Remote work isn’t a new phenomenon, even though the COVID pandemic might have made it more visible. And for many individuals, the opportunity to work from the comfort of their own home is a personal great white whale. But just like traditional office formats, remote work comes with its own set of challenges. And as anyone who works remotely part or full-time knows, learning to overcome these difficulties can be disheartening. So, if you’ve been thinking about setting up a home office, you need to be aware of the remote working challenges you’ll likely face. Because knowing how to deal with these issues before moving into a remote structure can make a world of difference.
5 Remote Working Challenges Business Professionals Face
One of the first remote working challenges professionals will undoubtedly face is distraction. Whether it’s a screaming child or the nagging feeling to put the dishes in the washer, interruptions will come up. In fact, it’s such a big deal that we have an entire blog dedicated to the subject of overcoming distraction in the workplace. But in reality, encountering distractions is no different than the traditional office setting. Because even there, employees have to contend with overtalkative coworkers, unnecessary chatter, and other unexpected interruptions.
But even if the distractions faced at home vary greatly from those encountered in the office, the methods for managing them stay largely the same.
- Make a list of priorities that need to be completed.
- Determine your breaks ahead of time.
- Break down large tasks into smaller, manageable components.
- Form helpful daily and weekly routines.
- If all else fails, remove external distractions when possible and necessary.
Distraction comes in many forms and may represent one of the primary challenges for remote workers. But there are effective methods for dealing with it. Learning to work well in a remote setting takes time, but the first step toward success is creating helpful habits for overcoming distraction.
After a conversation about distractions, the natural segue is into the topic of time management. Again, this issue might not impact remote workers alone. But it is a challenge which could have a disproportionate effect on individuals working from home. Unless a team leader or manager is responsible for constantly monitoring the output of their remote workers, those employees have to be self-motivated to accomplish tasks in a timely manner. And since very few people enjoy being micromanaged, that doesn’t seem like the answer to the problem anyway. So, when it comes to time management, remote workers have to be wary of the distractions that can cause them to lose valuable minutes.
In the same vein as managing distractions, some tips for effective time management might include creating normal work routines and habits. However, another solid step is to simply do a time audit. Workers can create a spreadsheet of their work tasks, then write down the time they start and finish those functions. This way, remote workers begin to have an idea of where they are losing the most time, whether because of distractions or something else. Then, narrowing down, they can begin to formulate plans for better time management within those specific assignments.
If you’ve had to work with technology for any amount of time, you know it can be finicky. Sometimes, the Wi-Fi goes out, or the meeting app crashes right when you have an important call. The bane of my personal experience was the power going out once every few months at our old office location. Working in the dark isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But no matter where you go, whether working from home or an office, tech problems are a constant. The biggest difference for remote workers is that there’s probably no IT team to diagnose and fix the issues when they arise. So, if you intend to move your job home, be aware that you may need to become knowledgeable on quick tech fixes. Or, if you don’t know how to assess things yourself, find someone who can help or walk you through the process.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in anything tech-related, but at the very least, it is important to know how to do a Google search for information. Sometimes, the necessary fixes are easy — as simple as turning a machine off and on again. So, be prepared for the tech challenges. They will happen, but they aren’t the end of the world.
Loneliness and Lack of Communication
Even if you’re used to being in an office with only one other person, the move to a remote working position poses difficulties for two reasons. First, it isn’t always apparent how much we rely on being in close proximity to others until that’s taken away. Second, distance makes communication difficult, whether we think it will or not. Just take a simple text message, for example. “Okay”. That single word carries no tone across a screen. Is the sender upset? Are they busy? Do they dislike what was said to them? Without the visual and tonal cues we pick up on in normal conversation, it’s challenging if not impossible to know the answers to those questions.
To combat this, it works best to elaborate on responses — not making answers too wordy but just complex enough to carry the intended tone and meaning. Another helpful hint is to conduct meetings over a video call. This helps to break down the barriers constructed by distance. Finally, be sure to communicate often and efficiently. This doesn’t mean sending a Slack message every two minutes to check in. The point is to communicate in ways that are most beneficial to the parties involved. In bullet point fashion:
- Communicate as often as necessary but not in a way that’s distracting.
- Make sure written instruction or conversation is descriptive enough to carry your intended meaning clearly.
- Try to get your point across as succinctly as possible.
In short, effective communication can help solve both loneliness and misunderstandings, two of the most prominent remote working challenges.
When your home is your workplace, it can be extremely difficult to separate the two. And especially for individuals with families, failure to keep work and home life balanced can create hardship. But cutting straight to the heart of the matter, the best way to minimize tension is to set clear expectations for both sides of the coin and then stick with it. In other words, make it obvious to coworkers when they can expect you to be available and when you will be taking breaks. In the same sense, let family know when you need uninterrupted time to get things done. But also make sure to let them know when they can expect you to be present and attentive with them.
Even with these guidelines, keeping a healthy work/life balance is extremely difficult. Because sometimes, you just need to “send that email”, even when it’s time to be with family. And of course, there are valid exceptions to the rules at times. But for the most part, being able to set expectations and honor them will go far in maintaining a healthy work/life relationship.
Remote Working Challenges and VTR Learning
VTR Learning employees are well acquainted with the challenges facing remote workers today. And while we don’t have courses that can specifically teach how to work from home, we do have options available to help understand methods for solving these common problems. Do you want to know how to stay motivated? No problem. Check out Motivation & Behavior. Are you a team leader who needs to know how to assess your remote employees’ needs? We’ve got you covered with Employees and the Organization. So, if you are looking to overcome the challenges of remote work, go ahead and give one of our courses a go.