10 Challenges of Working Remotely
"Most of the technology workforce is now remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has created a lot of challenges for companies that had a strong office environment. These obstacles need to be surmounted but it can be difficult to know how" - Ben Fellows, CEO of Loop
Working remotely sounds like a dream to most people; no long morning commutes, or being stuck in an office with people you do not like. However, working remotely presents its own unique challenges that are outside the purview of a typical work environment. Here are some of the challenges that remote workers may face.
When people first start working remotely, it seems like such a luxury. There is no commute, you can wear whatever you want (unless of course, you have that dreaded video call), you don’t have to make awkward conversation with your desk-mate. After the first few weeks the appeal starts to wear thin. You may miss that morning commute where you were able to listen to a podcast or read a book, the requirement to dress, and even those inconvenient conversations. Isolation is settling in and it is here to stay for the entire duration of your remote working. Even with a great organization, there will be bouts of intense loneliness and isolation that present a unique challenge that can be difficult to navigate.
“Unless the organization you work for really understands the disconnect with remote workers and is proactive about great communication and human connection, as a remote worker it can often feel like you’re on an island with no support”. - Cody Sprattmoran, COO
2. Tech challenges
Technology is a beautiful creation, but a finicky one. You can have tested everything right beforehand, but when it comes time to start working everything just shuts down or stops working. For those who rely on hi-speed internet, internet companies throttling the speed can be a massive issue as well as internet reliability in rural areas. WiFi can come in and out and there is no IT person on hand to fix it. Technology is a great resource but can also be unreliable and end up causing mini catastrophes in your remote work.
3. Managing time
Effective time management is every company's dream, employees doing the work that they are supposed to do promptly and efficiently. We all know life doesn’t work that way and that effective time management is a skill that is learned. Managing your time remotely is a whole other ballgame though. You need to prioritize the workload, manage expectations as to the deliverables, and keep track of all the tasks all without in-person support. It is now on you to manage time and this added responsibility can bring more pressure.
4. Lack of team-building
When working remotely, it is really up to the company to involve you in their team. Sure, you can try reaching out to your colleagues, but if you are in a different time zone or don’t have all of their contact details since you mainly talk to the team head, this can be super problematic. You also don’t get to take part in the office culture where little conversations with colleagues can be super important in feeling like you are part of the team. This can be alienating and lead to feeling separate from the team.
5. Maintaining a schedule
Here’s the thing. With work, you are normally assigned a work schedule. You might be able to say what your preferred schedule would look like, but it is ultimately up to the boss to decide which hours you will be in. With working remotely, there is a bit more flexibility. While there are certain benefits to that, maintaining a consistent schedule that allows you to accomplish your work on time can be trying, especially with the distractions and interruptions that can come into play.
6. Staying focused
We are humans, our attention span is limited. Having other people hold us accountable and focused while in a work environment can be easier. Working remotely, there is no one to tell you to get back to work and there are plenty of distractions surrounding you. It is necessary to possess qualities like a strong sense of determination or drive to finish your work without any distractions.
You may have seen that video of the man whose children interrupted his interview on BBC. While amusing to the viewer, it can damage the work. This is a classic example of how interruptions while working from home are unavoidable. You might not be broadcasted on live television, but they will happen. Interruptions can come in the form of children, partners, families, pets, and more. Even if you live alone, there is always the possibility of an interruption whether it be housework or a technological distraction. Interruptions mean a loss of productivity and efficiency in managing time so it is important to set clear boundaries.
8. Keeping a clear head
There are multiple frames of mind and we switch our intelligences based on our settings. Within working remotely, this can present challenges in a couple different ways. It can become apparent when you are getting started with the workday that you are still in ‘home mode’, focused more on comforts, and getting settled than actually being productive with the work. This changes at the end of the day, when you shut off the computer but instead of having the commute home to switch off from work, you are already at home and still focused on work. This can lead to you increasing your working hours. There are ways to remedy this, but it can be complicated to navigate.
9. Working too much
At first remote work seems way easier, you can decide when and where you want to work. Yet, with this comes of the downside of never being far away from your home office. No office lunches or colleagues drawing you away from your desk to grab a coffee. Instead, you can get so focused on the work that you are doing, you forget to eat, take a break, or even clock out when you are supposed to, which can be physically and mentally exhausting. This can lead to an unhealthy work/life balance and eventually, burnout.
This might be one of the biggest banes to your existence when working remotely. There is no way around it, you will be waiting for other people to communicate with you. Instead of being able to hop over to their desk, you will be waiting for them to call or email. If you are lucky, it might only take minutes and if not, well you might have to wait a day which can seriously delay projects. Having a clear and consistent path of communication is critical and without it, remote work is not possible.
Remote work can be challenging, but also rewarding at the same time. It is up to individuals and companies to decide what their needs are and how to best move forward in this unusual time.