Silicon Valley’s billionaire hero and co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel’s go-to interview question is “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”
Here is his answer:
“Most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more.”
Now coming back to the current scenario:
Organizations across the world collectively responded to the pandemic by adopting remote working overnight. As it was the only way to go, employees have found themselves working from the comfort of their homes.
Luckily, in this technology era, we have tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Quixy to back us up at our homes. Zoom and Meet have become synonymous with video conferencing while people can collaborate effortlessly on Teams and Slack. With the advent of no-code, organizations have effortlessly automated their processes with tools like Quixy.
While we can agree with Peter Thiel and appreciate the latest technology tools for making the whole work from home situation possible, we must also admit that there are more challenges to this situation than what technology can address. For example, during the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the United States. reported symptoms of depressive disorder or anxiety, a share that has been mostly consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported the same symptoms between January and June 2019
Let’s discuss some of these challenges here, along with the possible solutions.
Challenges of working from home:
Limited social interaction
Humans are social beings and require interaction with other people to sustain. Being confined to our homes, can feel claustrophobic. However comfortable, there is no watercooler or tea breaks to swap jokes with your co-workers at home. And if we’re honest, videoconferencing tools such as Zoom might do the job of connecting us but it is just not the same as face-to-face interaction.
Here is how to deal with isolation and limited interaction:
- If you don’t get to interact at work, you need to interact elsewhere. Plan safe and socially distanced meets with nearby friends or colleagues.
- If that isn’t possible, consider walks, hikes, and other solo outdoor activities.
- Schedule a short video call with your close colleagues to serve as coffee breaks or lunch breaks, where you can chat like old times.
- Last but not the least, check in with your teammates and friends to see how they’re dealing with isolation too.
Stress and anxiety
The uncertainty of a pandemic can be overwhelming right now. From meeting deadlines on a daily basis to not knowing when your life will resume back to normal, the work from home situation can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Here are some tips to deal with stress and anxiety:
- Create a routine or schedule throughout the week to get a hold of your time.
- Stepping away for even five minutes from your desk lets you relax and keep focused. You can always use a time out app on your laptop and phone to remind you to take these breaks.
- For years, meditation has been known to be a steady solution to increase patience and tolerance, and more importantly to gain a new perspective on stressful situations.
- It’s important to use other muscles apart from the brain, which indirectly help in your psychological and cognitive wellbeing. Exercising releases endorphins which makes you feel good and relieved.
Communication and coordination challenges
It’s difficult enough to have meaningful in-person meetings involving multiple team members. It gets all the more difficult to be on the same page as everyone works from home.
When in the same room or floor of an office, asking colleagues for information or updates does not seem like a task. Even so, it can be difficult enough to have meaningful in-person meetings involving multiple team members. It gets all the more difficult to be on the same page as everyone works from home.
While talking, humans rely on nonverbal communication. Emails, phone calls, and even video calls, can be confusing to interpret. It can be very easy for someone to misinterpret an email or text message due to lack of tone.
How to avoid communication issues:
- Schedule weekly online meetings with important teams to check on each other’s progress throughout the week.
- Make use of collaboration tools to keep track of all communication and information on one platform.
- Check your tone while communicating digitally or make use of videoconferencing to discuss important and sensitive matters.
Blurred Line Between Personal & Professional Life
When working at home, you do not have a clear geographic division between workspace and personal space. Until now, your home has been a haven for leisure, the place you used to come back to after a hard day at work. With the introduction of “office work” in this space, it can be confusing to tell the difference between work and leisure.
People often feel like they’re never off the job and feel the need to check emails and get done with work that seems to be never-ending. A sense of guilt also sets in when you indulge in a long break.
Ways to overcome this challenge:
- Set up an after-work ritual that could include self care or cooking. This will help draw a clear line for you to know that your working hours are done for the day.
- Set aside a physical space for work. The space could be a spare bedroom, library, formal dining room, or other space in your home, that sees infrequent usage, even if only momentarily.
- Make use of a co-working space in your neighbourhood. A change of space can really help.
Ultimately, the clearer the lines you draw between your professional life and personal life, both in space and time, the more you can keep the two reasonably separate.
Managing Your Own Schedule & Time
The world was used to commuting to work, working for a set number of hours and then logging out at a particular time every day of the week. This was possible when people had somewhere to be at a certain time, to work.
Now with the remote working scenario, there seems to be no concept of “normal business hours”. Without a schedule, you might find yourself sleeping in or procrastinating with the promise of getting to work later. And after all of this struggle, you realise the day is over and you have not done what you intended to do.
Here are the ways to managing your time:
- Set your work hours and days and stick to them religiously.
- Ask your colleague or friend to keep you accountable and to ensure that you work at an agreed time.
- Limit the number of tasks you plan to do in a day- Use the 1-3-5 rule to plan to do just 1 important task, 3 medium tasks and 5 small tasks per day.
Distractions and interruptions
Even with a working schedule and a dedicated space to work, distractions and interruptions always seem to spring up when you’re working from home. With your daily house chores and personal belonging scattered in your environment, it can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand. Other distractions such as television and books can get in your way. Additionally, family members or housemates seem to never hesitate to interrupt you at every opportunity they get.
How to Avoid Distraction Doom:
- Remove yourself physically into a separate home office works. But make sure that you eliminate disruptions from your place of work as well. You resort to them less quickly with no TV or books around.
- Remove any kind of audio distractions from your surrounding with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
- Set boundaries and rules with your family members or housemates to ensure that they do not to disturb you while you’re remote working.
When you aren’t surrounded by other professionals or supervisors, it can be hard to stay motivated. You may slowly lose vision of your long term goals and plans as the current scenario may seem to be never ending. To add to this feeling, pyjamas and a comfortable seat on the couch often don’t give the same kind of inspiration you get from a formal outfit and an office chair.
Ways to stay motivated at home:
- Use the “10-minute rule” to get moving on what you don’t want to do. Remind yourself you just have to focus for 10 minutes on the task at hand. Then you take a break if you like after the 10-minute mark.
- A little incentive can go a long way to helping you successfully get work done. With a little reward waiting for you at the end, you might find yourself working at your maximum capability. For example, you can reward yourself with your favourite television show or meal if you get the work done by 5 p.m.
- Practice good self-care. A healthy diet, sufficient rest, and good self-care will help you perform at your peak.
- Dress up for office- Reports indicate that you are more productive when you dress up for work. Wearing formal or work clothes can help boost confidence and make you feel more powerful and creative.
Despite the challenges above, remote work has become the only way to work in the near future. Once you overcome these challenges, you will surely enjoy flexibility and freedom while working from the comfort of your house.