Before the volatile 2020, we enjoyed the comfort of routine. The morning commute to the office and the evening journey home were daily milestones. Routine has been forcefully changed by circumstances outside of our control. Since the pandemic started, many companies found that the only way to keep “business as usual” was to alter the “usual”. A new era of working from home meant many people were not ready for the shift, and some people a year later, are still not coping.
Here are a few common work-from-home challenges and how to overcome them:
Working from home comes with ample distractions and it’s all too easy to get side-tracked. Plus, there’s no over-the-shoulder accountability to keep you off social media or attention stealers.
You may consider using time-tracking software, which allows you to log time spent on various tasks or categories of tasks. Time tracking can make you more aware of where your hours are going.
No matter how you manage your minutes, it’s a good idea to build a schedule for yourself that you can stick to—and is transparent to your boss, especially if your hours aren’t 9–5 or within the same time zone.
With no commute or way to leave the office, it can be hard to separate your work and personal life. With access to Wi-Fi, it’s very easy to become engulfed in emails or outstanding tasks, causing us to end up working into the night, well past the time we’d “normally” stop.
Plus, you might be worried that your boss thinks you’re not working since you’re off-site, so you overcompensate to appear productive.
Unplugging at the end of the day is important. Once your shift is over, it’s a good idea to log off and have some downtime. You need the rest, and not getting it will end up eating into your productivity for the next day.
If all else fails, ask for help. Ask your partner, friend, or co-worker to keep you accountable. If they see you working after the time you’re meant to stop, have them call you out on it.
When you’re not in the flow of in-office traffic, you’re going to miss impromptu lunches, coffees, or spontaneous deskside brainstorms. As a result, it can feel like you’re not getting the full picture or like you’re the last to find out about things.
Clear communication also helps alleviate confusion, and the lack thereof can increase the likelihood of misunderstandings which result in errors.
To address communication gaps, some teams adopt a messaging platform where everyone—remote and in-office—can chat in real-time about issues as they occur or use cloud platforms for documents so everyone can collaborate. Video calls are also a good strategy—and leave your camera on, because managers like to see your face. Use the technology available to you, it may not be as good as face-to-face, but you’ll be surprised how fruitful a quick video call to discuss an upcoming project can be.
Poor productivity is the worst thing for working remotely, and one of the most difficult challenges to overcome.
The longer it takes to complete tasks, the more they eat into your personal life and the less effective you become as a team member.
Productivity isn’t only an issue for remote workers and there’s a lot of scientific research going into this topic currently. Studies have shown that multitasking reduces productivity by up to 40%, humans lose focus on a single task after 5-20 minutes and it takes up to 23 minutes to regain focus after being distracted.
Based on these findings, here’s a simple three-step plan to maximising productivity:
- Avoid multitasking: Set a single goal for each day and focus on achieving that target.
- Work in short bursts: To keep focus at a higher level and increase motivation with multiple short deadlines.
- Remove distractions: Stop unnecessary distractions from compromising your productivity.
Implementing this three-step plan may be difficult. You must reprogramme your mind and develop new working habits, otherwise, you’ll instinctively revert to multitasking and other bad habits.
Staying motivated is another common challenge when working from home. Essentially, this may be a result of a lack of supervision. Without the physical presence of supervisors and team members, there’s less pressure to get things done and you can also miss out on the shared satisfaction of making targets as a team. The loneliness that comes with working remotely can be another demotivator.
If you’re working as part of a remote team, it’s important to talk about motivation with team leaders and colleagues. There’s no shame in some people having more natural motivation than others. What matters is doing everything you can, collectively, to maximise motivation for everyone.
The key to overcoming this is finding out what motivates you. If this is not intrinsic, there are ways to inject some motivation – you just need to find out what works for you.
Dealing with FOMO:
Working with others in an office brings with it a certain camaraderie. There are inside jokes, spur-of-the-moment after-work drinks, and spontaneous events. Working remotely can feel like you’re standing outside the circle.
Humans are social creatures and connecting with others in a working environment can improve morale, team spirit, and overall motivation.
There’s no substitute for being in the office full-time but visiting it occasionally and collaborating can help you maintain connections and feel like part of the team.
Remote working brings a lot of potential benefits, but you’re never going to get to a point where you can enjoy these unless you achieve a level of productivity and discipline that helps achieve a work-life balance. Working from home can easily become unhealthy when your job starts eating into your personal life and vice versa.
That divide needs to remain in place and this can be challenging if you work from home or remote locations.