- May 26, 2021
- by Kat Ciesielska
- No comments
Who said it was going to be easy? Remote work has been the dream for many people. We’ve been suffering in boring offices, yelling at co-workers and huge traffics, craving for more freedom and personal space. Now, mostly because of the pandemic, we’ve received what we wanted.
However, working from home is not a piece of cake, like we’ve been thinking. Or is it?
Every remote worker has another idea of how should it look like. I am the person who feels like in the best pair of shoes now; loving remote working. All the pain from going to the office is gone now, I have more time for myself, and less time spent on useless small talks with people I even didn’t feel like talking to (and I don’t mean my lovely co-workers here). I can’t imagine going back to the office. But many people struggle now actually.
Remote working may be challenging. Especially for those of you who desire human interaction but live alone. Or for parents who need to share their space with children. Or for couples that are forced now to spend every single second of the day together in a tiny flat- and that’s not actually healthy for a blooming relation. But again, who said it was going to be easy?
I’ve asked my TimeCamp colleagues and some friends what is the most challenging aspect of working from home for them. Probably some of them are the same you’re dealing with.
If you are a proactive person (or want to be one), you already know that you are responsible for how you live your life and how you actually feel. That is why you’re looking for a solution. You can’t skip working remotely, but you can make some changes in your life.
Let’s face possible challenges together and find a way to enjoy working remotely!
Biggest challenges of working from home
Here you can find the most frequently mentioned work from home problems. You might have heard about others, but these are familiar to the majority of people.
I’ll walk you through them in completely randomized order. If you prefer to focus just on a few, here is the shortcut for you:
This one is actually my problem. The worst thing about it is that I can’t do anything because all the noises I struggle with are the noises of new neighbors. They are just preparing their new flats, something that’s needed to be done. Workers are doing their job in casual business hours of course, so there is no way to avoid it.
However, that is not the only possibility. Repairs are easy to understand, but how about noisy children? Most of us love the little ones, but screams and crying aren’t the things we want to hear during work. Especially if they are not our children. Kindergartens and schools are closed, children are frustrated and bored, so they might be really noisy these days.
Let’s add students who are listening to loud music, some musicians training their skills (even amazing), and possible arguments of other frustrated people who live together. It can be a deadly combination.
I have a few ideas for you when it comes to noisy neighbors:
- Put earplugs on. Simple but worth trying. Especially if you’re used to listening to your favorite music at the office. Just do the exact same thing while working from home.
- Talk to your neighbors. Don’t be shy. They are people too. They might have no idea that you can actually hear their music. If you let them know, they will get an opportunity to change something.
- Change your work hours. If there is a possibility that you can work whenever you want, try different timings. Maybe there are some silent slots during the day?
- Arrange co-working with your bestie. If it doesn’t break restrictions in the place you live, just visit a friend who doesn’t struggle with this problem and work together.
Not enough space
Not everyone has a huge penthouse. Let’s be honest. Most of us live in pretty casual flats and rarely alone. Even having a nice family house doesn’t always mean that there is a space we can settle in without anyone else nearby.
The lack of this one special place where you can focus can be really devastating. How to engage in work when you’re trying to figure out where you can put your coffee.
- If you don’t have any chances for a separate room, try to arrange something smaller. Sometimes changing the position of the desk is really enough. Put it face to the wall, and you will suddenly feel more comfortable and alone. Even your family is sitting on the couch behind your back. Don’t you have a desk? Well, a kitchen table could be okay, but isn’t it actually better to buy yourself a small one?
- Put headphones on. When you already have your desk, try closing yourself with music. Many people forget that they can use them at home as well. There is nothing wrong with saying to your flatmates or beloved ones “I’m gonna work now, so I won’t be able to talk to you for a while”. Trust me, as long as they are adults, they will understand. We will talk about kids later on.
- Clean up your home. Sometimes it’s not about the space but about the mess. Co-working spaces feel more empty and clean, usually because you don’t keep anything not related to your job there. Home is different. Make sure that everything is in its place.
Overworking and destroying the work-life balance
This is about what some companies would consider a plus. However, overworking is one of the challenges of working from home that should worry HR departments. Not make them happy.
Many people who haven’t been working remotely before the pandemic can’t separate work from personal life. Before their routine looked entirely different. Work hours were much more obvious. They just went to the office and stopped working after they left it.
Remote work means that you have everything right next to you. Work-life balance can be easily ruined when you just can’t stop looking at your e-mail box and keep the work laptop in front of your face.
In the end, most of us overwork. Sometimes because of the simple access to “the office”, sometimes because we are scared that boss will think we don’t do anything.
No matter what makes you overwork, though. The results can be awful. Starting from permanent stress, through broken relationships to serious health issues.
- Implement time tracking to your work. The best idea would be to show this solution to your boss, but it’s not necessary. Remote workers and freelancers know software like TimeCamp or Clockify already, and they are not keeping tracking time with them without a reason. Using TimeCamp you can analyze your time on the computer and control it. If you spend too much time working, you will see it as clear as the sky. And you will have proof for the doubting supervisor that you work enough. This will help you to relax and find your way to work-life balance again.
- Try timeboxing method. This is not the first time I mention it in my articles, but I have solid reasons. Timeboxing helps you to organize your day and limit the time you want to spend on some activities. Including work. Working remotely will be a pleasure if you get control of it. Try to mix timeboxing with our free online time tracker!
- Ask your family or flatmate to remind you about the end of the work. It may seem like a piece of silly advice, but why not? Maybe your partner or friend has fewer troubles with time-control, and they can help you. Decide that you start and finish at the same time. It will be much easier that way. Working hours are finished, and it’s time for being physically present at home with your family.
- Set up your own home office routine. Including lunch break. Decide when you want your break and don’t let yourself ruin it. No eating in front of the laptop. Lunch is when lunch is, and dinner is right after you finish your workday. Soon your body will adjust to this routine, and it will help you to stick to it. Being hungry is a good reminder.
Troubles with focus (home responsibilities)
The dog ate your monstera again, the washing machine is screaming, kids covered your desk in some drawings, and your cup is dirty.
Working remotely can be a real pain when you have so many things to do around the house. The coffee shop could be a solution if it’s open, but what if you can’t leave kids alone? Or you just don’t want to sit in some random place for hours?
All remote workers know this feeling. Probably that is the reason so many of them learned to ignore the surrounding chaos. If you ever met a person who seemed like couldn’t be interrupted even in the middle of the apocalypse… well, probably it was some freelancer. Maybe a content writer like me? I possessed this magic ability to read in school during the break. It helps me with ignoring home responsibilities sometimes 😉
But let’s check some other ways to work remotely without crying every morning.
- Choose one space for work, where no one and nothing can interrupt you. Even awaiting laundry. Simply leave it all behind the door. And think about moving your coffee machine to this room. If it’s impossible, browse through my tips from not enough space part of this article.
- Clean your home before going to bed. So simple but highly effective.
- Practice some yoga. If you can’t focus even when you’ve done everything you wanted this day (besides work), maybe it’s all about your nerves. Try to calm your thought with yoga, a good cup of tea, and relaxing music.
- Take an extra break. For real. Just stop working. Sometimes you just need it and pushing yourself won’t help. Go for a walk with your dog or alone. Leave this space and take a deep breath.
- Handle the biggest challenge of the day. Eat this frog, as Brian Tracy and many other business leaders recommend. When you fight the hardest thing first, you will feel much better. Probably new energy and focus will meet you again.
One of the challenges of working from home that’s really popular is handling your own family. Yes, you love them, and you wouldn’t change them, but it doesn’t change the situation.
It’s not just about the space. You can’t keep your job performance if your home life keeps distracting you. Normally, kids are in kindergarten but because of the pandemic, it still might be impossible. How to be productive, when your little ones are running around?
How to set boundaries for your beloved ones when they just want to enjoy your presence? This is a major challenge for many of us. Remote work is extremely hard when everybody at home wants your attention as well.
- Explain to everybody that remote work is still a job. Some people, especially elders and children don’t really understand that it’s possible to work remotely, not at the office. “You’re just looking at the monitor all day!” sounds familiar? Be patient and put some effort into explanation once. When they understand, they will be more willing to respect your new work schedule.
- Schedule family time. Working from home means that strict 8 hours sometimes is cut into pieces. If you can, spend time with your family during the day. Make lunch break longer and play with kids, drink coffee with your partner or help your mom preparing dinner. Many managers will understand it and make your work hours more adjustable. Discuss it with your family, don’t forget about virtual meetings, and prepare the best work schedule to keep yourself productive and happy.
- Keep your promises. It may not be so obvious, but breaking promises will teach your family that they can’t rely on you. And they can’t take what you say seriously. Then, why would they wait until you finish? Or believe that you’re really working? Focus on your job as much time as you decided. Stick to your own schedule, and focus on home life when the time comes. Did you promise some TV time? Reading a book? Playing Lego? Or maybe it was just about going to shop after your work? Don’t break any of them.
“This meeting could be an e-mail”. Who hasn’t said it at least once during the pandemic? Video conferencing is supposed to be useful and helpful, but sometimes it’s just a bad dream.
I know some people who spend on video conferencing more than 8 hours a week. It doesn’t help the team to feel closer to each other, it doesn’t help to fight everyday challenges, it doesn’t make you productive.
But let’s be honest. It’s not about remote work. It’s not about the tools. It’s about people.
- Show your supervisor how much time do you spend on all these meetings. Again, you can use TimeCamp to track it automatically. Maybe it will help to understand everybody that something needs to be changed.
- Prepare a schedule if you’re the one who’s managing meetings. Read some tips about video conferencing and learn how to moderate it more efficiently.
- Everything that could be an e-mail… turn into one. If you’re not managing meetings, do this after one and show it to your supervisor. Showing is much better than explaining.
- Ask colleagues from other departments how do they handle their meetings. Maybe they already have some great solutions.
Lack of social interaction
Homo sapiens sapiens is a social genre. We can’t change it. Even the most introverts on this planet need some social interaction sometimes. It may look different for each of us, but we do want to have conversations, tell inside jokes, yell about our tasks and simply feel like a part of something.
Face-to-face interaction may not be needed for everyone and chat is enough, but there are plenty of people who crave it. Video conferencing is not the same as coffee in the office kitchen. Feeling isolated is definitely one of the biggest challenges of working from home.
Who works remotely and lives alone feels it the most. Social isolation is a big problem that not just doesn’t let you be productive but also can cause depression.
- Spend at least a few hours per week on your phone with a friend. Don’t let yourself dive into this isolation more than it’s needed. If you can’t meet your friends and family, call them. Even you don’t feel like doing it firstly, probably you will feel much better right after.
- Communicate with your team, even it’s not necessary. Use your collaboration tools and check out the hydepark channel on HeySpace or Slack sometimes.
- Go shopping. Working from home doesn’t mean that you need to do everything online. Instead of ordering groceries, just visit your closest shop.
- Play online with your friends. Even you’re not a gamer. Give it a try!
Project management and communication problems
There would be no talking about the challenges of working from home if I forgot about some managing problems.
Project management isn’t a piece of cake even normally, and remote work doesn’t make it easier. Especially if you need to handle some big projects and many team members.
If you all work in the same time zone it’s still not bad, but huge projects in different zones are even worse. If this is your case, you need to check our tips on how to deal with it.
For now, let’s focus on general management and communication difficulties while working from home.
- Use software for coordinating teamwork. Trello or Clickup are pretty great choices. You can also try HeySpace which is a mix of communication and management tools. What’s cool, you can integrate a time tracker with them to get even more data and control.
- Set up regular meetings but don’t cross the line. Resolve top challenges together, communicate when it’s needed and finish the meetings as soon as they are getting loose and useless. One longer meeting per week or two shorter (I mean here less than 40 minutes) is usually enough.
- Set up clear tasks and show your appreciation when your team fulfills them. Small steps are always easier to coordinate than big ones.
Lack of trust (manager’s point of view)
Working from home means that you’re not next to each other. If you’re a manager, it can be very challenging to manage your team. Especially if you haven’t worked remotely before.
Communication issues are one thing. But how can you be confident that your team is actually at work? How to trust them? How to help them fight overwork?
- Get the right tools. Remote work will be much easier if you implement the right software. Especially when you manage many remote employees in your company. Time trackers like TimeCamp are the answer. You can get control and peace of mind you never had before, and encourage your employees to become more productive. Help your team with overcoming the top challenges of working from home, including overworking.
- Get to know them better. Working from home as a manager requires some trust and knowledge about your team. It’s easier to plan things when you know who are the people you rely on. Organize some 1-on-1 and communicate with them. Let them know you too. Soon you will feel a big difference.
- Set some remote work rules that can help you all. You can propose every week stand-ups, and let your people work when they can. If you have implemented TimeCamp, you can be sure that they spend enough time at work, but this freedom will help them to handle top challenges from home life.
Remote workers from choice usually have it covered. Every freelancer writer knows that a good keyboard is needed, and most freelancing developers have at least 2 monitors at their homes.
However, if your work life has been happening just at the office, you may meet some technical difficulties. This is one of the less obvious challenges of working from home, but it needs to be covered.
Let’s go through some of them with possible solutions:
- Uncomfortable chair: every co-working space offers pretty good chairs. You probably haven’t noticed it until now. If you’re not a gamer, investing in an expensive chair may not be your dream plan. Talk to your boss. Maybe there is a possibility to borrow a chair from the office? Maybe your organization can cover half the expense for you? You can also try a fitness ball instead of a chair. It’s good for your back, and it will be useful even after you come back to the office.
- Lack of computer-related equipment. A laptop is not everything. If you need an extra monitor, a better keyboard, or a printer to do your work, speak it aloud. It’s easier than you think, and most of the companies help with that. If it’s not an option, consider buying something pre-used. Those are usually a lot cheaper. It can make so big difference that you will fly through your work tasks.
- Poor Wi-Fi. Or the Internet in general. Check your laptop’s settings. Maybe it’s in “save mode” when unplugged? You can also check your router settings. Sometimes a simple change of its range covers the problem. You can also call your provider and ask for a better offer. In the worst case, just use the cable.
Life after you find solutions for the challenges of working from home
Is working remotely more or less efficient?
Working from home puts many challenges in front of us, but it isn’t actually bad. According to my research, many people feel like they work more efficiently from home. They feel more comfortable in their own space, and that helps. They also appreciate that the way to work takes them just two steps now.
Because they are working from home, they save from 30 to even 2 hours per day. The possibility to spend precious time with their family or pets makes them happy. For example, I love the possibility of hugging my dog every single time I want.
If you are a real number person though, this is not a satisfying answer. And people are different.
Use the right tools and check by yourself how efficient your team is. You already know what do I recommend you at this point, so now I’ll just mention that it’s 100% free 😉
You can also get an answer to why work doesn’t happen at work sometimes, even at the office. And with all this data, you will definitely find a solution.
Should we go back to the offices?
As for many other questions in life, the answer is… it depends. If your team has overcome the challenges of working from home, coming back may not be the best idea, actually. Not fully at least.
I know that I love working from home, and when everything comes to normal, I will love working from a nice and warm country in a luxury hotel. I can already smell the breeze and feel the productivity boost.
However, working remotely is not for everyone. That’s why it depends.
You know now how to handle the challenges of working from home. How will the world look like soon is not certain yet, but probably it can’t go back to what it was before. However, what you’ve learned until now will stay with you forever. Including the ability to work remotely.
If you become good at it, you will get a new level of freedom. Enjoy!