5 Challenges of Virtual Work and How to Beat Them
While working from home certainly has its benefits, it is not necessarily for everyone. Some people are more productive when they work together with others, needing the reassurance of direct contact or the camaraderie that is created in a shared space. For some employees, they are simply not wired to work alone while others it is a learning experience all of its own.
Whether you are innately built for it or not, working remotely brings with it its own set of challenges and obstacles. Your success at both the job and working remotely will be determined by how you overcome these challenges. With the right tools and going in with the right mindset, you can set yourself up for success working remotely.
Let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls that remote workers are faced with and some tips to help you beat them.
- For some people, organizational skills are a challenge anyway let alone if they are now working where they live. Work papers and school papers can be co-mingled on the counter or kitchen table and it is easy to “lose” things.
Solution: Try to carve out a small space, even a few hundred square feet, in an unused part of the house designated only for work. Think about it, all you need is a place for the computer or laptop, some file folders, and a space for pens/pencils/notepad. Keep it simple.
- Even if you are in an office, you are more than likely to be interrupted at some point throughout your day by phone calls, meetings, and co-workers who “pop in” to chat. But, when you are working at home, the distractions can be well, distracting, to the point that you lose focus and may become less productive.
Solution: A dedicated workspace is certainly helpful but if you cannot separate yourself from the daily routine of others in your home, consider setting parameters while you are working and be sure to allow for time off. It is important to avoid getting distracted as well by the comforts of home such as the television or the urge to suddenly clean your bathroom. There is a time for everything!
- Time Management. Working in such a different environment than you may be used to will require you to develop some new skills or change your old work habits. Again, distractions and disorganization can keep you from accomplishing your task and from being productive.
Solution: Set an alert or calendar reminder to help you manage your time throughout the day and to stay on schedule.
- Research has shown that many remote workers are so focused on the fact that they have to prove that they are being productive that they work more than their counterparts in the office. They tend to work earlier in the morning and later into the evening to ensure that their boss knows they are not slacking off. Although the point of working remotely is to have work-life balance, many employees find themselves working at other times other than “work time”. In fact, according to Business News Daily, remote workers work 1.4 days per month more than their in-office counterparts.
Solution: Establish a routine of when work is to be done and when you are “off” from work. It is also beneficial to take regular breaks throughout your work-time to keep your mind fresh. If you are in the office, you may take a mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee break, do the same while working from home.
- When you are in the office, it is easy to yell over the wall or pop your head into your supervisor’s office to ask a question. When you are working remotely, you have to rely on a person being in front of their computer or by their phone for assistance.
Solution: Schedule regular meetings with co-workers and supervisors via phone or conference calls to address your questions, establish your projects and requirements, and to determine expectations for communication and deadlines.
- Social contact. One of the biggest challenges for those new to working remotely is the lack of human contact. Where it was once common to congregate at the water cooler, you are now faced with taking that afternoon break alone. Loneliness can be difficult to manage for some remote workers and can impact productivity and job satisfaction.
Solution: Social interaction with other co-workers who are working remotely does not have to revolve around work alone. Why not schedule a weekly “happy hour” or coffee time where you can connect with others, keeping up morale, and engaging with another human being?
Yes, working remotely does have many perks but do not go into it with blinders on thinking that it will not also come with its share of challenges. But, with the right tools and mindset, you can successfully overcome those challenges to enjoy the best of both worlds!