Working from home is a dream come true for many people, but there are several unique remote working challenges that come with it. These hurdles are not always what you might expect. If you are unable to overcome them, you might find that your productivity suffers.
Fortunately, when you know about the most common remote working challenges, you can plan around them. Changing the way you work can help you avoid some of them completely. Others may require some input from your colleagues and employer.
In this article, we’ll look at the most common remote working challenges designers and developers face. We’ll then consider some tips to tackle them. Let’s get started!
1. Poor work-life balance
Many employers are skeptical about remote work and believe their employees will not put in the hours they should if they’re not closely supervised. This is a common misconception. According to OwlLab, home-based employees work 43 percent more than on-site employees.
There are many reasons why remote employees work too much, including a lack of set office hours. When working at home, the line between your career and your personal life can start to blur. While home-based workers report being less tired, working too much can lead to burnout.
One of the most effective ways to avoid working too much is to create a schedule for your day with clear start and end times. If possible, this schedule should roughly align with that of your team or co-workers (if you have them).
After creating your schedule, setting reminders for the start and end of your day may be helpful. That way, it will be easier to hold yourself accountable. You could use a simple reminder app on your smartphone for this.
Creating a dedicated workspace can also help separate your work and personal life. Ideally, this should be an area of your home where you do nothing but work. If you have a spare room, you could turn it into a home office. If you’re low on space, a desk in the corner of your bedroom or living room can suffice.
2. Lack of social interaction leading to feelings of isolation
While working remotely can be fun, it can become lonely if you are not used to it. According to the Buffer State of Remote Work report, 20 percent of remote workers feel lonely. The general lack of interaction with colleagues can result in feelings of isolation that are harmful to your mental health.
In an office, you can talk to your co-workers about a current project or chat during breaks. When working remotely, this social interaction is missing. You might replace it with the occasional conference call and emails, but these are generally poor substitutes.
While loneliness might not have come to mind when you considered remote working challenges, it can cause serious mental health concerns. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), loneliness can lead to depression and poor sleep quality, resulting in a drop in cognitive function.
To avoid feeling isolated, you can try including social breaks in your workday. You could spend some quality time with family members or meet friends for lunch.
Working from a coffee shop or a co-working space could help alleviate your loneliness, too. You don’t necessarily have to talk to anyone, but surrounding yourself with other people can help, as the movement in these locations mimics the movement in an office.
3. Time management and knowing which tasks to prioritize
Effective remote working requires mastery of time management and prioritization. These skills help you handle your workload more efficiently.
When you work from home, you are solely responsible for determining when every task gets done. If you don’t correctly prioritize your responsibilities, it can lead to a drop in productivity. You also risk missing deadlines.
To avoid this, consider creating a to-do list each morning. Only place a limited number of items on the list to avoid overwhelming yourself with tasks.
Many remote workers use the 1-3-5 rule when creating their to-do lists. This strategy involves choosing one large task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks to complete throughout your workday.
For example, your one large task might be to complete the code for a new feature in your current project. Your three medium tasks might be addressing minor bugs. The last tasks of your day could be small ones such as replying to emails or other administrative responsibilities.
If the 1-3-5 rule does not work for you, try managing your workload based on your energy level. Tackle the largest and most important to-do list items first. At the start of your day, you generally have more focus to handle these tasks. Smaller tasks should be left for after lunch and the end of the day when you’re starting to feel drained.
4. Miscommunication and staying in the loop
Face-to-face communication is often taken for granted in an office setting. If you have any problems, you can easily ask your colleagues for further information. When working with a team remotely, you have to rely on email or other digital communication channels.
Unfortunately, this can lead to miscommunications if you are not used to putting everything in writing. This could result in certain tasks being left undone, or project elements being executed improperly because expectations weren’t clear.
Another communication challenge you might face is keeping everyone in the loop. A single address unintentionally left off an email can lead to a lot of problems. You may also feel that you have been left out of the loop on certain projects or tasks.
One simple way to minimize the chances of miscommunication is to read through your emails before sending them. Make sure you have included all relevant information in a clear and concise way. Try to preemptively answer any questions that might arise. You should also check that you have included everyone who needs to see the email.
You might also look into project management apps such as Trello. This platform uses a system of ‘boards’ that act as team to-do lists. You can update tasks as they’re completed so everyone knows what’s finished and what still needs to be done. However, make sure to check that everyone has access to the boards they need to see.
Being proactive with your communication can also help. If you feel out of the loop, you should contact your colleagues for updates. It is generally better to communicate too much than too little.
5. Lowered productivity due to distractions
All offices have distractions, such as colleagues stopping by to talk to you. While working from home eliminates these types of interruptions, it brings new ones such as household responsibilities, children or pets, package deliveries, and more.
These new distractions can break your concentration and reduce productivity. They can also lead to you working extra hours to catch up.
Unfortunately, there is no way to remove distractions completely. Some of them are out of your control. However, you can take steps to minimize the impact of interruptions within your control.
If you feel the pull of social media, you could use a website blocker such as Freedom. These tools prevent your browser from opening certain websites. They also work across multiple devices, so you can block Facebook on your phone or tablet, too.
If your family is distracting you, you might consider creating a signal for when you’re working on a task that requires you to focus. Older children can be told to not disturb you during certain hours. Younger children and pets may be trickier, but it’s still wise to come up with a system to keep them occupied while you’re working.
Working from home can be freeing, but there are also many remote working challenges you’ll have to address. At home, it’s easy to become distracted or to work beyond your scheduled hours. You may also feel isolated. However, you can overcome all these hurdles once you know about them.
Some solutions to the biggest challenges you’re likely to face when working from home include:
- Setting ‘office hours’ to prevent yourself from working overtime.
- Taking lunch breaks with friends or working in coffee shops to fend off loneliness.
- Using the 1-3-5 rule to manage your workload.
- Following email best practices and implementing a project management app to avoid miscommunications.
- Minimizing distractions by using a website blocker and setting boundaries with family members.
Are you facing any other challenges while working from home? Share them with us in the comments below!
Featured Image credit: Aleksi Tappura.