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When you start working remotely, you’ll probably feel elated that you never have to commute to an office or have a supervisor breathing down your neck again. But once that excitement wears off, you’ll realize remote work has its own challenges.
For one, adapting to all this new freedom can be tough. You’ll need to develop routines that work for you, as well as stay accountable to a team that could be located anywhere in the world.
While these difficulties are manageable, it’s important to become aware of what you’re getting yourself into before making the switch.
Here are eight of the most common challenges of working remotely, along with tips on how to overcome these challenges of working from home.
1. Finding a quiet place to work
When you go to an office, you have a dedicated workspace with a computer, desk, and whatever else you need to get your job done. But when you work from home, you might not have a professional space in which you can be productive.
Or you might be surrounded by clutter that makes it hard to focus on work. Next thing you know, you’re spending the day cleaning your kitchen or Marie Kondo-ing your closets when you’re supposed to be on the clock.
To overcome this common challenge of working from home, find an area in your home that you can use just for work. Organize your space so you feel less distracted when it’s time to get down to business.
Ideally, find a spot with a door so you can shut out unwanted noise (this is especially useful if you need to attend phone or video meetings). Along with setting up a physical barrier, whether a door or screen enclosure, you might also need to set up some non-interruption rules with family members or roommates.
It can also be helpful to find spaces outside your home where you can be productive, such as a library, cafe, or coworking space. If you’re not getting much done at home, head to a new space to give your brain the kickstart it needs.
2. Managing your own schedule
Working from home gives you enormous freedom, often allowing you to design a schedule that works for you. But smart time management can be one of the biggest challenges of working remotely.
It’s totally up to you to structure your time in a way that lets you be productive while also avoiding burnout. If you’re someone who’s easily distracted, your challenge will be coming up with structures that help you get stuff done.
If, on the other hand, you tend to over-commit yourself, you’ll need to remember to give yourself time off throughout the day. While you might not have a definitive start and end to your work day, you don’t want to succumb to the Never Ending Work Week.
So get a planner, use Google calendar, or try another strategy for planning out your work hours and break times.
3. Knowing when to unplug
If you love cross stuffing off your to-do list, you might struggle to set boundaries on your work day. It can be all too easy to take on more task and find yourself working well into the night.
But those tasks will still be there for you tomorrow. So let yourself actually be done when you say you’re done.
Maybe you need to leave the house or have some sort of ceremony that detaches you from your work mindset. This approach will ensure you actually unplug when it’s time to call it quits.
4. Figuring out how to prioritize your tasks
Along with managing your time, you’ll also need to come up with thoughtful systems for prioritizing your tasks. It’s up to you to figure out which ones are most important, and which ones can be left on the back burner for a little while.
Self-development expert Brian Tracy recommends that you “eat the frog” first, meaning you tackle your most difficult job before any other. That way, this task won’t loom over your head or end up getting postponed as you lose energy in the afternoon and evening.
You’ll also gain a genuine sense of accomplishment that will keep you motivated as the day goes on.
5. Not living in your pajamas
Have you found yourself working in your pajamas from dawn ‘til dusk, your hair in the same messy bun for three days or your beard stubble growing out of control? Since you don’t have to go to an office, you might start to let some of your old grooming habits fall by the wayside.
But if you’re not careful, you could end up not remembering the last time you put on grown-up clothes. So don’t let working remotely be an excuse to neglect yourself. In fact, you might find that dressing professionally helps you delineate your work day, as well as gets you feeling more professional and confident.
6. Getting enough exercise
A lot of remote jobs are computer-based, which could involve sitting for hours at a time and staring at a screen. Unfortunately, lots of sitting can harm your health, strain your eyes, and damage your posture.
But the good news is working from home often means you can take breaks when you want to walk around the block or attend a mid-day yoga class. Remember to work exercise into your schedule to combat this challenge of working from home.
It can also help to set up an ergonomic home office. Items such as standing desks and external monitors can protect your posture, while light-blocking glasses can shield your eyes from the harmful effects of blue light.
7. Staying in communication with your team
Since you won’t be seeing your teammates or manager in person, you’ll have the added challenge of communicating from afar. You might need to learn new technologies for chatting or managing projects, such as Slack, Zoom, or Asana.
Clearly state when you’re available and when you’re not, and make the most of chat, email, video calls, and other virtual modes of communication to ensure everyone’s in touch and on the same page.
8. Feeling isolated or lonely
In its State of Remote Work 2019 report, Buffer found that 19% of workers say their biggest challenge of working remotely is loneliness.
If you’re feeling isolated, look for ways to connect with people throughout the day. Maybe you have friends you could meet for coffee during the day or dinner after they get out of work.
Or perhaps joining a coworking space could help, as these spaces often host happy hours and networking events. If you’re on a remote team, maybe you can set up “watercooler” video chats with your colleagues to catch up.
You could also try taking a class or attending conferences to meet others who share a similar schedule as you. Be proactive about building social time into your schedule to combat feelings of loneliness or isolation.
If you’re still unhappy, you might prefer a job where you can work remotely some days and go into the office the rest of the time.
Meeting the challenges of working from home
Even if working remotely sounds like a dream come true, you’ll soon realize this arrangement has its own challenges. As a remote worker, it’s up to you to build routines that help you stay motivated and accountable.
You might need to put in a little extra effort to stay in touch with your team, as well as know when to unplug at the end of the day so you don’t end up working yourself to the point of burnout.
But despite these challenges, working remotely also gives you incredible freedom and the chance to achieve a true sense of work-life integration. Just make sure you go into this set up with a realistic view, so you can meet the challenges of working remotely head-on.