A few years ago, if somebody had told you that nearly 4.7 million U.S. workers, or 3.4% of the population, would be working remotely by 2020, you would have wondered if the guy is on high or what. It could also be that you read this statistical forecast somewhere in 2010, laughed at it, and passed it off as “just another assumption” that is far from reality.
However, I am sure you and so many other people, including employers and project managers who always had this negative perception of remote work because of the lack of direct supervision, must be amazed at the rapid rise of remote work in the last couple of years, not just because of the current crisis caused by COVID-19.
The Rapid Rise Of Remote Working
The reason for a sharp surge in the number of remote workers in the United States as well as the rest of the world? The human race is more connected than it ever was. Cloud-based software, speedy internet connections, and smart devices have made sure that we remain connected even when we are not in our offices.
This technological advantage has allowed employers to allow their workers to work remotely, which gives them flexibility while the businesses can cut down overall costs.
However, the transition to remote work is not always as easy as it sounds. As a Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub, I and my team have experienced unique set problems when switching to remote work, though we successfully tackled them all through smart solutions.
Biggest Remote-Work Pitfalls And How To Sidestep Them
Talk to any remote worker about how life is working from home and they would be quick to respond: It’s not all roses and fairytales. While employees are more productive when working remotely, they’re also vulnerable to both big and small problems which can hamper the quality of their work.
After conversing with over 50 remote workers, which include both team managers and team members, and penned down six of their biggest challenges (along with solutions). Whether you’ve just started with remote work or planning about it, you’ll be prepared to meet such hurdles head on to be more productive and content at the end of the day.
You Can Feel Lonely
“To a certain extent, your co-workers are your social circle. Sometimes it is hard to explain to others that all your friends are online.”- Cody Jones
Working solo from the comfort of your couch or bed can feel quiet- even lonely. There are no coworkers around to have a chat with, share a cup of coffee, and take part in watercooler activities. If you’re an extrovert, having no family member to talk to when you’re working can make you feel isolated.
Remote workers might have access to the internet and can hear their favorite songs whenever they want, working in the same place continuously for long periods can adversely affect your overall health, which can lead to below-par productivity and overall performance at work.
The Solution to Counter Loneliness
Accept that the current situation takes out in-person interaction from your daily life to a great extent. However, there are some effective ways to not feel disconnected when working from home.
Schedule video call with coworkers or team daily
Try working at shared office spaces or coffee shops
Schedule lunch with friends and come back to work
Join local groups or organizations
Instant chat with team members any time
Time Management Issues
Remote working and distractions go hand in hand. It’s easy to indulge in cleaning dishes, cooking, laundry, dedicating time to pets, kids, and spouse, and so many other daily chores. Additionally, you’re not under the direct supervision of your boss, which makes you relaxed even more.
It’s easy to lose the balance between your work and personal life. As a result, you might end up lagging with your deadlines, which can add to your stress and make your work overtime, which again is not advisable. It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially when you don’t stick to a schedule or not have one in the first place.
The Solution to Counter Poor Time Management
Build a schedule and stick to it
Share schedules with your boss or team manager
Use time tracking software to log time spent on various tasks
Avoid using social media when working
Using an all-in-one project management tool like ProofHub, with built-in timesheets, can help you bring all your time data at one centralized location, so you can eliminate time wastage from your daily work schedule.
Failure To Create a Boundary Between Work and Home
Remote work means you don’t have to worry about commuting to the office and leaving it for home in the evening. You end up saving at least an hour daily. The downside – you can keep working on into the night, well past the time you are supposed to shut off your laptop.
You might also try to overcompensate to appear busy to your boss because of your assumption that he thinks you’re not doing enough since you’re off-site. As a result, your work overlaps your personal life or even vice versa. Your family doesn’t want you to check your collaboration or team management tool when you’re having dinner or relaxing in the bed.
The Solution to Counter Overwork
Make sure you unplug at the end of the day daily
Use a shared calendar tool to communicate your “online” hours and try to stick to them
Ask your friend, spouse, or coworker to ping you at the time you should be logging out from the work
Share your working hours with family and friends
Team Communication Feels Disintegrated
Since you’re not interacting with your coworkers daily in a regular office space, there are good chances of the communication flow developing certain gaps, which can lead to gross misunderstandings within the team. You can sometimes feel as if you’re not being kept in the loop or you’re the last to find out things on your own.
It’s easy to feel left alone when you don’t get to take part in in-person office meetings. Working from the home office calls for extra efforts in communication because some of your coworkers are in the office while others are working from home.
Solutions to Counter Communication Gap
Utilize communication tools (phone calls, video calls, messaging) to good effect
Set up a remote work culture from the ground-up (for product managers)
Clarify anything that could be a misunderstanding
Regularly schedule virtual team meetings
You May Go Unnoticed by Top Management As You’re Literally Invisible
Sure, you can work in your pajamas all day long, but you are out of your boss’s sight every day. You could be putting in earnest efforts in your work, but still face the risk of getting ignored for plum projects or promotions. You could be productive and still have to prove what you’re doing and how.
A highly frustrating situation indeed for remote workers. Your accomplishment might not come to the notice of the top management at all if you keep working in the background all the time. You have to show you belong to your company, and not merely playing a mute spectator.
The Solutions to Counter Lack of Presence
Try work from office once or twice in a week
Actively participate in organizational activities
Show up for team events even when you’re not required
Let your manager know what you’re up to regularly through video calls
You May Feel The FOMO (fear of missing out)
This last remote work challenge can be the most difficult to overcome. The feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) can set in deep and you may feel that you’re missing out on important tasks or even something as casual as water-cooler talk.
When some of your coworkers are working from a regular office, you may feel being left-out from the thick of things. Remote workers can easily cut-off from the rest of the pack if best practices are not implemented to make them feel included.
The Solutions to Counter FOMO
Communicating copiously can help you maintain connections
Keep information and conversations open to everyone (for project managers)
Align with your team on goals and objectives at the outset
Share your FOMO feeling with coworkers
Wrapping It Up
Even though remote work brings its share of challenges, it can be highly rewarding provided you are well prepared for what you’re getting into, and how to handle these major issues.
Take heart from the fact that remote workers are more satisfied and productive as compared to their in-office counterparts. If you show commitment to learn and adapt, nothing can stop you from enjoying autonomy, flexibility, and get more out of life while working from home. Good luck with WFH!