If you weigh the advantages of going to the office for work versus the option of working from home, the scale will likely tip in favor of the latter.
The time you save by not driving to work for two hours every day, the lack of environmental distractions, and more alone time to dive deep into your vocation are just a few to mention.
And yet, working from home is not entirely immune to problems. While the pros of working from home outweigh the cons, there are a handful of downsides to working from home that you need to address to make the most out of your telecommuting life.
Here are seven common challenges when you work from home and how you can overcome them.
1. Family distractions
We assume that working from home would be like a quiet retreat like a digital nomad chilling by a beach in the Bahamas. But just when you are zoned in on a task in front of you, the doorbell chimes. Darn, that UPS delivery guy!
Here’s another common interruption that remote workers with kids all over the world can relate to:
How to overcome distractions:
Your mileage may vary depending on how big your house is, how many family members you have, and so on. But a good rule of thumb to deal with homely distractions is to pick a quiet area in the house — preferably inaccessible to others — as your home office. Don’t bring your personal matters to enter your work zone unless absolutely necessary.
Before you start your daily work, take care of all your errands and family responsibilities so that they don’t interfere with your flow. Also, give enough time and attention to your family outside of your working hours to balance your work:life equation.
2. Feeling isolated
If you feel lonely and isolated while working from home, you are not alone. Well, technically — you are alone. But statistically speaking, several work-from-home professionals admit that working from home feels lonely.
Buffer ran a survey in 2018 among 1900 remote workers across the U.S. in which about 21% of people said that loneliness was an issue for them when working from home. And if you think it might not be an issue for you, consider this — psychology says that our happiness largely depends on how many interactions we have with other human beings on a day to day basis.
Turns out, the watercooler gossips, the meeting marathons, the small talk in the breakroom — things that you hated about your office going life — were not so bad after all.
How to overcome isolation:
One good thing about overcoming isolation at home is you don’t necessarily have to interact with your office peers. Chitchatting with your milkman or the clerk at the corner store are also beneficial in helping you establish a social connection.
Here is a tip: every now and then, treat yourself with a happy hour and mingle with your office peers through in-person meet-ups. For a change, find good cafes to work from and compensate for the feeling of loneliness with people watching.
3. Time mismanagement
For many of us remote employees, it’s easy to slack on your couch for hours pretending to work when we don’t have the daunting eyes of our managers in the next cubicle. Staying motivated is a challenge for a significant number of teleworkers when you feel that you are your own boss.
Forget bosses and managers, people who go to offices by default get in the work mode because they are surrounded by scores of other people doing the same thing. At home, looking at your dog Rex curled up on the sofa isn’t much help.
How to overcome time mismanagement:
Do the following things:
Make a to-do list of everyday tasks you need to finish.
Follow a strict, non-negotiable schedule.
Find an accountability partner at work or home to keep a tab on you.
Use an app like stickK to keep yourself in check.
The fact that you don’t talk to your manager or your colleagues in a face-to-face set-up oftentimes leads you in confusing situations. Science says that over 60% of all human communications are non-verbal, meaning body language, facial cues, micro-expressions, etc.
Hastily shot emails and low-effort emojis are equally guilty of adding more confusion to remote communication. Combine the chances of miscommunication with the troubles of collaborating with colleagues from different time zones and you have a smorgasbord of problems.
How to overcome miscommunication:
It might sound like asking you to toot your own horn, but the only way you can overcompensate the lack of physical collaboration is to over-communicate. Your managers and co-workers won’t know what you are up to until you explicitly make your progress and feelings clear. Here is the internal guide from a fully-remote company, Basecamp, on how they approach remote communication and collaboration.
If you are in a position to make suggestions, ask people to write long emails or record video emails via apps such as Loom. More importantly, don’t assume that people will understand. Communicate proactively and if you don’t understand something, ask your colleagues to clarify.
5. Technical hiccups
How well can you relate to the following scenario?
Remote teams love video conferencing, but it’s far from perfect. There is always someone who struggles to listen or speak during a live call. Other times, the video or audio lag makes it difficult for everyone to follow what is being said.
There are other problems such as power outage or wi-fi problems — issues that are relatively under control in an office setup.
How to overcome technical difficulties:
Remote work is impossible without technology. Identify the best apps — such as Slack, Zoom, and Trello — to help you collaborate seamlessly with your peers. Also, make asynchronous communication the default because it gives people the luxury to communicate at their own pace and solves time zone issues as well.
Flextime is a mirage if you aren’t mindful of your work from home routine. Work feels infinite when you let it encroach your family time and soon you fall into the abyss of burnout. Take for instance the 2019 survey carried out by Owl Labs which found out that remote workers tend to work 43% more than their on-site counterparts.
Although remote work sounds and seems like a family-friendly arrangement, you might end up being a slave labor who hates their job.
How to overcome overworking:
Time your work. Unplug from your computer once you clock 8 hours or when you hit your quota of doing meaningful work. Set daily milestones for yourself and stop the buck once you hit the goals. Make sure you toe a line with your team members so that they don’t bother you during your non-working hours.
7. Health problems
When you work from home, you might tend to ignore taking care of the home that provides permanent refuge to your mind and soul — your body. The sedentary nature of remote work can turn you into a desk-bound python when you don’t move around.
Sitting in front of your laptop’s blue screen for a prolonged period of time is detrimental to your posture, eyesight, and your overall fitness. You are also more likely to binge on Doritos chips and down one Red Bull after another when your favorite comfort foods are a few yards away from you. When you combine all the unhealthy habits that you pick up as a remote worker, you become prone to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity, neurological disorders.
How to overcome health problems:
Health is the biggest wealth you can have, everything else is secondary. Be aware of the possible pitfalls of an unhealthy lifestyle of a remote worker. Second, structure your life in a way that gives you enough elbow room to move around, lift weights, or stretch your muscles.
Join a CrossFit gym, practice yoga every day, or shoot hoops in your backyard. Develop an athletic hobby such as hiking, biking, or kayaking to keep your mind, body, and spirit fit.