I have always disliked commuting — waking up at five in the morning and catching the bus to get into the office before 8 a.m. That is why I was excited by the idea of remote work. If I could cut down on my commute time, I could be more productive and flexible by starting work early and adding more time to my productive hours. However, remote work comes with its own challenges that I wasn’t aware of. Through my journey, I have picked up some helpful tricks for overcoming remote work obstacles (with the help of my team).
You’ll probably miss physical meetings because most of us communicate better in person. Seeing and physically interacting with your team can help you collaborate on projects and tasks more effectively. You can easily clarify misunderstandings and get help when you need it. With remote work, however, help is not so readily available. You must learn to troubleshoot most issues on your own, and it can be taxing.
Though physical, real-time communication is great, messaging is equally good because you have the time to read through messages over and over again to understand them better. You can always ask for help when you need it. Write back and ask your colleague to explain what they mean. Be sure to ask specific questions that you genuinely can’t find answers to on your own. For example, it’s easier to Google how to turn off the backlight of your computer keyboard than to ask your colleague who is thousands of miles away.
There is so much information online that can help you through some basic computer skills without needing to ask anyone. The last thing you want is to frustrate your team by asking simple questions, for which you can find answers online. When asking for clarification, be sure to highlight the parts of the message you understand. That helps your colleague notice that you genuinely don’t understand what you’re saying and that it’s not because you’re not paying attention.
Communication is a two-way stream; when you receive, you must give out too. Share feedback and updates continuously, as much as possible. Remember, you’re alone in your home office, and no one knows what you’re up to, the challenges you’re facing, or what you’ve accomplished. It is very important that you update your team on everything work-related that is happening on your end. That is the only way to ensure you and your team are on the same page. Sometimes, your feedback could be as simple as updating a task status on a project or commenting on a colleague’s work.
Using your home as both a living and office space is challenging. You’ll often find yourself overworking when you fail to disconnect from work or underworking because of all the distractions surrounding you. It is crucial that you learn to manage your space and time to succeed as a remote worker.
Be sure to create a workspace that is strictly for work. It could be a desk, a room (if you have a big living space), or a shade in the garden. It must be somewhere secluded, where there are few distractions from activities going on around the house. Once you have picked a spot, make sure you only use it for work-related activities. This will help condition your body to register that each time you sit at your desk, for example, you’re working.
Another resource you must learn to manage is your time. Have specific working hours for concentrating on your work. Don’t waste that precious time chatting with friends or doing house chores because most employers will measure your productivity by the results you produce. It is important, therefore, that you learn to focus during your designated working hours.
It might take your family some time to adjust to the idea of you sitting in the house “working”. Take the time to explain to them that even though you are at home, you’re not available to help with house chores (or chat during your working hours). No matter your work, chances are you are not working twenty-four hours a day. When you manage your work space and time, remote work gives you more time during the day to spend with your loved ones.
Should you have difficult family members, as I do, you might consider talking to your employer about changing your working hours. Instead of working during the day when so much is happening, you could start doing some of your work at night. It’s a trick I have used since high school, and it works wonders. I can work for two to three hours after midnight. Then, instead of working eight hours during the day, I only work five. That way, I still have plenty of time to entertain my difficult family without missing deadlines.
The first steps
Remote work comes with a lot of freedom that can be difficult to manage. Your supervisor is not breathing down your neck every second of the day. No one is pestering you with requests because you can look them up when you want. This newfound freedom can either make you or break you. It will take a lot of internal motivation to stay on track with your work. It’s not for everyone, and you must have an honest conversation with yourself about whether or not this is a path you’d like to venture on.