Remote work comes with many benefits, like the ability to work from virtually anywhere while maintaining a flexible schedule that allows for more time spent with family. However, there are drawbacks to remote work that are important to address for you to thrive while working from home.
In a Buffer report on the “State of Remote in 2019”, 22% of over 2,500 surveyed workers stated that unplugging after work was the most considerable struggle they faced when working remotely. The report also found that 19% of remote workers find loneliness to be the most challenging part of the structure of their work. Further, 10% and 8% reported that distractions at home and staying motivated were the source of their biggest struggles with working away from a centralized office space. Read further for our advice on how to overcome these common challenges associated with an otherwise desirable workplace environment.
It’s no surprise that unplugging is one of the biggest challenges people experience when they work remotely. As tedious as a daily commute can feel, it helps you transition between work mode and home mode, so you’re less likely to spend your evening toiling away at work tasks. That’s why so many work from home experts recommend a morning routine that involves getting dressed for the office even if you’re not leaving the house. Surround yourself by cues that tell your brain when it’s time to work and when it’s time to clock out for the day. You want to avoid turning your entire day (or week) into a seemingly never-ending work shift.
Create physical and digital space between your work and home activities. Having a designated workspace in your home will help you stay focused during work hours and make it easier to disengage from work when you leave your home office at the end of the day, even if that simply means moving to a different corner of your studio apartment or avoiding sitting in the chair in front of your desktop for the rest of the evening. You may want to set digital boundaries to keep your work from seeping into your life when you’re off the clock.
- Turn off Slack notifications and log off any other team communication tools at 5 pm.
- Remove work email accounts from your phone so you’re not tempted to jump back into work mode when you hear an email enter your work inbox at 10 pm.
- Limit the amount of time you spend on the devices you primarily use for work at the end of the day. If you mainly work on your desktop or laptop, try only using your tablet or phone for online leisure activities like shopping or talking to friends.
- Work with your team to set up an after work protocol that can involve avoiding sending after hours emails and only calling coworkers after hours in the case of an emergency.
Creating a shutdown ritual is also essential for unplugging at the end of the day. This ritual can include activities like scheduling tomorrow’s tasks in your calendar and checking your work emails a final time before signing off and beginning your post-work routine. Once you’ve given yourself the peace of mind that comes with tying up work-related loose ends for the day, try shutting down your computer and physically moving away from your workspace.
At this point in your day, establishing a healthy post-work routine will help you take the final step towards successfully unplugging. Whether you go for a walk with your partner or play an hour of Animal Crossing with a friend, the important thing is that you’re shifting your focus and energy away from work. Permitting yourself to unplug from work at the end of the day completely will improve your focus and motivation when you clock in for your next remote shift.
Buffer uncovered that 19% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. It’s easy to disconnect from others and retreat into your isolated productivity zone when you’re busy working from home. Fortunately, there are many ways you can use the technology and flexibility available to you as a remote worker to combat loneliness.
Online communities for remote workers are your friend because they can help you make friends and even build up your professional network.
- Consider joining a Slack community for remote workers in your field.
- Participate in a work at home forum.
- If you’re interested in travelling while you work, you can join a digital nomad community.
Of course, online communities aren’t a substitute for your community of real-life friends and coworkers. Make sure to connect with your physically distant friends, family, and remote coworkers over a video chat. Video conference calls aren’t the same as in-person communication, but face-to-face interactions offer a human touch for combating loneliness that text-based interactions don’t. Long Zoom meetings can be exhausting and unproductive, but inviting your coworkers to a 15-minute chat will mimic the camaraderie you feel when you’re chatting during a coffee break in the office.
Spending time outdoors is another great way to improve your mood after and during work if you’re able to purchase and set up a reliable Wi-Fi hotspot. Getting fresh air and seeing people in your neighbourhood (even if it’s from a distance) will help you feel more connected and less like a solitary productivity machine.
Buffer’s report found that 32% of remote workers have unlimited vacation time each year. However, 43% of workers take 2-3 weeks of vacation, while 20% take less than two weeks of leave a year. Moreover, 84% of survey participants opted to work from home, versus 11.5% who primarily worked in community-based environments like co-working spaces, coffee shops/cafes, and libraries.
These results show that many workers don’t take full advantage of the flexibility that comes with remote work. Instead, these workers opt to stay home, potentially isolating themselves from their communities, which can lead to loneliness and depression in more extreme cases.
Take advantage of your ability to work from virtually anywhere. International travel or heading down the street to your local coffee shop might not be options right now. However, you can plan to get out into your community (and the world) when it’s safe to do so. Unplugging and a change of scenery are good for your mental health and boost your productivity and focus. Plus, what could be more motivating than helping out your community by supporting local businesses or planning a vacation with friends and family?
Even if you love your job and are grateful for the ability to work from home, doing the same thing in an isolated environment every day can quickly diminish your motivation. Rekindling your motivation to work can also help you combat the challenges you face with unplugging and loneliness as a remote worker.
Unplugging at the end of a long workday improves your focus when you start work again the next day. Similarly, building a fulfilling life outside of work helps you stay motivated through the challenges of your work life.
- Reconnect with your favourite hobbies and activities or try new ones. Find online communities to share your interests with and make new friends while you relax after work.
- Volunteering with an organization that’s meaningful to you will help you connect with the world outside your home office and feel more motivated when you return. You can always bring the skills you’ve gained throughout your career to help out a cause and interact with people you usually wouldn’t get a chance to meet.
In addition to staying motivated by connecting to things you love outside of work, you can also remind yourself why you love what you do by becoming a mentor. Helping spark a passion for your field of work in others, helps you stay motivated in your career.
You can volunteer to mentor elementary, high school, or college students, depending on your level of expertise. You also can reach out to the alumni association of your alma mater to see if you can speak to students studying in the same program from which you graduated.
Mentoring a colleague is another excellent way to share your specialized skills and knowledge. You don’t need to be an expert or leader in your field to mentor a peer, you’ll likely learn a lot from each other that will help propel you further forward in your respective career paths. Networking is one of the biggest challenges of career-building, so providing and receiving support from peers will help you overcome this challenge and stay motivated towards further success.
Distractions are the final hurdle that many remote workers combat daily. One of the best things about working remotely is that you’re often surrounded by the comforts of home. However, exchanging a professional office environment for more comfort also means that you’re surrounded by all of your favourite distractions (including family members), which can make focusing on your work more difficult. If you’re already hunkered down in your home office, but still find it challenging to stay focused on your work, here are more tips to help you avoid distractions.
- Ever find yourself at your desk, ready to get to work, until you realize that you can’t find your laptop charger, headphones, or favourite pen? Having a well-organized home desk with a place for every office necessity is crucial to staying focused without wasting time searching for your reading glasses or feeling overwhelmed by the unorganized sticky note reminders plastered around your monitor.
- Play background music to help drown out ambient noise and keep you calm and focused while you work. Online services like Brain.fm and Focus@Will can help you find your perfect work soundtrack.
- You’re not a robot, so you’ll be more easily distracted as the workday wears on and as your empty stomach disrupts your focus. Make sure to take regular breaks to help refocus your mind and refuel your body every couple of hours.
- Create a daily schedule for work and non-work tasks and stick to it. If you have the option of working flexible hours, you can schedule your work during times when you’re most productive. You can also plan beneficial activities like an afternoon workout to break up your workday and work an extra hour in the evening to make up for it.
- Use the task batching technique to limit the potential for distractions when you switch between working on large projects and smaller tasks that can become time-consuming. Try to complete as many similar tasks as you can together. Making multiple phone calls or answering emails in a designated block of time can buy you more time to work on larger tasks with fewer distractions.
- Avoid digital distractions by switching your phone to silent, turning off non-work notifications and placing it face down on your desk. You can also use an app like Freedom to temporarily ban yourself from visiting time-wasting sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
If you’re a parent, managing your kids’ distractions is probably one of the most challenging parts of working from home. Check out the sanity-saving strategies we recommend for working at home with children, here.
Mastering remote work can be a challenge because it takes time to get used to any new work environment. However, Buffer’s report proves that remote work is worth adjusting for the vast majority of workers. Buffer found that 95% of their respondents would encourage others to work remotely, and that 99% would like to have the flexibility to work remotely for the rest of their careers. These results prove that if you take care to recharge, stay connected, and foster motivation while mitigating distractions, you can become the master of your home office.