As the ongoing COVID-19 crisis continues to create unprecedented workplace challenges, companies must leave conventional wisdom at the door – whether ready or not. As far as employees go, these changes will mean different things to different people. Some may already be accustomed to remote work, but for those who aren’t, these changes can be a bit shocking.
If this sounds like you, we’ve got your back! Here are some of the top challenges of working from home, along with some intentional steps you can take to overcome them.
Challenge #1: Poor time management
Working from home means no one is looking over your shoulder to check on your progress. In many cases this can be great. But don’t get too comfortable, because if you wake up thinking, “I have no commute so I can lay down and watch TV for an hour!” – you may start feeling increasingly sluggish and unmotivated. Not a good way to start the day!
Solution: Treat working from home like any other day in the office. How so?
- Wake up at a normal hour, take a shower, and get dressed.
- Create a do-to list, estimating how long you should spend on each task.
- Better yet, create a to-do list at the end of the day before, so you feel ready to go the next morning.
Challenge #2: Distractions and Interruptions
Don’t get us wrong. Taking breaks is really important. Both in terms of physical health and productivity. But it can be easy to over-rationalize the need to take too many of them. If you’ve ever worked from home, you might be familiar with some classics.
- “I’m a bit hungry, I should grab a snack (again).”
- “That was a nice little stretch, I deserve some YouTube time.”
- “I should take a nap – I’ll be more productive after that.” (Eyes open two hours later).
If your family is around, it can be even harder to steer clear of interruptions. This may be especially prevalent in the age of COVID-19.
- Try to set up a workspace/hours and let everyone know. Hold yourself to your own plan!
- Turn off your personal phone and social media notifications.
- If you have family at home, try to make sure they are occupied during your busiest hours.
Challenge #3: Team Communication Challenges
As fantastic as digital communication tools are, working remotely means you can’t simply stop by a coworker’s desk for a quick answer. Getting that answer is sometimes necessary and waiting several hours may not be ideal. Time zone differences can present a whole different challenge of working remotely
- Use team collaboration tools to stay connected.
- Set consistent meetings to make sure everyone is caught up.
- Don’t be afraid to over communicate. Make yourself available to others and make it the norm!
Challenge #4: Technology Challenges
Working from home means no IT department to troubleshoot tech issues, and a simple internet outage can be a nightmare for remote workers.
- Have a backup plan in case your internet or computer dies. Think about having an extra device on hand, and make sure you have a data plan that can handle a mobile hotspot, if necessary.
- Discuss potential IT issues that might occur with your IT team in advance.
Challenge #5: Lack of Balance
Traditional office work makes it much easier to create a mental barrier between work and home. It’s harder to establish this boundary when you are a remote worker. Indeed, work from home employees often report increased stress and sleep deprivation – a consequence of an unhealthy work/life balance.
- If possible, create a physical boundary between your work and living space. This might mean an office, a separate room, or simply a work desk in a designated corner.
- Be clear with your team and your boss when you are done for the day.
- Set reminders to take healthy breaks. Go for a walk, take a midday exercise break, or have lunch in front of the T.V.
Challenge #6: Neglecting your health
It’s easy to become sedentary when working from home. And it doesn’t help that the fridge is ten feet away! If you don’t actively combat it, it’s easy to slip into unhealthy habits. Failing to exercise and eating healthily are sure to make you feel worse.
- Focus on healthy eating
- Look into different online workout routines, ranging from 10 minutes to an hour long.
- Supplement your body with vitamins. If you are indoors all day, prioritize vitamin D.
Conclusion: Overcoming the Challenges of Working from Home
It’s unclear how long COVID-19 will necessitate so many of us working remotely. Whether it’s a few more weeks or a few more months, one thing is for certain: remote work is on the rise! And if they haven’t already done so, companies will need to find new ways to keep remote employees engaged.
In the meantime, employees can stay productive by following the tips above!
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