The shift towards remote working has become a defining aspect of the modern workplace. Ever since the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of employees have been working full-time from their homes or juggling remote work with a couple of days in a traditional office setting. Working in a virtual workspace comes with unique challenges that must be navigated to ensure you are productive. You must strike a work/life balance that does not leave you burned out and not become isolated from the outside world.
This article will explore five significant challenges remote workers face and provide practical strategies for achieving success in a virtual setting.
Table of Contents
Establish a Dedicated Workspace
Creating a clear boundary between professional and personal life is one of the key challenges in remote work. Some people new to working from home wrongly believe they can work to the best of their ability by sitting on their sofa with their laptop, having Netflix in the background, can play on Bovada between online meetings, and still being professional. They cannot. As someone who has been a remote worker for 16 years, I can attest that work setup is a recipe for disaster and a lack of productivity.
Creating a dedicated workspace is a crucial step for remote workers. Doing so not only enhances focus but helps mentally separate work from leisure. In addition, a well-organized and personalized workspace can significantly contribute to productivity and a sense of professionalism.
At the very least, you should have a desk and a chair that is comfortable and supportive. You can purchase these items from Office Depot or IKEA, although your employer should contribute to the costs.
Ideally, your remote office will be in a room away from the hustle and bustle of daily life; this is especially important if you have young children at home or during school breaks. If you do not have the luxury of a spare room, ensure the people you live with know to leave you alone during working hours; just because you are at home does not mean you are available to them.
Leveraging the power of technology to stay connected and collaborate effectively with team members is a must for remote workers. Communication tools like Slack are a Godsend for staying in touch with colleagues, mainly when your team is working on a project. Asana and Trello are easy-to-use project management programs essential to remote workers juggling several tasks. They allow you and your team to see who is working on what and when, giving your team clear oversight on how projects evolve.
Virtual meeting software, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when most office workers were forced to work from home. Using these tools can enhance collaboration and bridge the gap created by physical distance.
Establish a Routine
Those new to working from home will know all too well the importance of establishing a structured routine. Try creating a routine that aligns with your natural work rhythms. Set regular working hours and stick to them like glue. It is tempting to continue working after your working day ends because you have everything you need to do so within reach. Would you stay in the office for two or three hours after the workday ends? Doing this occasionally during busy times is OK, but ensure it does not become normality.
Personally, my most significant challenge was scheduling breaks throughout the day. I would find myself starting work at 9:00 a.m., working until 12:30 p.m., eating lunch at my desk, then continue working until 5:00 p.m. Although I got plenty of work done, it began taking a toll on my physical and mental health. Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if they are only five minutes at a time. Walk around your living room, get a glass of water, and stretch your muscles. Ensure you take a lunch break away from your workstation. Doing so helps you briefly reset and aids concentration and productivity.
Communication is Key
Clear and concise communication becomes even more critical in a remote work setting. Foster an open communication culture within your team, ensuring everyone is on the same page. The programs and tools mentioned earlier will help you to communicate freely and instantly with fellow remote workers.
Regular check-ins, video conferences, and project updates all contribute to maintaining a solid connection with your colleagues and help prevent feelings of isolation.
Remote working often blurs the lines between personal and professional life, leading to burnout. We have touched on several aspects of maintaining your well-being throughout this article, but the following tip could be the most important: setting boundaries.
Remote workers often find their computers, laptops, and smartphones have several communication and project management apps installed. Please turn off notifications from those apps once you have finished work for the day. Otherwise, you could be chilling out watching a film with your loved ones, and your phone continually pings with messages.
Let your supervisors and managers know your set work times and ask them only to contact you outside these hours if there is an emergency. Likewise, set clear boundaries with your clients and any stakeholders you report to. It is not OK for them to contact you and demand updates on your time. Downtime is precisely that; it is the time when you down tools and focus on yourself.
Working from home has many benefits, including but not limited to increased flexibility and negating the need to commute to an office setting. However, remote work also presents several challenges, some unseen, that you must navigate to thrive away from a traditional office.
Start by creating a dedicated workspace within your home used only for work purposes. Embrace available technologies, particularly project management and communication tools, to assist you in your day-to-day tasks. Set up regular virtual meetings, so you have human contact throughout the day or week, which can prevent feelings of isolation.
Lastly, look after yourself and your well-being. Take regular breaks, even short ones lasting a couple of minutes, set clear, defined boundaries for those you live with and work for, and you should be able to navigate the hurdles of remote working relatively easily.