With significant advances in video conferencing and file sharing over the past few years, working remotely is becoming more and more of a reality reserved not just to freelancers—with the press of a few buttons, you can chat face-to-face with a coworker on the other side of the world or work in real-time on a document hosted online.
What Are the Challenges of Working Remotely?
While it can be a great option for many people, remote working isn’t without its challenges:
- Communication. One of the biggest perks of working in a physical office space is being able to go over to a coworker’s desk to ask questions or get clarification on a project—but when working remotely, it’s a lot harder to communicate with your coworkers, because you have to make more of an effort with phone calls, messaging, or video conferencing. Try to stay in close contact with your coworkers and keep an open line of communication.
- Staying on task. Effective time management can be much more challenging if you’re not in a physical office environment, because there are tons of different distractions and background noise for remote employees—from Facebook to family members. You can try a task management system, like the pomodoro method, to help you stay free from distraction.
- Work-life balance. It may seem counterintuitive, but remote work can make it difficult to stop working. When you leave a physical office setting at the end of the day, your brain gets the automatic signal that you’re no longer working, so it’s much easier to focus on your personal life. But when you work at home, it’s easy to start feeling like you’re always at work—and you may start to notice yourself replying to emails or thinking about work projects long into the evening. Keep a consistent schedule, with clear starting and ending times to your workday.
- Social satisfaction. When in a traditional work environment, not all of your day is spent hunched over the computer; there’s plenty of opportunities to chat with coworkers and take breaks, whether that’s going to lunch or talking over the water cooler. When you’re doing remote work, there’s fewer obvious opportunities to get in a little social interaction, which can start to make you feel isolated. Schedule time with coworkers to talk about things that aren’t directly related to work.
6 Tips for Working Remotely
Here are some working-from-home tips to help you make the most of every workday while taking care of your own emotional well-being:
- Designate a workspace. While it’s very tempting to work remotely while tucked into bed, it’s not a good option for your productivity, because your brain will have a hard time switching into “work mode.” Instead, choose a dedicated workspace (whether it’s a home office or simply your living room) to be your remote office—then when you go and sit down with your computer you’ll signal to your brain that it’s time to work. If you’re surrounded by home life distractions, try using headphones to play music or a little white noise to keep yourself on task. If working at home just isn’t clicking for you, try working at a coffee shop, cafe, or other coworking space, if possible—that way, you get a change of scenery and feel better in control of your working headspace.
- Go through your morning routine. Going through your morning routine, like getting dressed and eating breakfast, will help you establish a sense of normalcy and feel prepared for the day. When working remotely, you don’t need to wear a suit and tie—but try to avoid working in your pajamas, either. Opt for something comfortable and work-appropriate (depending on your position and work policies) so that you feel refreshed and ready for the day—and for any surprise video conferences.
- Keep to a schedule—including for breaks. Designing your own schedule not only helps you to stay on task and be available for meetings and conversations with coworkers, but it also helps you make sure you take breaks. While a physical workplace has plenty of signals that let you know you need to take a break—for instance, a designated lunch hour—when working remotely it’s easy to get tunnel vision and forget to rest. Be sure to keep consistent work hours and schedule in a few breaks to stand up and stretch your legs, grab some coffee, get some fresh air, or make lunch.
- Use a chat program. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your coworkers—use a chat program to make sure you can ask questions and discuss projects in real-time with your team members. You should even take some time to chat about things unrelated to work, to ensure your emotional well-being and make sure you have healthy social connections throughout the workday.
- Make the most of video conference calls. There are some times that messages just won’t cover it—in order to get a question answered, nail down the specifics of a project, or hold periodic check-ins, you need a face-to-face meeting. Video chat is crucial to working remotely because it is a great way to foster strong communication between remote team members. During a video call, don’t be afraid to ask questions and get clarification on things, since that meeting is your best opportunity for deeper communication.
- Make sure you have a good internet connection. There’s nothing more frustrating when telecommuting than a spotty connection. It hinders everything from video calls to document sharing, and it will prevent you from being able to get almost anything done. If your home doesn’t have a reliable connection, you may need to find somewhere that does—like a nearby library or cafe.