As entire industries are digitally transforming and managing a remote workforce, employees are having to deal with the pitfalls of working from home. Here are our top ten remote work pitfalls and how to deal with them.
1. Neglecting Software Learning Curve
After a few months (or years) of working remotely, it can be tempting to think, “I know technology, so I’ll figure it out when the time comes.”
But the reality is that cloud-based and productivity platforms are upgrading at a fast pace to accommodate the exploding remote-work environment. As such, new platform upgrades or systems are likely to work differently than you would expect.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Take Time to Learn the Platforms
If you sit down to complete a task and realize in the moment that you don’t understand the program, you might be too flustered to learn and adjust. It will be much better for you to take a few minutes long before a deadline to explore the software. That way, you won’t feel overwhelmed, and you have more time to seek help from your manager or colleagues.
2. Refusing to Turn Work Off
Another surprising pitfall of working from home is the temptation to always be working. After all, work is just across the room creating a false sense of urgency.
Even after closing your computer, those in your household may still feel that you are not present. Your mind does not have a chance to decompress as it would if you were commuting to and from the office.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Set a Schedule
Dealing with this pitfall requires you to be strict with yourself. Set a time when work is over and stick to it. Inform your coworkers and managers of when you will be unavailable so that they’re not tempted to draw you back to work after business hours.
Finding a relaxation activity that you will enjoy - meditation, light reading, yoga, etc. - can be a great way to incentivize yourself to shut down your work and decompress.
3. Internet Too Slow
Thanks to COVID-19, even students around the world are doing school from home. Additionally, roommates and kids might default to mobile devices and gaming systems while you’re still at work.
All of these activities place serious demand on your Internet connection. Slow Internet can negatively impact many software programs or cause video calls to perform poorly.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Upgrade Your Internet
The obvious solution is to upgrade your Internet package. Most jobs don’t require you to secure the fastest Internet speed available, but one step up from your current plan could drastically improve your Internet performance.
4. Family Members Thinking You’re Available
If you’re working in various parts of the house (or the rest of the household knows you’re home), they may be tempted to engage you throughout the day as though you were off work. This can slow down your work progress and distract you from critical tasks.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Set Up a Secluded Workspace
One of the most important things about working remotely is establishing a quiet workspace. Ideally, you should find a quiet room not shared by others. Inform members of your household that you need to not be disturbed unless there is an emergency.
5. Ambiguous Communication
Working from home often means that you’re not seeing facial expressions or hearing voice inflections when communicating with team members. Those less skilled with written communication might tend to use ambiguous language or incomplete bits of information.
This ambiguous communication can strain work relationships and delay project milestones.
How to Deal with Pitfall: When In Doubt, Ask - Communicate Clearly Using Specific and Simple Language
You can’t control other people, but you can control how you handle ambiguous communication. First, you should always ask for clarification if you’re not sure what’s expected of you. Second, you should model clear communication by using simple and specific language to communicate your questions, feedback, and expectations.
6. Software/App Updates
Cloud platforms have the benefit of web services that don’t require system updates. However, downloaded apps (such as Zoom) do require periodic updates. Without updating these programs, you may be locked out of workspaces or important meetings.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Check for Updates Daily
A great habit is to manually check for program updates on a regular basis. Doing so will ensure that you’re always prepared for any remote work scenario.
7. Household Distractions
Sometimes, work distractions don’t come from other members of your household. You might look out your window and notice that the lawn needs mowing. Or you suddenly feel the urge to clean the house.
These distractions keep you from focusing on your work and may force you to work longer than you planned.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Be Proactive
A little intentionality can go a long way. If you know that a messy house or room will keep from your work, use your free time the night before to clean up. Once again, creating the right workspace should help you keep your mind free from distractions, both from people and inanimate objects.
Much has been made of loneliness among those that work from home. However, studies show that loneliness in the traditional workplace has been no less of a problem.
Rather, the greater work-from-home pitfall is seclusion. When you don’t have to interact with people like you used to, and you end your work feeling mentally drained, time alone can feel addicting and cause your mental/emotional health to deteriorate.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Schedule Social Activities
While spending time alone to relax after work is good in moderation, you will achieve a better work-life balance by building a community. This could mean spending extra time with other members of your household or scheduling social activities with friends.
9. Unclear Decision-making Structure
Decision-making is sometimes more difficult in a remote work environment. For employers that insist on a centralized decision-making structure, progress can stall. Often, work-from-home schedules are asynchronous, and as a result, vital real-time feedback is unavailable.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Ask Managers to Assign Decision-makers
You can manage this pitfall by habitually asking your supervisors to assign a decision-maker or “go-to” person for projects. Also, you can request an organization chart or a new process for informing decision-makers. Knowing who you report to on each assignment is key.
10. Lack of Routine
Those that commute to work have a natural daily routine that reinforces predictable patterns. When you work from home, it’s easy to lose all sense of routine and feel a bit lost.
How to Deal with Pitfall: Establish New Routines
That said, routine is good for your mind and body. Seek to create a new routine, and spend a few weeks tweaking your routine until it feels comfortable for you. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, think of ways to reward yourself for completing your routine.
Thankfully, the pitfalls of working from home don’t hold a candle to the benefits - greater productivity, no commute, more opportunities to improve your work-life balance, etc. But if you’re new to remote work, you will need to adjust like everyone else.
By taking ownership of the adjustment, you will adapt faster than you think. Once you establish your work-from-home routine, you’re likely to find that you’ll never want to go back to the traditional office environment again.