Many office workers would agree that the absence of commute is a great advantage of remote work. No need to spend long hours in traffic, which is way too stressful. No need to wait for a bus and listen to stupid conversations of passengers on the way to the office. Yes, it looks like remote work is paradise! But in reality, it’s not all rosy!
The enforcement of quarantine made many businesses switch to remote work, and the IT sector is not an exception. But how does it feel to work from home? What are the main problems the employees face in their “remote routine”? We asked our teammates about it and made a list of the most common remote work challenges as well as the ways of possible solutions. Perhaps, this information could be helpful for those who want to experience remote work in the future. Forewarned is forearmed!
The international reports show that although in many cases remote workers tend to display higher performance level, they are also more subject to stress, because of working longer hours and accepting bigger work loads.
Differentiation between working and non-working hours.
When you are working from home it is really difficult to understand when your working day starts and when it actually finishes. You can basically find yourself in a non-stop mode, unable to take a break, which is really exhausting. Surprisingly, but to the fear of CEOs or senior staff that most team members might lose momentum on a remote basis, the majority of employees vice versa show the tendency to work overtime. Well, it is difficult to switch off work, when your house and your office is actually one and the same place.
Here at LinkUp Studio, during the quarantine period, 100% of our team members work remotely. Many of them find it difficult to understand when it’s time for a break or for the end of the working day. It’s much easier in the office when everyone goes to the kitchen to have lunch - it’s a signal that it’s time for a break. Or in the evening when most team members start leaving the office - you understand that probably it’s time to stop.
How to avoid overworking
Probably, the best advice is to remember to take breaks and set clear time for the end of your working day. Otherwise, there is a big risk of burnout. Here are some tips that can be helpful:
- Set up reminders on your smartphone to take breaks. It’s great if you have a pet: the notification to walk the dog is a perfect reason to take a break and stretch your legs a bit. But if you have no pets, you can still figure out something.
- Set notifications for the end of your working day. Well, here you don’t even need a reason. It is just time to stop after a productive day and relax with a glass of beer in front of TV.
- It can be a good idea to notify your teammates about your leaving. You can quickly message “Bye, everyone” in Slack and shut down your computer.
- Finally, turn off all notifications on your phone and computer - the working day is actually over and you have the right to relax.
Dealing with distractions
Distraction while working from home is a great problem, which kills your efficiency. On the one hand, you escape from annoying teammates, telling jokes by your desk, but on the other hand, you find out that staying side by side with your family members every day can be even more irritating.
It's particularly hard if you have small children, who don't understand that you can’t play with them right now. It is also hard if you have a big family and not enough rooms for each member. Then finding a good place for normal conference calls can be painful. Some of our teammates also complain about noisy neighbors, who consider the quarantine period a perfect chance for house renovations.
How to cope with distractions
Perhaps, it’s almost impossible to avoid distractions from your family, pets, kids and neighbors. But at least you can try to establish clear relationships with your housemates and use some of the following tips:
- You need to fix up a workspace, let it be something minimal, but clean and cosy (it’s great if you have a spacious wardrobe). Better if it’s a separate room devoted only to work and ideally, this isn’t the same room, where you sleep or do sports.
- Explain to your family how important it is for you to cut off distractions — your CEO trusts you and your work results affect the efficiency of the whole company.
- You can try to invent a kind of signal to let your housemates know that you need especially high concentration level at the moment. It can be an “Everybody silent!” sign or the moment when you have your headphones on.
- Try to keep to regular working hours. Ignore unrelated calls and avoid unnecessary visits to Facebook or Instagram pages during your workday.
Loneliness and lack of communication
You can face the opposite problem if you live alone and don’t have pets. When you work day by day, week by week without personal communication you start feeling isolated. It’s especially a great problem for sociable and extrovert people, who are used to everyday communication in the office. The American Psychological Association claims that isolated people can face a range of various emotions, like fear and anxiety. And even if you are single or lived alone before the quarantine, during the self-isolation period you can start feeling yet lonelier.
How not to feel isolated when working from home
Here, at LinkUp Studio psychological health of our team members is a priority. Therefore some of the ways we use to avoid loneliness among our co-workers might be useful:
- General and group meetings via Google Meet help to create the effect of presence and maintain the level of communication.
- It’s a good idea to include social breaks in your schedule. After a few hours of work, you can spend a few minutes just chatting with your mates or discussing the latest news.
- A general tip for those, who especially miss the previous amount of communication - just be more active. Our team members often cheer up each other by sending funny memes or jokes in Slack random channel. It helps to set the right mood!
- Teamwork is a good way to support the communication level. If a few mates work together on the project, they might often interconnect to clear up the workflow and specific details. Here at LinkUp Studio we have been experiencing teamwork and it has definitely proven itself in many cases!
People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.
This is reported to be the most relevant remote challenge and there's no universal solution. You can talk about motivation with your team leaders or mates. It's absolutely normal that someone has stronger motivation than you. What you need is to find what really motivates you. Try to do everything you can together to increase motivation for everyone. But still here are some tips which might help:
- Set one particular goal for your working day. It must be a reachable goal, which helps to manage time. Keep focus on one specific issue and perform the task purposefully. If you undertake too much - you burn out halfway. So remember: one goal - one great result!
- Think about the goal every day. It'll help to make your goal real. You can use stickers or set a reminder. If you keep doing a little piece of work for 5 minutes a day, success is guaranteed.
- Remember about “waverings”. Motivation is irregular. Sometimes inspiration can disappear. And it's normal. Just make a coffee and imagine that you’re having a break. Inspiration will come when you stop worrying about not being able to finish the planned.
- Notice smaller gains. If you woke up at 8 last week, and this week at 7.50, it’s already an achievement! With every small step, you must be proud of yourself.
By the way here at LinkUp Studio we have been experiencing a tracker as a particular motivation tool. The purpose of it is not to provide a remote control for employees but to motivate them to meet the working timeline and be productive to the maximum effect. Due to the tracker, our teammates are disciplined and aware of a truthful overview of the time, spent on particular tasks. Therefore our CEO and customers can sleep well at night 🙂.
Bad health habits
IT is mostly a kind of sedentary work. And it doesn’t matter whether you work from the office or remotely. But when you're at home you have far more chances to run into bad habits.
And here we can talk about two different situations:
1) You forget to eat because you ignore your break schedule or don’t have any breaks at all
or the opposite:
2) You use every little break to have a snack and your fridge door doesn't seem to be closed.
The situation with sports is also quite sad. During the quarantine period gyms are closed, and honestly, how many of us have the motivation to do exercises at home alone? Walking with the dog is probably the only physical activity for those who have a four-legged friend. But what should the others do?
And again there is no universal solution. You just need to be more conscious about your way of life. Some of LinkUp Studio mates use particular food apps to control their eating habits. You can also set reminders in your calendar to eat something or do some exercises.
But even if you do keep a healthy diet, mind the amounts! 🙂
In spite of the above-mentioned challenges, remote work is very rewarding. If you spend your time properly and try to get used to these new realities, you will definitely appreciate additional freedom, flexibility, and opportunity to improve your work performance.