Remote work is here to stay, and so are remote work challenges – which are the other side of the medal that comes with great flexibility and autonomy! The good news is that, once you acknowledge these challenges are real and common to most people that work remotely, you can easily overcome them.
Sun and Co. has been welcoming digital nomads and remote workers for over 5 years. Having hosted more than 400 hundred guests in our coliving space, we have seen the reality of remote work in practice every day since 2015.
And while it is true that the transition from office work to remote work may be a little challenging for many, there is no doubt that the pros of remote work outweigh its negatives.
We feel there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions these days around remote work and what it really means to work remotely. So in this article, we are going to first talk about 5 common remote work challenges and how to overcome them. Then to finish off, we’ll be debunking some of the most common remote work misconceptions in this article.
So if you find yourself newly working from home, and/or struggling to keep up motivation, keep reading!
Remote Work Facts
More and more employees are working in remote positions, either full-time or at least a few days of the week. Companies are also embracing this growing trend, increasingly using flexible work options as a way to retain and attract top employees.
Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics
Analyzing the current situation, a lot of organizations are allowing employees to work from home for safety reasons. This is certainly not an easy process for many, but due to the benefits i.e. flexibility, mobility, and financial stability, people are quickly adopting it.
For some, not having an actual physical office to work from might mean a low success rate when executing tasks as a team. However, this is not necessarily true as you only need dedication, rules to strictly follow, and the skills and mindset to work in an environment different from an office.
Check out our previous article: How To Work Remotely And Still Be Productive.
As the world is getting used to social distancing, remote work predictions experts witnessed the future come true almost overnight. Remote work provides the flexibility and autonomy employees desire from their jobs, but it can also present difficulties for those who may not have much experience working away from the office.
Simply put, the term ‘remote work’ means any work you do that doesn’t require commuting into an office. Some remote workers are fully remote, meaning they can work the whole week from wherever they want. Other companies allow their teams to work remotely only a few days per week. And then there are freelancers, who can work remotely because they normally don’t have an office base.
What are the main challenges of working remotely?
The top 5 remote work challenges are:
5. Task Management
What are the most common misconceptions around remote work?
1. Remote employees have no contact with their colleagues
2. Remote work is dangerous for data privacy
3. Working remotely and/or working from home increases costs
4. Remote workers fail to deliver on time
5. Remote work ruins company culture
6. Working remotely and/or working from home means too many distractions
7. Remote work is lonely (and boring)
Remote Work Challenge #1: Loneliness
One of the main appeals of working from home is independence. You’re able to work in an environment that is all your own. However, the gift of solitude can easily create problems for you if not handled properly. According to one study, loneliness is one of the top challenges experienced by remote employees. These feelings can come from a multitude of sources— whether it is from lack of connection with your coworkers, or from not spending enough time with your friends and family outside of work.
There are a few steps you can take to alleviate these feelings. For example, if you’re spending a lot of time alone, you might want to set some time aside to hang out with your friends or family. Take the time to socialize with those who are willing to make time for you. Additionally, you can reach out to your coworkers to have virtual lunches or happy hours so that you can get to know them on a more personal level. The more you work social interactions into your weekly routine, the less lonely you will feel.
Read more on tackling loneliness while working from home in this post.
Remote Work Challenge #2: Communication
Another problem that can manifest itself for remote employees is a lack of efficient communication between teammates. Obstacles like differing schedules, long waits for feedback on tasks, and lack of collaboration tools make it even more difficult for you to share ideas with your coworkers.
One of the ways you can overcome these obstacles is to use the appropriate channels to communicate with your teammates. For example, if your team is made up of people who work different hours during the week, then it may be difficult to schedule virtual meetings that everyone can attend. In this case, you’ll want to look for a video conferencing tool that integrates well with your calendars— allowing you to choose a time that works best for everyone.
Additionally, use a collaboration suite that allows you to simultaneously work on documents with your teammates. By utilizing software like this, you’ll be able to complete tasks together in real-time without having to wait for feedback. As you begin to add more spaces where you can work with your coworkers at the same time as them, it will become less difficult to collaborate on tasks with them.
Remote Work Challenge #3: Distractions
Working from your home can also bring about distractions. Your family and household members may request more of your time or your phone may be too irresistible without anyone there to tell you to put it down. It can also be difficult to stay motivated if you’re lying comfortably on your couch every day.
To combat these distractions, try setting “do not disturb” hours during your workday. Let everyone in your household know that you are not available during these hours, and explain that disturbing you might break your concentration. These rules should apply to yourself as well, meaning that you should refrain from using your phone, scrolling social media, or watching TV during your work hours. If staying off your phone proves to be too tough of a challenge, try using a focus app that gives you extrinsic rewards for focusing on your work. The more distance you place between yourself and the things that distract you, the easier it will be to direct all of your effort to your job.
Remote Work Challenge #4: Overworking
While it’s easy to assume that people are less productive when working from home, the opposite is actually true. Over 86 percent of remote workers find themselves working extra hard in order to prove to their bosses that they aren’t slacking off, and end up working an additional 28 hours a week. Remote workers often find themselves skipping lunch breaks, not logging off at the end of the day, or committing to too many tasks as a way to overcompensate for being away from the office— which will ultimately lead to them feeling overworked and burnt out.
An easy way to combat this challenge is to set boundaries for yourself. Set an alarm for the end of your workday, and don’t allow yourself to continue once it goes off. You can also plan your breaks for the day ahead of time, and hold yourself accountable to use that time to decompress. Additionally, try keeping areas in your house reserved for relaxation and other areas reserved for work. When you’re finished with your workday, move to your comfort zone to signal to your brain that work time is over. If you truly want to be a productive remote employee, then it’s crucial for you to create a work-life balance that gives you the chance to relieve some stress.
Remote Work Challenge #5: Task Management
Another way to prevent overworking is to manage your work tasks wisely. While this is easy in theory, many people working from home struggle with time management.
There are a few things you can do to help you organize your time efficiently. For starters, you should limit your commitments to those that you can realistically get done. When you do commit to tasks, begin your days doing your least favorite ones. These could be a large task that will take up a majority of your time or the mundane tasks that make your day feel long. By getting these responsibilities out of your way early in, you’ll be able to use your energy on these tasks before you’re tired from the day. You should also try to limit your commitments to those that you can manage.
You should also prioritize your tasks by their importance and their due dates. If you have trouble remembering what’s due when, then you can utilize to-do list software to help you keep track of the tasks you still need to do and keep track of how far you’ve gotten in each task. Organization is the key to time management— allowing you to have a much easier time doing your job remotely. The more you practice this tip and the ones above, the more you’ll enjoy your time working away from the office!
After discussing 5 of the most common remote work challenges, it’s time to debunk a few of the most rooted remote work myths that are still around today.
We hope this will help you exercise your critical thinking and go beyond all the misconceptions that might otherwise discourage you from working remotely!
Top 7 Remote Work Myths Debunked
Myth #1: Remote employees have no contact with their colleagues
One popular remote work myth is that you have little or no contact with your colleagues.
For some people, this is no problem at all. If you like to work alone, then you would probably enjoy being away from everyone else and get work done without having any eyes on you. Whether they are your supervisor’s, manager’s, or your office mates’.
However, if you feel you are missing office banter and coffee breaks, that’s when you need to be proactive in order to avoid feeling lonely while working from home.
The good news is that today there are a ton of ad-hoc team solutions like Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, Whereby, and many others that can provide you with the communication channel you need to directly get in touch with your team.
So with a little practice (and willingness to), remote workers will have no issues connecting and communicating with their team members.
Myth #2: Remote work is dangerous for data privacy
Another remote work myth is linked to cybersecurity. And while it’s true that remote workers can potentially expose businesses to significant cybersecurity risks while working from home, this is easily avoidable with a good cyber and network security system in place.
Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google all have their remote employees using secure networks. So if your remote team uses reliable software and trustworthy technology that has high-level security and data encryption (such as a VPN) you won’t need to worry about people on your network intercepting your company’s data.
Read more in this post: 5 Cybersecurity Tips For Remote Workers.
Myth #3: Working remotely and/or working from home increases costs
Many people think that being able to work from home means you have to spend a lot of money to get everything set up for being productive, just like in the office.
However, it doesn’t actually have to cost a great deal. In fact, working from your home or working remotely from anywhere else you decide to be would probably cost you a lot less than it would if you were to go to work in an office every day!
According to FlexJobs, 90% of employees say allowing for more flexible work arrangements and schedules would increase employee morale, while 77% say allowing employees to work remotely may lead to lower operating costs.
Of course, there are other costs involved to be able to work remotely from home, or even from a coworking and/or coliving space, but this cost is commonly a lot lower than the cost of working in an office full-time (think commuting, meals, coffees etc.).
Check out this article for tips on how to set up your productive home office:
Myth #4: Remote workers fail to deliver on time
A.k.a. remote employees aren’t productive, hence they need to be monitored and kept in check.
Many people still believe that working from home equals lounging in bed and binging on Netflix during working hours. Of course, this is a possibility when nobody is looking. But, thankfully, it is almost never the standard across remote teams or companies.
Exceptions aside, most employees recognize that remote work is a privilege that comes with a lot of benefits, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to make remote work successful.
What’s more, most employees find that they’re actually more productive when they’re in control of their days.
Proper communication of the company goals, project milestones, and other vital tasks can help to create a sense of responsibility in remote employees, motivating them to work and deliver on time.
And if that’s not enough, the plethora of time tracking solutions and project monitoring apps have made it easy to track the status and efficiency of projects and follow up in case someone in the team is falling behind.
Myth #5: Remote work ruins company culture
The next myth many people still believe true is that remote work may lead to a negative impact on the company culture. The idea behind this misconception is that company culture is driven by people spending time in the same space and interacting with each other.
In reality, though, company culture falls within the management and executive teams’ responsibility to set the tone that the rest of the company will adopt.
With the future of work inevitably leading to more companies having remote employees and more people being brought on to teams so they can work from anywhere in the world, it’s vital to have the right tactics in place to make sure company culture remains strong across remote teams.
Organizing team retreats at least once a year to get employees to connect face-to-face, or encouraging remote teams to connect on video calls regularly can be easy to implement solutions to foster company culture.
Myth #6: Working remotely and/or working from home means too many distractions
Working from your home might mean you are more exposed to distractions such as easy access to TV, Netflix, games, social media… you name it! Not to mention kids wanting to play, in case you are a working-from-home parent.
Despite many people still believing in this remote work myth, studies consistently show that the majority of remote workers tend to be more productive in their home office than in a traditional workplace.
While it’s true that working parents are the ones that are struggling the most from distractions while working at home, it’s also true that with the right adjustments all of us can at least control the environment where we are working these days, making sure it’s as optimized and productive as possible.
Myth #7: Remote work is lonely (and boring)
Here’s the thing: physical distancing – or working remotely – doesn’t have to equal loneliness! A certain degree of feeling lonely from time to time is normal for everyone, not just remote workers. But this is far from saying remote work causes loneliness – or has to be boring!
There are a few, easy steps you can take to avoid loneliness when working from home, or from different locations around the world. The key is to stay connected to other people as much as possible.
When you’re not physically sharing a space with other humans you have to be proactive to feel connected. Luckily, the variety of communication apps these days make it easy to do so.
For example, video calls can be a very effective way to maintain a sense of connection with your teammates, as they provide a facsimile of in-person interactions. Think body language, facial expressions, and all those details that make online conversations more real.
And when you get tired of video calls, remember these days there are a lot of options available for remote workers that want to connect and feel part of a like-minded community of people. So if you are starting to feel lonely, why not consider joining a coworking/coliving space like Sun and Co.?
Or check out the best coliving spaces in Spain for more inspiration.
Conclusion: Overcoming Remote Work Challenges and Avoiding Myths
When it comes to remote work, there are plenty of studies and first-hand employee stories that debunk most of the worst myths out there. We have just debunked 7 remote work myths, but there are plenty more out there that you will probably come across sooner or later.
Most people will agree that there are plenty of advantages to working remotely, but of course like everything worth pursuing it doesn’t come without some effort.
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