At my company FYI we recently spent months researching remote work. We wanted to learn everything we could about who works remotely, what they think of it, the challenges of remote, and the best practices of working remotely. So we surveyed 486 people and got feedback from thousands more and developed a remote work report.
Here are the most common remote work pitfalls we learned about, and how to overcome them:
1. Meetings with no video
“Some of the biggest challenges with remote meetings are audio issues (difficulty hearing) and people getting cut off by others or the technology. Without video it is impossible to glean non-verbal communication.”
Our tip: Try to always use video in conference calls, even if you’re having a bad hair day. And when audio or video issues happen, repeat yourself. People might tune out when it’s an audio-only call or simply become less engaged if they can’t hear you properly.
2. Some people in a room, others joining remotely
“The dynamics of video meetings still punish those who are uncomfortable butting in or interrupting. Without a strong moderator, it’s easy for some people to check out or get left behind. It’s even worse if some people are meeting in person and others are dialing in.”
Our tip: If one person is remote, everyone is remote. Have everyone join the video call on separate laptops, even if you are sitting next to each other. Use one computer for audio, or if you have lots of space, everyone can go into separate rooms and areas.
3. Not specifying who is responsible for what
“When it’s not clear who is responsible for what, you end up having more meetings, calls, emails, and conversations that you should. This is a recipe for disaster.”
Our tip: Decide who is responsible for what, and communicate it, plus write it down. For example, whenever you list out action items in a document or in Slack, say who is responsible for each of those items. This will help make sure everyone knows what to do and who to get in touch with.
4. Not getting to know your teammates beyond work
“The social aspect is the part I miss most about working in an office. Being friends with coworkers outside of work. But it just means you need to be proactive about getting to know your teammates and talking about more than work.”
Our tip: Connect with your teammates and get to know each other outside of your regular work meetings. If everything you do with your coworkers is focused on work, you can start to check out or feel isolated. Do this by carving out time to get to know one another during existing meetings, or dedicate meetings fully to getting to know each other.
5. Staying in your house all day and week
“The biggest challenge is not leaving my house and therefore feeling socially isolated or like I “didn’t do anything” all day… I like working from home, but sometimes if I don’t change my physical scenery, I can get this creepy feeling that nothing really happened or changed throughout the day and that I didn’t really do anything. I do talk to my coworkers over Zoom, but it doesn’t feel the same as interacting with real people in the world.”
Our tip: Schedule time to socialize. You can do this with other remote workers, friends, people who work in co-working spaces, and others in your industry. Make an effort to get out of the house during the week and talk to people in person.
6. Working all day and night without breaks
“I get really “in the zone” when working. It’s easy for an entire day to fly by where I only get up from my desk once or twice. This creates feelings of disconnection/isolation.”
Our tip: Remote work means you have more time to work, but that doesn’t mean you should use that time to work more. Make sure to create boundaries between work and life. Give yourself plenty of breaks, whether it’s to walk the dog, exercise or to socialize.
7. Practicing unhealthy habits
“It’s too easy to start working as soon as you roll out of bed and not stopping until you realize it’s time to sleep again. Sometimes I forget to stand up and often forget to eat. Establishing a routine takes time and dedication.”
Our tip: Pay attention to your health as a remote worker. It’s all too easy to sit at your desk all day and barely get up. Take extra measures to stay healthy. Get exercise, take walks, eat in a way that nourishes your body, sleep as much as you need, and hydrate. Meditation helps a lot too.
Take responsibility and create your own Remote Work Structure
Having the freedom to work from wherever and whenever you want sounds like a dream. But without the right approach, it can turn into a nightmare.
The only way to be happy and productive working remotely is to take 100% responsibility for how you manage your day. Create your own structure and avoid the pitfalls of remote work now that you know what they are.
If you enjoyed this article, remember that you can learn more by checking out our remote work report.
Guest Post by Marie Prokopets, co-founder of FYI.
She also has an email newsletter called Product Habits where she and her co-founder Hiten teach people how to do customer-centric product development.