Far more than just a new management fad, teleworking has become a necessity, but with this new style of work comes new obstacles. Here are the five most common challenges of working remotely, and how to counter them.
As office space is becoming increasingly expensive, commutes are growing ever longer, and the needs of companies are ever-expanding, departments and startups are looking at telecommuting workers to fulfill their auxiliary and even primary needs while coordinating from somewhere else.
Remote working is also a product of continued globalization, as companies throughout the world are scouting countries everywhere for talent that they can hire and leverage without having an office in the area.
Are There Challenges of Working Remotely?
Remote work does not come without its own fair share of challenges, and many remote workers struggle with them on a daily basis.
Many of the challenges of working remotely revolve around isolation, differing time zones, and the blurred lines between life and work. We’re going to go over some of these challenges and how to counter them.
1. You’re Always Available
When working from home, or anywhere else that isn’t your company’s office, it can get hard to tell when it’s time to start working and stop working.
Many remote workers and freelancers coordinate and work with customers and coworkers all over the planet, which can lead to teleconferences at 2am, deadlines at 3am, and a quick chat with a client around 5am. It’s easy to get lost in it all and find yourself pulling 12 hours shifts, quickly burning out.
Not only is this unhealthy, but it’s incredibly unproductive. The brain needs rest from work to really get the creative juices flowing – both in terms of sleep, and actual time away from the computer.
Set clearer boundaries. Timing yourself isn’t enough. It’s easy to work past 9pm and just tell yourself that you’ll only be on for another hour. Commit yourself to daily tasks that force you to prioritize your work and get it done by a specific hour mark, so you can be up and about at 5 or 6pm each day.
It might be a daily workout routine, a daily walk to get your steps in, or just a quick swim. If you can’t commit to an activity outside of your home, get a friend or partner to step in and ‘discipline’ you – tell them to check in and call or text at a set time each day, to remind you to be off from work by then.
2. You Must Rely on Self-Motivation
One of the challenges of working remotely is that it can sometimes be hard to get anything done. There are tons of distractions (especially if you don’t live alone), you might not have a great way to block out noise surrounding you. Others might not necessarily respect your work boundaries and barge in on your during an important task, or you find yourself quickly losing three to four hours a day on Wikipedia articles and Reddit binges.
On top of that, you likely have several pressing deadlines pressuring you, and all that anxiety can build up and lead to the most devastating curse any remote worker could suffer from: chronic procrastination.
Join a coworking space. Many of these problems come from an inability to sit down and just work alone. That doesn’t mean you need to forego the benefits of remote working. If you struggle to motivate yourself to get things done in a timely manner and prioritize your work, you might just really miss the office environment that used to get you going.
Coworking spaces are a great compromise that provide a place for freelancers, remote workers, and small companies to work together on separate projects and tasks, while networking and sharing a single work environment.
3. It Feels Impossible to ‘Unplug’
You might be off your computer, and you might have finished working on all of your projects for the day, but that likely isn’t stopping you from checking the team Slack, checking progress on Trello, refreshing your emails, or Skyping with the new client. You might even be in bed, trying to sleep, but still focused on that project you’re working on. While passion is great, staying ‘plugged in’ for far too long can burn you out quickly.
Go offline on the weekends, and at specific hours. If one of your clients is at their busiest in a time zone when you should really be getting some shuteye, either work things out with them that you’ll communicate nearly exclusively through email and coordinate projects with a few hours delay, or choose between working with a remote client for some extra money and your own sleep hygiene.
Again, you must set your own boundaries here. Have a certain time on the clock each day where you don’t work and forbid yourself from checking your messages or refreshing that Gmail account. Put your phone away by 10pm and try to get some much-needed sleep.
4. Time Management
One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is a bout of procrastination. Procrastination is usually a sign of deeper problems than you might first realize, and if you’re stuck in a serious rut, you should consider asking yourself whether you’re just feeling a little lost and need an adjustment period, or whether you’re deeply unmotivated because you’re unhappy, and potentially need help.
If it’s the former, then one way to adjust to remote work is to start learning to play with timers, deadlines, and self-set expectations.
Productivity hacks and timers. A full day’s work can be a little intimidating at times, so start by breaking each task down into individual chunks. Create quick and simple daily to-do lists, or even better, create a morning to-do list and an afternoon to-do list. Then pick out a reliable playlist or radio station, set a timer, and start working on your daily tasks.
There are plenty of apps and devices that help you keep track of how you’re spending your working time. Just make sure to take breaks when you’re feeling spent, either to grab a little water, go for a quick little stretch, or just reward yourself with a little downtime if you were exceptionally productive.
We’re social creatures, and we’re not really built to spend the majority of our time with just ourselves. Even when we’re interacting with our family at home, it’s very easy to go completely stir-crazy, especially if you’re often too busy to spend more than one or two hours a week out and about, meeting up with friends or strangers.
Even then, the odd hour or two a week definitely isn’t enough to make up for dozens of hours spent completely on your own. Isolation and loneliness are often the biggest challenges of working remotely, and it can completely shut you down over time.
Hangout with other workers. Coworking spaces are perfect for this, because they provide plenty of opportunities to interact with other workers, and help you strike the balance between a productive environment, and a social environment. In fact, if anything, coworking often helps workers be more productive, and far more cooperative.
Coworking is a godsend for many remote workers who want the coffee shop experience melded together with the feel of an actual office. It’s still a little different from plugging in at a dedicated office space, because you can come when you like, leave when you like, interact with workers from different industries and specialties, and develop far more interesting and diverse networks.
There are challenges of working remotely, but like everything in life, you can roll with the punches and adapt. The remote working life might not be a great fit for everyone, but if you’re someone who likes being flexible and typically experiences bursts of extreme productivity rather than a continuous stream of 9-5, then you can make remote working work for you.
Research shows that workers are happiest when they can choose to “work from anywhere” – whether that’s home, a café, a coworking space, or their cubicle. We all need a change of pace sometimes, and by expanding your options besides simply working from home, you can boost your productivity and happiness, lower your stress levels, and keep a minimal carbon footprint.