You may love working remotely like I do, but it’s not 100% upside and benefit. On the one hand, you have lots of flexibility in your day, but on the other hand, that flexibility can get in the way of, well, working.
It might sound counterintuitive, but the most significant remote work challenges often arise from trying to replicate a traditional office environment. The whole point of remote work is that it’s not traditional at all — you get to shape your workspace in a way that works for you and your productivity. And you can change your mindset to manage your remote work life properly.
Below are some common challenges people encounter while working remotely and tips to overcome them.
1. Motivation in your new environment
One of the biggest productivity killers for remote workers is the lack of motivation to get things done. Maintaining the motivation to work in your home office (in whatever form it takes) can be tough.
A few things that can help boost your motivation and ensure you’re staying on task:
Keep a regular schedule – This is especially important when you’re working from home, because it can be a real challenge to separate your job from your personal life when both occur in the same space. Setting boundaries will help you stay focused on your work and ensure that your personal life doesn’t encroach.
Use a planner and calendar – Using these tools will help you keep track of your work tasks, deadlines, and appointments. One effective time management practice you can try is Timeboxing to supercharge productivity.
You can even use a planner or calendar for reminders on those days when you have multiple things to accomplish and you’re dealing with more distractions and interruptions than usual.
2. Information security risks
Information security is important for everyone, including people working at home. . While you likely already have plenty to manage, it’s vital that you do your homework on the kinds of security risks that come with the software you’re currently using (free versions probably aren’t enough). Take the time to research the best tools that will fit your security requirements.
One way to combat security risks is by using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs provide added layers of encryption when you’re accessing sensitive information online. A password manager can also help combat the risk of using less secure or repetitive credentials for remote access to company data and documents.
3. Lack of trust
Trust is a huge factor for any team, but it can be hard to maintain when spread across different locations. The lack of physical interaction can make it difficult for others to see your regular contributions, and trust is harder to build or repair if you’re working with people remotely.
One way to build connection and trust is by setting up weekly meetings with your boss to discuss projects, get feedback on what you’re working on, and ask questions about processes. Making time for meetings or discussions builds awareness and provides needed face time.
4. Social isolation from your team
Remote work means no more walking down the hall to chat with your coworkers — but it also means that team-building activities like happy hours or after-work sports leagues are off the table, so friendships are harder to form.
But there are ways to combat isolation. Set up virtual coffee breaks with your coworkers so that you have time to chat about non-work matters, just as you would if you were in an office together. There are plenty of tools that can help you work and play together with remote colleagues.
If you aren’t suffering from Zoom burnout, schedule video calls instead of phone calls to make get-togethers online feel more like a conversation and less like a business meeting. It may take a little more effort, but the connections you’ll make are worth it.
5. Unhealthy or sedentary lifestyle
Since you can do your work from anywhere, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing your work from wherever is most comfortable. But this can easily lead to an unhealthy lifestyle with poor posture, no exercise, and no breaks.
Instead, we recommend a reliable home office desk as a top choice. It’s essential to have a dedicated space for work (that isn’t also where you sleep). Create an environment that makes you feel like working.
6. Lack of work structure
When you’re the master of your schedule, it can be easy to get distracted and find yourself with no time left before you need to send an important email or complete a project. To avoid this problem, plan out your schedule in advance, making sure you’ve built in time for both work and leisure. Sticking to a schedule will help you feel more organized and productive!
First, identify your productive hours. When are you most likely to get things done? Are you an early riser, or do you prefer to say up late at night? There’s no correct answer here — find out when it’s easiest for you to focus and then block off those times in your calendar for uninterrupted work.
Next, identify your non-productive hours. When are you least likely to get things done? Is there a time of day when you find yourself scrolling through social media? Can you move that activity to non-business hours? Or limit yourself to 30 minutes (and schedule it)?? The important thing is that activities not related to work break up your day in a way that helps you stay productive.
7. Overworking (or lack of time management)
Overwork is a common complaint among remote workers. With fewer boundaries between personal life and work, you can easily fall into a trap where you’re always working, and then it becomes hard to unplug and enjoy your life.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry! You’re not alone. Here are some tips on how to avoid working too much:
Leave the house at some point every day. And if you choose to stay in your pajamas all day, you might start to feel like you’re still in bed. Instead, make an effort to get dressed every morning and go out for at least a short walk or drive (even if it’s just a trip to the coffee shop). It’ll help keep you from feeling like you’re spending 24/7 in your home office.
Take real breaks (and use them for non-work stuff). Sometimes people take breaks but end up spending them checking emails or scrolling Instagram (which isn’t really a break)! Instead, use your breaks to do something like meditating, taking a walk outdoors, or lunching with friends.
8. Handling technical difficulties
Technology isn’t always our best friend. Imagine being in the middle of a meeting, and suddenly the VPN you installed on your router goes nuts. Or maybe you have a video call scheduled with your manager, and 15 minutes before, your laptop decides to stop working.
Here are some tips for handling technical challenges when working remotely:
First, make sure everything is set up correctly before your workday starts. That means doing a test run of any programs or applications you need to use, ensuring your webcam and microphone are working correctly, and ensuring that your internet connection is strong enough to handle the tasks you need to do that day.
If something does go wrong during your workday, it’s not worth having a meltdown — we’ve all been there. Just take a deep breath and focus on fixing the problem, particularly if it’s something like your WiFi briefly going down or your microphone malfunctioning. If that’s the case, try troubleshooting for about 10 minutes before looking for backup.
If it’s something more serious — like your neighborhood’s internet line accidentally sustaining damage during a road repair, then acceptance should be your first response. Make sure you have an alternate location to go to or a reliable data plan if (and when) something catastrophic occurs. Keep in mind that most people realize things happen. They should be understanding. But do your best to prepare for the unexpected.
Remote work can seem too challenging for those who aren’t used to it. But with a flexible mindset, working from home can be a drastic improvement over working at the office if approached correctly.
I’m Jason and I’ve spent over seven years as a manager at WebRevenue. I love building relationships with new people — both online and offline — and that’s helped me form a strong network website owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. Let’s connect.
This article is part of Buildremote’s contributor series. If you’d like to share some insights about how you run your remote company, learn more here.