Top Challenges of Working Remotely

Mohammed Emran /
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Since the pandemic, work strategies and practices have all shifted to our homes. For some, this has been a welcomed change. For others, not so much.

Working remotely has many benefits that are enjoyable. Dressing up for work is optional. You can go to the bathroom or to the dentist for a quick checkup, with no one really noticing you’re not “in the office,” and you can often set up your own work schedule.

However, the freedoms that come with working remotely can become very challenging for some. Even though they’re home and it should technically feel like a more relaxed setting, sometimes people feel like they end up doing more than they would have at the office.

Working remotely means that there’s less of a traditional structure to the workday. It’s also difficult to stop working because there is no longer a separation between work and home. If there are connectivity issues with the Internet, there’s no IT department to contact.

Despite all the difficulties that may come with working remotely, it doesn’t look like this option is going away soon.

Here are the most common challenges of working remotely and how to overcome them.

Challenge #1: Overworking

Managers are often wary about employees working remotely because they fear their employees won’t be as productive when they’re in such a relaxed setting. Not having to deal with phone calls, walk-in customers, or seeing a manager sporadically throughout the day can make the workday too relaxing.

In actuality, employees often overwork when they’re working from home because it’s hard to turn off “working mode” when you’re already home. There’s no clear separation between being home and finishing the workday. Technically, you could continue working into the night and not notice at all.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a phone call or an important email from a client, you’re already home and in front of a computer or cellphone. Chances are, you’re more likely to respond to your work obligations more often than not when maintaining a completely remote schedule.

Best Ways to Avoid Overworking

  • Create Boundaries Within the Workspace – Of course, it’s easier to set boundaries if you have a dedicated workspace at home that you can actually walk away from and close the door. But if you don’t, it can be very tempting to continue working while also cooking dinner and doing a load of laundry. The best thing to do once the workday is over is to close the computer, put it away somewhere, and walk away. Yes, you read that right. Walk away. Ultimately, nothing will fall apart if you don’t get to that last email or take that last phone call. Set boundaries. If you’ve been working for eight or nine hours, then it’s best to put everything away once the workday is officially over. You can resume everything the next day and have dinner with your family.
  • Set Up Reminders for Break – Technically, you can eat in front of the computer. No one is stopping you and no one will see you. It’s advised to take a break during the day and either get lunch or stretch for a few minutes. Think about it, the more tired and burned out you feel, the less productive you’re likely to be. A tired mind cannot accomplish much, no matter how many cups of double shot espressos you drink. Timing your day can be incredibly productive.
  • Set Appointments for Yourself – If you don’t trust yourself with putting an end to your workday, then a good way to make sure you follow through with everything on your calendar without jeopardizing your sanity is to set appointments for yourself. For example, if you need to get laundry detergent at Target, then set up an appointment for yourself to go to the store right when the workday ends. Clean clothes are just as important as a work deadline. And if you have to force yourself to walk away from the computer by setting up appointments for yourself, then there’s nothing wrong with that.

Challenge #2: Distractions

Sure, you’re home and still getting your work done. But if your kids are also home and your dog is sick or demanding a walk, then day-to-day distractions can become incredibly overwhelming while trying to maintain a productive work schedule.

The reason this is such an enormous challenge when working from home is that there’s no traditional structure set up. When you’re home, you can make your own schedule, which leaves freedom to do things around the house in between meetings or deadlines.

It also doesn’t help that you don’t have your manager or boss breathing down your neck about something. You’re an adult, you should be able to come up with your own schedule to finish work on time. Except it’s a snack o’clock again and that chocolate cake is calling your name.

Best Ways to Overcome Distractions

  • Make a To-Do List – It may seem like an obvious choice, but having a to-do list can help set up your day and facilitate sticking to a schedule throughout the workday. It’s a known fact that being able to check things off a to-do list can bring a lot of satisfaction and make you feel more accomplished and productive. Of course, when working remotely, there will almost always be distractions that are out of your control. A to-do list should serve as a guide, not as a strict schedule that you’re unable to break. Still, being able to see everything that you want to accomplish throughout the day can help you focus and get more things done.
  • Create an Office Space – Of course, not everyone has the space to have a makeshift office at home. However, wherever you choose to work when you’re home, make sure that place is consistent and has all the things you would normally have in a traditional office setting. For example, if the only place for you to get work done is in the closet, then make it as comfortable and as “office-like” as possible. It’s a trick that helps convince your mind to go into “work mode.” If you try working from the couch or someplace that is too comfortable, you won’t be able to get as much done as you would like.
  • Know Your Triggers – If you know ahead of time what kinds of distractions will prevent you from getting work done, then try to get them out of the way before you sit down to complete your tasks. For example, if you’re the type of person who needs to take care of a messy room or you have to get a load of laundry done before you settle down, then do those things before you start work so that the pending home tasks don’t distract you. For some, it’s absolutely impossible to accomplish anything work-related with a messy kitchen. Know your triggers and deal with them before commencing your workday. It’ll be much more satisfying and easier to get everything done on time while maintaining complete focus.

Challenge #3: Isolation and Loneliness

While inevitable distractions, like having children or pets at home, can be detrimental to finishing work for some, for others, the isolation can become a challenge.

When you’re in an office, you’re surrounded by people. There’s always someone talking in the break room, someone in the cubicle next to you that can relate to the stresses you’re going through with a certain project, or someone to banter with about the latest episode of The Bachelor.

And because you’re spending most of your time at home working, there is a tendency for people to become “hermits” and still not really socialize even when the workday is over. You’ll find yourself forcing yourself to get up, close the computer, and go get dinner with other human beings.

Best Ways to Combat Loneliness

  • Work From a Coffee Shop – It doesn’t have to be a coffee shop, but if your work allows it, try working from a place where you can at least see and mingle with other people when you’re taking a break. It can be helpful, and even reassuring, to see other people also working from their computers and not feel so alone. Think of this as an alternative to an actual office or a home office.
  • Be More Intentional About Joining Groups Outside the Workplace – If you know you have a tendency to want to stay alone a lot, then it’s probably a good idea to force yourself to join groups or clubs outside of work that will make it easier to get out of the house after the workday is over. It could be a book club or a running group. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you enjoy and that it’s an activity you’d want to invest time in after working for eight or nine hours at a time.
  • Include Social Breaks – Even though there are deadlines and things that you need to accomplish during the day, if you’re the type that isolates a lot while working remotely, it can sometimes help to schedule social breaks throughout the day as much as your work permits it. Maybe invite a friend for lunch and get out of the house for an hour and allow yourself to enjoy the outdoors before getting back to work in the afternoon. It’s possible that you’ll find these types of routines much more accommodating and not so isolating while working remotely.

Don’t let the challenges of working remotely ever stop you from enjoying the perks of it. Remember that working in an office day in and day out can also become tiring and add to the burnout feeling everyone inevitably goes through at one point or another.

As long as you’re able to find a delicate balance between work and maintaining some type of normalcy after you close up the computer for the day, chances are you’ll end up enjoying working remotely more than you’d think.