With the ongoing global pandemic and advancing technology, most organizations recommend, and some require their staff to work from home. For a few employees, such as journalists, working remotely is something they are accustomed to. However, for the majority, this is their first experience. Even though working from home comes with its perks, such as no commuting, no dress code, and flexibility to work at your own time, it has its challenges.
Outlined below are some challenges you will likely experience from working from home and some tips on how to overcome them.
- Managing Time and Schedule
While it may sound appealing that you won’t have to deal with the 6 am alarm, the morning commute, and sneaky lunch minutes, most remote employees struggle with time management. Working from home eliminates the concept of “normal business hours.” Working normal business hours, which is used worldwide, is probably the most efficient time management tool. With set hours of work, you easily plan what to cover, when to break, and when to engage in other interests outside work. You can easily plan your days of the week and months in advance since you know when you will be going to work and when you will be free.
However, without such a solid structure, the majority of at-home workers find themselves in a mess. Most oversleep or procrastinate, thinking that they will cover the lost hours later. Such hours accumulate, turning into days of incomplete work, forcing some to work through the night or procrastinate further.
To avoid mismanaging your time, you should set your working days and hours and follow them to the letter. This may involve observing regular business hours or basing your work hours on schedules maintained by your roommates, kids, or spouse. Having a conventional schedule not only makes you productive but also allows you to spend quality time with others.
- Overlap Between Personal and Professional Life
As expected, working from home eliminates the clear-cut division between your personal space and workspace. Your home is ideally where you relax and handle outside-work engagements. However, bringing your work home eliminates the mental division between work and home. You will often feel that you are always at work or feeling some compulsion to check your emails or complete “one last thing” all the time. You will simply have a hard time relaxing or completely turning off from work.
To avoid these blurred lines, you should set a physical working space completely separated from the rest of your home. This could mean creating a home office with a lockable door and warning signs against interruption when working. You should also communicate with your family not to disturb you while working, investing in noise-canceling headphones and other equipment that will keep you entrenched in work.
- Challenges of Communication and Coordination
Even with advanced communication channels for remote workers, it is hard to make productive in-person meetings and coordinate multiple team members. Working from home makes it hard for different team members to stay on the same page. Non-verbal communication is an essential aspect of seamless communication. Emails, Skype, and Zoom video calls eliminate this essential nuance when communicating. In most cases, people are prone to misunderstanding an email or text message.
To avoid this challenge, managers should schedule regular videoconferencing or phone meetings with team members. If you are the manager, you should as well check individual member’s progress towards achieving the agreed-upon goals. Be fond of asking team members to repeat newly set deliverables to ensure that they fully understand them. Virtual communication leaves a lot of room for ambiguity. Therefore, verifying assignments after every call or email is prudent.
Even with a strict work schedule and dedicated workspace, staying positive during work hours is challenging when working from home. The home environment, coupled with being surrounded by personal belongings, and unfinished chores, makes it hard to focus. You might have planned to take a break at noon, but TV, captivating books, and laundry will always justify your excuse for breaking early. Worse if your spouse or children are at home, as they won’t hesitate to interrupt.
Though hard, you should learn to remove these distractions from your working area and keep a firm barrier between home and work life. Physically locking yourself in a home office, for instance, and removing books, TVs, and other distractions from the room is prudent. You should as well set strict rules with your family that they shouldn’t disturb you while at work.
Working from home surely has a slew of benefits, from ditching every morning commute, flexible working schedule, and more. However, the hype and anxiety that comes with working this way may lead to a lot of un-productivity. Apart from the regular challenges, you should also be wary of technology hiccups, which can bring your entire work schedule to a complete stop. Working from home requires individuals to become focused on achieving set goals and a high level of self-discipline.