How to Tackle The 3 Biggest Challenges of Working From Home
More people than ever are now working from home, connecting remotely with both clients and colleagues. It's not without its challenges, especially for those of us who've never telecommuted before. I'll cover some of the biggest roadblocks to effective remote work, and what you can do about them.
I'm of the mind that, coronavirus or not, we were always moving inexorably towards remote work. As reported by Forbes, modern workers demand greater respect, flexibility, and purpose from their jobs. Meanwhile, the technology that acts as the foundation of effective telecommuting — collaboration apps, video conferencing tools, and more — is now more advanced than ever.
Of course, that doesn't mean that people aren't still struggling with the challenges of working from home. And I don't blame them for it, either. It's a huge adjustment, going from a traditional workplace to a home office, one that carries a ton of challenges people might not expect.
In my experience, these are the three most significant.
Dealing With Distractions
When you work from home, you're suddenly without supervision. You are your own boss, responsible for getting stuff done on your own initiative. It can be jarring, especially given the sheer volume of distractions present in the home.
You might end up browsing Facebook for several hours and getting nothing done. You might have kids and pets constantly vying for your attention. You might decide to put Netflix on while you work, only to binge an entire series and realize, at the end of the workday, that you've made no progress towards your looming deadlines.
Working from home can seem like an uphill battle, a constant struggle against distraction and procrastination. The first step in dealing with these distractions is to set clear boundaries.
- Create a separate home office that is, in some way, physically distinctive from the rest of your home. Remove as many distractions as possible from your work area as you can.
- Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones and seek out a playlist of songs that help you stay focused.
- Stay in constant contact with your clients, colleagues, and employer. Talk about your work, including your progress and any ideas you might have.
- Put on real clothes before you work rather than working in your pajamas. Trust me, it makes a difference.
Time Management When Time Has No Meaning
Especially in light of current events, managing your own schedule can seem like an uphill battle. You might expect, working from home, that you'll be able to set your own hours and work only when the urge strikes. Unfortunately, that's a guaranteed road to procrastination.
You need to set standard working hours for yourself, although it's arguably up to you what that involves. More importantly, you need some way of managing your progress and tracking any workplace goals you might have. Project management tools like Trello and Airtable can be immensely helpful for this, particularly paired with Google Calendar for more effective tracking of deadlines.
The most important thing here is that you set hours and stick to them, otherwise you might find your work-life balance going straight down the toilet. I've seen it more often than I'd care to recall, and even fallen victim to it myself on a few occasions. If you're truly passionate about your work, you might be tempted to throw yourself into it to the exclusion of all else.
That isn't healthy, and it will eventually lead to burnout. Effectively managing your schedule isn't just important in terms of getting stuff done. It also helps you avoid burning yourself out.
Maybe you're an introvert by nature. Maybe you can go for weeks without seeing another human being and feel just fine. If so, you can disregard this section — remote work, particularly during a pandemic, is like a dream come true for you.
If, however, you're like most people, you crave at least some social interaction. You need to chat face-to-face, to know that you aren't the only human being in existence. Videoconferencing and chat apps can help to some extent.
But ultimately, they're a band-aid fix. Unfortunately, until the pandemic dies down, you'll likely have to accept that you'll remain isolated. The most you can do is find ways to stave off the worst effects of it.
Schedule regular video calls with friends and loved ones. Consider playing games together or watching movies via a service like Netflix Party.
Exercise. Just because you're isolated, doesn't mean you can't go outside and get some air. And even if you are stuck indoors, you can always get a bit of a workout in at home.
Take care of yourself, and keep your home clean. When struggling with isolation, it can be far too easy to neglect your personal needs. Trust me when I say this will only make things worse.
Stay Focused, Stay Productive, Stay Safe
Like it or not, remote work is the future. It's something we'll all need to get used to moving forward, And honestly? That's not a bad thing - provided you understand the drawbacks, it can be both relaxing and enriching.