tips to deal with technology issues:

  • Keep a backup internet plan such as a mobile hotspot arrangement ready.
  • You should have a backup computer that you can use when your main computer stops functioning properly.
  • Keep yourself updated about the latest version of the photo-editing programs that your teammates are using.

Adopting bad lifestyle practices

Sedentary works lead to damaging habits. And it is easier to adopt bad habits when you work from home. You may develop a binge eating habit and end up gaining a few pounds over a period of a few months. You may also face the opposite issue. You may forget having lunch or taking short snack breaks. You may even fail to define the start and the end time of your lunch break.

Tips to maintain healthy habits:

  • Be conscious of what you eat or drink. Avoid binge eating and enjoy wholesome full-course meals.
  • Practise yoga.
  • Include salads and fresh fruit juices in your snacks.
  • Go out of your home for a while to get your daily dose of vitamin D.

At the end of the day, remote work may prove to be really blissful only if you are aware of the possible consequences and only when you know how to address them. Once you sort out issues, you will enjoy the best work-from-home rewards in the form of autonomy, productivity, higher levels of creativity, flexibility, and a positive work environment.

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