The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed how (and where) companies do business. For many Americans, that means working from home for the first time.
I’ve worked remotely for 11 years, and although the pandemic has introduced some new challenges — namely, having my children at home during work hours — there are other hurdles I’ve had to learn to work through in the past.
A recent FinanceBuzz survey of respondents who worked from home pre-COVID-19 cited some of the most common drawbacks of remote work. Although I can proudly say I’ve mastered some of these challenges, others are still a work in progress.
Here are the biggest challenges remote workers face, according to the FinanceBuzz survey, plus some advice for working through them.
Top drawbacks of remote work
The top-cited challenge of working remotely, as reported by 49% of respondents, is building relationships with co-workers. Whether your company is fully remote, partially remote, or you’re in a unique position in which you’re the only person who works from home, it makes sense that connecting with colleagues is difficult. You don’t have the face-to-face interaction or occasional run-ins that you’d have if you were in the same building.
Similarly, the second most common drawback is feeling isolated, which 46% of survey respondents said they’ve experienced. Again, this may stem from having some team members in an office when you are working remotely full time. Even if your entire company is remote, it can be challenging to connect with others from behind a computer.
Another 38% of respondents agree that it’s difficult to separate work from personal life when working remotely, and 30% have more distractions at home. If you’ve worked from home for even a day, you know how hard it is to ignore a sink of dishes and loads of laundry in between meetings simply because they’re right in front of you.
Thirty-seven percent of remote workers believe that lack of face time with managers and company leaders is a downside of working from home. This lack of face time can make it challenging to stay aligned on projects, meet goals, and establish a connection with your leadership team.
Whether you’re an experienced remote worker or you just started working from home recently, there are things you can do to overcome these hurdles. Here are some helpful strategies:
How to overcome the challenges of working remotely
1. Create a schedule — and stick with it
When you work at an office, you shut down your computer and leave the building at the end of the day. But when you’re working from home, it’s a little more challenging to separate work from personal life. You can easily fall into the trap of working from sunrise to sunset and wandering into your home office to check email before bed, which can quickly lead to burnout. Conversely, there are also more distractions at home. (Remember that sink of dishes and the pile of laundry?)
When I’ve struggled with balancing my schedule as a remote worker in the past, time blocking has been an effective strategy. It involves designating blocks of time on your calendar for specific tasks, whether they include making lunch for your kids, walking Fido, drafting emails, or checking in with your team. I also set boundaries by communicating my schedule to my colleagues, eating meals away from my desk, and shutting down my work tech at a reasonable hour.
The important thing is to develop a schedule and boundaries that work for you. Figuring out what works can be challenging, especially if you’re new to working remotely. But doing so will help you avoid burnout, maintain balance, and minimize distractions.
2. Set up recurring check-ins with your manager and co-workers
If you aren’t doing so already, set up recurring check-ins with your manager and co-workers. Using video conferencing for these check-ins can help you get some much-needed face time with your team and combat those feelings of isolation.
If you’ve already set up check-ins, evaluate them. Do you take some time to chit-chat at the beginning of meetings, or do you dive right into your agenda? Asking your colleagues about new hobbies, what they’ve watched lately, or how they’re adjusting to the new norm can help you feel more connected with your team, especially during challenging times.
Recently, many companies have also embraced remote work tools such as Slack and Zoom. If your company is one of them, make an effort to connect with your co-workers through those channels. Doing so will make it feel less like you’re on an island and more like you’re part of a team.
3. Ensure you have concrete goals, a clear path toward achieving them, and a way to share progress consistently
Whether you and your manager are new to working from home, or you’ve been remote for years, it can be helpful for both of you to talk through goals and expectations on a consistent basis. Set aside some time to establish weekly or monthly goals and discuss how you’ll work toward them, both as individual contributors and as a team.
Use your weekly check-ins to review how you’ve progressed toward your goals so you’re both on the same page about projects. Continue to follow this cadence as new initiatives come down the pike.
Having a clear understanding of what’s expected of you can provide peace of mind, and it can help ease concerns about a lack of face time with your manager or company leadership.
4. Participate in team-building and culture building
In addition to embracing communication tools, many companies are also getting creative with virtual team-building to help remote employees feel connected. For some, that means hosting a virtual snack-and-chat or happy hour; others may have fun virtual games that employees can take part in. If you’re struggling with feelings of isolation or a lack of face time, take advantage of these opportunities to get to know your colleagues better and build a rapport.
5. Be a part of a change
If you’re struggling to overcome a remote work hurdle, you’re probably not alone. The FinanceBuzz survey shows that others at your company are likely grappling with the same thing. Keep this in mind as you’re navigating this experience. And if you have any ideas on how to stay connected, share them with your HR team. Chances are your ideas will benefit others as much as they will benefit you.
Although remote jobs aren’t without their challenges, it is possible to overcome them. Whether you’re struggling with feelings of isolation, distraction, or disconnection, remember that you’re not alone and look to your team for support. As cliche as it may sound, you’re in this together, even if you aren’t working in the same place.
Jess Ullrich is an editor at FinanceBuzz, a personal finance site on a mission to democratize financial independence. FinanceBuzz empowers its readers by teaching them how to make smart moves with their money, from utilizing credit card rewards to boosting income with side hustles and more.
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